Monthly Archives: February 2019

Should Christians celebrate Valentine’s Day?

SHOULD CHRISTIANS CELEBRATE VALENTINE’S DAY?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Valentine’s Day, every February 14th, involves hugs and kisses, the sending of millions of romantic greeting cards, the giving of roses and other flowers, and the mass consumption of chocolates and additional candies. What is the history of this holiday? Should Christians get involved with it?

ORIGIN OF VALENTINE’S DAY

Who exactly was “Saint Valentine” anyway? Honestly, we really have no idea. Historians disagree as to who he was—if he existed at all. Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church honors not one but three martyrs named “Valentine” (or “Valentinus” in Latin). Since that name was highly popular millennia ago, it is difficult to pinpoint who this holiday was named after (assuming he was one of those three, ignoring the innumerable others sharing that name).

One “Valentine” was a priest who allegedly performed illegal marriages in the Roman Empire a few centuries after Christ. Another story involves an imprisoned “Valentine” (same or different?) writing to a woman who had gained his affection. He supposedly signed his letter, “From your Valentine.” Whoever he was, Valentine may have died in mid-February, leading to the familiar celebration of love. The holiday became especially romanticized during the Renaissance several centuries ago. Considering the diverging accounts, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. It could have been a combination of stories of numerous other men thus named.

Due to the mysterious and ancient history involved, it is challenging to establish exactly how the name and time of Valentine’s Day originated. Suffice it to say that it is most definitely attached to heathen Roman religion. For example, Cupid—a baby or young boy holding a bow and shooting heart-shaped arrows—is the prominent icon of Valentine’s Day. This “adorable” little figure is actually the ancient Roman god of desire, affection, and erotic love. There is certainly nothing “Christian” about him!

Interestingly, another pagan deity is also connected to Valentine’s Day. Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture, was honored on the fertility festival of Lupercalia—February 15th. Here, we can see a clear link to love and couples, and how the date was probably fixed.

According to History.com,

“To begin the festival, members of the Luperci, an order of Roman priests, would gather at a sacred cave where the infants Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome, were believed to have been cared for by a she-wolf or lupa. The priests would sacrifice a goat, for fertility, and a dog, for purification. They would then strip the goat’s hide into strips, dip them into the sacrificial blood and take to the streets, gently slapping both women and crop fields with the goat hide. Far from being fearful, Roman women welcomed the touch of the hides because it was believed to make them more fertile in the coming year. Later in the day, according to legend, all the young women in the city would place their names in a big urn. The city’s bachelors would each choose a name and become paired for the year with his chosen woman. These matches often ended in marriage.”

“Lupercalia survived the initial rise of Christianity… but was outlawed—as it was deemed “un-Christian”—at the end of the 5th century, when Pope Gelasius declared February 14 St. Valentine’s Day. It was not until much later, however, that the day became definitively associated with love. During the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed in France and England that February 14 was the beginning of birds’ mating season, which added to the idea that the middle of Valentine’s Day should be a day for romance.”

This brief background gives us some idea—albeit murky—as to how February 14th became associated with celebrating love and affection. There is certainly nothing Christian about the holiday as far as the record of Scripture is concerned. Moreover, there is also pervasive superstition to be avoided (a “healing” miracle Valentine allegedly performed, people making modern-day pilgrimages to view his supposed remains as “relics,” and so on). It is a most precarious issue.

WHAT IS THE CHRISTIAN TO DO?

Our purpose here has been to enlighten you about Valentine’s Day so that you can make an informed decision. It is certainly not our goal to “have dominion over your faith;” our desire is to be “helpers of your joy” (2 Corinthians 1:24). We will not dictate to you what you can and cannot do regarding February 14th, but we do offer this study for your consideration. Our goal is to have your faith rest in an intelligent understanding of God’s Word, so that you may have joy and peace in believing God’s Word (Romans 15:13).

The Bible says, without doubt, that husbands are to love their wives. Wives should reverence or respect their husbands. This should be true year-round, not just once a year. Ephesians chapter 5: “[21] Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God. [22] Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [23] For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. [24] Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. [25] Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; [26] That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, [27] That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. [28] So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. [29] For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: [30] For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

“[31] For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. [32] This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. [33] Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”

If you and your romantic interest (boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, fiancé/fiancée) want to spend February 14th exchanging flowers or sweets, or enjoying a nice dinner at a restaurant, that is your business. This author will certainly not legislate your life for you. He is more than eager to use the Scriptures (and outside sources, if necessary) to point you in the right direction, but it is ultimately your decision.

