In our communication with others, we frequently ask questions, and at the same time, we expect others to ask questions of us. When we read the Bible’s record of Jesus’ earthly life, it is very common to see Him asking and being asked questions. We observe the same thing in the book of Acts when we read about the early disciples teaching the gospel.
Just as it was in the first century, today the Lord wants His followers to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person (Mark 16:15). The Bible says that Christians “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12) and be ready to answer people’s inquiries (1 Peter 3:15). The more we attempt to have contact with people, and the more we make an effort to teach them God’s word, the more questions we will be asked. That is just the way it works.
But why do people ask questions about spiritual matters? What is their motive? From what is recorded in the Bible, from our observations of others’ discussions, and from our own personal experience in communicating the gospel to people, we have learned that folks ask questions for a variety of reasons.
Sometimes people ask questions out of curiosity. They perhaps have heard something about the Bible or the Lord’s church and just want to know if what they heard is true. When Paul preached in Athens, certain philosophers heard his message about Jesus and His resurrection. They wanted to hear more about this doctrine, not because they thought Paul’s message was from the true God of heaven, but it was simply interesting to them. They said to Paul, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears” (Acts 17:19,20). The Bible says that the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either to tell or to hear some new thing (17:21). Time will tell if a person’s curiosity will turn into genuine interest in the truth.
Some ask questions in order to criticize God or His message. Is that not what Satan was doing when he questioned Eve? The serpent asked, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). Why did God tell Joshua to kill the Canaanites? Why does God allow evil to exist? Why is God so strict? Those all are fair questions, but often they are asked with such an attitude that it is obvious that those who ask them are not really searching for the truth, but rather want to attack our Creator or His word. That is blasphemy.
A third group of people asks questions in order to try and justify themselves. Once when Jesus told a man to love the Lord and his neighbor as himself,
the man asked Jesus a question: “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29). What was his motive for asking that question? He desired to “justify himself” (10:29). Today those who consider themselves as good moral people often ask why they need Jesus or need to be born again. Why ask such questions? In order to justify themselves, that is, to show that they are good enough as they are now.
Be careful. There are some who ask good questions, but rather than have a heart that is seeking truth, they simply want to argue. To continue to study with such a person is almost always in vain. Jesus said, “Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine . . .” (Matthew 7:6). The Christ’s idea is that we should not continue to use our time in giving the good things of the gospel to those who have proven by their attitude that they do not intend to receive it. With such people, sooner or later we just need to move on and try to find a humble person who wants to hear what God says.
Yet others ask questions in order to tempt/test us. The Bible says that the Pharisees asked Jesus questions in order to tempt Him (Matthew 19:3; 22:15-18). What were they trying to accomplish? They were trying to “trip Him up” – cause Him to look bad either by doing or saying something that was not appropriate. Folks may ask us tricky questions that have no connection with the salvation of the soul; they simply want to try to get us to say something wrong or want to hear us admit that we cannot answer their questions.
Thank the Lord that there are those people with whom we come in contact who sincerely desire to know the truth. The questions they ask come from a noble and good heart (Luke 8:15), and we should always welcome such questions. On the day of Pentecost, the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon were cut in their heart. Because of that, they asked what to do (to be saved, Acts 2:37). The eunuch from Africa genuinely wanted to know whether the message of Isaiah 53 was about Isaiah himself or someone else, so he asked Philip about it. The eunuch’s interest and question gave Philip an opportunity to preach Jesus to him (Acts 8:31-35).
Asking questions is an important part of the learning process, so let us not try to avoid people who have questions about the Bible. Their questions and our biblical responses may cause their heart to turn to the Lord for the salvation of their soul. Remember, the Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
— Roger D. Campbell