All posts by Jon Mitchell

The Kindness of David — Jake Sutton

No one owes you anything. You also owe no one anything. Let us be honest with each other for a moment and come to the realization that there is no earthly reason for any of us to do any good whatsoever.

Yet we as members of the body of Christ don’t live by earthly tutelage. The readers who see my words in this article most likely  “live by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). Thus we understand that goodness first originated from God and His marvelous benevolence (Mk. 10:18). David the psalmist wrote, “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes” (Psa. 119:68). It is from this verse and others like it that we examine the obedient faith of one soul who accepted such statues and applied it to his own life, even in darker days. Thus we know, as God’s elect, that we are very much in debt to every man in bestowing the good news of Christ (1 Cor. 9:19). Going back to our initial thought of goodness, may we make some observations.

Goodness Is The Fruit Of God

I grew up in the North Georgia foothills in the city of Adairsville. The Cherokee natives called it Oothcalooga.  They deemed it very prosperous to grow crops of all sorts because the ground was so fertile. Altitude-wise, Adairsville is the lowest point between Chattanooga and Atlanta. If there were such a thing as the “middle of town” we would be it. Horticultural folks will tell you that this would be a wonderful place for one to grow crops. The Cherokee didn’t know the altitude factor, but the “fruit” of the land bore witness to that fact. My point is this: goodness is the “fruit” from which we ascertain God’s benevolence.

Outside of Christianity, there are what the world will call “good ole Joe’s,” people who were in a good moral climate and go around doing good deeds. The reason for this is because the world is so permeated with the effects and influence of the Gospel. Most folks know the “Golden Rule” but they don’t trace it to our Lord’s words in Luke 6:31. They are good folks but biblically do not know our Lord. As the Holy Spirit would say, they “aren’t known of God” (Gal. 4:9) because they haven’t come to obedient faith of the knowledge of God (2 Cor. 10:5).

Kindness is something every person can observe from God’s creation (Rom. 1:19-23) and those created in His image (Gen. 1:26). We can clearly see His consistent love in making a world and her inhabitants live and have their being by the word of His power (Heb. 1:3). God has providentially loved us and shows unending kindness and not one honest person will deny that fact. With that in mind, we cannot be excused from exercising kindness to our fellow man in any regard. Even if you withhold a physical blessing from a man who will not work (2 Thess. 3:10), you are still to do so with kindness. Keeping their souls salvation in mind, we are commanded to deal with them in meekness (Gal. 6:1).

David showed us this in his treatment with the house of Saul during David’s reign as Israel’s earthly king. David asked the question in 2 Samuel 9:1: “…Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” With that question, you and I are reminded of the love that David had for Jonathan and that Jonathan had for David. These men had an affection for each other that was deeply rooted in trust and honor. It was evident that this was the case because it was custom for the king of a new dynasty to massacre those in cohort with the previous. However, David was the game changer and didn’t follow the custom of man; he followed the custom of God. Not only for the Lord’s sake did he do this, but also for Jonathan’s. David took an oath and made a covenant on behalf of Jonathan’s family, that he wouldn’t allow them to be absent from the kindness the two had for each other (1 Sam. 20:14-15).

Cripple Over Crown

Our text of 2 Samuel goes on to show that there was one soul left unblessed who was of the house of Jonathan, Mephibosheth. This would turn out to be Jonathan’s son who became a paralytic by accident (2 Sam. 4:4). For the faithful today, we have mighty men and women who are battle tested in the fires of spiritual war and we have a code of honor and trust with them like David and Jonathan. We consider those whom we can trust the best of friends; even their children are considered our own. An adopted nephew of David, Mephibosheth unfairly suffered physically because of the sin of Saul. David could have ended this poor soul’s life by living in the statutes of man, but chose rather to do favor to the cripple over his own crown.

David was simply reciprocating the kindness showed to him by God.  What a wonderful example to behold!  Are we not blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ?  Yes (Eph. 1:3).  Are we as New Testament Christians crowned as priests and kings?  Yes (Rev. 1:6).  But just as Moses said to the children of Israel, we must not forget that we were once strangers (Ex. 22:21) and are to treat the people “without the camp” with kindness.  The first lesson to see here is that we were all spiritual Mephibosheths before coming to Christ.  And like Mephibosheth (2 Sam. 9:6), all we can do is pour out our soul and pledge allegiance to Christ by calling Him Lord (Acts 22:16) and giving our service to Him (Rom. 12:1). Recognizing we have nothing to offer for the Lord by merit, we are spiritually crippled (Matt. 5:3). Yet after dying in the waters of baptism, we rise to that newness of life (Rom. 6:4).  Like David, we bless others with the divine kindness bestowed to us. Who are we to withhold that from the world? May we never choose the decor of our own crown over the spiritual cripples in our lives.

Humiliation Over Honor

May we also like David suffer worldly humiliation for the cause of Christ. David had every worldly right and physical stature to walk into a room with a lame and defenseless man and slaughter the final member of the house of Saul for his own honor. Bystanders within and without the camp of Christ will speak with disgust over you showing kindness to the undesirables of the world. May we keep in mind that “all who live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). The source of that persecution isn’t limited to our heathen friends but also includes members of the body. Some will gather their circles together and humiliate you and your name because you, like David, want to show the kindness of God to the weak of the world (2 Sam. 9:3).

Notice to where David gives credit the idea of kindness: the God of heaven! Take comfort in knowing that God will always give honor to His faithful ones and never to the proud ones (Matt. 6:1). Rest assured, those of us like David, when we take the worldly “low road” please know that  God considers it the “holy road.” Make no mistake about it. “The Lord knows them that are his” (2 Tim. 2:19). 

Jake preaches at the Moultrie congregation in Moultrie, GA.

 

 

 

 

The Cursing Benjamite — Dale Barger

It is quite interesting to consider the events which God preserved in His inspired Word. When you reflect on the many possible events throughout history, no doubt there are many happenings that have been lost to the annuals of time. However, God saw fit to preserve certain events in explicit detail even to the conversations that transpired. These have been preserved so that Christians can learn how God expects us to conduct ourselves in this life.

One such peculiar event is the interaction between King David and Shimei (2 Sam. 16:5-13; 19:15-23). David had been driven from Jerusalem by the attempt of Absalom to usurp the throne. As he reached Bahurim he encountered Shimei, a relative of Saul, who confronted him with cursing and false accusations. This event provides many lessons to Christians who seek to serve God acceptably.