In addition, he would like to take this opportunity to strictly caution you to guard against the commercialization of Valentine’s Day. People spend their money carelessly at this time of year. They believe they must purchase expensive, flattering gifts to please others or express “true” love. The greeting-card industry is out to make a profit—just like every other business (florists, candy makers, jewelers, and so on). The attitudes underlying the actions, not the amount or value of material gifts, are what matter the most. If it is Christ in you loving your significant other, then that carries far more weight than all the world’s silver, gold, precious jewels, flowers, and candy!

A WORD OF EXHORTATION TO THE LONELY, FORGOTTEN, AND BEREAVED

Valentine’s Day can be quite lonely for single people. Those who have just experienced, or are experiencing, divorce find this time of year quite painful. The same could be said of widows, those betrayed by unfaithful partners, those unable to find lasting romance, and so on. It is also true of those who cannot afford or do not receive a dozen of roses, a box of chocolates, a fine meal at a restaurant, costly jewelry, and so on. Some women are married to men who have never given them, and will never give them, any gifts. Similarly, some husbands never receive special treatment from their wives. This is all quite unfortunate—and undoubtedly all results of sin.

The word “love” is used so flippantly today in this shallow-minded world. Love and sex are often confused. There is no selflessness, or self-sacrificial love. Fuzzy warm feelings and uncontrollable emotions are surely present, but is there true love, the mental attitude of seeking someone else’s highest good (charity, love in action)? Unfortunately, the answer is often “no.” People just want to get any pleasure or gratification from others, even to the detriment of those others. Luxurious gifts and over-complimenting can be used to manipulate to achieve one’s desires. Marriages often end in divorce. Romantic relationships wane and dissolve. There is no guarantee people who have such relationships are even happy. It is easier to be single and desire marriage, than be married and desire singleness! Friend, you would do well to think on that long and hard.

Above all, the Bible says that Almighty God loves us—even if no one else does. We must never confuse His infinite love for us with our weak, fickle love for Him. Human love, no matter how deep or long-lasting, will never, ever replace God’s love! His love is unconditional, not tied to our circumstances. We look to Calvary’s cross, Christ’s finished crosswork, to see God’s love on clear display. His only begotten Son offering His life at Calvary so He could then offer us eternal life, that is the greatest gift. It is worth far more than flowers, rings, kisses, and candy. His inspired Word written to us and preserved in English in the King James Bible is worth far more than any greeting card or manmade note of affection. It will outlast all other documents!

Romans chapter 5: “[6] For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. [7] For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. [8] But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. First Corinthians 15:3-4: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:….”

Also see:
» What is meant by, “Love thy neighbour as thyself?”
» Should a Christian be polygamous—having multiple spouses?
» Was Priscilla lead teacher in her family?

Is it not enough that “I believe in God?”

IS IT NOT ENOUGH THAT “I BELIEVE IN GOD?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Friend, you state it as though it is meritorious. “I believe in God” is quite general and thus can be understood in more ways than one. What do you mean you “believe in God?” The standard way to take that is that you believe God exists. Such a claim is all well and good, and while you are close to the truth, it is too basic and not an adequate basis for faith. Your position is deceptive, as it provides a false sense of security. After all, there are myriads of gods in the world. Firstly, which “god” do you believe in, friend? The living and true God, or some idol (counterfeit)? Secondly, exactly what do you believe about that “god?” Thirdly, just how do you have—or can you even have—a personal relationship with that “god?” See, there is widespread ambiguity here. As we will see shortly, there is something better, more precise, more reliable, than the simple message of “believing in God.”

Consider what the Holy Bible declares in James 2:19: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” Satan and his evil angelic associates also “believe in God.” Does that suggest they have a right standing before Him? Is He pleased with them? But, they do believe, correct? See, “believing” in and of itself is not meritorious! Furthermore, you can believe information in the head and not believe in the heart. That mental assent or intellectual agreement, while better than unbelief, is nevertheless still not a substitute for heart faith.

Read Acts chapter 8: “[13] Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done. [14] Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: [15] Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: [16] (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) [17] Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

“[18] And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, [19] Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. [20] But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money. [21] Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. [22] Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. [23] For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. [24] Then answered Simon, and said, Pray ye to the Lord for me, that none of these things which ye have spoken come upon me.”

