Category Archives: Crucial Questions

judgement begins at the house of god:

Judgment is a recurring theme throughout the Bible (see Psalm 82:8). God’s plan includes a final judgment on the wicked and all who reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ as payment for their sins (Matthew 10:15; Romans 2:2; Hebrews 9:27; 10:26–27). A cursory reading of 1 Peter 4:17 seems to suggest that Christians may face God’s judgment, too: “For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” Is the “judgment” that begins at the house of God the same as the judgment of the wicked?


The context of 1 Peter 4:17 explains more about the judgment that begins at the household of God. In this chapter Peter is exhorting the church—the house of God—which was facing persecution, to persevere. The believers were also struggling to separate from the former worldly sins that had once enslaved them (verses 1–4). Peter reminds them that the wicked will face God’s judgment (verse 5) but that believers in Christ must hold themselves to a higher standard than they once did. The “fiery trials” that they were facing were to help refine them like gold (verse 12).
God allows difficulties and suffering in the lives of His people to purify them. When we are persecuted for the cause of Christ, we share in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13–14). And when we share His suffering, we know Him a little better (Philippians 3:10). Paul echoes this theme in Romans 8:17: “Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” Part of God’s judgment upon sin is physical suffering. When His own children experience such suffering, it is not for our harm but to make us more like Jesus. “Judgment” for the children of God can be considered discipline (Hebrews 12:4–11). It is designed to purge the sin from our lives and teach us obedience.


A loving father does not discipline the kids down the street, because they are not his. A father disciplines his own children. Likewise, the discipline of our heavenly Father begins at His own household, with His own children, the church. He is reserving for the wicked an ultimate, final judgment that His children will never experience (Romans 8:1). Scripture makes a distinction between God’s purifying discipline of the church and His ultimate condemnation of the wicked: “When we are judged . . . by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world” (1 Corinthians 11:32).
In this present age, God allows painful circumstances in the lives of His own household, not to condemn but to mature, convict, and bring repentance (2 Corinthians 7:10). Through suffering we learn patience (James 1:2–4). This kind of judgment is to encourage us to abandon selfishness and draw nearer to Him (James 4:8). The ultimate, final judgment for unbelievers will be eternal separation from God, from life, and from all that is good and beautiful (Matthew 8:11–12; Revelation 21:8).


The judgment that begins at the household of God also includes church discipline. Church discipline is not for unbelievers but for believers: “What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside?” (1 Corinthians 5:12). Believers are commanded to take responsibility for other followers of Christ who may be slipping or headed toward sin (James 5:20). First Corinthians 5:11–13 commands us to avoid fellowship with anyone claiming to be a brother or sister in Christ but who insists on maintaining a sinful lifestyle. Jesus lays out the process for church discipline in Matthew 18:15–17. Someone who has been confronted multiple times and warned that the choices he is making are in opposition to God needs to repent. If he refuses to listen to the church, we are to turn away from him in the hope that this drastic action will bring about repentance (see 2 Corinthians 2:7 and Galatians 6:1). As believers, we are to pursue holiness and encourage each other to pursue it, too (1 Peter 1:15–16). We are to judge ourselves as God’s household (1 Corinthians 11:31). In this way, judgment begins in the house of God.


There will be another kind of judgment for all those who have been redeemed by God’s Son. Second Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (cf. Romans 14:10). This judgment for those who are “in Christ” is not to determine eternal destiny but to give rewards for godly service and faithfulness (Matthew 16:27; Revelation 22:12). Jesus commanded us to store up treasure in heaven (Luke 12:33). This treasure will be revealed at the judgment seat of Christ. This glorious day will be more like an awards ceremony than a trial, because everyone present has already had their eternal fate secured when they were born again (John 3:3). Jesus Himself will give us crowns and treasure to enjoy for all eternity according to what we have done with all He had entrusted to us (Matthew 25:21).


God’s desire is that His people learn to walk in holiness and fellowship with Him (Romans 8:29). As any loving parent would do, God will bring unpleasant consequences upon His children for rebellion. He expects the ones He has redeemed by the blood of His Son to set the example for the rest of the world. If the church is not in pursuit of holiness, the world sees no need to change its allegiance. So judgment begins in the household of God, with His own children, as He teaches us to live like Jesus.

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM THE ACCOUNT OF POTIPHAR’S WIFE?

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The story of Joseph and Potiphar’s wife in Genesis 39 contains some obvious lessons about fidelity in the face of sexual temptation, and there are also some subtler points to be found about the loyal character of God. The story is dramatic: Jacob’s son Joseph is in Egypt, where he is Potiphar’s servant and the most trusted overseer in his household. Potiphar’s wife sees that Joseph “was well-built and handsome, and after a while . . . said, ‘Come to bed with me!’” (Genesis 39:6–7).

