To question or not to question? That is the question.
We generally ask questions because we want answers. From the incessant ‘why’s’ of an inquisitive 3-year old and deep philosophical life questions of students, to ‘Why, God’ and ‘Why Me?’ questions when life is unfair or tragedy strikes - the ability to question and be curious is the default of our image bearing. We are divinely programmed to question.
Throughout history, however, we have seen cultures and political leaders who have tried to quell any questioning of their people.
To not question removes accountability. We witnessed this personally in 2008 when we visited China – that eerie acceptance and submission of Chinese citizens who had no voice within a communist regime. This autocracy has often resulted in tyranny. Cult leaders have operated in the same way; intimidating and punishing those who question their authority or
To question is to think.
To question is to wonder.
To question is to search for truth.
God is the author of our inquiring minds.
Throughout Scripture we find questions – God asking questions, OT prophets asking questions of God, God’s people questioning His call, the Psalmist’s questions, Religious leaders and experts in the Law questioning Jesus, the disciples asking Jesus questions, Paul answering many of the NT churches’ questions or anticipating their questions in his letters to them. And then of course we have that fateful question from Satan which changed the course of human history when he asked, ‘Did God really say?’
‘Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.’
This quote by French philosopher, Voltaire, is spot on. His dictum got me philosophising: A question is not just a question and a question can definitely be more than a question.
Philosophy aside, as Christians, what is our framework of operating when it comes to questioning within a Church or Bible study context?
Why are you questioning?
This speaks to motive.
Are you asking questions to clarify God’s truth, Biblical principles or commands to live by, or you are questioning because you are angry, cynical, skeptical or suspicious? Do you love to play devil’s advocate? We are clearly told: ‘Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.’ [2 Timothy 2:23]
This speaks to heart.
If you don’t like the way the Bible says something, is it perhaps because your starting point is pride and you are challenging God’s word? Have you elevated your own thinking and personal preference and merely want to rationalise your behaviour and choices?
Who do you go to for answers? Do you tend to keep questioning peers and others who will give you the answers you want to hear, and you ignore counsel from wise, godly and more mature Christians? Are you prepared to listen?
This speaks to your view of God.
If you are asking questions that challenge Scripture or God’s Truth, perhaps your view of God is distorted and faulty. When you do not have a big view of God then you will judge Him and end up with a small view of Him.
Are you questioning to know what God’s Word says and humbly submit to that,
or are you questioning to pridefully cover up your own defiance
and rebellion of God’s Word?
When Job, a man of faith, reverence and righteousness, finally asked God for an explanation for his suffering, God responds by asking Job a series of rhetorical questions in Job 38-41, reminding him of his limitations and restoring Job’s big view of God.
And the LORD said to Job: ‘Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it.’ Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth.’ [Job 40:1-4]
Then Job answered the LORD in Job 42:3 and said: ‘I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.’
When we question God and His word and He answers us with Truth from His heavenly throne with words contained in His Holy Scriptures, is our response the same as Job’s?
Our responses to God’s answers contained His Word
will always expose the why of our questions.
When the Pharisees, Religious leaders and experts in the Law came to ask Jesus questions, it was to trap and test Him. But Jesus knew this, and generally answered their questions with questions, exposing their motives, their hearts and their view of God. They often went away; their pride intact. Their ‘good’ questions were not to find the truth, but rather an attempt to justify their own ‘truth’ and their self-made view of God.
When we ask the wrong questions we will never get the right answers. If our questions are in the quest of Truth, which will set us free [John 8:32], then we need to come to Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. [John 14:6] That is when we will get the right, life giving answers.
What are you questioning?
This speaks to content.
The Bible is full of simple truths, instructions and commands. These are black and white and contain no ambiguity. Commands to fear God, truths about who God is and who we are.
Instructions of how to do the 'one-anothers.' Wisdom in how to speak and act. Commands to obey when it comes to so many areas of life - from lying and gossiping to sexual immorality.