Lesson #1:  Recklessness in Anger. Shimei approached the king and his mighty men in an aggressive fashion (2 Sam 16:5-7). Casting stones and cursing the king in the presence of his mighty men is foolish indeed….especially when you reflect upon these battle tested men and their accomplishments (cf. 2 Sam 23:8-39). Abishai, mentioned in verse 18 of that passage, was noted for having slain 300 men with the spear. Abishai desired to execute Shimei for his cursing. Shimei endangered his own life by foolish actions in anger.

Anger causes one to act foolishly. The wise man stated, “He that is soon angry dealeth foolishly…” (Prov. 14:17). Actions in anger are not what God desires to see of His children. James states, “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). How dangerous do our actions become when we lash out in anger? One often does things that harm others, damages our relationships and damages our reputation as well as the reputation of others. If you were to reflect on your life, how many times have you acted righteously when you were angry? We say and do things in anger that is contrary to the will of God. This event displays for us the folly of anger.

Lesson #2: We Are Not Alone. During this confrontation, David was probably at a very low emotional state. He was driven from his home by his own son who sought his life (2 Sam. 16:11). David had also left some of his family as well as some of his servants behind at Jerusalem. David perhaps thought that there was no one left one his side. The words of Abishai prove that he was still loyal to David. He was willing to eliminate the threat of Shimei against his king.

As Christians, we sometimes feel that we are alone. It may be an emotional time for us when things aren’t going our way. We need to be reminded that we have the family of God, the body of Christ with us on our side. Paul speaks of the body being many members yet one body (1 Cor 12:14). He further speaks how that all members of the body rejoice and all suffer together (1 Cor 12:26-27). Other passages likewise speak of multiple pieces making up the whole body (c.f. Eph. 4:16). These verses encourage Christians to realize that we are not alone. We have those on our side to help us when we are low and to strengthen when we are weak.

Lesson #3: Do Not Retaliate. How hard must it have been for King David to leave his capital city! His own son was seeking to depose him. How emotional David must have felt! Yet, David did not allow his emotions to cause him to act hastily. He could have easily commanded his mighty men to eliminate Shimei, which Abishai was desirous to do. However, he felt that this may have been a punishment sent from God. Notice David’s words: “What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? So let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?” (2 Sam. 16:10). David was not going to stand and fight against God.  He realized the wastefulness of such an attempt. Had this cursing been from the Lord, David would have been fighting against God in retaliating against Shimei.

During the infancy of the Lord’s church conflict arose. As the council was seeking advice, a wise counselor told the Sanhedrin it was not possible to overthrow the work of God (Acts 5:34-39). If the church was a work of God they would be better not opposing the Lord.

David also was not going to retaliate against Shimei in hope that God would reward him (2 Sam 16:12). Even when things aren’t going our way it is never right to take our vengeance on others. Christian conduct demands a higher moral code. Paul taught, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. 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. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:18-21). It may be a difficult thing to do; things may not be going well that day. However, David gives us a tremendous lesson in not seeking vengeance against our adversaries in this episode.

Lesson #4: Time for Humility. After David’s forces eliminated the threat of Absalom and even Absalom himself (cf. 2 Sam 18-1-17), David was called again to Jerusalem to sit on the throne. As David was returning, Shimei “hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David” (2 Sam 19:16). Shimei approached the king with a different attitude and conduct in this meeting than previously. He realized the danger his conduct had placed him in and now sought forgiveness for his treachery. The record indicates that Shimei “fell down before the king as he was come over Jordan” (2 Sam 19:18). He wanted David to know that he felt differently and desired forgiveness. Shimei confessed, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart. For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king” (2 Sam. 19:19-20).

The confession of sin can be a difficult thing to do for those guilty of such prideful and arrogant actions as this man. However, he humbled himself before the king and his life was spared at this moment. Abishai however,  continued to plead with David that he should be executed for his sin of cursing the Lord’s anointed (2 Sam. 19:21).

Lesson #5: Time for Judgment.  Shimei was not punished by David at this time. David would not have that joyous occasion marred by the execution of Shimei. However, Shimei was not guiltless and would eventually be held accountable for his wickedness. As David was instructing Solomon of affairs concerning his kingdom, David gave Solomon notice of dealing with Shimei (1 Kings 2:8-9). As Abishai had pointed out Shimei was guilty of cursing the Lord’s anointed, David. Punishment was therefore in order. Solomon would place Shimei under restrictions which he would eventually violate and lead to his punishment.

As Christians, we learn from this that there are consequences for our actions. This makes the earlier discussion in this study so important. Just because emotions are high does not excuse our deeds of foolishness. We must ever be cautious to live according to the law of God. We will stand before God to give account of even the idle words that have been said (cf. Matt. 12:36-37).  If one speaks against the Lord’s Anointed, Jesus (Luke 4:18; Acts 10:38) and does not seek His forgiveness, he too will one day see punishment.

These lessons and a host of others can be gleaned from this episode between King David and Shimei. One thing is certain.  Mankind still faces the same struggles. We still fight the same urges. We still possess the same spirit as those who lived hundreds and thousands of years before our time. It is no wonder why God chose to preserve events such as this for our learning, “that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4) and learn to live acceptably unto Him. 

Dale is a 2009 graduate of the Tri-Cities School of Preaching in Elizabethton, TN.  He preaches for the Wheeler Hill Church of Christ in Pikeville, TN.  Dale and his wife Lydia have three daughters.

 

 

Faith Shown In The Elah Valley — Jon Mitchell

The sun shines down on the valley of Elah.  The giant walks tall and proud close to the brook which meanders its way through the valley just north of Shochoh and northwest of Hebron.  Goliath stands at about nine and a half feet in height, the modern equivalent of the biblical record of “six cubits and a span” (1 Sam. 17:4).  James Coffman’s commentary on 1 Samuel cites John Willis’ estimation of the actual weight of Goliath’s armor.  With the bronze helmet on his head, the coat of bronze mail weighing “five thousand shekels” (17:5) or 125 pounds, the bronze armor on his legs, and the bronze javelin slung between his shoulders with a shaft “like a weaver’s beam” estimated to weigh 17 pounds and the head of the spear weighing in at “six hundred shekels of iron” (17:7) or 18 pounds, Coffman and Willis estimate that Goliath’s armor “probably weighed in the neighborhood of 200 pounds!”  It is definitely a physically formidable soldier who can fight so effectively while wearing such weight so as to be the champion of an entire army, which is exactly who Goliath was according to the inspired writer (17:4).  A champion soldier of the Philistines.  A confident killer.  A warrior who has successfully defied the entire army of Israel and struck great fear in their hearts (17:8-11, 23-24).

