All posts by Jon Mitchell

Helping Our Children Develop Their Own Faith — Roger L. Leonard

Our first child was born in August of 1988. Alisa and I had been married for just over three years and were excited about our baby girl whom we had already named Amanda Carol. I chose Amanda from Don Williams’ song by that title, and Alisa chose Carol after her mother’s middle name. Amanda had colic for about five months and almost no one could console her except her mom. Being a new daddy and inexperienced, that sort of hurt my feelings but I got over it.

Then Glenn Clay, our second child, was born in December of 1990. He got two family names, Glenn after Alisa’s dad’s first name and my daddy’s middle name. “Clay” was after my granddaddy, Henry Clay Leonard. He was an easy baby and almost anyone could hold him.

In September of 1996, we lost a baby at 4.5 months in the womb. Caleb Austin was stillborn. That was very hard on Alisa, and an experience a man cannot understand. It was hard on me because he was a “surprise” and I really did not want more than two children. Yet when he died I felt guilty for not wanting him, even though I had prayed about it and had come to accept his birth. However, it was much harder on Alisa and she wanted another child after that loss. So Ellie Marie was born in July of 1997. Alisa named her Ellie because she liked the name, and Marie was after Alisa’s maternal Grandmother, Marie Brockman. She was a breath of fresh air after losing Caleb.

Our last, William Roger Leonard, was born in March of 1999. Alisa chose both names. William because she liked the name, and you can figure where his middle name came from. He was a calm and easy baby to care for.

Concerning Christian parenting and our children’s faith, there is no guarantee, not even from God, that our children will become faithful adults. God is the best Father and not all of His children are faithful. Yet there is hope and there is a Manual for rearing faithful children. The Bible always has been and always will be the best guide for rearing children, and especially for faithful ones. Among the qualifications of an elder is “having children who believe” (Tit. 1:6, NASB). The verb “having” is echō, a present, active, participle (Mounce 2006). So they must continue to believe. If this is possible for an elder and his wife, then it is possible for other Christian parents. Yet it takes planning and work.

Around the time Amanda was born, I was challenged by a dear sister in the church where I was preaching in Kentucky. She asked me something to the effect, “Do you have a spiritual plan for raising that child in the Lord? If not, you’re already behind!” She was a converted Catholic and dead set on doing God’s will and helping others to do so. Presently all four of ours are faithful to the Lord. Additionally, two are married to faithful Christians. I know the reason for our children being faithful is not simply due to that sister’s bold challenge, for we had thought about it, but the sentiment she expressed played a major role in us rearing our children to be faithful.

The #1 Consideration For Raising Faithful Children:  Have A Plan

The foremost key in the plan is that the parents be faithful to the Lord. (Ideally, both parents would be Christians, but we know that is not always the case.) We cannot rear children to be what we are not. As Christian parents we must be cross-bearers if we follow Jesus (Lk. 9:23).

The second key is set forth in Ephesians 6:4: “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” The principle here is the same as Deuteronomy 6:4-9. If young people would grow to be faithful under the Mosaic economy, they had to be instructed regularly in the Law. If youth today would grow to be faithful adults under the Law of Christ, they must regularly be taught New Covenant doctrine. This must begin when they are babies: “Train up a child…” (Prov. 22:6). Read God’s word aloud to them. Get a reliable children’s Bible. Have a family devotional time. We did this most nights except for Sunday and Wednesday. Talk to them on their level. Feed them “milk” and later something they can “chew on.” Ask questions from previous discussions. Teach them to reason from the Scriptures.

A third key in the plan is discipline. The Bible must be the foundation, and a part of discipline is teaching God’s rules and parents’ rules. Children need to know what behavior is expected of them. And, just as God chastens those whom He loves (Heb.12:6a), there must be penalties: “He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him disciplines him promptly” (Prov. 13:24). Whether it’s by spanking, “time out,” or taking away privileges, children need to expect penalties for disobedience. This is for both their spiritual and physical benefit (Eph. 6:1-2). I told all our children that disobedience to their mother or me was disobedience to God because God has commanded us to teach them to obey us. The fruit of having little or no plan is foolish and rotten children! Solomon wrote, “The rod and rebuke give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother” (Prov. 29:15, emphasis added). Follow God’s plan.