If any of these are questioned, you are setting yourself up as your own authority. You have decided that God’s Truth is relative and that is a very dangerous place to be. You are back with Eve in Genesis 3, doubting God with an arrogant, ‘Did God really say?’
This speaks to convictions.
There are, however, many grey areas in Scripture that we have to apply sanctified wisdom and discernment. There are no specific inspired rules to many practical areas of Christian living.
When Christians start making man-made rules or ‘guidelines’ for these grey areas, and enforcing them onto others - when personal convictions and experiences become prescriptive and the standard to live by - we need to question that. We do not have the right to go beyond what God’s Word says.
If you are questioning man’s truth to find God’s Truth – that is good.
If you are questioning God’s Truth to reinforce man’s truth - that is dangerous.
The principle and exhortation in Scripture is clear: ‘Now these Jews [in Berea] were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed.’ [Acts 17:11-12]
In 1 Thessalonians 5:21, in response to the prophetic proclamation of God’s Word, Paul tells us to ‘Test everything and hold fast to what is good.’
‘See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.’ [Colossians 2:8]
When human traditions are imposed on us under the guise of Biblical truth and practice, we are to question that and test that – even if you are young in the faith. We are to know God’s Word and study it to discern truth. Every time.
When answers to questions (whether from the pulpit or the pew) become all about dogma and the external ‘nitty gritties’ to define ‘godliness’ and Christian living, we need to challenge that – doing so with humility and grace; without compromising God’s Truth and Christian liberty.
Who are you questioning?
This speaks to authority.
Who are you actually questioning – man or God? Do we have the right to question God and to challenge His Word?
Trevin Wax explains it like this: ‘Like most good Westerners, we chafe against claims of moral authority. We push back against instructions that demand something from us. The rationale for this particular type of rebellion against God is that conforming to nature or to an outside standard – seen in Christianity as obedience to God – stifles the ‘real me.’ To follow the ancient instructions of Scripture, or to conform to a moral standard that comes from outside, feels like a betrayal of my identity. Submitting myself to Truth that comes from outside myself feels like I am abandoning the call to live my truth. And so the primary message of the Church, one that confronts the ‘Me’ with claims of God, feels wrong.’
Isaiah 45:9 warns us: ‘Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, 'What are you making?' or 'Your work has no handles'?’
And Paul reminds us in Romans 9:20: ‘But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is moulded say to its moulder, "Why have you made me like this?"’
When we do question God, like the Psalmist, it needs to come from a heart of reverence and humility which will transition to worship and awe because we are reminded of who we are and who God is. When we consider His steadfast love to us, His acts of faithfulness and His promises which are forever true for those who belong to Him – our questions will fade into the background as the beauty of God’s truth shines into our hearts.
This speaks to submission.
Are you prepared to obey God’s Word?
When Moses was called by God at the burning bush to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses said to God, ‘If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?'
God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
When the all-powerful, self-sufficient, sovereign and holy God of the universe speaks - previously through the Prophets and then through His Son recorded in His Word - we are to listen and obey. [John1:1,14 / Hebrews 1:1-2].
Like Moses, we are to tremble, worship and obey. We are on holy ground.
‘When all is said and done, God alone will be God.
We will not be God.’
Finally, when it comes to questions – we need to turn to Jesus.
We need to answer His questions.
Jesus always asked searching questions to unmask the hearts of His listeners and point them to His Father and to the truth of the Gospel.
When Jesus asked His disciples, ‘Who do people say that I am?’ They answered: ‘John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’
And then He asked them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’
Peter answered him, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.’
Who do you say Jesus is?
That is the one question you need to answer today.
Your answer to that question has eternal consequences. When you stand before the judgement seat of the great ‘I AM’ on that day, you will have no questions to ask, just one to answer - one question focused solely on what you believe about Jesus - Is He your Lord and Saviour?
On that day, you will have no questions to ask – just one to answer.
If your answer is the same as Peter’s - if you have acknowledged Christ as your Saviour, the Son of the Living God and are robed in His righteousness, - then with Peter you can affirm, ‘Where else would I go, Lord, for You have the words of eternal life.’