Who Let the Snakes Out?

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Who Let the Snakes Out?

​Growing up in the church, I’ve often heard the motto, “I want to go to heaven and take as many people with me as I can.” This is a noble and appropriate goal for a Christian and should be our mindset. We want to make a difference. One of the biggest ways to make a difference in the Church is doing all we can to make sure everyone in the Church remains faithful, and avoiding behaviors that would push them away.

​We learn in Hebrews 10:24-25 not to neglect God nor our brothers and sisters, but to “exhort” and “stir [them] up to love and good works.” To exhort means to strongly encourage or urge someone to action. A huge reason we assemble is to encourage our brothers to continue to live for God, which should make assembling a unifying event. However, when we fail to exhort and stir one another up to love and good works, we open the door to division.
Paul wrote in Galatians 6:1, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.” In what way could we be tempted? The sinning brother did wrong, not me! We can be tempted to lose our temper, as if we are the sinless judge. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 18:21-35 that we should be far more concerned about our own debt than our brother’s debt. We need to use more restraint—it doesn’t take a hammer to remove a fly from our brother’s forehead (Galatians 6). While we are commanded to restore our brothers, and to “pull them out of the fire (Jude 23),” we must realize only the gospel can convict a good and honest heart (Romans 1:16).

Often times, we fall prey to the sin of “evil speaking.” In this sin, not only do we allow hatred to get the best of us, we fail to warn our brother of his sin, giving him no chance to repent. This is against the biblical blueprint given in Matthew 18:15-17. Talking about our sinning brother without giving him the opportunity to correct his error does not harmonize with the following verses:
Ephesians 4:31: “Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice.”
Titus 3:2: “…speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.”
James 4:11: “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.”
1 Peter 2:1: “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking…”
Galatians 5:15: “But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!
Louis Rushmore writes:
“The prominent words in this verse of Scripture are ‘often used together of wild animals, or like cats and dogs’ (A. T. Robertson) or ‘of animals of prey’ (Liddell), and so this context describes Christians who act toward each other, howbeit figuratively, as ravenous, mortal enemies in the animal kingdom. Christians are not supposed to act like ‘wild animals in deadly struggle’ (Wuest). This type of behavior is as remotely removed from the ideal of the preceding verse as one could possibly imagine, which reads, ‘…You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ (Galatians 5:14)….
Robertson’s illustrates: ‘There is a famous story of two snakes that grabbed each other by the tail and each swallowed the other.’ What better way to demonstrate the absurdity and catastrophic outcome of Christians biting, devouring and consuming each other?”
In other words, “be kind.” Anyone who truly knows the bible can spot sin; one who practices the bible meekly warns his brother of his sin. Do we want only to prove to others that we know our brother is in sin, or do we want to effect change? When we humbly urge our brothers to turn to God, our congregation can become more like the church we read in the bible.

Joey Hickey

The Truth About the Pope

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The Truth about the Pope

People have pride in long tenure. Olympic athletes with the longest standing records are exalted as gods because of incredible feats. Sometimes long tenure is confused with legitimacy. So is the case with the Catholic Church and the pope. Members of the Catholic Church are convinced that the pope is the voice of God on earth, and they make this claim on the basis that the popes can be traced all the way back to Peter: the acclaimed first pope.
Following are three reasons this author cannot believe the apostle Peter to be the first pope or his successors to be the Catholic popes that followed.

First, the supposed successors to Peter as pope were simply elders in the church. As early as Irenaeus (185), attempt was offered to make one single bishop (pope) of Rome have precedence over the church. Irenaeus claimed Linus was the first bishop after Peter, followed by Anacletus. However, Tertullian gives this title to Clement of Rome. Much confusion can result in trying to reconcile early documents and finding who the true successor was. Clement’s own writing settles the issue. Clement states that the churches were governed by elders, thus explaining that all these men were elders of the church at Rome, with no single one of them holding primacy over the others.

Second, if all popes are the successors of Peter, then all popes should be as righteous as the apostles themselves. Liberius, Honorius I, Stephen VI, John XII, Benedict IX, and others are good examples of how evil popes have been through the years. Some of these popes were sexually immoral in ways that would make a dog cringe. The bottom line is this: show this author 13 apostles who will be in heaven and a list of 13 popes can be provided who will be in hell without a doubt. If the popes are chosen and inspired by God as Catholics claim, then not a single one should have such evil said of them.