Potiphar’s wife tries to seduce Joseph, but he staunchly refuses her advances: “My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9). Joseph is loyal both to Potiphar and to God. Potiphar’s wife doesn’t give up; she “spoke to Joseph day after day, [but] he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her” (verse 10). Note the wise course Joseph takes, choosing not to be alone with Potiphar’s wife if he could help it.

But then came a turning point in Joseph’s life: “One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. [Potiphar’s wife] caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (Genesis 39:11–12). Potiphar’s wife, spurned again, stands there with Joseph’s cloak in her hand, and she chooses an angry, vindictive plan: “She called her household servants. ‘Look,’ she said to them, ‘this Hebrew . . . came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house’” (verses 14–15).

When Potiphar came home, his wife showed him Joseph’s cloak and repeated the lie: “As soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house. . . . This is how your slave treated me” (Genesis 39:18–19). Potiphar, outraged at Joseph’s supposed betrayal, put him in prison (verse 20).

There is much in the story of Potiphar’s wife about resisting sexual temptation. A brash woman overtly tempts a man, pulling on his clothes and saying, “Lie with me.” The man flees from her so suddenly that he actually leaves his garment in her hand. Joseph doesn’t stand there, gazing at the woman, considering whether or not he should sleep with her. He immediately gets out of there (see 1 Corinthians 6:18).

Joseph’s wise handling of the situation with Potiphar’s wife directly contrasts the foolhardy actions of the simple man in Proverbs. Solomon sees a fool walking toward the house of an adulterous woman (Proverbs 7:8). When the fool drew near, “she took hold of him and kissed him . . . with a brazen face” (verse 13). Rather than run away like Joseph, the foolish man stayed to listen to her: “With persuasive words she led him astray; she seduced him with her smooth talk” (verse 21). And he paid a high price for his foolishness: “All at once he followed her like an ox going to the slaughter” (verse 22). One could argue the Joseph, too, paid a high price—his virtue landed him in prison—but one has only to read the rest of Genesis to see the blessings God had in store for Joseph.

It is interesting to note that Genesis 39 does not say anything about Joseph’s feelings for Potiphar’s wife: was he attracted to her? Did he find her beautiful or interesting? How long did they have a perfectly normal and friendly relationship—servant and mistress—before she chose to attempt a seduction? None of this is enumerated. The heart of the issue is this: Potiphar’s wife promised happiness and sensual satisfaction, but Joseph saw sin for what it is, refusing to do “this great wickedness” (Genesis 39:9, ESV). Joseph feared God, knowing that all sin is ultimately against Him (see Psalm 51:4). In saying “no” to Potiphar’s wife, Joseph showed himself to be wise: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding” (Psalm 111:10).

The incident with Potiphar’s wife is bookended by two passages that speak of God’s love and blessing to Joseph. Joseph found favor in the eyes of the Egyptians among whom he lived and rose to a position of prominence in the house of Potiphar (Genesis 39:1–6). Joseph’s success and position was the direct result of God’s blessing (verses 2–3). When Joseph was wrongly accused and sent to prison, God remained faithful. God “showed [Joseph] kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden” (verse 21). Soon, the keeper of the prison had put Joseph in charge of the other prisoners and trusted him so fully that he no longer paid attention to anything that was under Joseph’s control (verses 22–23). Everything Joseph did succeeded because “the Lord was with Joseph” (verse 23).

The story of Potiphar’s wife is about loyalty as much as it is about resisting temptation. Potiphar’s wife was disloyal to her husband, but Joseph was loyal both to Potiphar and to God. God shows us amazing loyalty and faithfulness. It is part of His character. He is “compassionate and gracious . . . slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Exodus 34:6). “For the word of the LORD is right and true; he is faithful in all he does” (Psalm 33:4). Joseph’s desire to be faithful and loyal to Potiphar was in response to God’s faithfulness to Him; Joseph was reflecting God’s character, which is what the godly do. “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

When Potiphar’s wife stirred her husband’s jealousy and made him throw Joseph in prison unjustly, God was still there, comforting and blessing Joseph. From this we can learn that, even if we are treated unfairly in this life, God will never forsake His servants (Hebrews 13:5).

Prophet Nathan Emol

HOW DO I GET RIGHT WITH GOD?

In order to get “right” with God, we must first understand what is “wrong.” The answer is sin. “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Psalm 14:3). We have rebelled against God’s commands; we “like sheep, have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6).

