Can you tell me anything about the Book of Enoch?
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There are actually three books of Enoch. The second currently exists only in Old Church Slavonic, and theories about its origin place it anywhere from the 1st century BC to the 10th century AD (Nobody knows, in other words). The third is very late, and seems to have been written in Hebrew in Babylonia in the 6th or 7th century AD. I assume you mean so-called "1st Enoch."
"1st Enoch" dates from the time between the Old and New Testaments (probably no earlier than the fourth century BC). Today the whole thing exists only in a Ge'ez (the language of Ethiopia) translation from Aramaic originals, but many fragments of it were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.
1st Enoch is a pseudepigraphon--a book attributed to an author who couldn't possibly have written it--and is said to be the work of Enoch, the son of Jared, who the Bible says "walked with God" (Genesis 5:21-24). It is a collection that includes many different kinds of material, but it is mostly known for its dreams and visions, in which Enoch is said to receive revelations about cosmology, wars between heavenly beings, and the last judgment.
The book seems to have been widely known in the last centuries BC and the first centuries AD. It was not, however, accepted by the Jews at the time of Jesus as part of the canon of Scripture.
I would like to witness to a friend. The only problem is, is that I am only 18 and he is 27. I really look up to him and I find it difficult to take charge and bring up the subject of religion. How should I start my attempts at witnessing?
I understand your hesitation in witnessing in this case. You know your friend needs to hear of Jesus his Savior, but you feel awkward because the nature of your relationship has you looking up to your friend as if he were your big brother. Sometimes these are difficult witnessing situations because we feel we have no right to "show a thing or two" to someone who is older and possibly more mature.
First I would suggest you rethink the attitude with which you will approach your friend. If "taking charge" with someone who is older than you makes you uncomfortable, then resolve not to think of these situations as "taking charge," but rather the natural give and take of conversation that takes place in friendship. Because this man is your friend, you will have opportunity to testify to Christ over an extended period of time. Try not to think of the age difference. Focus on the mutual respect you have for each other as friends. Focus also on the best gift you can give your friend, namely, your testimony of the Savior.
Many Christian witnesses have found an opening to speaking about spiritual things with friends as they bring up the word "relationship." Perhaps that word could serve as a beginning point for your witness too. What follows is a broad example of what you might say to get into a witnessing opportunity.
"It seems like we always have a good time. I'm thankful for the way we can talk to each other. But there's a relationship in my life that's even better. That's my relationship with God. How about you? Have you ever thought about your relationship with God?"
Is there a way to witness to the non-believing public that won't seem like we are hitting them over the head with the Bible? It's tough because you can potentially turn them off to your faith while trying to witness to them.
Yes, witnessing is tough stuff. That's because that roaring lion, the devil, keeps prowling around and is not about to give up his prey without a fight (1 Peter 5:8). When we witness to Christ with an unbelieving friend, the battle for a soul is on, and "our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6:12). Thus, witnessing is tough.
It is also incredibly rewarding. The only power in the universe that can pull a soul from Satan's clutches is the gospel of Jesus Christ. And to us Jesus has entrusted his gospel for this very task.
While it is true that no evangelizing of a soul takes place without using God's Word, your observation is also true: if our attitude and actions are inappropriate and arrogant, a non-Christian may never give a listen to the Word we wish to share. It is not surprising that a loveless and arrogant person will have a hard time getting the love and humility of the Christian way across to an unchurched person.
As Christian witnesses we must see the people to whom we are witnessing as precious souls for whom Christ shed his blood. This will help us not be drawn into argumentative situations even if the person we're talking to seems to want to "pick a fight." It is not important whether I win arguments or show people how smart or right I am when witnessing. What is important is to introduce them to their Savior. When we genuinely love and care for the person to whom we're witnessing, and show it by our demeanor and tone of voice, more often than not that person will actually give a listen to what we have to say.
I have confidence in the Bible and the truth within. But when I witness using that truth, more than once I have been told that I am being "arrogant." How do I respond to that?