Third, the Bible does not support a monarchal pope. Peter had no superiority over the other apostles. In fact, Paul rebuked Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11). Also, in Acts 15 at the Jerusalem council, Peter held no precedence over the others in attendance. History nor the Bible support linear succession of the pope back to Peter. The pope is elevated to god status. Ironically, Paul said, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus,” (Gal. 3:28). Peter himself said that bishops were not to be, “Lords over those entrusted to you…” (1 Peter 5:3). It seems odd then when the pope is paraded around and exercises supposed God given authority as he does.

This is the truth about the pope.

(*Source: Mattox, F. W. The Eternal Kingdom. Delight: Gospel Light Publishing Company, 1961. Print.)

Aaron Battey

Do You Hate Anyone?

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Do You Hate Anyone?

With everything that we do in life, sports, jobs, school and so on, it can be very easy and tempting to have someone become our enemy. Perhaps, we deep down inside begin to hate them. Literally we cannot stand that person and no matter what they do we begin to hate them. I have been guilty of this, on occasions, and perhaps you have as well. The Bible has things to say about this hatred that we may have for some people. Proverbs 10:12 says, Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs. It’s obvious that all hatred does is cause problems. In Matthew 5:43-44 it says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, Jesus says that it doesn’t matter what this person has done to us. We are to love them and do good unto them. Romans 12:20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. This doesn’t mean that we should want to make our enemy mad by doing good, but we should want to do good so that they might realize we are not their enemy and that we love them. I think this is something that should be talked about more in the world today.

Carter Culbertson

Are You Fruitful ?

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Are You Fruitful?

Luke 13:6-9 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that[a] you can cut it down.’”

In Luke 13:6-9 we read of the parable of the fig tree. Jesus often used parables,which were usually stories containing analogies between things of an earthly nature and things of a spiritual nature, to teach certain lessons. By doing this, Jesus taught moral or spiritual lessons by relating them to things that people already understood. That is certainly the case with this parable. An important lesson can be learned from this parable for the modern-day Christian about the seriousness of being fruitful in our spiritual lives. The importance of this lesson cannot be overstated because every Christian, at some point in their spiritual life, has become content with the progress he/she has made. As a result, this leads to spiritual laziness, which is something that is not acceptable in our service to the God of Heaven.

A similar lesson is also taught in John 15:1-8. In this parable, the vineyard mentioned represents the church of our Lord. The fig tree planted in the vineyard, represents a single Christian working within the vineyard. Jesus says that the fig tree is not fruitful; therefore, it should be cast down because it is useless. Christ even says “why cumbereth it the ground?” meaning there’s no reason for the church to be burdened down and hindered because its members are rendered unfruitful. It is pointless for the ground to bear a tree that is dead and unproductive. So is the case with the church. There are far too many members who burden and hinder the efforts of the church because they are content with their spiritual positions. They have become complacent and therefore, unfruitful. They are useless! Not because they do not have the ability to be useful, but because they are not developing their abilities to better serve God. There is no room for this in the church!

The point that needs to be made is that it is the job of every Christian throughout our life to grow to our full spiritual potential. In order to do so, we cannot afford to waste time. There is no room in our lives for complacency. It is a constant process of growth all throughout life. If you are not taking steps forward everyday, then you are taking steps backward. There is no neutrality in the Christian growth process. For this reason, we must strive to grow daily! We must be consistent! No, it is not a process that happens overnight, but taking steps forward day after day can help us reach our full spiritual potential at the end of our lives. If we become unfruitful, we will reap the same fate as the unfruitful fig tree. We will be cast down and removed from God in the last day.

Colby Culbertson

Here’s Your Sign

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Here’s Your Sign

​ Before idea of astrology even originated, signs were used to symbolize covenants between God and man. A covenant is a binding agreement between two individuals. God does not easily forget His covenants (promises), but man does. Deuteronomy 4:23 says, “So watch yourselves, that you do not forget the covenant of the LORD your God which He made with you, and make for yourselves a graven image in the form of anything against which the LORD your God has commanded you.” Because man is so apt to forget, God would often times use human methods or signs to help man remember divine covenants such as is referenced to in Deut. 4. In the Old Testament (OT) there were three particular signs mentioned in scripture.

​ The first sign between God and man was a rainbow. Moses records in Gen. 9:13, “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.” Every time a rainbow appears in the sky, man is reminded of this covenant between God and man from thousands of years ago. Because the rainbow exists, man can be confident the covenant exists.