#2: Be Consistent

 While there are no perfect parents, we should always seek to live and act like Christians. There is no place for compromise in the Christian faith. I once said something to our younger son about listening to a song about drinking beer. He brought up the old song “Mountain Dew” that I played and sang with my guitar! What could I do? I apologized and quit playing it! Consider the principle of Romans 2:1-2. Children do pay attention to what we say, but perhaps even more to what we do! Consider Paul’s concern in 1 Corinthians 9:27. It may be the way we dress (1 Tim. 2:9), what we eat or drink (Rom. 14:21), or who and what we associate with (1 Cor. 15:33). Jesus accused the Pharisees of saying but not doing! (Matt. 23:1-3.)

Consider some of the problems when parents are inconsistent about rules and punishment. Children hear one thing from one parent and something different from the other. They are confused, and at times will play one parent against the other. This creates arguments, tension and frustration in the home. Parents must discuss and decide on the rules before the children are born. If there is disagreement, both parents must seek to do what God says and be firmly united. This will establish clear expectations, consistency, and produce harmony.

#3: Be Persistent 

Just as children need physical food, they also need spiritual food regularly. We often had Bible discussions in the car and on family trips. We talked about God, creation, evolutionary errors, the Bible as God’s word, moral matters, the Lord’s church, etc. We went to VBS, gospel meetings, and singings. We helped smaller churches with their VBS’s and door knocking, and made several foreign mission trips.

If we expect our children to be faithful in the activities of the church, we must teach them by “always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58.). We never skipped services of the church nor allowed any secular events to take precedence. Be persistent.

#4: Help Them Have Their Own Faith

The aim of evangelism is to “make disciples” (Matt. 28:19). When our children desired to be baptized, we studied with them as we would with any one else. The decision was ultimately theirs and not ours as parents.

When Christian children are faced with tough issues, teach them from God’s Word how to address them. This is also part of the teaching in Matthew 28:20 and Ephesians 6:4. If they learn early to use the Bible for life’s decisions, they will be better prepared to do so as adults. I once gave our older son a copy of the debate book between Alan Highers and Given O. Blakey on instrumental music. After he read it I asked what he thought. He said Mr. Blakey could not answer brother Highers’ arguments. We often asked our children what they might do in this or that situation if it were their decision alone to make. We would ask what God would want them to do. It helped them to study and process serious matters on their own. We believe this has been effective for their faith today.

Can we rear faithful children? Yes, we can.

Roger and his wife Alisa live in Valdosta, GA. He preaches for the Adel Church of Christ in Adel, GA.

References

Mounce, William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Wm. Mounce Ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

 

Big or Little? — Lorraine Smith

Big or little? Large or small? Black or white? Does it really matter? Does it make a difference? Who cares?

The summer our son turned eight years old, he became very sick with high fever, chills, flu-like symptoms, unable to maintain his balance, severe headaches, nausea, and much more. He also had a rash on his stomach area. Here was this extremely active, never-stay-still eight year old and he was completely listless. He could barely move.

Naturally, we were off to our family doctor who also happened to be a good personal friend and our son’s soccer coach. We described all the symptoms. While the doctor was examining Michael, he told us to take his shoes off. My first thought was, “That’s strange.” Although when we did, we saw that the bottoms of his feet were scarlet red. They looked like they had been burned. Dr. Jenkins left the room. He returned quickly with his two associates and most of the nurses. All of us were crammed into a very small examination room. He told them the symptoms and showed them Michael’s feet. He asked if they knew what was wrong. No one guessed correctly. Finally, he said, “Michael has Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.”

Needless to say, we were stunned. How could this be? We had not found a tick on him. All we had ever heard about this sickness was you died from it. Dr. Jenkins explained that a tick did not have to set down and attach itself to give you spotted fever. All it had to do was bite you. He said that the tick could have been brushed away. How could a bite so very small make someone so sick? WE went through three weeks of different symptoms and ailments before Michael gained his strength back to be a normal eight year old once more. How could a bite so small cause so much havoc?

A little bite or a big bite. Does it matter? A large rain or a small shower? Does it make a difference? A little white lie or a big black lie. Who cares? Big, little, large, small, black or white, all of these words are adjectives. They are descriptive words. They describe what is being talked about.

Here are some examples. Let’s say you live in a large house and I live in a small house. Does it make a difference? No, the size of our houses is not in question. We both live in houses. We both have shelter and refuge from the elements. We both have houses. Large and small only describes the amount of money involved. The word with the emphasis is money.