Mark Twain once said that what bothered him about the Bible were not the things he didn't understand but the things he did. Often the objection "that's only your interpretation" comes from a person who simply is not ready to accept the clear truth of the Bible because that clear truth makes him or her uncomfortable. To interpret words in keeping with the intended meaning of the one who speaks them is not arrogance. It's what we human beings do every time we read or listen to someone speak. Now, if our tone of voice could be construed as being arrogant or condescending, then there is certainly something in our witnessing that we should change. But sticking to the clear, biblical interpretation of God's words is not something we should change.
How would you explain to an unbelieving friend why Jesus had to die?
God says to the people he has lovingly created: "Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy" (Leviticus 19:2). Jesus once said the same thing another way: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind,' and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' " (Luke 10:27,28). To be holy and to love God and neighbor perfectly all the time is to be without sin. God demands of the people he created that they be without sin.
Yet, when we consider the world around us and take an honest look at ourselves, we know that we have sinned. God recognizes this too: "All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). God is equally clear on what we earn for ourselves because of our sins: "The wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23). By "death" God doesn't just mean that one day we will stop breathing. He means that our sins will separate us from him forever in a place of suffering and torment called hell. This is the wage we have earned by our sin.
Praise be to God that he did not leave us in this hopeless situation! "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16). That one and only Son, Jesus Christ, lived a perfect, sinless life in our place. At the conclusion of his sinless life "the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:6).
This is why Jesus had to die on the cross. He was the payment for our sins. Our sins deserved death and hell, and Jesus paid that price with his life.
But Jesus did not stay dead. On the third day after he died he rose from the dead, thus proving that our sins had been taken away and we are right with God (Romans 4:25).
This forgiveness of sins won by Jesus is a gift to us: "The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). We receive this gift when we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31).
I am witnessing to a friend who is on the verge of giving up on praying (and sometimes even the belief in God) because of all the hardship he has endured. How can I better try to move this person back closer to God?
The only way we can move a person closer to God is to apply God's Word to the heart. God's Word is rich in promises that speak to your friend's situation and have the power to rekindle trust in God.
Romans 8:28 tells us that when we make decisions for our life in keeping with God's will, the outcomes may seem "good" or "bad" from our perspective, but from God's perspective he allows these outcomes always for our eternal good.
Hebrews 12:7-11 promises that hardship and suffering in the Christian's life are used as God's loving discipline in order to drive us to a closer relationship with God through his Word.
Consider Romans 5:8: "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." That's a promise that no hardship or "bad break" in our life can change God's unchangeable love for us, the love he has already demonstrated for us fully by sending his Son to be our Savior from sin.
Regular devotions on the sure promises of eternal life through Jesus Christ are the only power that can overcome your friend's despair. Believing in these promises and taking them to heart, your friend will be focusing on God's richest blessings, rather than waiting for "just the right" blessing from a human perspective. I encourage you to share these promises with your friend regularly.
How do we explain, from a religious perspective, the suffering resulting from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan when speaking to non-believers or those weak in their faith? God is love, all-powerful, allows happenings for the good of those who put their trust in him. But this destruction, pain, and suffering leave me sputtering.
Thanks for asking. And thanks for expressing your personal discomfort or distress about the destruction, pain and suffering described in news reports when natural disasters occur. Every child of God shares this same kind of discomfort since compassion is a trait believers are quick to express.
You ask how we may testify to others regarding God and his role in such disasters that have marked so much of human history since the Fall into sin and will continue to do so (as Jesus affirms in Matthew 24:7,8). Our starting point, when we are tempted to question divine wisdom or love, is to focus on his saving work for us sinners through Jesus Christ. Then we will begin anew to appreciate him as our loving Father in heaven and will be content with what he chooses for us in our lives and what he chooses at a given time for the lives (and deaths) of others. We will also see these as opportunities to show compassion and kindness to those who suffer. God uses such events to alert us to these opportunities.
We properly acknowledge that God is the primary agent of all things, as Isaiah 45:7 says. He is not surprised by natural disasters; it is his will that these events take place. Let us give him glory and confess that he is Lord of all.
