Faith all by itself without any action isn’t enough to be saved. What do we need to do in order for us to be truly saved from death? How can we learn from the examples in the Bible what it means to put our complete trust in God?
Would you please explain 2 Kings 5:17-19? Did Elisha permit the Syrian officer Naaman to worship idols in the pagan temple of Rimmon?
Some have used this passage to justify Christian participation in
pagan worship services. This is, however, not the meaning of 2 Kings
5:17-19, and the Bible, as a whole, clearly condemns such practices.
Before analyzing the passage in question, let us review what happened
Beginning in verse 1 of 2 Kings 5, we find that Naaman
was the commander of the army of the king of Syria, a great and
honorable man, but a leper. With the king’s permission, Naaman went to
Israel to be healed by the prophet Elisha from his leprosy. Elisha did
not meet with Naaman, but told him through a messenger to wash in the
Jordan River seven times, to become clean. Naaman had expected to see
Elisha personally and reacted with anger regarding Elisha’s injunction,
belittling the Jordan River in comparison with the mighty rivers of
Syria. His servants persuaded him to obey Elisha, and when he did, he
was healed from his leprosy. Naaman went to Elisha and offered him a
gift, which Elisha refused to accept. Naaman also said: “Indeed, now I
know that there is no other God in all the earth, except in Israel”
(verse 15). Requesting “two mule-loads of earth,” he explained: “…
your servant will no longer offer either burnt offering or sacrifice to
other gods, but to the LORD” (verse 17).
He then continued to
say: “Yet in this thing may the LORD pardon your servant: when my
master goes into the temple of Rimmon to worship there, and he leans on
my hand, and I bow down in the temple of Rimmon–when I bow down in the
temple of Rimmon, may the LORD please pardon your servant in this
thing” (verse 18). The record goes on to say, in verse 19: “Then he
[Elisha] said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he departed from him…”
Henry’s Commentary points out, correctly, that both requests of Naaman
are dubious, to say the least: “1. In one instance he over-did it, that
he would not only worship the God of Israel, but he would have clods of
earth out of the prophet’s garden… He that a while ago had spoken
very slightingly of the waters of Israel (v. 12) now is in another
extreme, and over-values the earth of Israel, supposing that an altar
of that earth would be most acceptable to him. 2. In another instance
he under-did it, that he reserved to himself the liberty to bow in the
house of Rimmon, in complaisance to the king his master, and according
to the duty of his place at court (v. 18)… If, in covenanting with
God, we make a reservation for any known sin, which we will continue to
indulge ourselves in, that reservation is a defeasance of his covenant.
We must cast away all our transgressions and not except any house of
Rimmon. If we ask for a dispensation to go on in any sin for the
future, we mock God, and deceive ourselves.”
The Broadman Bible
Commentary points out that Naaman’s “desire for dirt from Israel [was] closely linked to the common belief that gods were identified with the
land itself–an attitude that continued even in Israel for an
embarrassingly long period of time… Naaman’s second request dealt
with the necessity of accompanying his master when he worshipped
Rimmon… the god of storm and rain… Elisha apparently grants both
The Ryrie Study Bible concurs, stating that “Elisha
assured him that God would understand…” But did he? Did Elisha permit
Naaman to worship idols in the temple of Rimmon? If he did, why did he
do it? And, why did Elisha not clearly prohibit Naaman from doing so?
The New Bible Commentary: Revised points out the difficulty with this passage, by stating:
answer is non-committal, but it has given scholars all sorts of
problems in former generations, and even led to establishing an
artificial difference between true worship of the false god and joining
in the ritual act without any faith in the act.”