Here’s one more example. We have all heard it said, “I only told a little white lie,” or, “He is a big, fat liar!” Who cares? We all should. A lie is a lie. There is no other way of looking at it. You cannot commit a little murder versus a big murder. That is just too plain silly to even consider. A lie is a lie is a lie. Nothing will change that no matter how many descriptive, elaborate words you use.

Who cares? God does. Let’s take it to the inspired Word. “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Simple and to the point.

We are told, “For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:22-24). Did you get that? ALL have sinned. There are no big sins or little sins. There are no supersized sins. There are no mini sins. A sin is a sin is a sin no matter what adjective you use to describe it. One sin is no better or worse than another. There are not good or bad sins. It is all the same. There is no difference. Guess what? We all have it. This is where salvation through Christ Jesus and God’s continual amazing grace steps in. Without those two things, all would be hopeless.

Does it really matter? Salvation does. Christ Jesus stepped in and took our place. He placed all our sins upon Himself. He became our sacrifice for sin. He is our propitiation or appeasement to God Almighty. He became our Justifier to God (Rom. 3:25-26). Yet it is up to us to accept salvation. It is up to us to do God’s will.

Does it make a difference? As I said earlier, sin is sin. Does the type of sin make a difference? Are there big or little sins? The answer is definitely no! Look at what God revealed in His Word:

“But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers! Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolater, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:8-11).

“But as for the cowardly, faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and ALL liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8, emphasis added).

As you can see, God sees no difference in the type of sins. He has the cowardly in the same group as murderers. He has faithless and greedy in the same group as drunkards. God makes no distinction about big or little lies; He covers them in one little word: “all.” To our heavenly Father, the type of impenitent sin makes no difference.

Who cares? God does. Revelation 21:7 simply states, “The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be My son.” Solomon put it this way: “The end of the matter, all has been heard. Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14). We must realize that we cannot hide anything from God. He is in control.

Are there big and little sins? No. Just as that tiny unseen tick caused a huge sickness with even the threat of death, it was not the size that was the problem. It was the tick. Sin is the same. No matter how big or little you think the sin is, it is the sin that causes the sickness with the threat of eternal death and alienation from God.

Does the type of sin matter? No. Does the kind of sin make a difference? No. Who cares? We all should and must. The Lord revealed to John, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay each one for what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End. Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the river of life and that they may enter the city by the gates” (Rev. 22:12-14).

Lorraine is the author of the books Just Asking and Heaven? or Hell? A Soul’s Choice.

 

What About Hebrews 10:24-25? — David R. Pharr

“And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25, KJV).

“(A)nd let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” (NASU).

“Let us…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.” This is a positive instruction (something the Lord expects us to do). In all the previous “Let us” admonitions in Hebrews, the instructions are broad encouragements to faithfulness. That is, they do not name specific activities. Here in 10:24ff the general admonition, which is to have concern for one another, includes a specific activity by which that is to be done. What is it that the Lord expects us to do that pertains to considering one another? He expects us “not to forsake…” Or to state it positively: He expects us to attend (and participate) in the meetings of the church. The writer names a specific way of showing consideration for one another. That is, to be with them in the assembly to encourage them.

Does “Forsaking” or “Neglecting” Mean Total Abandonment (Apostasy)?

No. It is not about total departure from the church (though continued neglect might come to that). While the Greek word for “forsaking” in other places indicates abandonment, that definition does not fit this context. Instead, he cautions against what had become the habit (NASU) of some, that is, they were neglecting to attend. The participle “forsaking” is in the Greek present and indicates ongoing action, a habit. It is not about those who have denied Christ and no longer claim membership in the body. Rather, it is about those who profess membership, but are not faithful to attend. We are told not to be like them. If we are not to be like those who neglect to attend, we should instead be like those who do attend.

This relates to the admonition to “consider one another.” One way to fail to consider one another is by neglecting to assemble with them. One of the failures of the negligent ones was that they were not considering the welfare of others. Everett Ferguson comments: “Forsaking the assembly is not a sin against an institution, but against the brothers and sisters to whom we owe mutual edification and fellowship (Heb. 10:25)” (233, The Church of Christ, Eerdmans, 1996).

Are Worship Assemblies In View?