Facing him across the brook is the youngest of eight sons of an Ephrathite of Bethlehem in Judah, a patriarch named Jesse (17:12-14).  The king of the Israelites, Saul, correctly recognizes this youngest son of Jesse to be “but a youth” (17:33), a na`ar in Hebrew, a child, a lad, nothing but an adolescent boy of no older than twenty.  Unlike three of his older brothers, this boy is no soldier (17:13-14), a fact not lost on his oldest brother Eliab who incorrectly thinks his little brother to be a foolish lark only interested in seeing a battle (17:28).  The boy is likely tall in stature like his king, considering that he was able to fit into the king’s armor when it was offered to him.  Yet he is still no soldier, at least not a full-time, professional military man who is fully trained to fight; he is not even ready or able to successfully test out Saul’s armor (17:38-39).  Rather, he is a shepherd boy used to carrying a staff, shepherd’s pouch, and sling (17:40).  The only reason he came to the Elah valley this day is because he is his father’s errand boy, sent to bring food to his brothers and their commander and  then immediately return home with some token from them (17:17-18).  The boy’s name is David.

If you spent any decent amount of time in Sunday School as a child, you know what happens next.  The shepherd boy chooses five smooth stones from the brook and puts them into his pouch.  Sling in hand, he approaches the Philistine giant (17:40).  Goliath approaches David disdainfully, mocking the boy and cursing him by his gods, promising to use his carcass to feed the birds and animals (17:41-44).  David replies, “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head.  And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give you into our hand” (17:45-47).

The two approach each other, David running quickly toward the battle line to meet Goliath while taking a stone from his bag, slinging it, and striking the Philistine on his forehead.   “The stone sank into his forehead,” killing him (17:49-50).  David then cuts off the giant’s head with Goliath’s own sword (17:50-51).  Seeing their champion dead, the Philistine army flees and is pursued by the Israelites “as far as Gath and the gates of Ekron” (17:52), both of which were important cities in the Philistines’ own country.

The Hebrew writer would later allude to David while writing of the faith of the people we read about in the Old Testament (Heb. 11:32).  When he wrote that “through faith” David and others were able to “escape the edge of the sword” (11:33), he might have had the encounter with Goliath on his mind.  This would be with good reason, for it certainly would require an enormous amount of faith in God to prompt anyone to go up against an immensely strong nine-foot-tall giant who “has been a man of war from his youth” (1 Sam. 17:33).  What was it that made David’s faith in God so strong?

Past Experiences

When Saul protested David’s intention to fight the giant, saying, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth” (17:33), David replied that he had successfully killed both lions and bears as a shepherd defending his sheep (17:34-36).  Killing a hungry bear or lion is no small feat.  Both animals have been known to easily kill hunters who were likely stronger and more experienced than David.

David knew this.  He understood that it was not his own might and prowess that had delivered him from death from these predators.   Perhaps God had earlier bestowed upon David supernatural strength after his anointing when “the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon” him, similar to what the Lord had given Samson (16:13; cf. Judg. 14:6).  Another possibility would be that God had providentially cared for David while he was fighting these beasts.  Regardless of the methods used, David was confident enough of the Lord’s involvement in his deliverance from death to say to Saul, “The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine” (17:37).  He likewise told Goliath, shortly before he killed him, that “…the Lord will deliver you into my hand…” (17:46).

How could David have been so confident that God would protect him from death?  It was because he had remembered God’s promises.

God’s Promises

At some earlier point in time, Samuel had been sent by the Almighty to Jesse’s home because, as God told Samuel, “I have provided for myself a king among his sons” to replace Saul (1 Sam. 16:1).  After having had all of David’s older brothers pass by him and being told by Jehovah that none of them were His anointed, Samuel had asked Jesse if there were more sons available and was told that David, the youngest, was keeping the sheep (16:6-11).  After sending for him, the Lord told Samuel upon David’s arrival, “Arise, anoint him for this is he,” and Samuel did so (16:12-13).  From that day forward, the Spirit of the Lord was with David (16:13).

Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that David knew that he was God’s chosen anointed to replace Saul at some point.  Either Samuel had told him, or the Holy Spirit had somehow promised him that he would one day be king.  David therefore trusted God to keep his promise, so much so that he was willing to fight the giant Philistine while knowing that God would deliver him.

I am reminded of Abraham, whose faith in God was tested in a similar fashion at least three times. God had promised him that he would make of Abraham a great nation and would give the land of Canaan to offspring he had yet to produce (Gen. 12:2, 7).  Yet, Abraham’s faith in God at that time, while strong enough to obey His directive to leave his country and strike out for parts unknown (12:1ff; cf. Heb. 11:8), still faltered when he traveled to Egypt.  Rather than trust that God would keep him safe because He had promised him future offspring, he persuaded Sarah to lie in an effort to keep him from being killed by the Egyptians (12:10-20).  He did something similar later with Abimelech (20:1-18), again showing that his faith in God had faltered.  Yet when God told him later to sacrifice his son Isaac as a test of his faith, Abraham unhesitatingly did so to the point where God had to stop him from killing his son (22:1-19).  He went through with it even though at that point Isaac had yet to marry Rebekah, produce more offspring, and thus bring God’s promise closer to fulfillment.  The Hebrew writer attributes Abraham’s willingness to obey what to any parent would  be an extremely difficult and agonizing command to faith that God would keep His promise to give Abraham more offspring through Isaac, a faith so strong and deep that he surmised that God would resurrect Isaac from the dead after the sacrifice (Heb. 11:17-19).  Clearly, Abraham’s faith in the promises of God, while in many ways already strong, had grown even stronger!

David undoubtedly had a similar faith in the promise that God would one day make him king of Israel, and his faith in that promise motivated him to defend the honor of God against those like Goliath who would oppose Him.  This was also a reason behind David’s decision to face the giant.

Righteous Indignation

Goliath had “defied the armies of the living God” (1 Sam. 17:26), and thus had defied God Himself (17:45), much like Saul of Tarsus would later persecute Christ by persecuting His followers (Acts 9:1, 4-5).  The Philistine did this repeatedly, morning and night, for forty days (17:16).  The Targum, a collection of uninspired Jewish commentaries of the Old Testament, records the Israelite tradition that Goliath claimed to have been among the Philistines who had captured the ark of the covenant and had personally killed the priests Hophni and Phinehas, the sons of Eli (cf. 4:10-11).  If true, then the pagan giant had a history of openly opposing and showing contempt towards Jehovah God.

Upon arriving at the Elah valley, David heard Goliath’s blasphemous challenge for the first time (17:23-25).  His immediate response was to ask the soldiers around him, “What shall be done for the man who kills this Philistine and takes away the reproach from Israel?  For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (17:26)  This earned a rebuke from his oldest brother Eliab, but his indignation over Goliath’s insults remained undeterred (17:28-30).  His angry rebuttal of the Philistine’s blasphemy reached the ears of Saul, who sent for David and was told by the young man, “Let no man’s heart fail because of (Goliath).  Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine” (17:31-32).