When it comes to explaining precisely why he chose to send a particular natural disaster to a particular place at a particular time, however, we are quick to confess our limitations. It is really impossible to answer this kind of question fully or authoritatively because God has not revealed all the answers to our "Why?" questions. He is honest with us and declares this truth in Isaiah 55:8,9. He reveals many reasons for allowing painful things to be a part of our lives (like testing our faith to strengthen us, to keep us humble when we tend to grow arrogant, to give us a wiser perspective on things, etc.), but there is no one explanation that fits all of God's wise works in our lives.
God does these things also with unbelievers in mind. But his judgment differs in many ways from ours. What seems good to us in a particular instance may not be good in his eyes. What is evil to us at a given time may not be evil to him. The ongoing reality of God's love for his creatures plus the reality of his anger against sin also are factors in all of God's doings, but we are insufficient to sort all of this out in a given event. We simply confess that an event like an earthquake expresses God's wisdom, love, and anger blended in a way that is beyond our full understanding. We praise him for all that he does, including the things that surpass our comprehension. Through these events God may bring many of our brothers and sisters in Christ to glory through death. He may end the time of grace for many who despise Christ and the gospel and usher them into eternal death. He alerts mankind again to consider the temporary nature of this world, to sort priorities, to ponder the signs of the times, and ultimately to focus on Christ who came and who comes again. He stimulates consciences so people will seek satisfactory relief at the only true place, the foot of Christ's cross. And, of course, he calls us to humbly bow to his wisdom and providence, trust his promises of love, and rejoice that in the new heavens and new earth these things will no longer happen.
We leave the major "Why?" questions with God. But we can answer other questions, like "What can or will we do now that God has done what he did?" We will praise him, trust his wisdom, confess the reality and seriousness of sin and unbelief, focus mostly on his love in Christ, and leave the governing of the world in his hands, where it belongs.
How would you explain the reality of heaven to an atheist?
I suggest that, in conversations with professing atheists, we acknowledge that there is no empirical proof regarding the reality of heaven—but add that this is by no means the most important issue to be considered.
The beauties of heaven as well as the horrors of hell need to be understood in the light of the core Bible messages of human sin, divine love or grace, and Christ's atoning work as mankind's substitute. That is what should be the focal point of our conversations with professing atheists. They need to be brought by the Holy Spirit to confess sin in its deadly seriousness and to know Christ, their perfect Savior and substitute, and how by the grace of God we sinners find pardon and are promised a heavenly home.
If the atheist demands logical or reasonable arguments aside from law and gospel, sin and grace, then I would share information from Christian apologetics with him—or point him to a Web site specializing in Christian apologetics. This will not convert the heart, but may extend the opportunity to witness to the truth in love for the person.
My sister recently lost her son. She and my nephew were unchurched and now my sister is angry with God. The message of trusting Jesus will not give her comfort since there is no indication that my nephew knew Jesus. I told her that my nephew was baptized and God can work the miracle of faith in even someone that is in a coma.
I join you in your desire to bring comfort and guidance to your sister and her family. While you did not explicitly ask a question, implicitly you seem to be seeking affirmation for what you did say to your sister and perhaps also seek additional guidance.
Your being there for your sister and your desire to bring comfort or to express sympathy are already traits that she will appreciate. Even though she has a chip on her shoulder against God, she will recognize your love and concern for her. Continue to be there for her. Even if she is not willing to say it out loud, she will recognize your kindness.
Beware of offering false comfort. The fact that you really don't know where your nephew is spending eternity dare not be downplayed or forgotten. You have little to say as comfort in that matter. This is tragic but true. To point to his baptism decades ago (I am assuming your nephew died as an adult) but to admit that the God-given faith promised and given at that time was not nourished and maintained through the gospel in Word and sacrament after that is precious little to go on. And while God can indeed work faith aside from a person's use of the means of grace and even while in a coma, we have absolutely no promise from him that he will do that, and without a divine promise our speculative comfort will be lacking and inappropriate.