Many commentators, both within the church and others, have understood this to be the worship meetings. It has been so understood by many sound and studious gospel preachers. Dedicated elders have cited the text to rebuke members who are careless about missing worship. That so many have so understood it does not by itself prove it, but one ought to consider their views carefully before teaching a radically different viewpoint. The fact that there were other occasions for Christians to be together does not change the fact that there were scheduled worship assemblies that all Christians were expected to attend.

The letter to the Hebrews had the purpose of preventing apostasy. Jewish influences were tempting Christians who were converted from Judaism to return back to their old religion. Part of this pressure was from the fact that they had been accustomed to attending the Jews’ synagogue meetings. When the writer says, “our own assembling together” (NASU), it is possible he was making a distinction between Jewish meetings (which were for Jewish instruction and worship) and Christian meetings (which would be for proper instruction and worship).

“Exhorting one another” was to be in the assembly. This text is not saying that we should exhort one another outside the assembly. Other texts teach that, but that is not the point here. Rather it is saying that we need to attend because it is an occasion for exhorting one another. The purpose of church meetings is for edification (1 Cor. 14:26; Col. 3:16).

To argue that the word “worship” is not in the passage is to beg the question. What is in the text are assemblies that Christians are instructed to attend. The writer’s purpose was to name a specific occasion when they could edify one another. There is no gathering which would provide more edification for the group than when they are together worshiping.

The fact that other contexts indicate other gatherings is not the question. Is there a Divine command to have regular social meetings? Here is a Divine command to attend. What assembly activity is set in place until the Lord returns? It is the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:26), which would be accompanied with other acts of worship every Lord’s Day. Is this a necessary meeting of the church in the New Testament pattern? Why would the inspired writer give a specific command if there were no specific meetings in view? We appreciate the value of meals together, of home Bible studies, even of business meetings, but none rank to the level of assemblies for worship.

The word “church” actually means “assembly.” “To be a church it must meet…the church must manifest that it is a body by being together” (Ferguson 235). It is in its assemblies of worship that the church manifests itself as a distinctive body of people. When Paul and Barnabas came to Antioch they identified with the church in their assemblies (Acts 11:26). Paul’s practice was worship with the local congregation wherever he went, for example at Troas (Acts 20:7ff). It is unreasonable to assume Paul had no other contact with the brethren in Troas during the week he was there. Doubtless he had several meetings with various ones. However, the only assembly named was the appointed time for worship.

What Assemblies Are Required?

The New Testament pattern requires the Lord’s Day meeting. This is set and provides for no optional meeting in its place.   Regardless of what other occasions there might be when Christians might meet together, Hebrews 10:25 requires Lord’s Day attendance.

The leaders of a congregation, such as elders, may determine there should be other occasions for meeting together. When in their spiritual judgment they determine a reasonable schedule (such as Sunday night, Wednesday night, special series) for the purpose of spiritual enrichment, it behooves the membership to participate. This Is not to say their judgment is equal to a Divine command, but every member ought to respect their guidance (Heb. 13:17). Just as in the Lord’s Day gatherings, these meetings provide for exhorting one another, for edifying (1 Cor. 14:26).

Some have asked, “Can you prove it is a sin to neglect attending Wednesday night classes?” This deserves being answered by another question: “Can you assure people that they are not sinning when they for frivolous reasons choose not to attend?”

Ultimately, it’s an issue of the heart.

David is a member of the board of directors and the former editor of the Carolina Messenger. He is an elder of the Charlotte Avenue Church of Christ in Rock Hill, SC.

Do False Teachers Exist? — Victor M. Eskew

Another way to word the title of this article is: “Does Satan Exist?” If Satan exists, then false teachers exist because he is the master of all false teachers. Jesus described him as “the father of lies” (John 8:44). We see his deceptive teachings influencing God’s creation from the very beginning. God had told Adam nad Eve that in the day that they ate of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they would die (Gen. 2:16-17). Satan boldly contradicted the words of the Creator. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die” (Gen. 3:6). Sadly, the woman believed Satan rather than the Lord. The consequences were devastating, not only for Adam and Eve, but for all mankind.

Since that day, Satan has enlisted individuals into his service to lead men away from the truth of God’s Word. In the Old Testament, we read about the existence of false prophets. In 1 Kings 5:19-40, a man of God named Elijah stands in opposition to the false prophets of Baal and the false prophets of the grove. In the New Testament, Paul comes into contact with a false prophet by the name of Bar-Jesus (Elymas) in the isle of Paphos (Acts 13:6-11). False teachers of Judaism sought to lead many of the churches astray in the first century. Paul said that they taught “another” gospel, that is, another of a different kind (Gal. 1:6-9). Peter warned of false teachers who would enter privily into a congregation of the Lord’s people (2 Pet. 2:1-22). Jude wrote to this church again once the presence of the false teachers was made known and exhorted them to contend earnestly for the faith (Jude 1-25).

