God Wants More For You. So Do We.

Rapid-Fire Questions and Answers

Ask Pastor Alex, Episode. 58

This is the Ask Pastor Alex podcast with your host Pastor Alex. All right, welcome back to the podcast, everyone. I want to just welcome you all into this episode and I want to give a huge shout out to our listeners in France. We’ve recently started picking up a lot of French listeners and so I always just want to give that recognition. I’m very thankful that anybody at all listens to the podcast but when I have people in other parts of the world and in countries I’ve never visited actually tuning into the podcast it really does mean a lot to me. So shout out to all our French listeners. I do not know any French whatsoever but I’m very thankful that you are listening. 

All right, here’s what we’re going to do. Today is a special episode because we’re going to do something that we’ve never done before. You see, at the podcast here we get a lot of questions and not all answers to those questions warrant an entire episode. Sometimes we get questions whose answers are pretty easy and straightforward. What tends to happen is these questions tend to pile up and I never really get around to answering them. So I’ve got a lot of these in the backlog and I thought well it might be a fun idea to do a rapid fire question and answer session. So basically take a lot of these questions that have been submitted that don’t really warrant a full episode and just combine them all into the same episode. So that’s what we’re going to do today. We’re going to look at about four or five questions and they’re going to be quick and easy but we’re going to do about four or five of them to do this rapid fire question and answer session. So I hope you’re ready. And a lot of these span a lot of different categories and topics so stay tuned and see if you have asked one of these questions. 

All right, the first question is was Nicodemus really saved? Now this one was submitted very early on. I actually know the person who submitted this because she handed me the question directly and I am sorry Miss Edith that it’s taken me this long to get around to answering it but I am going to answer it now. And this question is kind of difficult for two reasons. The first is because scripture never explicitly says whether or not Nicodemus was a true Christ follower. The other reason it’s difficult is because we don’t know anyone’s heart. You could have a person who goes to church and reads his Bible but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a Christian it just means that he’s religious. Only God knows the heart, we do not. So it’s hard to say definitively whether or not we can prove that Nicodemus was saved but I do think we have good reason to believe that he was truly saved. If you’re unfamiliar with who we’re talking about Nicodemus by the way was a Pharisee and he was a religious leader in Israel. We’re introduced to him in John chapter 3 when he comes to speak to Jesus by night. So he’s doing this undercover so that no one will really know that he’s associating with Jesus and he’s there to inquire about who Jesus is and what it means to be part of God’s kingdom. And Jesus goes on to explain to Nicodemus that a person must be born again in order to enter the kingdom of God. And so Jesus is basically explaining the new birth to Nicodemus that a person has to be born again and trust in Christ in order to be saved. Now we’re never actually told how Nicodemus responds to Jesus’ teaching. 

The story just continues and says after this Jesus and his disciples went into the Judean countryside. So we don’t know if he became a believer that day but personally I think he did. And I think that because that’s not the last time we hear of Nicodemus. He occurs two other times in the Bible both of them in the book of John. The next time he appears is in John chapter 7. Jesus as he typically does has just said something incredibly controversial at the Feast of Booths. Jesus claimed that anyone who believed in him would have living waters flow from his heart. And this was a reference to the giving of the Holy Spirit. When the crowds heard this they started proclaiming that Jesus was the Christ. They said okay this is the Messiah. He is here in our midst. But this obviously upset the religious leaders of Israel. They in fact said that the crowds were deceived. But very interestingly in John 7.50 we read that Nicodemus actually came to the defense of Jesus. And he basically told the other Pharisees hey isn’t it true that our law requires a person to be given a fair trial and a chance to defend himself before being condemned? And so it seems really interesting that Nicodemus a Pharisee would come to the defense of Jesus and actually oppose the other Pharisees. And it’d be very odd if he did not believe in Jesus at that point. It’s hard to imagine a world in which Nicodemus would defend Jesus and oppose the Pharisees if he was not already a believer. However he was most likely a secret convert at the time because the other Pharisees explicitly told the crowds in John 7.48 that none of the Pharisees believed in Jesus. And that was probably a true statement from their perspective. None of the Pharisees did publicly believe in him or follow him but Nicodemus seems to already be a believer at this point. And I think that’s even further confirmed in the last time we read about Nicodemus in Scripture. 

This occurs after Jesus’ death in John 19 verses 38 through 42. We see that Joseph of Arimathea comes to take Jesus’ body away and anoint his body and place it in his very own tomb. And it’s interesting that Scripture clarifies in John 19.38 that Joseph of Arimathea was a disciple of Jesus but it specifically says he was a secret disciple because of fear of the Jews. And it’s interesting that Joseph isn’t alone in preparing the body of Jesus for burial. He’s accompanied by Nicodemus. And that makes sense that one secret disciple would be joined by another secret disciple. So I think this passage alludes to the fact that Nicodemus was a secret believer just as Joseph was a secret believer. It also seems unlikely that a Pharisee such as Nicodemus would help anoint the body of Jesus if he wasn’t a believer in Jesus. So while Scripture never explicitly refers to Nicodemus as a believer in Jesus I do think it gives us enough clues to believe that Nicodemus was truly saved and a secret follower of Jesus just like Joseph of Arimathea. Alright rapid fire question and answer number one is done. We’re moving on to number two. The question is what does the Bible mean by Israel? Is it the Jewish people or is it the church? Well when the Bible refers to Israel the overwhelming majority of the time it’s referring to the Jewish people and specifically the nation of Israel. Now I say most of the time because from time to time the Bible does add nuance. For instance in Romans 9-6 the Bible says not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel. Now as you can tell from that verse Israel is being used in two different ways. The first use is a reference to all who are ethnically Israelites aka they are Jewish in heritage and lineage. 