Resolve to share what you DO know, especially how God loves your sister and continues to invite her to admit unchanging truths and to trust unchanging promises. The truths she is invited and urged to consider and confess include these:
- She is a frail creature under God and any denial of that truth is foolishness. God has every right to deal with us as he sees fit. To be angry at him for his governance of the world and our lives and those of our loved ones does no one any good, least of all ourselves.
- She is a sinful as well as frail creature. As harsh as that sounds, it remains true and helps explain why things go so terribly wrong in our lives as God calls us to recognize what sin is and how serious it is. And her conscience is telling her this very thing, even while she may be denying it with her words. Trust that God will be reinforcing your testimony in her heart and will.
- She is dearly loved by God despite her sinfulness, and God has provided a Savior, a rescuer from the guilt and condemnation of sin: Jesus Christ. (Here is the place to go into detail stating and repeating who Christ is and all that he has done on our behalf.) Trust that God will use your witnessing to her even if she says she is not interested or antagonistic.
- God can give to her the ability to rejoice in his love and works on her behalf—and God can give her the ability to cope with the tragic loss of her son as well. We cannot bring her son back, but we can allow God to put the sad event into a suitable perspective and use it to give us blessing later on. That's one of his specialties.
As you share these and related truths to your sister, do so as "one beggar telling another beggar where to find the food," as the old saying puts it. Do not speak down to her, and make it clear that you are sharing truths that fully apply to you as they apply to her. Blend gentleness with firmness and be prepared to show patience. Trust that God will use your testimony for his good purposes, even if he chooses to bring evidence of that much later and through the use of other, additional witnesses in her life.
I often find myself struggling with witnessing. I'll ask God for opportunities to share the gospel, whether it's at school or some random person I have never met before. But when I see an opportunity arise I often fail to follow through. I get all pumped up about doing it and then when it's game time I just freeze up and either don't go through with it or stumble with my words. What advice can you give?
It is challenging to offer specific advice on this intensely personal (and highly important) aspect of Christian lifestyle when I do not know you in person. So I'll have to be content with sharing general counsel. But I greatly appreciate your desire to share aspects of the Christian faith with others. That is good news concerning you—and those around you!
Here are suggested things you can do:
- Try to determine the primary reasons you fail to witness as you desire. Is it mostly a fear of rejection or a loss of friendships? Is it a lack of confidence stemming from a fear of not knowing precisely what to say or how you might answer questions that might arise? Are you recalling a prior incident that did not work out so well and you fear a repeat of that? Diagnosing the problem may help in the selection of a remedy.
- Consider making use of printed material like tracts, brochures, or brief messages printed on a postcard or piece of paper. It is often easier to hand something like this to another person, briefly say something like, "This is a subject that is important to me and I want to share it with you." From that relatively easy beginning you can progess to saying more—asking if the other people have questions, pointing to a specific part of the printed message and expanding it with a fuller explanation or clarification, etc. In time you may not need the printed material—but you may find it valuable as something you can leave with the person.
- You might consider choosing one or more fellow believers and "practice" witnessing to each other, asking questions and giving answers to each other—and in this way become more confident of your ability to speak the message in a fitting way. Help each other grow in your confidence.
- Remember that it is just fine to tell someone, "I am not sure what to say to answer your question, but I'll ask my pastor or study this subject in the Bible and will get back to you." Don't pretend to know answers if you don't know the answers. Be honest.
- Expect others to respect you for your honesty and caring about them—even if they ultimately don't think much of the message right away. If you are approaching them in a friendly way to serve them, rather than trying to "conquer" them in some way, they will likely understand your motives. Even if they are not interested right away, they won't hate you for honestly seeking to share what is important to you. You don't have to become a pest, but you may then pray that the Lord use other witnesses and voices to build on what you have shared. In time, hearts may be won and souls served more fully.
- All of these suggestions assume you are continuing to grow in your faith-life through regular and thoughtful use of the Word and sacrament. "From the fullness of the heart the mouth speaks." As you continue to grow spiritually, you may expect greater joy, courage, and confidence. You don't have to set artificial or unrealistic goals. Let the Holy Spirit equip you to serve even as he provides opportunities.
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