Many warnings are found in the New Testament about false teachers. Jesus warned about them in His sermon on the mount. He declared: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). In Philippians 3:2, Paul writes: “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision.” In Colossians 2:8, he warned the church with these words: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” Paul warned Timothy that seducing spirits and doctrines of devils would cause some to depart from the faith (1 Tim. 4:1-4). Titus was told by the beloved Paul to reject all heretics after the first and second admonitions (Tit. 3:10). The writer of the Hebrew epistle exhorted his readers, saying: “Be not carried about with divers and strange doctrines…” (Heb. 13:9). Peter gave a very powerful warning against false teachers in 2 Peter 2:1: “But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.” John also warned about false teachers in his first epistle: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

Do false teachers exist? Yes! Both history and the warnings of God’s inspired Word tell us that they do. In fact, in the words of John, “…many false prophets are gone out into the world.” The lies of false teachers are as numerous as the sand of the sea. Here is a brief list of some of the lies we hear today:

  • God does not exist.
  • Man is a product of humanistic evolution.
  • Man is his own god and his own savior.
  • Jesus is not the Son of God.
  • The Bible is not the Word of God.
  • Mankind cannot understand the Bible.
  • Baptism does not save.
  • Man cannot fall from grace.
  • Man can worship God as he pleases.
  • Immorality is acceptable to God (abortion, homosexuality, adultery, etc.)
  • All religions are accepted by God.
  • Jesus will not return.
  • Jesus will return to establish an earthly kingdom.
  • There is no judgment.
  • There is no heaven or hell.

This is just a short list of some of the false doctrines that are proclaimed today. It is impossible to list every false doctrine being taught. It would literally take hundreds of thousands of volumes to list every false doctrine that false teachers have proclaimed.

As we near the end of this article, let’s keep three things in mind. First, many will heed the words of false teachers. Peter affirmed this in 2 Peter 2:2: “And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall evil be spoken of.”

Secondly, God has given us His precious truth which we can study (2 Tim. 2:15) and understand (Eph. 3:3-4) in order to protect us from false ways. The psalmist wrote, “Moreover by them is thy servant warned…” (Ps. 19:11), and, “Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way” (Ps. 119:104).

Thirdly, false teachers do not parade themselves as false teachers. In fact, they can disguise themselves as ministers of righteousness (2 Cor. 11:13-15). When they are found out, we must mark them and avoid them at all costs. “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:17-18).

Victor is a graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching, University of Memphis, and Ambridge University. He is married to Kathleen, and they have three children and six grandchildren. He preaches for the Oceanside congregation in Atlantic Beach, FL.

 

Editorial: How Is The Church of Christ Different From Denominations? (May/June, 2018) — Michael Grooms, Guest Editor

“So…how is the church of Christ different from other denominations?” I have been asked that question many times, and I am happy to give an answer. First, let me address the question itself. The term “church of Christ” is a possessive term that demonstrates the church as belonging to Christ. It is not the name of a denomination. Paul told the church in Rome, “…the churches of Christ greet you” (Rom. 16:16b). Second, the question assumes that the Lord’s church is one of the many denominations that we see in the religious landscape today. This is a misnomer. Jesus Christ did not make denominations. He made His church, and He only made one (Matt. 16:18). Men made denominations as a result of leaving the truth of God’s Word.

The church of Christ is made up of Christians who have been added to the church by our Lord as they were baptized into Christ for the remission of sins. (Acts 2:38, 41, 47; Rom. 6:3-6). Jesus alone has the authority to add men to His church (Matt. 28:18) and He only adds those who submit to His instruction that they believe and are baptized (Mark 16:16). Christ’s church is distinctive in nature because its members require authority from Jesus in all matters pertaining to worship, doctrine, and practice. This is the command of God. The Holy Spirit inspired Peter to write: “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11 NKJV). Paul, also inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote to the Christians in Colossae: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17 NKJV).