Simon believed with his head (verse 13) and yet his heart was not right before God (verses 21-22). He had a mental agreement but he did not have imputed righteousness (a right standing before God). This made him opposed to the God of the Bible. Many who profess faith in God today are doing nothing but agreeing in the mind; they have not made personal application, exercising faith in the heart. Oh yes, they are just as Hell-bound as those who do not believe at all! Notice what Romans 10:10 says: “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness….” The heart is the major issue before God, not the head! Friend, be sure you believe in the heart and not merely the head. Millions upon millions will miss Heaven because of this very error. Imputed righteousness comes by faith in the heart.

Moreover, Scripture speaks of more than “believing in God.” For example, the title “God” is generic and not unique to Christianity (see 1 Corinthians 8:5-6). The Bible states, “believeth in Jesus (more exclusive—and, of course, less popular). Far more people believe in “God” than believe in “Jesus.” You can find religions where the name “God” appears but never the name “Jesus.” It is not enough to “believe in God”—even if in the heart. We must believe in Jesus with respect to the heart. What exactly does this involve? Are we to just believe that He existed as an historical character? Are we to believe that He was merely “a good teacher,” or “just another one of God’s prophets,” or “just one of many martyrs who died for the truth?” Again, we must be more definite in our understanding if there is to be an adequate basis for faith! Without our heart faith firmly resting in a clear and secure Gospel message, our souls are damned forever!!

The Bible’s overwhelming testimony is not “believe in God,” but “believe on Him” and “believe on His Son.” Notice:

  • John 3:15-16,18,36: “[15] That whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life. [16] For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have everlasting life…. [18] He that believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God…. [36] He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.”
  • John 5:24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me [Father God sent His Son, Jesus Christ], hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”
  • John 6:35: “[35] And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall never thirst…. And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day….. [47] Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] hath everlasting life.”
  • John 7:38: “He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
  • John 11:25: “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], though he were dead, yet shall he live:….”
  • John 12:44,46: “[44] Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], believeth not on me, but on him that sent me [Father God sent His Son, Jesus Christ]…. [46] I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] should not abide in darkness.”
  • John 14:12: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me [God’s Son, Jesus Christ], the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.”
  • Acts 10:43: “To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall receive remission of sins.”
  • Romans 3:26: “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
  • Romans 4:5: “But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him [Father God] that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.”
  • 1 Peter 2:6: “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him [God’s Son, Jesus Christ] shall not be confounded.”
  • 1 John 5:1,5,10: “[1] Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him….. [5] Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?….. [10] He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.”

Believing “on” Almighty God and “on” His Son the Lord Jesus Christ are important prepositional phrases. They denote reliance or dependence upon—not “in” but “ON” (note that well, friend, note that well!!). You must depend on Almighty God to be merciful and gracious as opposed to relying on your religious goodness to merit His mercy and grace. Jesus Christ must be relied upon to support you where you have come short of God’s glory because of sin. It will be because of His work and not yours that you can be declared righteous before the God of the Bible!

Let us read Romans chapter 3: “[22] Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: [23] For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; [24 Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: [25] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; [26] To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [27] Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. [28] Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”

Father God put the Lord Jesus Christ on display as a “propitiation through faith in his blood.” This underscores His shed blood, a sacrifice, or fully-satisfying payment for our sins. It was no ordinary death: it was the death of the God-Man, who went to die in our place, to experience God’s wrath against our sin. Sin is a barrier between you and God, and believing in God does nothing to remove that barrier. However, friend, the God of the Bible put His Son on Calvary’s cross to pay for your sins, to put away your sins, and to be resurrected for your justification (to give you a right standing before God). What you need to do is rely exclusively on His finished crosswork as the total payment for your sins. It is not important that you work; it is more important that you believe. It is not important that you believe; it is more important what you believe. “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4). “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

Also see:
» Is faith in Christ alone enough to go to heaven? Do not the devils believe?
» Is Acts 16:31 a sufficient Gospel message?
» Can Jews who believe in God, the Father, but who reject Jesus, be saved from eternal damnation?

“Speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt?”

“SPEECH BE ALWAY WITH GRACE, SEASONED WITH SALT?”

by Shawn Brasseaux

Colossians 4:6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Can you shed some light here?

Indeed! Friend, this is an example of where we use the Bible with common sense. Surely, sodium chloride (NaCl)—table salt (what we flavor physical food with)—is not under discussion here. It is a spiritual issue and thus must be interpreted with spiritual eyes.

Read the context: “[2] Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; [3] Withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: [4] That I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. [5] Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” The Apostle Paul has been preaching God’s Word rightly divided for some 30 to 35 years at this point. He is now in a Roman prison (or technically house arrest), as per Acts 28:30-31, and asks the saints at Philippi to pray that he not be intimidated to silence. Lost people are all around him, and they need to hear the Gospel so they can believe it and be saved unto eternal life. They may be religious, but they are still Hell-bound. They are most likely pagan idolaters, worshipping the gods and goddesses of Greek and Roman cultures; therefore, he needs to make wise use of his time and speak up!