However the second use of Israel is a reference to the people of God. You see sometimes Israel is used in the Bible to refer to God’s spiritual people his true people. This means as the verse is making clear here that it’s possible for someone to be ethnically Jewish in other words descended from Israel but not belong to the true Israel God’s true people. This is because the Bible makes clear that belonging to the people of God is not a matter of heritage or nationality but it comes down to faith in Jesus Christ. This is why all those who are Jewish by birth but deny Christ are not part of God’s true Israel since they deny the Messiah. In fact I would go so far as to say that it is more appropriate for Gentile Christians to say that they are part of God’s true Israel than it would be for an ethnically Jewish person who denies Jesus. And this is because Jesus is the true Israel of God and all who are in him are part of God’s true Israel. So the overwhelming majority of the time Israel does refer to the Jewish people especially and almost exclusively throughout the Old Testament. In the New Testament the word does still refer to the Jewish people most of the time. However the theological concept of God’s people being part of the true Israel becomes more prominent and you’ll see this in places such as Romans and Galatians in particular.

So that’s the answer to the second question. Moving on to the third question in our rapid-fire session: “What is the significance of the tearing of the temple veil?” This question refers to an event that took place at the moment of Jesus’ death, and it’s recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The temple veil was a massive curtain in the Jewish temple that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place, also known as the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was where God’s presence was said to dwell, and only the high priest could enter it, and only once a year on the Day of Atonement, to offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. When Jesus died, the veil was torn in two from top to bottom, and this was a very significant event.

The tearing of the temple veil symbolizes a few key theological truths. First, it signifies that the barrier between God and humanity has been removed. Before Jesus’ sacrifice, only the high priest could enter God’s presence, and only once a year, but now, because of Jesus’ atoning death, all people have access to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:19-20 explains this by saying, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” This means that Jesus’ death has opened the way for us to enter into God’s presence, something that was previously not possible.

Second, the tearing of the veil also signifies the end of the old covenant and the beginning of the new covenant. The old covenant was based on the law and required continual sacrifices for sin, but the new covenant, which was established by Jesus’ death and resurrection, is based on grace and provides a once-for-all sacrifice for sin. Hebrews 9:11-12 says, “But when Christ came as high priest of the good things that are now already here, he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not made with human hands, that is to say, is not a part of this creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption.”

So the tearing of the temple veil is a powerful symbol of the new relationship we can have with God through Jesus Christ, as well as the new covenant that has been established through his sacrifice. It’s a beautiful reminder that we can now approach God with confidence and boldness, knowing that the way has been opened for us by Jesus.

Alright, on to the fourth question: “Can a Christian lose their salvation?” This is a question that has been debated among Christians for centuries, and there are good arguments on both sides. However, I believe that the Bible teaches that a true Christian cannot lose their salvation. There are several reasons for this. First, Jesus himself says in John 10:28-29, “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.” This passage clearly teaches that those who belong to Jesus are secure in their salvation and cannot be taken away from him.

Second, Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” This passage teaches that the Holy Spirit is given to believers as a seal and a guarantee of their inheritance, which means that our salvation is secure and guaranteed by God himself.

Third, Philippians 1:6 says, “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” This passage teaches that God is the one who began the work of salvation in us, and he is the one who will bring it to completion. Our salvation is not dependent on our own efforts or ability to maintain it, but on God’s faithfulness and power to keep us.

Now, it’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that Christians can live however they want without any consequences. The Bible is clear that true faith produces good works and a transformed life. James 2:17 says, “In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” So while a true Christian cannot lose their salvation, they will show evidence of their faith through their actions and their life.

Finally, the fifth question in our rapid-fire session: “What is the unforgivable sin?” This question refers to a passage in Matthew 12:31-32, where Jesus says, “And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” This has caused a lot of confusion and fear among Christians, as they wonder if they have committed this unforgivable sin.

To understand what Jesus is talking about, we need to look at the context of this passage. Jesus had just performed a miracle by casting out a demon, and the Pharisees accused him of doing this by the power of Satan. In response, Jesus explains that this accusation is not only false but also blasphemous because it attributes the work of the Holy Spirit to Satan. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, then, is the deliberate and persistent rejection of the work and testimony of the Holy Spirit concerning Jesus. It’s a hardened and unrepentant heart that continually resists and denies the truth of the gospel.

For someone who is worried that they have committed this sin, the very fact that they are concerned is a good indication that they have not committed it. A heart that is sensitive to sin and desirous of forgiveness is not a heart that has committed the unforgivable sin. The unforgivable sin is a persistent and final rejection of the gospel, and as long as a person is alive and able to repent, they have not committed this sin.

The concern about committing the unforgivable sin often comes from a misunderstanding of its nature. It’s not a specific act or set of words that condemns a person forever, but rather a continual and willful rejection of the Holy Spirit’s work and conviction. The Bible teaches that God’s grace is available to all who repent and believe in Jesus, and 1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

So, if you’re worried about having committed the unforgivable sin, remember that God’s mercy and forgiveness are extended to all who come to Him with a repentant heart.

That wraps up our rapid-fire question and answer session for today. I hope you found these answers helpful and encouraging. Remember, if you have more questions, feel free to submit them, and we may do another session like this in the future. Thank you for listening!