April Fools' Day — or All Fools' Day, as it is also known — is of ancient origin, although its exact origin is obscure. The custom of playing practical jokes on friends on a particular day or sending them on fools' errands was practiced from earliest times. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica: "What seems certain is that it [April Fools' Day] is in some way or other a relic of those once universal festivities held at the vernal equinox, which, beginning on old New Year's Day, the 25th of March, ended on the 1st of April. This view gains support from the fact that the exact counterpart of April-fooling is found to have been an immemorial custom in India. The festival of the spring equinox is there termed the feast of Huli, the last of which is the 31st of March, upon which the chief amusement is the befooling of people by sending them on fruitless errands." The practice of April-fooling long antedates Christianity, its roots buried in dimmest antiquity. Obviously, April Fools' Day is of pagan origin! Another source declares: "To find the practice so widely prevalent over the earth, and with so near a coincidence of day, seems to indicate that it has had a very early origin amongst mankind" (Book of Days, page 462). Since the evidence is overwhelming that April Fools' Day stems from ancient pagan custom and tradition, and since the Bible, the Word of God, nowhere teaches Christians to partake in observing such a day of mockery, foolishness, jesting and ridicule, and since God actually condemns foolish jesting in His Word (Ephesians 5:4), followers of Jesus Christ should have nothing to do with this custom. God commands Christians, "Learn not the way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2, Authorized Version). Regarding worldly customs inherited from heathenism, God declares: "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you"(11 Corinthians 6:17).
The Bible says, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved" (Acts 16:31). I have been told that we don't have to obey God's commandments, but that we can still be saved just as long as we believe. Is this right?
What do you mean, believe? The word believe implies faith, conviction, trust, certainty. If we believe on or in Jesus Christ — and, more important, if we believe what He says — we come to know Him. Notice what I John 2:4 says about those who claim to know Jesus Christ: "He who says, 'I know Him,' " — that is, he who believes on Christ — "and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him." Anyone who says he believes but refuses to obey is a liar, according to God. He doesn't really believe what Jesus Christ said. What did Jesus say? What did He command us to believe? "Repent ye, and believe the Gospel" (Mark 1:15, Authorized Version). The Gospel deals with obedience! Notice: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). "Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments" (I John 2:3). "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (I John 5:3). Acts 5:29 says, "We ought to obey God." And to whom does God give His Spirit? "To those who obey Him" (verse 32). "Faith [belief] without works is dead" (James 2:26). Why is obedience so necessary? Because "the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good" (Romans 7:12). The law of God is good for you. Sin is bad for you. That's why Jesus Christ commands you to obey God's law — it's for your own good! Will you believe Him?
Why didn't God reprove Abraham for having a child by Hagar? Wasn't that a case of adultery?
The Creator of the universe set in motion a living, dynamic, active law. That law, when violated, brings on misery, heartache and death, unless repented of. Abraham violated that law, and he suffered the penalty. Abraham and Sarah for the moment lacked faith in God's promise to provide them with an heir (Genesis 15:1-6), and Sarah urged Abraham to produce an heir through Hagar, her maid (Genesis 16:2). Let's notice the result: "Then Sarai said unto Abram, 'My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she [Hagar] saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes' "(Genesis 16:5). Yes, they knew they had sinned. Not only did their consciences trouble them, but their deeds brought family problems, animosity, resentment and contempt. The rest of their physical lives was not to be the same. Abraham and Sarah learned an important lesson. Too many people have the idea that God is a harsh monster who fiendishly punishes human beings the moment they step out of line. No such thing — God set a law in motion to bring us peace and happiness. When we break that law, we bring on ourselves the penalty of sin and suffering. God designed human beings as free moral agents with capability of making decisions, thereby developing character through experience. God gave man His law to help guide and direct him in living a happy, abundant life. David said: "Oh, how I love Your law!... Your word is a lamp to my feet" (Psalm 119:97, 105). Yes, Abraham did break God's law, and it was a bitter lesson not soon forgotten. Abraham did repent, of course, and was blessed by God. But that mistake of Sarah's and Abraham's is with us yet — in the animosity between Jew and Arab today!
How did we get the Bible? Can we be sure that the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures have been accurately preserved?
God works through human instruments. He worked through a human, physical nation in preserving the Old Testament. That nation was the House of Judah, the people we call Jews today. At Mt. Sinai, God gave the lively oracles to the "church [the physical national Israel] in the wilderness" through Moses (Acts 7:37-38, Authorized Version). Out of the 12 tribes of Israel, God chose and commissioned one tribe, the Jews, to preserve His Word. In Romans 3:1-2, Paul wrote: "What advantage then has the Jew?... Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God." The Jews have carefully preserved the original, inspired Hebrew Old Testament for us to this day. The basic reason, of course, is that only the Jews have kept an understanding of Hebrew. All the other tribes lost their language and do not speak Hebrew today. But the Jews as a nation rejected both Jesus and the record of His message and life. Since the Jews would not preserve the story and message of God's own Son, God led the apostles to use Greek, the most widespread language of their day, for the New Testament record. Greek was a highly developed, precise, accurate language, and was known throughout the Roman Empire. For centuries, the inspired original New Testament was copied and preserved in the Greek world for us today. God has made it His responsibility to see that both Jews and Greeks have carefully copied the Scriptures from generation to generation. God has not left it to men to decide what is His Word. Now, in this 20th century, God has raised up a work in the House of Israel — in the English-speaking world — to carry the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to all nations. Neither the Jews nor the Greeks were willing or able to fulfill that commission. To carry out His work through His true Church today, God has had His Word translated into the leading modern languages from the original Hebrew and Greek. Now all may hear and, if God is calling them and they are willing, understand!
Can a person understand the Bible on his own? I've been trying to understand the Bible for a long time, but I'm more confused than ever.
The Bible records an example of a man who sought to find God on his own and failed. Notice it in Acts 8:26-40. Philip, a deacon in the New Testament Church, met an Ethiopian man of great authority. Sitting in his chariot on the road from Jerusalem to Gaza, the Ethiopian was reading in his Bible the prophecies of Isaiah. Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" (verse 30). The Ethiopian replied simply, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" (verse 31). Here was an educated man of responsibilities and accomplishments, the treasurer of a queen's wealth. But he realized that unless a minister helped him, he could not understand God's Word. Verse 35 shows that Philip gave him the instruction he sought: "Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him." You can on your own understand some of your own Bible, but the Bible itself reveals that God has sent teachers like Philip to make the whole truth plain. Notice what Paul wrote in Romans 10:13-15: "For 'whoever calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.' How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, unless they are sent?" Here is the key to understanding your Bible. First, you must determine who the ministers are that God Almighty has sent. Listen with an open mind to those who are God's faithful and true servants, willing to believe what you are taught out of your own Bible. As verse 17 says, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." If you would like to begin a thorough study of your own Bible, enroll now in the Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course. This is a unique Bible study course — the only textbook you need is your own Bible. This course provides an easy-to-follow, step-by-step study to help you learn the basic truths of God's Word. More than two million people have already enrolled in this course. And the course is absolutely free — there is no obligation whatsoever. The Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course is a complete Bible-study guide, fully illustrated with photos, maps and charts that make the Bible come alive. No longer will you find Bible study a dull, irksome task, but you will find that the Bible deals with up-to-date events and issues of concern to you right now — world events and prophecy, family and personal problems, successful living. Lessons are sent to you monthly, and periodic quizzes help you chart your own progress.