The bad news is that the penalty for sin is death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezekiel 18:4). The good news is that a loving God has pursued us in order to bring us salvation. Jesus declared His purpose was “to seek and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10), and He pronounced His purpose accomplished when He died on the cross with the words, “It is finished!” (John 19:30).

Having a right relationship with God begins with acknowledging your sin. Next comes a humble confession of your sin to God (Isaiah 57:15). “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved” (Romans 10:10).

This repentance must be accompanied by faith – specifically, faith that Jesus’ sacrificial death and miraculous resurrection qualify Him to be your Savior. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Many other passages speak of the necessity of faith, such as John 20:27; Acts 16:31; Galatians 2:16; 3:11, 26; and Ephesians 2:8.

Being right with God is a matter of your response to what God has done on your behalf. He sent the Savior, He provided the sacrifice to take away your sin (John 1:29), and He offers you the promise: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21).


A beautiful illustration of repentance and forgiveness is the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32). The younger son wasted his father’s gift in shameful sin (verse 13). When he acknowledged his wrongdoing, he decided to return home (verse 18). He assumed he would no longer be considered a son (verse 19), but he was wrong. The father loved the returned rebel as much as ever (verse 20). All was forgiven, and a celebration ensued (verse 24). God is good to keep His promises, including the promise to forgive. “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).

If you want to get right with God, here is a sample prayer. Remember, saying this prayer or any other prayer will not save you. It is only trusting in Christ that can save you from sin. This prayer is simply a way to express to God your faith in Him and thank Him for providing for your salvation. “God, I know that I have sinned against You and am deserving of punishment. But Jesus Christ took the punishment that I deserve so that through faith in Him I could be forgiven. I place my trust in You for salvation. Thank You for Your wonderful grace and forgiveness – the gift of eternal life! Amen!”

Prophet Nathan Emol

WHAT SHOULD A CHRIST CENTERED LIFE BE LIKE?

A Christ-centered (or Christocentric) life is one that is focused upon a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord. At the core of every human decision is a motivation. Some people are motivated by the quest for pleasure or money. Some center their entire lives on a goal, a job, or even their families. These things are not wrong in themselves; however, that which we center our lives on can become our god.

The human heart was designed for worship, and if it does not worship God, it will worship something else. If we are not Christ-centered, we will be centered on something else. Worship is measured by the amount of time, money, and emotional energy expended. Our gods can be identified by the level of passionate commitment they evoke in us, and, after a while, we begin to resemble them. We talk about them, think about them, dream about them, and scheme to spend more time with them. People who know us best usually know where our deepest passions lie because worship is hard to hide.

Followers of Christ who center their lives on Him start to become more like Him. They talk about Him, think about Him, dream about Him, and scheme to spend more time with Him. They choose to obey His commands out of love and honor for their Lord, not from fear of being caught in sin. The greatest desire of Christ-centered believers is to please Him and grow to be more like Him. Their lives echo Paul’s words in Philippians 3:10: “I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” The chief aim of a Christ-centered life is to glorify God.

But a Christ-centered life is not to be confused with a religion-centered life. The Pharisees in Jesus’ day were religion-centered. They ate, drank, and slept the Law. They could spout rules, codes, and judgments as fast as a child can recite the ABCs, but Jesus had harsh rebuke for them. They were Law-centered but not love-centered, and it made all the difference (Matthew 23:25; Luke 11:42). A religion-centered life strives for supremacy, attention, and glory based upon performance. It keeps score and judges itself and others by self-made standards. Christ-centered lives rest in the finished work of Jesus on their behalf and yearn for holiness as a means of staying close to Him (Hebrews 12:14).

The secret to living a Christ-centered life is understanding the “fear of the Lord” (Psalm 19:9; Proverbs 16:6). The fear of the Lord is the continual awareness that our loving heavenly Father is watching and evaluating everything we think, say, or do. Those who live Christ-centered lives have developed a tangible awareness of the presence of Jesus (Matthew 28:20). They make decisions based upon the question “Would this please the Lord?” They avoid Satan’s traps and worldly entanglements because they evaluate their choices: “If Jesus was spending the day with me, would I do that? Watch that? Say that?” (1 Timothy 3:7; Ephesians 6:11). Every lifestyle decision is weighed on heaven’s scales and evaluated for its eternal significance. Lesser loves fall by the wayside because they steal time, resources, and energy away from the real passion of life—pleasing Jesus. However, living with the fear of the Lord requires a conscious, ongoing commitment to it, and even the most devoted will fail at times.