Since our Lord has thus instructed, true churches of Christ are determined to “speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent. Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names.” In organization, each congregation is autonomous and overseen by a body of elders (Acts 20:28; Tit. 1:5). Deacons aid the elders in carrying out the work of the church (1 Tim. 3:18-13; Acts 6:3-4). Preachers have the charge to preach the word of God (2 Tim. 4:2; Titus 2:15). The elements of worship are only those which we find in scripture. The church sings with the voice and heart, not with instrumental additions (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). The Bible is preached, and the Lord’s Supper is observed each Sunday (Acts 20:7). Prayer is offered (James 5:16). Contribution is taken each Sunday (1 Cor. 16:2). We decry the names of men and call ourselves only “Christians” (Acts 11:26).

Before our Lord left this earth, He gave to His disciples a charge we affectionately refer to as “The Great Commission.” This charge, which is found in Matthew 28:18-20 and Mark 16:15-16, continues to challenge us through the Word of God to go into the world and bring disciples to Christ. It is our charge to evangelize. It is also our charge to maintain that which has been placed into our stewardship. We are stewards of the grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10). As such, we are stewards of His Word and His church. We must maintain the purity of the church as we preach and practice the unfettered truth of God’s Word. It is up to this generation to pass on to the next generation a church which is true to the Word of God. Let us be ever vigilant to protect and preserve the truth of God’s Word, that we may be faithful stewards.

— Michael

 

God-Centered Ethics — Eric Diaz

Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s behavior. God-centered ethics are the moral principles provided to man through His inspired Scriptures. God’s will for mankind has always been that we come to a knowledge of the truth and be saved, He does not desire that any should perish. His love for mankind was shown by sending His only begotten Son to be that Savior and Mediator between us and the one and only living God (1 Tim. 2:3-6). God has always blessed men with a system of right and wrong as well as the free will opportunity of choosing right or wrong.

The first commands from God were given to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. At this time commands were given directly to the patriarchs such as Noah, Abraham, and his descendants. After Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt God gave His people the ten commandments and other spoken commands for them to live by. There have also been judges and prophets who have relayed information to the people to live righteously. When we come to the New Testament period we have Jesus, our mediator who provided a better way established on better promises (Heb. 8:6).

A lawyer once asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was. “Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40) This great foundation of love for God and awareness of others is crucial in understanding God-centered ethics. As usual, Jesus was the best example of loving God by perfectly carrying out His will, even to the point of giving Himself as a ransom for all. Love always involves sacrifice. We gladly sacrifice our time, energy and money for what we love the most.

It can be easy to recognize how to love your neighbor as yourself because we have a vested interest in caring for ourselves. Paul describes a husband loving his wife just like he loves his own body: “For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.” (Eph. 5:29) We also have the example here of how the Lord loves His church. Another well known scripture that’s important in this topic is Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” So we have yet another example of God-centered ethics summed up in one short verse, often hailed as the Golden Rule.

But what is a sign of someone who loves God? Jesus answers this question very simply in John 14:15: “If you love Me, keep My commandments.” John also records a contrast between love of God and love of the world in 1 John 2:15-17; one cannot have both love for the world and for God. These verses also cast a light on the darkness that is sin. This doesn’t mean that Christians will never sin, or that when we do sin we don’t love God. It shows the internal struggle between willing spirits surrounded by weak flesh. This is the struggle of living in the world but not being of the world. We are not to avoid the people of the world but we are to be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that we may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom. 12:2). This is our reasonable service.

The Alternative

A truly fair system of ethics must be objective (Acts 10:34), just (Deut. 32:4), and unchanging (Heb. 13:8). Without an objective standard of truth, ethics would be dependent upon any given situation or perspective; injustices would abound and as time goes on standards would change. The alternative would be a system of self-centered ethics, a system built upon the desires of the individual or the majority of a people. This alternative system would be subjective in nature and may even progress to the point of calling good evil and evil good. But if there is no objective standard there cannot definitively be good and evil.

We are repeatedly warned by God not to lean on our own understanding and that our own hearts can be deceptive (Jer. 17:9). This kind of self centeredness has been the downfall of mankind since the very beginning. Through the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life we can be drawn away from God, toward a path of death and destruction (1 John 2:16; James 1:14,15). Adam and Eve fell prey to the craftiness of the devil, who promised something contrary to God’s given word. They sinned and faced the consequences of their actions and so death spread to all men.