Lessons For Christians Today

This account of David’s encounter with Goliath is recorded in the Old Testament for a reason (Prov. 30:5).  God inspired the apostle Paul to inform Christians that what was written in the Old Testament was written to instruct and encourage us, give us hope, serve as an example to us, admonish us, teach us, reprove us, correct us, and train us to be righteous so that we may be complete and equipped for every good work (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Such is the case when we see the faith in God David displayed in the Elah valley that day and choose to compare it to our own faith.

We sing a spiritual song called Count Your Many Blessings.  The lesson behind the hymn is to remind us of our past experiences with Jehovah and all He has done for us, just as David had remembered how God had delivered him from predators.  Do we regularly remember with gratitude all the wonderful things which God has done in our lives?  “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” (Ja. 1:17).  Everything we have comes from God (John 3:27), not the least of which is an undeserved salvation from eternity in hell!  (Rom. 6:23; Tit. 2:11)  Do we take such blessings for granted and rarely remember their Source, or do we continually offer our heart-felt gratitude to Him in prayer (Col. 4:2)?  Our honest answer to this question has a direct impact on the strength of our faith and our resulting willingness to obey God, no matter the perceived cost.

Just as David had faith in God’s promise to make him king, do we trust in God’s promises to us?  He has promised eternal life to all who obey Him (Heb. 5:9) and eternal condemnation to those who do not (2 Thess. 1:7-9).  How strong is our faith in those promises?  Satan wants to play the same trick on us that he successfully played on Eve: to trick us into believing that God doesn’t mean what He says (Gen. 3:1-5).  That’s why Christians who have been taught the will of God sin, you know.  Our faith is weak during those times.  We know what the Bible promises, but we deceive ourselves that God will make an exception on our part because He wants our immediate and temporal satisfaction which would come from “the passing pleasures of sin” to be fulfilled.  Thus, we would obey God only when convenient rather than choosing to risk the sacrifice of even our lives as David’s faith prompted him to do.

Finally, let us consider what easily arouses our anger and indignation.  James said that man’s anger does not produce God’s righteousness (Ja. 1:20).  Does God get angry over the same things which infuriate us?  Many typically get upset when our own honor is insulted and we don’t get our way, and tend to only shrug with mild irritation at best when we see the sin of others or our own.  Yet David was angry because he saw Goliath defying God and was motivated to defend his Lord.  Are we like him?

Think on these things, my friends.  Let David’s example motivate us to deeper faith and service!

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

Second Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Editor’s Note:  The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology.  Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again.  This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted.  We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.

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The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June 15-16, 2017 at the Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL. This was the fulfillment of a pledge I made in the original agreement I signed with Preston in 2016. The propositions for this debate were the same as the first: “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, is yet future, and will occur at the end of time.” Affirm: David Hester; Deny: Don K. Preston. “Resolved: The Bible teaches that the Second (final) coming of Christ and the attendant resurrection of the just and the unjust, occurred at the time of the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70.” Affirm: Don K. Preston; Deny: David Hester. Kyle Massengale, of Madison, AL served as my moderator, with Mike Kiser of Sylacauga, AL assisting; Preston brought with him William Bell of Memphis, TN as his moderator. Steve Wages, Director of the Cloverdale Center for Family Strengths at Faulkner University, served as the independent moderator and timekeeper.

Since I was to be in the affirmative the first night, it was my intent to “set the table,” so to speak, and to control the agenda. At the beginning—and before I defined the proposition—I brought up one of the assertions I made in the Ardmore debate. For Preston’s doctrine to be true, one has to redefine words, phrases, and passages of Scripture. The approach he and his cohorts take is very much like that described in the book Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll. In it, Alice meets with Humpty Dumpty, who is sitting on the wall. They engage in conversation, which quickly goes nowhere; Humpty Dumpty is using words very differently from Alice. After she challenges him, he gruffly says, “When I choose a word, it means what I choose it to mean; nothing more or less.” That is the approach taken by AD 70 advocates—the “Humpty Dumpty Hermeneutic.”

I then made 10 affirmative arguments—a mix of formal logical syllogisms and arguments from specific biblical passages. They are as follows:

  1. A nine point argument, in proper logical form, concerning the resurrection of the dead and the second coming of Christ—which proves my proposition to be true. It had as its foundation the fact that when Christ comes again, he will do so “literally, visibly, and personally” as he went into heaven in Acts 1:9-11.
  2. An argument which focuses on the fact that Jesus will come upon the wicked unawares—in contrast to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, which was certainly not unaware to the wicked Jews!
  3. Christ will convict the wicked at his second coming (Jude 14-15). Who was convicted by the Roman general Titus at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70?
  4. The Lord’s Supper stands as a rebuke to Don and his disciples; if the Lord has already come, then why take the Supper now (1 Cor. 11:26)?
  5. The Greek structure of Revelation 1:7 indicates that “every eye will see him,” indicating actual sight, “all the tribes of the earth” will wail because of him, indicating the nations of the earth (compare the LXX text in Gen. 12:3 and 28:14), and “those who pierced him” utilizes the word translated “pierced” that is only used one other time in the NT—John 19:37. This involves the very people who crucified Christ! Where were they in AD 70?
  6. The “Day” in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 is certainly not the destruction of Jerusalem, and the “fire” contemplated in the text is not the fires of Jerusalem burning. Whose works were revealed by the conflagration Titus imposed?
  7. The “end” described in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 is at the end of time, when Jesus will deliver the kingdom back up to God.
  8. In Luke 20:34-36, Don and his disciples stand rebuked—for Christ declares that “in that world” (heaven) they neither marry nor are given in marriage, and cannot die any more.
  9. In Matthew 13:47-50, when Jesus describes that his holy angels will separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into a fiery furnace, did anything akin to that happen at the destruction of Jerusalem? Could the godless armies of Titus be likened unto the angels of heaven? And, where was the fiery furnace located in Judea where such could have taken place?
  10. A seven point argument from Hebrews 9:26 was employed, focusing on the phrase “the end of the ages,” and the fact that Jesus only made one sacrifice of himself for sin. I followed that with a quotation from a debate Don had in 2006, where he said that “the process (and ground) of taking away of sin undoubtedly began at the Cross, as Hebrews 9:26 affirms. It was not perfected and completed there, however.”

I reserved time at the end of my speech to address some of the responses to written questions I asked Don prior to the debate. His replies were stunning, to say the least.