No person has ever lived a perfect life except Jesus (Hebrews 4:15). Even those who deeply desire a Christ-centered life will stumble, fall, sin, and make fleshly decisions in moments of weakness (1 John 1:8–10). But a Christ-centered person cannot endure living in disharmony with God and will quickly confess sin and be restored to fellowship with Him. This process of living in continual harmony with God is called sanctification. It is a lifelong process by which God makes us more like Jesus (Romans 8:29; Hebrews 12:14). When we first center our hearts on Him, our lives quickly follow.

Prophet Nathan Emol

ARE BLACK PEOPLE CURSED?

No, black people are not cursed. Black people are created in the image and likeness of God just as much as every other ethnicity of humanity. The idea that black people are cursed by God and divinely meant to be subservient to other races is often called the “curse of Ham,” based on an incident recorded in Genesis chapter 9. Other allegations go further back, to Genesis 4, saying that the “mark of Cain,” which accompanied a curse upon Cain, was that Cain’s skin was turned black. The problem is, neither of these passages says anything at all about race or skin color. Those who say that black people are cursed by God have no biblical basis for their claims.

In Genesis 9, Ham sees his father lying drunk and naked in his tent (Genesis 9:20–22). Ham tells his brothers of their father’s condition, and the brothers avert their eyes and respectfully cover their father (Genesis 9:23). When Noah came to, he discovered what had happened and leveled a curse on Canaan, one of Ham’s sons:
“Cursed be Canaan!
The lowest of slaves
will he be to his brothers” (Genesis 9:25).

The descendants of Ham, according to the Bible, included the Assyrians, Canaanites, Egyptians, and Ethiopians (Genesis 10:6–20). Those who adhere to the theory that black or dark-skinned people are cursed have pointed to the fact that Ham’s descendants include Africans; they also say Ham’s name, which means “hot” in Hebrew, is evidence that the dark-skinned people of the world, who mostly come from warmer climates, are all Ham’s children and therefore part of the curse of Ham. Early Christian theologians sometimes used this reasoning in an attempt to explain (not necessarily endorse) why some people were routinely enslaved.

Invoking the “curse of Ham” was a tactic developed during the rise of the Atlantic slave trade in an effort to justify forced, racial-based slavery. Talk of the “curse of Ham” was especially prevalent in the United States in the lead-up to the Civil War. Both before and after that era, however, Christian scholars noted that the practice of race-based slavery was explicitly unbiblical. Racism (Galatians 3:28; Revelation 7:9), man-stealing (Exodus 21:16), and abusive servitude (Exodus 21:20) are all forbidden in the Bible.

The first point of rebuttal against the idea that Genesis 9 teaches that black people are under a curse has already been mentioned: nowhere is race or skin color mentioned in that chapter. Second, Noah’s curse is specifically levied against Canaan, not Ham; so, in literal terms, there is no such thing as a “curse of Ham” in the Bible. Canaan, not Ham, was predicted to become a slave to his brothers. Many of Ham’s descendants were never slaves; for example, the Egyptians, children of Ham, spent most of their history in a position superior to that of Israel, children of Shem. Third, the Hebrew terms used in Genesis 9:25–27 are often found in contexts suggesting inferiority but not forced labor, per se. The same word translated “slave” in Genesis 9:25 is used of Esau in relation to Jacob (Genesis 27:37–40), of Joab in relation to King David (2 Samuel 14:22), and of Abraham in relation to the Lord (Genesis 18:3). In none of these cases does the word carry an implication that literal slaves were involved.

The fulfillment of Noah’s curse on Canaan occurred centuries later when the Israelites (from the line of Shem) entered the land of Canaan and subdued the inhabitants of that land (1 Kings 9:20–21).

To rebut the theory that Genesis 4 teaches that black or dark-skinned people are cursed or deserving of discrimination, we note the wording of God’s rebuke of Cain: “Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground” (Genesis 4:11), and “The Lord put a mark on Cain” (verse 15). The Hebrew word translated “mark” is ‘owth, and nowhere in the Bible is ‘owth ever used to refer to skin color. The curse on Cain was on Cain himself; nothing is said of Cain’s curse continuing to his descendants. Besides, the “mark of Cain” was meant to protect Cain (verse 15) and should be considered a mitigation of the curse, not the curse itself. There is absolutely no biblical basis for the idea that Cain’s descendants had dark skin. Further, unless one of Noah’s sons’ wives was a descendant of Cain (possible but unlikely), Cain’s line ended with the flood.

In short, the claim that dark-skinned or black people are “cursed” by God comes from a worldly, anti-biblical attempt to justify racism. There is no such thing as a “curse of Ham,” and there is no justification for race-based slavery. What sets the races against each other is the sinful nature of human beings.

Prophet Nathan Emol