“difference” is in fact only “artificial”–that is, without value or
accuracy. After all, Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:16-22: “The cup
of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of
Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body
of Christ? For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all
partake of that one bread. Observe Israel after the flesh: Are not
those who eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar? What am I
saying then? That an idol is anything, or what is offered to idols is
anything? Rather, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they
sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have
fellowship with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the
cup of demons; you cannot partake of the Lord’s table and of the table
of demons. Or do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than
As we explain on page 18 of our booklet, “Don’t Keep
Christmas,” Paul was referring here to the common religious practice of
many to incorporate pagan rituals in their worship of God. Paul
specifically prohibited true Church members to do that. We also note
that Daniel’s three friends refused to bow down before the image or
idol erected by King Nebuchadnezzar, and that they were willing to die
for their refusal to do so (compare Daniel 3).
We also read
Paul’s clear command in 2 Corinthians 6:16-17: “And what agreement has
the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living
God… Therefore, ‘Come out from among them And be separate, says the
Lord…'” Paul tells us to come out of pagan temples and forsake pagan
religious worship–not, to go into those temples and participate in
false religious ceremonies.
Why, then, did Elisha omit to give a similarly strongly-worded prohibition to Naaman?
the narrative, we should be able to see that Naaman was just at the
very beginning stage of understanding small portions of God’s truth.
Although he sounded sincere, he might have been one “who hears the word
and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself,
but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution
arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles” (Matthew
13:20-21). Even though, Naaman specifically requested of Elisha to
FORGIVE him his conduct of accompanying the king into the temple of
Rimmon and to bow down there with him. This means, Naaman seemed to
have understood that bowing down in front of an idol was wrong–even
though he would do it in compliance with his duties toward the king. A
modern-day example would be if we would accompany our employer into his
church and knelt down in front of the statue of a “saint.” No true
Christian should ever do this.
IF Elisha expressly permitted
Naaman to accompany his master into a pagan temple and to bow down
before a pagan idol, then, based on the clear instructions of the
Biblical record, such permission would have been against God’s perfect
Will. Many commentaries feel, however, that Elisha’s conduct cannot be
viewed as an express permission.
Jamieson, Fausset and Brown
state: “Elisha’s prophetic commission not extending to any but the
conversion of Israel from idolatry, he makes no remark, either
approving or disapproving, on the declared course of action, but simply
gives… the parting benediction.” Soncino concurs with this
understanding and adds that Elisha left the apparent inconsistency in
Naaman’s proposed conduct up to Naaman’s own judgment.
of how to view Elisha’s conduct in Naaman’s case, the Biblical teaching
for us today is very clear: True Christians must not participate in
pagan worship services, nor must they participate in “Christian”
services and activities which are derived from paganism. God
specifically prohibited ancient Israel, and He prohibits us today, to
inquire how the pagans worshipped their gods, and to adopt their
practices in our worship of the true God (compare Deuteronomy
12:29-32). As Paul very clearly explained: We CANNOT partake of the
Lord’s table and of the table of demons, as we would thereby have
fellowship with demons. To apply God’s prohibition to our day and age,
at least three obvious examples come to mind: A true Christian must not
bow down before the statue of an idol–regardless of what “Christian”
name might be given to that statue. He must not participate in the
celebration of religious holidays which are clearly derived from
paganism, such as Sunday, Christmas and Easter. And, he must not
partake of weekly “communion” in “Christian” churches which have
adopted most of their teachings from pagan beliefs and practices.
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Many people in Protestant churches pray to Jesus Christ, while Mary and various saints are also addressed in Catholic prayers. What is the Biblical teaching regarding whom a Christian should talk to in prayer?
There is indeed much confusion regarding how to pray and to whom one should pray; however, the Bible clearly reveals that the followers of Jesus Christ should direct their prayers, first and foremost, to God the Father.
When asked about how to pray by one of His disciples, Jesus was very specific regarding to whom prayer was to be offered: “So He said to them, ‘When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven ‘” (Luke 11:2). In the full context of His instruction about prayer, we find this final comment: “‘If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! ‘” (Luke 11:13).
Jesus teaches that we should address our prayer to the Father, and in so doing, He is pointing to the ultimate relationship that God is creating with mankind! In the account in Matthew concerning Jesus ‘ instruction about prayer, we read, “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him ‘” (Matthew 6:7-8).