God in times past left men up to their own devices. These have always been times of great despair in our history upon this earth. Mankind in Noah’s day showed that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5). The wicked cities in the region of Sodom and Gomorrah also suffered from a lack of God-centered ethics and were destroyed. During the period of the Judges, being without a king as leader and guide, everyone did what they felt was right in their own eyes (Judg. 17:6). So we see time and time again the consequences of people with an absence of God-centered ethics.

Conclusion

Regardless of the past, today God requires all men everywhere to repent because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness (Acts 17:30-31). We ought to count it a blessing that a truly objective, omniscient Judge will be in charge of such an undertaking. There will be no partiality shown or mistakes made by Him. Every man will give an account of himself to God, so let us be prepared for that day by basing our lives on an ethic that revolves around God. We are without excuse recognizing the tremendous importance of trusting and obeying the one and only living God. We ought to love God by knowing and respecting His will for us. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Eric Diaz is a servant of God residing in the Gulfport, Mississippi area. He’s married to his high school sweetheart Charlotte Diaz and they have four sons. Together they strive to follow Christ with the support of their loving brethren.

 

Jesus As King: An Old Testament Perspective — Gantt Carter

As Christians, we often sing phrases like, “Jesus is Lord” and “He’s my king.” Jesus is not only our Savior from our sins, but He also the Supreme King we are to submit to in love. The reality of Jesus’ kingship/lordship is set forth throughout the Writings of the New Covenant, the covenant in His blood.

Before the Jewish crowd makes their request, the apostle Peter proclaims that “God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). “Lord” can also be translated as “Master” and “Christ” as “Messiah.” Jesus of Nazareth is the Master and the Messiah, and that truth is at the core of Christianity (cf. Phil 2:5-11).

The Perspective

This important concept of Jesus as King/Lord did not begin in the first century A.D. The truth builds on the history of God and Israel and flows out of several passages in the writings of the Old Covenant. In fact, the Hebrew term we translate as “Messiah” refers to one who is anointed, especially as a king. Jesus fulfills the thrust of the Old Covenant and the Scriptures given during that time (see 1 Cor. 15:1-4). Consider Jesus own words and actions:

“And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:25-27, cf. 32, 44-47).

Please join me now in an overview of the Old Covenant perspective on Jesus as King and Lord.

The Prophecies

The first specific reference to the coming One is in Genesis 3:15, but the first reference to His kingship may be near the end of the same inspired book. Within the blessings of Jacob upon his twelve sons, we find the following:

“Judah is a lion’s cub; from the prey, my son, you have gone up. He stooped down; he crouched as a lion and as a lioness; who dares rouse him? The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples (Gen. 49:9-10).

The lineage of Judah is significant for more than one reason in the history of Israel. David, king of Israel, descended from Judah and all succeeding kings came from Judah. Othniel, the first judge, was of the tribe of Judah (1 Chr. 4:13). The temple builders, Solomon and Zerubbabel, also descended from Judah (1 Chr. 3). King Jesus came as the new temple (John 1:14-18; 2:19), and His people are the temple as they are added to His body (Eph. 2:19-22).

Although dismissed by some, we submit that Genesis 49:9-10 is a foretelling of the timing and nature of the coming One (cf. Num. 24:17). Even many Jews through history believed this text to be about the Messiah. As we reflect on this, what can we see here?

1) He would be a descendant of Judah, the tribe of the kings (Matt. 1:2-3).

2) He would come while the authority of Judah was still perceptible. The last of any indication of royal Judah ceased with the Roman occupation. The Romans removed their authority and destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. With the second temple and the genealogies destroyed, there is not even a possibility of rulership out of Judah or someone claiming to be the rightful King of Israel.

3) He would receive tribute (as King). We can translate this portion of the text as “until Shiloh comes” or as a reference to the “ruler’s staff” belonging to Him. “Shiloh” is often considered to be another title for the coming One.

4) All people and nations would submit to Him in obedience, giving Him honor. Jew and Gentile unified as they joyfully submit to their one King (Eph. 1-4).

In 2 Samuel 7, God gives King David a powerful promise about his kingly lineage. The most immediate fulfillment is in Solomon and the succeeding kings from Judah until the exile. However, God later foretells of yet another coming king, a Davidic king who would finally fulfill the ultimate purpose of God for His people. The term “Branch” below may be a technical term for the legal heir to an established royal line of kings.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness’” (see Jer. 33:14-26; Ezek. 34:20-24; 37:24; Is. 11:10).