For example, Question 2: “Is it your conviction that the literal global flood of Genesis is the type of the localized destruction of Jerusalem, seeing that it was used by Peter in a universal call to baptism (1 Peter 3:21)?” Don’s response: “Yes, the flood was definitely a type of AD 70.”

Also, Question 4: “Was Jesus, the Son of God, spiritually separated from God when he died?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

Question 5: “Were the dietary laws of the Law of Moses still binding upon the Jews after Acts 10?” Don’s response: “Yes.”

To say that I was champing at the bit to address these responses is the understatement of the year. Preston asserts three outrageous things: first, the flood was not global, but local; second, Jesus was spiritually out of fellowship with God at the time that he died on the cross; and finally, the Law of Moses was not completely done away with after the cross—even after Cornelius and his household had obeyed the Gospel.

In preparing to answer Don’s assertions, I came across a book he endorsed: Beyond Creation Science, by Timothy P. Martin and Jeffrey L. Vaughn. In his endorsement, Don called belief in a global flood a “sacred cow.” He further called the book “scriptural.” Yet, the authors claim that Genesis 1-2 actually picture the establishment of the Jewish economy, with Adam and Eve being poetic symbols in a “temple motif.” In other words, Genesis is a myth; an allegory. During our debate, Don took particular umbrage to that particular suggestion; yet, what other conclusion can be drawn?

After the first night, I received a private message from a preterist. In part, it read: “Thank you for reading the message and replying. I confess I hold to a fulfilled eschatology view. However, I disagree with the Beyond Creation Science view strongly. I thank you for pressing Don on this subject because he has in the past refused to talk about it to any extent. Don replied to my post of what I sent you as ‘I have not taken a firm stand in the local flood issue, versus universal. Still open to studying that concept.’” This same individual said the following about the authors of the book: “Covenant Creation holders, while nice guys on other topics and in real life, seem to be the Climate Change holders of the fulfilled eschatology world. They tend to act like, ‘How dare you question this view. It is established fact and indisputable.’ Sounds like Climate Change holders.”

During my first speech, I used the phrase “Don and his disciples” over and over again. “Don and his disciples teach;” “Don and his disciples affirm;” etc. That was calculated to get under Don’s skin. However, I wasn’t counting on it raising the ire of William Bell. During the first break after my speech, Bell came over to our table on my side, leaned over with both of his hands on the table, glared at me with fire in his eyes, and said that I was violating the rules of the debate by attributing beliefs to the men at Don’s table that they did not hold. I immediately stood up from my seat (which put my eyes at Bell’s chest when he stood up), and said, “If Don has a problem with it, let him address it when he gets up there. Otherwise, what I said stands.” He subsequently left and went to sit down at his table. This exchange was revealing. Apparently, Bell thinks of himself as a disciple of Don! Also, Don never mentioned it during his speeches as an issue. Interesting.

I also thought it was revealing that during the second night Don said that I misrepresented his position when I pointed out his redefinition of “the end of the age” by inserting “the Jewish age” in every NT passage where it occurs, thus pointing out the absurdity of it. He had a big issue with that…but, wait! If he does not believe that the phrase refers to the Jewish age, then down goes his belief system. If it does not refer to the end of the world, though, then what DOES it refer to? Something else that Don and his disciples are working on?

Of all the ten affirmative arguments I made the first night, Don responded to none of them. He apparently thought he was in the affirmative. At least he defined the proposition, though, on the second night. Don kept wanting to rehash the first debate throughout his speeches. This was indicative of the fact that he had nothing new to offer, and no replies to anything I said. We, on the other hand, responded to every one of his arguments the second night. Don cast disparaging comments about my teaching ability (thus sounding more like a disgruntled student who receives a failing grade than a mature, dignified speaker), and said that my first negative speech was the “worst he’d ever heard” in all his years in debate. Well, of course he would say that, because I answered his assertions! He himself called his doctrine “strange” in his first negative speech—and strange it is, indeed. It is “strange” because it is false doctrine.

It is my hunch that the debates we have had will go a long way towards diminishing the influence of Preston among our brethren. I know for a fact that some preterists who have been privately grumbling about Preston are now becoming emboldened to step forward and challenge him. It will be interesting, indeed, to see this play out over the next few months.

The debate will be made available very soon on DVD via Eastern Meadows Church of Christ. The Gospel Broadcasting Network, which recorded the debate, provided us with high quality video and audio (Parts 1 and 2 can be accessed on their YouTube channel) and are making us master copies to use for the DVDs we will distribute.  Debates are very helpful, when conducted properly. It is my hope and prayer that more of them will take place concerning a wide variety of subjects. It is in this format that the Truth of God shines.

dhester@faulkner.edu

David is on the faculty of the F. Furman Kearley School of Theology at Faulkner University, where he also is Director of the annual Bible Lectures.  David is also Education Director at Eastern Meadows Church of Christ in Montgomery, AL.

 

Editorial: Finding Comfort and Encouragement in Revelation’s Throne Room (May/June, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

Revelation has always been a book we understandably hesitate to study, considering that the book was “signified” (1:1), i.e., written in symbolic language that is difficult to understand and of which are many interpretations vastly different from each other.  However, interpretation of Revelation might be less difficult than we think.  Remember, we are told to “speak the truth” (Eph. 4:15; cf. Jn. 17:17) and “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2).  So when we seek to understand Revelation so we can teach it to others, we must first go to the rest of Scripture to find the meanings behind the symbolism.  Doing so when we study John’s epistle from Patmos will help us see the many parallels between the physical events and people of the Old Testament and the spiritual truths presented in Revelation (cf. Heb. 8:1-5; 10:1; Rom. 5:14; Col. 2:16-17), and will lead us to a scriptural and logical explanation of its symbolism.  We need to study this great book in order to truly become what God would have us to be and receive the comfort and encouragement from Him we need during the trials of life (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:3-5).  There is hardly any place in Revelation where this fact is more evident to me than in chapters 4-5, chapters I regularly peruse when I need encouragement and strength during difficult times.

I have always wished I could have been with John when he saw “a door standing open in heaven” and heard the voice “like a trumpet” telling him, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this” (4:1).  I cannot imagine how it must have been to be “in the Spirit” and witness that magnificent scene in heaven, to have the awesome privilege to see the “one seated on the throne” with “the appearance of jasper and carnelian,” to marvel at the “rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald” that was around the throne (4:2-3).  Reading of this rainbow brings my mind back to how a rainbow was a sign between God and man that He would never destroy all of mankind with water again (Gen. 9:12-17).  Its emerald color reminds me of spiritual life, especially when I see in nature how plants which are living and thriving are green and remember how Scripture at times uses the symbolism of plant life to describe people (Is. 40:6-8; Judg. 9:7-15; cf. Rev. 9:4).  So when I read of the emerald rainbow surrounding God’s throne, I am filled with comfort because I remember His covenant with me, that He is always with His faithful followers who have spiritual life (Matt. 28:18-20) and will cause everything to “work together for good” for those who love Him (Rom. 8:28; cf. John 14:15).

