4. Your Questions
The following questions were submitted by readers ...
Q: It seems we can be the worst of sinners nearly all our lives and then repent and go to Heaven. Is this right?
Jesus was crucified beside a criminal who repented while dying on the cross, asking Jesus to remember him in the Kingdom. Jesus answered him "I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (See Luke 23:39-43) This is in keeping with other passages such as John 3:16-18 on page 2 of this site. However, there are rewards in Heaven as Jesus told us in Matthew 5:12 and we may assume that, whilst the criminal is in Heaven, his rewards have not been as great as those with the qualities mentioned in Matthew 5:3-11.
Q: Is baptism necessary for Salvation?
Firstly, let me say that baptism does not bring about Salvation. The "sprinkling" of infants who are just a few days old does not make them Christians and does not appear to be a practice taught by Jesus. However, Jesus commanded His disciples: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19-20a) From my general reading of the New Testament, I am convinced that the above command applies to all believers, at least to the extent that we are to be baptized ourselves, share our faith with those we meet and obey all the commands of Jesus. Sadly, it was not until 1981 that I felt I wanted to change to a church which practised believers' baptism and to be baptized myself by full immersion, even though I had been sprinkled as a young child and had been a believer for many years. I know this is a sensitive issue among many Christians and there is a good book "The Waters that Divide" on the subject. All I can say is that I personally feel convicted by the Holy Spirit to believe that it is a command of Jesus that we be baptized. Clearly we are to obey everything Jesus has commanded (as in Matthew 28:20 above) and so I deduce that it is a sin not to obey this command to be baptized. However, it must be a personal decision made when a person has come to know Christ. There is nothing in the teaching of Jesus which suggests that baptism is to be a practice carried out on someone such as an infant (or an unconscious adult) who is unable to make such a decision with a full understanding of its meaning. The people whom Jesus commanded His disciples to baptize were the same as those they were to teach, implying that baptism is for those who have reached a teachable age.
Q: What do you believe about predestination?
There are many verses in the Bible which indicate that God calls, chooses and draws people to Himself. Jesus said "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day." (John 6:44.) This is God's prerogative and He may have mercy on whom He wishes as we read in Romans 9:18. People also have a choice to accept or reject Christianity, but it is humbling to know that God enables us to believe as Jesus says in John 6:65. Some Christians interpret Romans 8:29-30 as implying that all who are called will be saved. I do not wish to enter into this debate other than to say that we humans do not know if another person has been called by God, so those who give up their faith (as in the parable of the sower) may not have been truly called in the first place. From my personal experience I can only say that I am confident that nothing will shake me from my belief and faith.
Q: Are homosexual acts sinful in God's eyes?
In 1 Corinthians 6:9,10 Paul writes: "Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders ... will inherit the kingdom of God." It is not sinful to be born with homosexual tendencies, but it is clear that God considers it sinful to put these into practice.
Q: Did Jesus or John say the words of John 3:16?
In the red-letter version of the New International Version nearly everything from John 3:5 to 21 is in red. Verse 5 reads: Jesus answered, "I tell you the truth ... and then verse 10 reads: "You are Israel's teacher," said Jesus, "and do you not understand these things? I tell you the truth ... I have spoken to you of earthly things ... For God so loved the world ..." The quote marks are not closed and nor is the red type discontinued. It may be that some translators think differently, but from the overall context and from similar references elsewhere made by Jesus to Himself, I believe that the 100 or so scholars who translated the N.I.V. are correct on this one.
Q: Is it necessary for women to wear a veil?
In 2 Corinthians 3:13-18 Paul leads up to the conclusion that "we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory..." and from this I conclude that it is quite appropriate for Christian men and women not to wear veils.
Q: Did Jesus claim to be God?
While on earth Jesus very specifically referred to and prayed to God the "Father" as another Person. Nevertheless, Jesus also said in John 14:9-10: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say `Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me?" In John 6:38 Jesus says "I have come down from heaven..." and this is further confirmed in Philippians 2:5-6 where we read of how Jesus "being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." The concept of "God in three Persons" (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) will perhaps always remain beyond the comprehension of man, but one thing is for sure: no other person who has lived as a human on this earth has come anywhere near "being in very nature God". Jesus is far from being just "one of the leading prophets" as many from other religions believe. If He were not (in His own words) God's "one and only Son" then He could not claim that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" and the whole of Christianity would fall apart! If you don't believe what Christianity teaches, then you don't believe Jesus Christ because, by definition, a Christian is a follower of Christ. And, if you don't believe what He said, how can you call Jesus a `leading prophet`?
Q: From what are Christians saved?
It seems to be a common misconception that Christians can expect to be saved from all kinds of attack, ill health, accident or natural disaster. Whilst I believe that God will offer protection when it is sought by a Christian in prayer, the salvation brought about through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross means that a Christian is saved from God's wrath and eternal punishment in Hell.
Q: Can a prayer save me from death?
A Christian has work to do for the Lord whilst here on Earth, witnessing and helping others in many ways. I believe it is right to do everything possible to prevent premature death, be it due to accident or ill health. There is nothing wrong with praying for good health and protection from accidents and I believe God will answer such prayer if it is in accordance with His will. You also have a responsibility to care for your body. Don't take unnecessary risks, drive carefully, don't smoke, eat well including supplementation to replace the vitamins and minerals which are missing in food these days. Physical death is, however, certain to occur, hopefully only in old age, and there is nothing in the Bible to suggest we return to Earth again. I know some people have returned after a very short period of clinical death, but they, like all of us, will depart this Earth eventually. A Christian, however, knows there is an even better place in Heaven where there is no pain or illness, and so he or she need not fear death. If you have doubts I can only suggest that you continue to read the words of Jesus every day of your life and, in so doing, I believe you will grow in faith and be able to trust God to protect you and take you up to be with Him at the right time according to His will and plan for your life.