Following are the three other covenantal signs listed in the Bible. The covenant God made with Abram in Gen. 12 was given the sign of circumcision. God made a covenant with the children of Israel in Moses’ day on Mt. Sinai. In Exodus 31:13, Moses reveals that the Sabbath day was a sign of that covenant on Mt. Sinai. Last of all, the Lord Jesus instituted the New Covenant while on earth and said in Luke 22:20, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood…”

All four signs –the rainbow, circumcision, the Sabbath, and the cup- were made as a proof and reminder. Thus, whenever one of those signs cease to exist, man can know for sure that the covenant has been dissolved altogether. This is an important detail to keep in mind when discussing the fulfillment of the OT. Because the Sabbath is nowhere required in the New Testament (NT) scriptures, man can be confident that the OT has been done away with as the Hebrew writer directly states in Hebrews 8:13. To require the Sabbath or any other law today would be wrong because the law, as well as the sign, has disappeared from the NT law. Consider this whenever discussing the contrast between the OT and NT.

Aaron Battey

Paul’s Teachings on Self-Defense

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Paul’s Teachings on Self Defense

​The apostle Paul teaches some very harsh, politically incorrect doctrines throughout the scriptures which are difficult for some Christians to accept and obey. In fact, many Christians are willing to concede to the authority of Christ up to the point that they have to personally sacrifice something. The name for this type of disciple is a “Fair Weather Christian.” Paul’s teachings are not for the Fair Weather Christian. Paul demands that Jesus’ disciples sacrifice many things. A short list includes the following: personal relationships (1 Cor. 5), the right to speak in worship (1 Tim. 2), cursing, swearing, fornication, anger (Col. 3), money (1 Cor. 16), and the list could go on. Perhaps the most difficult of all things to give up is the use of lethal force in defense of oneself and family. Paul speaks to self-defense in 1 Cor. 7.

​Open the Bible and read 1 Cor. 7:25-33. Read the passage again, and when finished, read it a third time. Now, stop and take 5 minutes to process this new information. Five minutes have passed. Next, consider the following definition of terms within the passage. When Paul mentions the virgin, he is referring to anyone that is unmarried. In modern terms, Paul is talking about bachelors or bachelorettes. Paul is thus discussing throughout the passage the dilemma of whether a bachelor should marry or remain single. This passage may be mistaken for the first century version of “Dating for Dummies.” Contrary to this carnal and sad misconception, Paul is not trying to be a dating doctor. The apostle discusses this topic because of a daunting and terrifying time about to face the first century Christian. He calls this approaching peril “the present distress,” (vs. 26).

​The “present distress” has been misinterpreted as an impending famine and even the second advent of Christ by some. These interpretations are made by Fair Weather Christians who do not want to face the hard and clear facts of Paul’s message. The present distress was something that would require a Christian to choose between wife or Christ, personal possessions or Christ, peace and tranquility or Christ. Read again vs. 29-30, “But this I say, brethren, the time is short, so that from now on even those who have wives should be as though they had none, those who weep as though they did not weep, those who rejoice as though they did not rejoice, those who buy as though they did not possess.” Paul then makes the statement, “But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord-how he may please the Lord,” (vs. 32).

​There would be a Roman Caesar named Nero rise to power who would put Paul and many other Christians to death, only because they bore the name of Christ. Other emperors like Domitian would arise who would follow suite with Nero. It is very likely that Paul looks forward to such disciples of Satan as the present (impending) distress that would cast the great burden of choice upon Christians. The choice: will the Christian deny the name of Christ in order to save the life of his wife or perhaps his expensive possessions, or will the Christian refuse to deny Christ and act as if he did not have a wife, own possessions, or have reason to weep? The conclusion is obvious. Paul gave no room for self-defense.

​Set aside emotions for once and seriously contemplate this emotionally disturbing command given by the apostle. Ask with sincerity, did Paul give the option of shooting the perpetrator? Think on these things while waiting on upcoming discussions regarding self-defense and the Bible.

Aaron Battey

Found Wanting

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Found Wanting

In Daniel 5 we are introduced to an amazing account in the life of Daniel and an extremely unfortunate end to a wicked king. Belshazzar takes the vessels of the temple, which his grandfather Nebuchadnezzar had taken, and uses them in a banquet for his nobles.

While this banquet is going on, a finger of a man appeared and writes on the wall. This changed the king`s countenance and he was filled with so much fear that his thoughts troubled him and his knees knocked. Have you ever had this type of fear? There would be no rest for Belshazzar that night. He immediately brought in his astrologers, Chaldeans, and his soothsayers, but this was to no avail, because they could not interpret the writing. The King was told about Daniel and he sent for him. The king brought in Daniel who made known the writing on the wall:

Daniel 5:25-28 And this is the writing that was written, Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin. This is the interpretation of the thing: Mene; God hath numbered thy kingdom, and finished it. Tekel; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting. Peres; Thy kingdom is divided, and given to the Medes and Persians. I want to focus on the meaning of “TEKEL” which means “Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.”