The “twenty-four elders” who are seated on the “twenty-four thrones” around God’s throne (4:4) also remind me of the covenants God has made with man, specifically the old covenant made with the twelve tribes of Israel (Deut. 5:1-2) and the new covenant taught by the Spirit-inspired twelve apostles (Acts 2:42; Eph. 3:3-5).  The crowns on their heads remind me of the authority these covenants have in the lives of those under them (cf. Matt. 28:18).  When they fall down before God’s throne and cast their crowns before Him I am reminded that the authority found in the old and new covenants comes from God (4:10; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).  Their white robes remind me of how obedience to the laws of these covenants makes one spiritually pure in the sight of God (Is. 1:18; 1 Jn. 1:7-9; cf. Rev. 3:4-5, 18).  This motivates me to continue to strive to not let sin reign in my life (Rom. 6:12-18).

The “flashes of lightning, and rumblings, and peals of thunder” coming from the throne no doubt reminded John that he was in the presence of God (4:5; cf. Ex. 19:16-20).  The “seven Spirits of God” symbolized by the “seven lamps of fire” burning before the throne (4:5) remind me first of the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God (2 Pet. 1:20-21) which is “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105), as well as a “fire” in my mouth (Jer. 5:14) and “a burning fire shut up in my bones” (Jer. 29:9).  The symbolism of the number “seven” also reminds me that God’s Word is “complete” or “perfect” (Rom. 12:2; James 1:25; cf. 1 Cor. 13:10), just as on the seventh day God saw that His creation was complete (Gen. 2:1-2) and just as our forgiveness of others is to be complete as well (Matt. 18:21-22).  Thus, this passage motivates me to continually preach and obey God’s Word in its completeness (Ps. 119:160), because there is never a time in my life when I am not in His presence (Heb. 4:12-13).

Reading about the “sea of glass, like crystal” before the throne (4:6) reminds me that Scripture at times uses the symbolism of “the sea” to describe multitudes of people (Rev. 17:1; cf. Is. 60:5).  When I think of pure crystal which is completely transparent with no spots or discolorations, I remember that faithful Christians are also without blemish in the sight of God (Eph. 5:27; 1 Jn. 1:7-9; Is. 1:18).  This reminds me that I am not alone, that I am joined with multitudes of other Christians who stand before God’s throne serving Him faithfully and receiving His forgiveness and protection (Rev. 7:14-15; cf. Heb. 4:15-16).

John also saw “four living creatures” (4:6).  The first one was “like a lion,” the second “like an ox,” the third “with the face of a man,” and the fourth “like an eagle in flight” (4:7).  Reading that there are “four” of them brings to mind how Scripture at times uses this same number as a metaphor to describe the entirety of our physical planet (Is. 11:12; Jer. 49:36).  Associating these “four living creatures” with the physical planet makes even more sense when I am reminded of how their descriptions in verse 7 correspond with the fourfold division of physical life on this planet described at the creation (Gen. 1:21-26), with the “lion” representing wild animal life, the “ox” representing domestic animal life, the “man” representing human life, and the “eagle” representing winged creature life.  John saw these “four living creatures” surrounding God’s throne (4:6), and observed that “day and night they never cease” to proclaim the holiness of God and give to Him “glory and honor and thanks” (4:8-9).  This reminds me of how the Bible teaches that animals and nature give praise to God along with mankind (Ps. 69:34; 148:4-10).

“The twenty-four elders” joined with “the four living creatures” in offering worship to “Him who lives forever and ever,” ascribing “glory and honor and power” to Him because He “created all things” (4:9-11).  This reminds me both of the association of “the four living creatures” with the physical creation of God and the correlation between “the twenty-four elders” and the spiritual laws of God given to man via the twelve tribes of Israel in the old covenant and the twelve apostles in the new covenant.  This reminds me that everything—both physical and spiritual—is created by God and exists to please Him (Col. 1:16-17).  This is why He is worthy to receive all “glory, honor, and power.”  This passage would have reminded the original readers of Revelation who were surrounded by the idolatrous worship of Roman emperors that Jehovah is supreme.  Two thousand years later I am reminded of the same and encouraged to always give God glory in all aspects of my life, both physically and spiritually (Matt. 6:33; John 4:24).

I am always edified when I read of the “scroll written within and on the back” in “the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (5:1) and how the only One able and worthy to open it would be the “Lamb of God,” Jesus Christ (5:6-7; cf. Jn. 1:29; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; Is. 53:7).  The fact that the scroll is in “the right hand” of God tells me of its importance (cf. Heb. 1:3; Matt. 25:34).  Reading that it was “sealed with seven seals” tells me that its contents are complete, because other places in Scripture use the number “seven” to describe how God looks at certain things in a complete way (Prov. 30:15, 18, 21, 29; Ps. 12:6).  No one “in heaven or on earth or under the earth” could open the scroll or look into it (5:2-3)…except Christ (5:9).  This reminds me of how much I need Jesus and how much I owe Him (Rom. 5:6-11).

This fact is reiterated even more when I read of how John wept loudly when it seemed no one would be able to open the scroll (5:4).  It would later be revealed that the contents of the scroll describe the Christian age (Rev. 6-8; cf. 1 Cor. 10:11), the time when all men would be able to finally obtain redemption (5:9; cf. Heb. 9:15; 10:1-4).  This sheds light on why John cried, because it appeared at this point in the vision that Satan would win and man would be lost.  However, one of the elders comforted him and informed him that “the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll…” (5:5; cf. Gen. 49:9-10; Is. 11:1-2; Jn. 1:32-33; Lk. 4:16-21; 1 Sam. 16:19; Matt. 28:18).

John then saw Jesus, “a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain.”  He stood among the elders between God’s throne and “the four living creatures” (5:6).  This reminds me of how Christ is at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3), making intercession for us (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25).  John described Him as having “seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth” 5:6), which immediately reminds me of how the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God is described as all-knowing (Heb. 4:12-13; cf. Jn. 1:1, 14).  The Lamb took the scroll from God’s right hand, causing “the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders” to fall down before Him (5:6-7).  Each of them are described as “holding a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:7).  Reading this and seeing how the harps are later correlated with the worship of God in song (Rev. 14:2-3) reminds me that my Lord deserves my worship of him in prayer and song because He saved me on that cross (5:9) and make me part of His kingdom and priesthood (5:10).

