Question and Answer

Big Questions
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Q. Almost 91 percent of the gospel of Mark is found in Matthew and/or Luke. Applying today’s standards, at least two gospel writers committed plagiarism. So what’s wrong with preachers prayerfully making the sermons of others their own and using them to meet the needs of their congregations? —Canada

A. Rev. David Holwerda, professor emeritus of New Testament at Calvin Theological Seminary, says, “I doubt that the Lord intended to place copyright restrictions on the Word. The Word of life is freely given and should be freely quoted and proclaimed. According to tradition, Mark wrote down the preaching of Peter. Matthew and Luke selected from that account and from other eyewitness material, both oral and written (Luke 1:1-4), in order to create gospels that were shaped to meet the needs of their audience. Neither of them was content merely to repeat the tradition handed down. The result is two additional and very distinct gospels not identical with Mark.

“In writing a sermon the pastor does something similar by interpreting the Word of God and shaping a message to meet the congregation’s needs. In shaping the message the pastor receives inspiration and borrows ideas from the writings of others—sermons, commentaries, exegetical helps, newspapers and magazines—and from listening to the needs of the congregation. In addition to the Scriptures, a pastor needs the insights and writings of others. No one can be or needs to be original all the time.

“If on a given Sunday a pastor declares that someone else’s sermon was so impressive and fitting for the congregation that he or she is now preaching it, few would object. However, if this becomes a regular practice or if the sermon’s actual author is not mentioned, the congregation will rightly sense that its pastor lacks integrity and is failing to fulfill his or her calling (see The Banner, December 2005, p. 35).

“A congregation calls a specific person to be its pastor and expects to hear its pastor’s understanding of God’s Word as shaped by the pastor’s spirituality, personality, and talents, as well as the pastor’s intimate awareness of the congregation’s problems and needs. Pastors have the privilege and responsibility to speak and apply God’s Word to a particular congregation. They should do that well.”

Q. What did Jesus mean when he said, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven” (Mark 12:25)? One author says, “We lack the biblical data to know definitely what Jesus meant. But an adequate creation theology would hold that whatever was good in creation to begin with will not be destroyed but actually enhanced at that time.”—Iowa

A. This text is the answer of Jesus to “the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection” (v.18) and who, in an attempt to ridicule belief in the resurrection, give an example of a woman who had been married seven times and then ask, “At the resurrection whose wife will she be?” (v. 23). Jesus counters the two erroneous assumptions on which their question is based. They do not believe God has the power to raise the dead. Jesus says God does. Though they do not believe it themselves, they voice the common belief that earthly relationships will be resumed after the resurrection. Jesus says they won’t.

Today, too, some Christians think that earthly relationships will be resumed after the resurrection even though they know some Christians who, because of death or divorce, have multiple spouses and others who have unbelieving spouses. Jesus meant what he said, “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage.”

Q. Our pastor ends his sermons with the words “I believe this is what the Holy Spirit is saying to you and me. So let it be.” Is this an improvement over ending a sermon with the powerful word “Amen?” —Ontario

A. Actually your pastor is ending the sermon with the powerful word “Amen” but instead of merely saying the word, he’s defining it. It undoubtedly makes people think much more than a simple “Amen.”

 

Got a question about Christian faith and life? Send it to Pastor Vander Weit, c/o The Banner, 2850 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Grand Rapids, MI, 49560. Or you can e-mail it to editorial@thebanner.org with “Q&A” in the subject line. Please include your state or province.

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