The Bible indicates that all Christians “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12). We may not all be public teachers, but in some fashion each one of us needs to make an effort to help others learn the word of God. As we communicate the gospel to people, asking questions can be an effective way of helping them to see the truth. We might ask a question to see how much one understands, to see what one thinks or believes, or to emphasize a particular point. Jesus was the Master at using questions to communicate the will of God, and we should imitate Him in this regard.
Not only do we frequently use questions in the teaching process, but as we conduct Bible studies or discuss religious matters, other people often will ask us questions as well. The more that we have contact with and teach people, the more questions we will be asked. But why do people ask questions? What is their motive? From what is recorded in the New Testament and from our personal experience in teaching others, we have observed that folks ask questions for various reasons.
Sometimes people ask questions just out of curiosity. They perhaps have heard something about the Lord’s church and just want to know if the “strange” thing that 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 one true God of heaven, but because they found it interesting or curious. 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 Holy Spirit explained that the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either telling or hearing some new thing (17:21).
Some ask questions in order to criticize or attack God and His word. Surely that is what Satan was doing when he asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). “Why did God tell the Israelites to kill innocent people?” “Why would God punish someone eternally in hell?” Such questions are often 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 the Creator or His holy instructions.
A third group of people ask 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 God 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 on guard against those who ask good questions but do not really want to learn the truth; they simply want to argue. To continue to study with such a person is almost always in vain. Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine . . .” (Matthew 7:6). Our Lord’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 have to dust off our feet and move on and try to find an honest person who wants to hear God’s truth.
Yet others ask questions in order to test or tempt us. The Bible often says that the Pharisees asked Jesus questions in order to test/tempt Him (Matthew 19:3). Yes, there were occasions when Jesus’ adversaries “plotted how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15-18). People may want to see if by their questions they can cause us to get angry and say or do something that would be out of place. They may ask us tricky questions that are not at all connected with the salvation of man’s 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.
In contrast to those whom we have discussed thus far, there are those people with whom we come in contact that sincerely desire to know the truth. Thank God for them! The questions that they ask come from a good and honest heart (Luke 8:15), and we always welcome such questions. On the Day of Pentecost, the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon were pricked in their heart and because of that, asked what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37). A eunuch truly desired to know whether Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else when he wrote Isaiah 53, so he asked Philip about it. That eunuch’s interest and question gave Philip an opportunity to preach Jesus unto him (Acts 8:31-35).
Let us not try to avoid people who have questions about the Bible, but continue to seek out those who are really interested in learning the truth. Remember, our Lord said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).
~ Roger D. Campbell ~