God told Belshazzar you are weighed in the balances of my righteous judgment and have been found wanting. The word wanting means: “lacking or deficient.” We are shown clearly what Belshazzar was lacking in his life. Daniel 5:3, 4 shows that Belshazzar lacked respect for God. Daniel 5:23 says that Belshazzar did not glorify God. Daniel 5:22 shows Belshazzar lacked humility. In this article I want us to consider if we are lacking in our lives as God`s disciple. Will we be found wanting on the final day? If so what will we be found lacking or deficient of?

1) Will we be found deficient of Baptism?
Do you think baptism is necessary for salvation? Are you delaying baptism? God`s word says a lot on baptism and what the reason for it is. In Acts 2:38 we are taught that we need baptism to be forgiven of our sins. Peter says “Be baptized for the remission of sins.” We are told that Christ is the Savior of the one body (his church) Eph. 5:23. The only way to get into the body of Christ is through baptism for the remission of sins (1 Cor. 12:13). It is clearly evident that baptism is needed in order to be saved from our sins.

There is story about a girl who was considering being baptized. When her mother heard about it, she told the girl that if she would not obey the Gospel, she would get her the prom dress, she had been wanting. Sadly the girl decided to give into the mother’s offer. Shortly after that, she became deathly ill. The doctors informed her that her sickness was fatal. The mother was heartbroken. Knowing her daughter would soon die, she asked if there was anything she could do or get for her. The daughter replied, “Yes, you can you bring me that beautiful prom dress.” The mother went away confused,yet determined to fulfill her daughters last wish. When the mother returned with the dress, the daughter asked her to hold up the dress so she could see it. The daughter then said, “Mother that is the dress that cost me my soul.” How sad this story is, but without scriptural baptism we simply won`t make it to heaven.

2) Will we be found lacking zeal for God?
In the world in which we live it is easy to find ourselves getting bored with things. We throw them aside and look for something else. It is sad to see many do this with God. At first, they are thrilled with the Lord, but slowly they begin to drift. The cares and affairs of this world choke the zeal for God away; Luke 8:14 And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.

Peter tells us that the only way to be fruitful in the work of God is to be abounding in faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, charity. It takes a zeal for God and the gospel, to abound in our spiritual lives. To have zeal for God, is to have enthusiasm for Him.

It is my hope and prayer that no one will be weighed in the balances and found wanting on judgment day. May God grant us the ability to see and correct the areas in which we are weak!

Sean Smith

Spiritual But Not Religious

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Spiritual but Not Religious

​Perhaps sitting in a coffee shop or taking a lunch break at work, you have encountered someone who was spiritual but not religious (also known as SBNR). This is a growing ideal among Americans who claim to be Christians. In July, 2014, Mark Oppenheimer of the New York Times wrote an article about the SBNR movement. Oppenheimer cited a 2012 survey from the Pew Religion and Public Life Project. One-fifth of the survey population said they were not religiously affiliated, and 37% of that fraction stated they were SBNR. These numbers make it very likely that this author or you, the reader, will experience someone that claims to be SBNR before they die. What does the Bible say about the SBNR doctrine?

​SBNR advocates are typically disgusted with the idea of corporate church, because they had a bad experience with some church or church member. Their response is not to persevere, have longsuffering with the church, or seek unity with the church: all qualities that permeate the holy scriptures, particularly the books of Philippians and Colossians. Rather, they alienate themselves from any form of the church. However, in Colossians 1:18, Paul speaks about the church by saying, “And He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church…” Turn back to Ephesians 5:25-27 which dictates, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” Furthermore, vs. 23 says that Jesus is the “Savior of His body.”

Three important truths are learned from these passages, one from each passage. First, Jesus is the head of the church. He is not head of the “spiritually but not religious” people who hate the idea of a corporate body. If Jesus is the head and the church is His body, logic alone reveals that a person cannot have a relationship with His head without having a relationship with His body. The two come as a joint package. Second, Eph. 5:25-27 calls the church glorious while adding that Jesus died for the church. Did Jesus waste His blood on something useless so His acclaimed followers could be spiritual but not religious, having no identity with His blood bought institution? Third, Eph. 5:23 reveals that when Jesus comes back a second time to earth, the trip’s purpose will be to save His church, not the “spiritual” people who want nothing to do with His church. The bottom line is this: Jesus did not claim to be SBNR, so neither should we.

Aaron Battey

Does Prayer Work?

Does Prayer Work?