Verses 2-5 set the tenor and govern how we should understand verse 6: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” Firstly, in the context, the “speech” of verse 6 is not everyday conversation or light chitchat. Rather, it is speaking God’s Word (first and foremost is the Gospel, but secondary Bible information is in view too). The word “alway” also demands a word of explanation. It is not “always” but “alway” (a common confusion and unnecessary correction). “Always” is “at every time, on every occasion;” “alway” (as here) is “all the way, all the time, forever.” Our speech should all the time, throughout, be grace-oriented. It should effectually communicate the truths of God’s grace without fail. God’s grace is God’s Word as in Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon.

The issue of “seasoned with salt” will be considered now. We season bland food by adding condiments, spices, herbs, and so on. Similarly, we can heighten or improve the “flavor” of our preaching. Such polishing will make it stand out, or give it a distinctive character. To “season with salt” refers to preserving something, a message that prevents decay, decomposition, or corruption. (Think of the process of curing or preserving meat with salt before refrigeration was invented in the mid-20th century.) Sin degenerates the soul and weakens society around us; God’s Word rightly divided, in stark contrast, nourishes and strengthens. It gives light, life, and health to its hearers and readers.

Whether in the physical world or the spiritual world, the challenge of seasoning is to strike a balance. Seasoning can potentially enhance—but it can also be overdone and become ruinous. We should give people enough information to make it appealing but not overwhelm them and make it appear burdensome. We should not seem overbearing or dictatorial. We do not “lord” over them or bully them (1 Peter 5:3). We do not have dominion over their faith but we are rather helpers of their joy (2 Corinthians 1:24).

To give our speech the unique appeal of grace, of course, requires spiritual maturity, grounding in God’s Word rightly divided. We can destroy others with our words or we can edify them. There is destructive criticism and there is constructive criticism. It is better to have the latter—for that is the purpose of the Bible. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21). “For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed” (2 Corinthians 10:8). Does what we preach and teach conform to Pauline doctrine? Is it grace teaching or legalism? Must people perform before we accept them? That is not grace but law. It harms not helps. Do they have to do or give us something before we will do something for or give to them? That is law not grace. It injures not benefits. Do we love them after they love us? That is law not grace. It wounds not enhances.

Having the exceptional characteristic of preservation and wholesomeness (health), our speech perpetually with grace is designed to give us the ability to address whatever somebody would require or demand of us. If they ask a Bible question, we should be able to answer it according to the rightly divided Word. If they need guidance concerning a particular aspect of life (sickness, financial difficulty, family troubles, death of loved ones, and so on), then that is our opportunity to share God’s Word with them. Our goal is not to impair them with religious silliness but aid them with the eternal words of the eternal God!!! We do not aim to confuse and corrupt them with worldly wisdom but educate and edify them with Divine wisdom!!!

If they are lost, without the righteousness of God, then we preach the Gospel of Grace to them: “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4—also see Romans chapters 1-5). If they are saved, Christians, members of the Church the Body of Christ, then we direct them to Pauline passages that apply to their situation. Again, this requires grounding in grace doctrine, and, sadly, very precious few believers are able to do it because they are so weak in grace doctrine themselves. Three important chapters are Romans chapter 12, Ephesians chapter 4, and Colossians chapter 3. Every preacher and teacher should be familiar with them in preparation for counseling!

Colossians and Ephesians are sister epistles; therefore, they expand on each other. In closing, the best way to interpret Colossians 4:6 is to consider it in light of Ephesians chapter 4: “[25] Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. [26] Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: [27] Neither give place to the devil. [28] Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. [29] Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. [30] And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: [32] And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

Saints, please remember us in your monthly giving—these websites do cost money to run! 🙂 You can donate securely here: https://www.paypal.me/ShawnBrasseaux, or email me at arcministries@gmail.com. Do not forget about Bible Q&A booklets for sale at https://arcgraceministries.org/in-print/booklets-bible-q-a/. Thanks to all who give to and pray for us! By the way, ministry emails have really been backed up this year. I am handling them as much as humanly possible. Thanks for your patience. 🙂

Also see:
» Should we Bible-believers investigate and promulgate conspiracy theories?
» Which hymns are appropriate for us grace believers to sing?
» Have I blasphemed against the Holy Ghost?