Gabriel tells the mother of Jesus that He will receive the throne of David and reign forever with His empire never ending (Luke 1:32-33). That parallels Isaiah who observes that the growth of His government and peace will be endless; that He will reign with justice and righteousness forever and ever (note Is. 9:6-7). Regarding David’s own understanding of the promises, Peter states:

“Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption” (Acts 2:30-31; cf. Ps. 16:8-11; 110:1).

Zechariah, who prophesied after the return from exile, employs “the Branch” language in the inspired document that bears his name. At first glance in chapter six, God seems to only refer to the then present son of Jehozadak, Joshua (see Zech. 6:9-15; cf. 3:8-10). But we submit that the ultimate application of these words is to the final “Joshua” or “Jesus.” (Jesus and Joshua in English are from the same Hebrew name for “Yahweh saves”). Zechariah refers to a priest also ruling as a king (v. 13; cf. Jer. 33:17-18). Although unlawful under the Mosaic Law, Jesus is the King and the High Priest of His New Covenant and Law.

Zechariah 9:9 foretells of a king who brings righteousness and salvation as he rides humbly on a donkey’s colt. Verse 10 includes a reference to battle and to the extension of his dominion but shows him speaking peace to the nations. Matthew 21:1-11 provides us with a clear fulfillment of this text in the life of Jesus as He enters Jerusalem gently and humbly on a colt. Born in David’s Bethlehem (Mic. 5:1-2; Luke 2:1-7), the eternal Ruler shepherds His flock “in the strength of the Lord, and in the majesty of the name of the Lord His God” (Mic. 5:4a).

The last chapter of Zechariah gives us a (at least slightly) different portrayal of Israel’s coming king. First, a terrible and violent battle scene is picture (14:1-2), and then Yahweh Himself goes to war with the nations on behalf of His people (v. 3; cf. 9:14-17). If the Lord is the King after all, then what does this say of Jesus? Jesus is a member of the Godhood. Yes, He is the Great I Am (Ex. 3:13-14; John 8:58; Phil. 2:5-11). Jesus is the Lord, the Master of the universe.

The language of Zechariah 14 relates well to the second Psalm and the lyrics about the possession and the wrath of the King and Son (Ps. 2:6-12). Let there be no doubt, this Messiah is a force to be reckoned with (cf. Ps. 102:25-27; Heb. 1:10-12). But as the battle smoke clears, note the beautiful and powerful words below:

“On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter. The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zech. 14:8-9).

On one hand, the Messiah meekly rids a donkey into town and suffers terribly for His people (Zech. 12:10-11; Is. 53). On the other hand, He proudly marches into battle and crushes His enemies with comprehensive authority. This seeming oddity led some Jews to conclude that there would be two different Messiahs: Ben Yosef (the suffering son of Joseph) and ben David (the ruling son of David). Others saw and continue to see this as either different possibilities or different points in time.

The Point

We know that Jesus became King by means of His death, resurrection, and ascension to the throne in heaven. The good news is “Your God reigns” (Is. 52:7). The Messiah was and is the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King (Heb. 1:1-13) of the true Israel (Gal. 6:16).

Zechariah 14 may refer to the gospel even in a certain sense, or perhaps it pictures the final coming of the Messiah. A time when He will deal with evil and suffering once and for all and rescue His people by granting them life forever with Him (Heb. 9:28; 1 Cor. 15:24-28; 1 Thess. 4:13-5:6).

Jesus was and is the long-awaited King that the people of Israel were longing to come and bring them final deliverance and peace. Of course, the fulfillment of these promises did not always match their perceptions of what He would be and how He would accomplish His work. As noted above, the true messiah (anointed King) is far more than a mere earthly king. For example, examine the way Jesus quotes and applies Psalm 110:1 in Matthew 22:41-45.

As the Prince of peace (Is. 9:6), He is their security and He is their peace (Mic. 5:4b-5). His peace is a different kind of peace than that of the world (John 14:27). His peace is about finding rest for our weary souls (Jer. 6:16; Matt. 11:28-30; Phil. 4:4-9). He reigns in our hearts as we delightfully obey His commands.

As Christians, we eagerly await the return of the King. He will quiet us by His love and sing loudly to us (Zeph. 3:15-20). We shall see the King someday!

Gantt resides in Elk City, Oklahoma, with his wife and two children. He is the preaching minister at the 2nd & Adams congregation.