Reading chapters 4-5 of Revelation with the rest of Scripture as my primary guide to interpreting its symbolism always encourages and admonishes me.  It also reminds me of all my Lord has done for me.  I hope it does the same for you also.  May John’s testimony of what he saw in that open door of heaven continue to remind us all of what Jesus has done for us and what we must do for Him!

— Jon

 

 

Is There Only One Church? — Stephen Scaggs

This is an extremely pertinent question with a surprisingly simple answer. Jesus gave a satisfyingly simple answer when He replied to Peter, “I will build my church” (Matt. 16:16; emp. added). That should settle the matter — the Lord only built one church, just as He said He would. However, for the rest of this article, we wish to ask: (1) “What is a church?” (2) “What do we mean by church?” and (3) “How does this affect me?”

There is a lot of confusion over such a simple question. Much of the confusion is simply because “church” is an ambiguous word in modern English. Many associate church with a building. On some cities in America, there are church buildings on every corner. One need only open a Yellow Pages for one’s town and see several entries under the subsection of “churches.” Some cathedrals have the most beautiful architecture.  However, when Jesus said that He would build His church, did He have a cathedral in mind?

What Is A Church?

It should come as no surprise that God did not write the Scriptures in modern English. Usually when one reads the English word church, this is a translation of the Greek word ekklesia. In the first century, ekklesia was a common noun. Luke uses this Greek word referring to an angry mob that was in an uproar against Paul and his teachings (cf. Acts 19). This word was everyday street language in the Greco-Roman world. Ekklesia is a compound noun; that is, it has two components.

The first part “Ek” is a preposition in Koiné Greek. It is the same preposition for Exodus. It means “out of.” The second part “kaleo” is a verb in Koiné Greek. It means “to call.” In a literal translation, an ekklesia was a “called-out” assembly. It never refers to a building; in ancient times, the Greeks had a separate word for the place where an ekklesia met: the ekklesiasterion. In ancient times, city-states called out to the people to assemble for a task.

This word would develop in Christian usage. The New Testament writers use this word exclusively to refer to the called-out saints, with a few exceptions. Peter wrote that God has “called (kaleo) us out of (ek) darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). It seems that Peter was making a play on words of ekklesia. However, when used as a compound, we opt for an exact translation like “assembly,” “gathering,” or “congregation.” God has called us together into one body out of darkness for glorying in Him; He has formed us into the ekklesia (i.e., church).

What Do We Mean By Church?

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not asserting that there are not individual congregations. A clear example of this is in the book of Revelation. When Jesus spoke to the seven ekklesias of Asia Minor, He was speaking to seven literal groups. In his Roman letter, Paul basically wrote, “The various individual congregations of Christ greet you” (16:16; emp. added). However, there is only one church.

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not talking about church buildings with an exclusive designation as “Church of Christ.” James used the word synagoge for “assembly” (2:2), which described a building designated for worship and instruction (called “synagogues” by the Jews); thus, we know some first-century believers assembled in buildings designated for such.  However, it’s highly unlikely they had signs for their buildings. Often early believers used a fish symbol to signal their meeting places during times of persecution. Some also met in each other’s houses (Acts 2:46). However, there is only one church.

When we assert, “There is only one church,” we are not referring to denominations. Indeed, while there were factions in the various congregations (see 1 Corinthians), the church is not a conglomeration of various groups. We cannot be united until we lay down our interpretations and bias. However, there is only one church.

When we say, “There is only one church,” what we mean is that all believers who have responded in faith to the gospel by repenting of their sins and being baptized in water collectively form one group of people – the “called-out” of God. Then the Lord adds these people to His church (Acts 2:47).  These people spend the rest of their day following learning and following the pattern of the New Testament, living daily conformed to the Lord’s will (Eph. 5:17).

How Does This Affect Me?

It means that instead of turning to find a church in our Yellow Pages, we ought to turn in our New Testaments to find how to be like the church of the New Testament.

How do we become part of this one church?  We read several conversion stories in the book of Acts, perhaps the most famous of them being found in chapter 2.  When those who had heard the gospel responded in faith by repenting and being baptized in water for the forgiveness of sins, then and only then did the Lord add them to His church (Acts 2:47).  Those who are in the church are people enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:23).  Jesus is the head of the church and the Savior of the body (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18).

Despite giving our various congregations proper names, the one church does not have a fixed, proper name. Many writers attached descriptors to describe them: those who belong to the firstborn, namely Jesus (Heb. 12:23), or those who belong to the living God (Acts 20:28). If one has multiple trees, they might need to differentiate maple, elm, or pine. However, the Lord only had one church, so it had no purpose to do so.

We must not divide the church. Our society is permeated with denominationalism, the idea that somehow the one church is segmented into smaller denominations like a giant pie. However, the New Testament warns against division, whether in petty squabbles or in a larger factitious way. Jude condemned those who divide as those devoid of the Spirit (Jude 19). Those in Corinth were people of the flesh because they divided (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Why do we not stop all this denominational foolishness and simply be Christians—members of Christ’s church? Isn’t that what He wants? Isn’t that what He laid out? To be Christians only and only Christians?

Jesus desired that His followers that would come to believe on Him through the apostles’ teaching would be united.  His prayer was, “May they be as one…” (John 17:20-23).

Conclusion

A local church is “of Christ” is if is practicing New Testament Christianity.  A local church is “of Christ” if the membership and the leadership are committed to being Christians only.  A local church is “of Christ” if Christ and His Word are the foundation.  There are plenty of buildings with signs that say a church is “of God” or “of Christ,” but their practices say they are not.  And there may be churches which do not use the phrase “Church of Christ” on their sign, but they are “of Christ” because they are trying to follow New Testament Christianity.  A sign does not choose whether a church is “of Christ” or “of the devil.”  One must conform to the pattern of the New Testament to have salvation in Christ (Eph. 1:3).

My goal as a Christian is not about figuring out who is saved and who is lost.  I have a hard-enough time worrying about my salvation than worrying about other’s salvation. My goal as a Christian is to preach the simple message of Jesus, teaching the whole counsel of God, and to live my faith with simplicity so that when people see me they will say, “That’s a truly God-fearing individual. I want to have the kind of faith that lives.” Certainly, there are people who have swerved from the truth and whose teaching is gangrene, upsetting the faith of some, but the Lord knows those that are His (2 Tim. 2:14-23). As a Christian, I must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting my opponents with gentleness (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

The Lord only built one church.  If you would like to know more about it, the answers are in your New Testament.  The writers of the Carolina Messenger would love to help you answer any question with a biblical book, chapter and verse, and encourage you to open your Bible and see if such things are so (Acts 17:11). 