​There are many reasons why men and women choose to abandon their faith. One factor, a frustrated cynical view of prayer—and God, for that matter—is one of the most common reasons people leave the church. Many who made a commitment to serving the Lord and left, weren’t “sold” on prayer because they did not receive tangible results.Others assume God doesn’t answer prayer because bad things happen to them when they have done nothing wrong.

​If this is you, you are not the only one who has struggled with faith. We find the Apostle Thomas would not believe Jesus had risen until he felt all of his scars (Jn. 20:25). After feeling the scars and acknowledging he was with Christ, Jesus said in verse 29, “…Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” This is the faith Jesus desires for the Christian—a faith that doesn’t need physical evidence to accept the truth.

Still, although evidences of God are “clearly visible” in creation (Romans 1), many seek more and more physical proof of God. The Pharisees were this way, too. According to Mark 8:11-12, the Pharisees came to Jesus “seeking a sign.” They didn’t get it.

So, does prayer really work? And, if so, how? When some ask the first question, they are really asking, “Does God answer every prayer the way I want him to?” If the answer is “No,” then prayer, according to some, “does not work.” This is a carnal view of prayer. God owes you nothing. However, a spiritual view of prayer accepts when God answers, “No,” like Paul did in 2 Corinthians 12:7-9, because God’s grace is enough.

Prayer does work, when we are faithful and ask for the right things, within his will (James 4:3). Jesus said God would give what we need (Matthew 7:7-11). God doesn’t have to make your life on earth perfect, and we shouldn’t define whether or not God is faithful based on the percentage of prayers in which he answers “yes.” If he did, what would be the benefit of having no pain, struggle, or sadness in Heaven? Instead, we should focus more on our own faithfulness, than God’s faithfulness to us (James 4:8-10).

God didn’t answer, “Yes,” to his son, when Jesus prayed, “let this cup pass from me” so we wouldn’t have to endure eternal punishment. What more does he have left to prove?

Joey Hickey

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Literal or Figurative?

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Literal or Figurative?

Have you ever been asked “Do you take the Bible literally?” Before answering, you would be well-advised to pause and consider your reply. To the one asking the question it is a simple yes or no answer. If yes, then he will rightly point out verses that, if taken literally, have clearly dangerous results. Take Mark 9:42-48, which tells Christians if their hand or foot causes them to sin, they should “cut it off”, and if their eye were to cause them to sin, they should “pluck it out.” If you were to take this literally you would participate in self-mutilation. On the other hand, if you answer “No” then as a figurative book it is plain to see that any person’s interpretation is as good as anyone else’s. So then, how would you go about answering your friend’s questions?

​First let us realize that the answer is not a simple “yes or no” answer; because within sacred writing there are eight forms of literary speech used. Some of these by nature would seem to exclude the possibility of figurative language; these include laws and historic writing. While other methods such as poetic and dramatic (Song of Solomon) use figurative language very frequently. So how can you give a Yes or No answer? You can’t, but you can explain the use of both Literal and Figurative writing within God’s word.

​E.W. Bullinger wrote: “whenever and wherever it is possible the words of Scripture are to be understood literally.” The word of God must be translated literally if possible. If not, then move onto figurative language. When God spoke it was in real life situations not in a fairy tale, thus the Bible views itself as a non-fiction book. When the writers cite other persons in Scripture they site them as real. For example, Jesus referred to Jonah in Matthew 12:39 as a sign of His resurrection; the writer of Hebrews lists many great men and women of faith (Hebrews 11) as examples to the believer. Nowhere is the story of Moses or David seen as anything but factual, therefore one writer wrote “the Bible itself gives a witness that it should be taken at face value.” Scripture interprets scripture literally.

But as we have noted there are figurative writings in the Bible; most commonly in four forms. Metaphor, which is a comparison by direct statement, John 5:1, “I am the true vine” Jesus was not a literal vine but he could be compared to one; a Simile, which is a comparison by the use of words “like” or “as” Exodus 24:17, “The glory of the Lord was like a consuming fire…”; a Hyperbole is an exaggeration for emphasis, for example John 21:25, “And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I supposed that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” And finally used most commonly in the Old Testament is the figurative writing known as Anthropomorphism, which is attributing to God human characteristics such as in 2 Chronicles 16:9. So as we see the use of figurative language does have its place in scripture, but only when certain factors indicate that the passage in question is not meant to be interpreted literally.

​Therefore the correct answer to the question presented to you should be, If possible I take the Bible to be literal, although at times where a literal translation is not possible I then turn to the figurative sense. Because both can be found in the Bible.

Aaron Boone