Note that Jesus says that the heathen think that their prayers are heard. That also applies to those who are deceived and believe that they are practicing Christianity! Jesus warns that many will say that they invoked the name of Jesus as a part of their religious practices; however, Jesus states: ” ‘And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” ‘” (Matthew 7:23).
When Jesus and His disciples came to a city of Samaria, He discussed worship with a woman from the area–a Gentile. Jesus stated: “‘…Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth ‘” (John 4:21-24).
In a pointed exchange between Jesus and some of the Jews, we find this record in John 8, verse 42: “Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but he sent Me. ‘” Continuing in this account, Jesus shows that even these Jews who were a part of the physical lineage of Abraham were not true worshippers of God: “Jesus answered, ‘If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. Yet you have not known Him… ‘” (John 8:54-55).
Knowing the Father is the result of being called. Here is how Jesus explains how one may come to know the Father: ” ‘All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him ‘” (Matthew 11:27).
Jesus said, “‘…I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me ‘” (John 14:6). He taught His disciples that following His death and resurrection they were to pray to the Father–asking in the name of Jesus Christ (compare John 15:16; 16:23). Jesus opened the way for His followers to pray directly to the Father: “‘In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God ‘” (John 16:26-27).
In His own personal references about God, Jesus refers to Him as “Father”–particularly when praying. (Compare Matthew 26:39, 42; Luke 10:21; Luke 23:34, 46; John 11:41; John 12:28; John 17:1) The remarkable truth is that this Father-Son relationship is what has always defined these two members of the God Family, and it is the kind of relationship that Christians are promised throughout the limitless future of eternity! Please refer to our booklet titled, “God Is A Family,” for a fuller explanation.
Jesus told His disciples that He was about to return to His Father, and in this context, He said, “‘…My Father is greater than I ‘” (John 14:28). Paul adds this explanation about the plan God is working out: “Then comes the end, when He [Jesus Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24). Also, we read in verse 28: “Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”
The Book of Hebrews explains: “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens” (Hebrews 8:1). Hebrews also reveals that Jesus Christ opened the way to the Father, and that He continues as High Priest on our behalf when we come before God the Father in prayer: “Therefore, He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25; also, compare Hebrews 4:14-16). John writes: “…And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:1; also, compare Romans 8:34).
The early New Testament church was encouraged to pray, and Paul directed Christians to bring their needs and desires directly to God the Father through–that is, in the name of or by the authority of–Jesus Christ: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
There is absolutely no Biblical basis for praying to anyone but God. When John, on two occasions was so overwhelmed and filled with awe by the visions revealed through one of God ‘s angels, he reacted by falling down to worship the angel: “Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God ‘” (Revelation 22:9; compare Revelation 19:10).
However, there is at least one Biblical example when one of Christ’s servants prayed to Christ. We read in Acts 7:59-60: “And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God [note that the word “God” was added, as it is not in the original] and saying, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he knelt down and cried with a loud voice, ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he said this, he fell asleep.”
It is therefore not wrong to include, OCCASIONALLY, in our prayers to the Father a direct acknowledgement of Jesus Christ [besides the fact that we are to pray “in Christ’s name,” or by His authority]. After all, Christ is God, and He was even worshipped when He was on this earth, in the flesh. We receive the Holy Spirit from both the Father and the Son, and both the Father and the Son live in us. The Holy Spirit, however, is not God or a person; therefore, we should never pray to the Holy Spirit (see our free booklet, “Is God a Trinity?”). We can ask God for more of His Spirit to assist us in coming to the Truth and for help in living as Christ lived.
Additionally, praying to Christ should not become the major focus of our prayer life. As the Scriptures show, Christ directed us to pray to the Father–as the HIGHEST BEING in the God Family. Because the Father accepts the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on our behalf, the way is now open for us to come with confidence to the throne of God for help (compare Hebrews 10:19-22).
When we do pray to the Father, we have this guiding assurance: “And whatever we ask, we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment” (1 John 3:22-23).
Lead Writer: Dave Harris