Stephen preaches at the Collinsville Church of Christ in Collinsville, VA.  He is a 2012 alumnus of the Memphis School of Preaching in Memphis, TN.  He is married to Rebekah and they have two children.

 

 

 

 

What The Bible Says About Homosexuality — Travis Main

In any discussion of opposing groups regarding the topic of homosexuality, there are a litany of “facts” provided.  Whether the issue is the number of practicing homosexuals, the health risks, the prevalence of violence in homosexual relationships, the number of faithful or promiscuous partners, the conversion to heterosexuality, or the genetic factors suggested to influence homosexuality, there is debate.  An examination of human studies, polls of acceptance, or agendas of various homosexual proponents is not the focus of this article.  What does the Bible say regarding the practice of homosexuality?  This is the central thrust.  Christians as a priesthood of God (1 Pet. 2:9) have a responsibility to teach the truth of God’s Word (Matt. 28:19-20) and protect it (1 Pet. 3:15).

1 John 4:21 declares:  “And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.”  This is the obligation of a Christian.  The command of loving mankind applies to everyone.  It applies to those in all manner of goodness or sin.  Jesus came to save those in sin (1 Tim. 1:15).  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  However, the times of ignorance are over and man is called upon by God to repent (Acts 17:30).  Thus, it should be the loving motivation of Christians to share the truth of God’s Word to all mankind with no partiality (James 2:1).

Christ declared he would establish his church (Matt. 16:16-18).  After Jesus’ resurrection, he declared, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).  He promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them “all truth” and “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26; 16:13).  This leads us to the following statement by the apostle Peter:  “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The great importance of this verse is the fact that the apostles did not write by conjecture, cultural teachings, or personal opinion.  The words they wrote were directly from God and are the teachings of Jesus.

The gospel which Jesus preached was heralded with the coming of John the Baptizer (Mark 1:1).  Under that gospel Jesus declared the only people who would enter the eternal kingdom of heaven would be “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).  This was the one gospel of the kingdom (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9; Jude 3).  With the crucifixion of Jesus, the Law of Moses (given only to the nation of Israel) which was old and ready to disappear became obsolete (Heb. 8:13).  On the day of Pentecost when the first Christians were added to the church (Acts 2:47), the new covenant of the teachings of Christ came into effect.  The Holy Spirit was poured out and the apostles were given the promised truth.  The keys of the gospel were used as commanded by the apostles.  The teachings Jesus taught during his life were being taught to the world.  The entire world became subject to the law of Christ.

As the teachings of Jesus Christ from his apostles are examined, it is of interest to note that there is no same-sex couple ever mentioned in the New Testament (nor is there in the Old Testament).  When Jesus discusses marriage, he talks of man and woman (Matt. 19:1-9; Mark 10:6-9; Matt. 15:1-12; 5:31-32; cf. Deut. 24:1-2; et al).  The apostles who shared Christ’s teachings through the Holy Spirit also spoke of marriage between a man and a woman (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7; 1 Tim. 5:9-14; Matt. 22:25; Mark 6:17; Luke 14:20; Eph. 5:22-33; et al).  The mention of any marriage by the same sex is completely absent from scripture.  The question of whether or not man is authorized to marry a woman or a woman a man is clearly answered in scripture and its guidelines are also clearly taught.  God has authorized the marriage of a man and a woman (Matt. 19:5) and Jesus establishes that as a teaching from the beginning of mankind.

Matthew 22:23-32 discusses the resurrection of mankind and mentions the subject of marriage while doing so.  Jesus demonstrated from the Old Testament scriptures that there is an afterlife.  He was encouraging the Sadducees who were questioning him to use the words of God to infer a given truth.  There must be an afterlife if physical beings who had died were spoken of as alive.  He then mentioned that marriage does not exist in the afterlife, speaking again only of marriage between a man and a woman.  Following the example and authority of Jesus, if scripture only speaks of a man and a woman being married then marriage applies to only them.  It does not authorize the marriage of a man and an animal.  It does not authorize the marriage of two non-human beings.  It does not authorize the marriage of two people of the same sex.  It authorizes only the marriage of a man and a woman.  By this alone, this discussion could finish.  However, we will continue.

The New Testament is not silent about the sexual habits of same-sex individuals.  Romans 1:18-2:8 establishes that those who engage in activity which is ungodly and unrighteous will face God’s judgment.  If they do not repent, their stubborn disobedience will cause them to experience God’s wrath.  Is the activity of homosexuals ungodly and unrighteous?  This passage says yes.  The women desired women, something God calls unnatural (v. 26).  The men desire men, also abandoning their natural function.  What is natural?  God established man and woman to come together to create offspring.  They were to share their desires together in marriage, not in unauthorized, unnatural, sexual sin.  God declares such people who do not repent to be worthy of death (v. 32).  That judgment is in the hand of God.  Understand clearly, God does not wish that upon them (2:4; cf. John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  However, death is what they choose if they reject God and continued in an unauthorized lifestyle.

The covenant of Christ in the New Testament says:  “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed god, which was committed to my trust” (1 Tim. 1:8-11, emp. added).

The phrase “for them that defile themselves with mankind” is the Greek word arsenokoitēs.  Thayer defines it as “someone who lies with a male as a female.”  In other words, a homosexual.  This passage speaks of such behavior as “contrary to sound doctrine.”  It is lumped in with other sinful behaviors and appropriately assigned with that which is called “lawless and disobedient.”  Those who are disobedient will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:6-10).

Paul discussed the sinful behavior of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  He declared they had repented from a number of sins which would have kept them from the kingdom of God.  Among those sins from which they had repented was homosexuality, translated from the same Greek word previously discussed.  While the ultimate penalty of punishment is the same as previously mentioned, the concept of repentance is still very alive in the text.  One practicing homosexuality does indeed have the option of stopping his or her behavior and thus is able to please God.

There are those who declare they were born with desires for the same sex.  As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I will not argue genetic factors.  An examination of scripture finds an answer for the proposition that at birth there was such a desire.  Paul stated, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that year are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Furthermore, James also said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

Temptation is part of our life upon the earth.  Yet, giving into it is not something from which we cannot escape.  There are all manners of sins which entrap mankind every day.  Through Christ we can triumph in this swiftly fleeting stay on earth.  We can overcome our trials with love for God and one another by authorized behavior in Christ (John 14:15). 

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years.  He is the creator of www.churchofchristarticles.com.