All posts by Jon Mitchell

Preaching’s Foundational Task and Intended Purpose — Tony Brewer

It has been said of preaching, “Preaching is that unique procedure by which God, through His chosen messenger, reaches down into the human family and brings a person face to face with Himself. Without such confrontation, it is not true preaching” (Koller 13). We must go to the Bible to remember the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose. Looking at the role of the watchman recorded in Ezekiel and Paul’s charge to Timothy, we will notice the design of preaching, the despair of preaching, and the desired result of preaching.

The Design of Preaching

When remembering the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose, we must first remember that preaching is designed to fulfill a purpose. The design of preaching can be seen in Ezekiel’s account of the watchman, and is then mirrored in Paul’s charge to Timothy. God informed Ezekiel in the long ago that He had appointed him to be a watchman unto the house of Israel (Ezek. 3:17). The watchman was to deliver the message from God to the children of Israel so the people could repent of sin and come back into a right relationship with God (Ezek. 3:17-21).

From the language used to inform Ezekiel of the watchman’s task, we know that there is a responsibility of the hearer to take action. We understand that the role of the watchman is to deliver the message from God to inform the hearer of his responsibility to either change or continue his heavenward course. The hearer of the Word of God has a responsibility to react to the Word of God. The New Testament wisdom writer corroborates the responsibility of the hearer (Jas. 1:23-25). The design of preaching is seen, not in the account of the watchman in Ezekiel, but also in Paul’s instruction to Timothy who was charged to preach (2 Tim. 4:1-4).

The role of the watchman mirrors perfectly the foundational task of preaching with which young Timothy, and every Christian, was charged in the New Testament. All Christians are instructed to preach in that we all have an obligation to the Great Commission, and we are commanded to restore those who are overtaken in a fault (Matt. 28:18-20; Gal. 6:1). More specifically, Paul instructed Timothy, a preacher, to commit that which he had heard of Paul to faithful men who would be able to teach others also (2 Tim. 2:2). Later in that same letter, Paul brings Timothy into the very presence of God and charges him to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2). As we can see from the Old Testament example of the watchman in Ezekiel and in the New Testament example of Paul’s charge to Timothy, the design of preaching is to strengthen the resolve to continue a heavenward course (exhort), to warn the people of their sinful state (reprove), and to encourage change for the better (rebuke), which leads us to the despair of preaching.

The Despair of Preaching

Looking further into the role of the watchman, we learn that the hearers of the message may go into a state of despair. Later in the book of Ezekiel, God tells Ezekiel to explain the role of the watchman to the children of Israel (Ezek. 33:1-9). Although the reason behind the information being conveyed to the children of Israel is conjecture, we may surmise that knowing the role of the watchman may alleviate some burden for the watchman, as well as for those who hear the message from the watchman. Assuredly, the hearers were in a deep state of despair and could not fathom how they could live up to the standard that God was setting through His message. They were being convicted of sin and, instead of repenting and turning to God, they were pining away in their sins (v. 10). Also, the children of Israel were asking a question that is only asked from a place of extreme hopelessness and despair: “How should we then live?” (v. 10b). If the watchman brings his audience to this despairing state of mind with no offer of hope, then he has failed in the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose because he has not considered God’s desired result of the hearing of the message. He has brought people low and made them aware of their sinful condition and has left them hopeless. Thankfully, God hears the despairing remarks by the hearers and answers them with mercy and grace. God replies, “Why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (v. 11).

When we preach today, many in the audience are in this same mindset. As mentioned, preachers are to reprove, rebuke, and exhort (2 Tim. 4:2). When brought face to face with the sin that is in our lives through preaching, we may be so overwhelmed that we ask the same question asked by the children of Israel in the long ago, “How should we then live?” The mindset behind this question is fundamentally one of despair. I can not do what God wants me to do, God wants too much from me, and God is set against me are all accusations against God from a mindset of despair. However, if a preacher remembers the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose, then the preaching will, in fact, produce God’s desired result.

The Desired Result of Preaching

God revealed His desired result of the watchman’s preaching to Israel. God instructed the watchman to “say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezek. 33:11)

It is like this with the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose. When preaching brings a person to the pit of despair and they cannot fathom how they can live with the censures and mandates God has placed upon them, the preacher’s role is to remind them of God’s desired result of the preaching. Through the watchman, God is reassuring the hearer of the message that He does not want the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11). He further charges the wicked to change and live by responding “Why will ye die?”, implying they have the ability to change.
From the time preaching of the cross began until now, man has been plunged into pit of despair saying, “How can we live?” God has answered back from across the expanse of time to ask, “Why do you die?” God has sent His Son so that we might have life, and that more abundantly (John 10:10). “How should we live?” God has sent His Son, grace personified, to teach us how to live and it is the preaching of the cross which conveys that message (Tit. 2:11-13; 1 Cor. 1:21).

Conclusion

The foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose is detailed by Ezekiel’s watchman and again by Paul’s charge to Timothy. God designed preaching to be the foundational task for informing His children of their spiritual condition with the understanding that His desire would be communicated through the despair that comes from being convinced of being in a sinful state. Consequently, the desired result is the restoration of the convicted soul. Preaching either bolsters the righteous and strengthens them in their resolve to keep on the right path, or it convicts the wicked while showing them the love of God and the way back into His good favor. Now the we have remembered the foundational task of preaching and its intended purpose, let us be watchmen and go forward with Paul’s charge to Timothy to “preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Tony is the gospel preacher for the Bay Church of Christ in Bay, AR. He is a 2015 graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching. He also does extensive social media evangelism and Bible teaching.

The Kind of Preaching Needed Today — Roger Leonard

In this article we will consider the kind of preaching needed today. A follow-up article will examine the definition of sound preaching in the next issue.

What kind of preaching is needed today?

Preaching that pleases God. When God sent Moses to deliver His people from Egyptian bondage, He sent him first to the Israelites with these authoritative words: “I AM has sent me to you” (Ex. 3:14, NASB). God’s message through Moses to “the elders of Israel” was, “The God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Jacob, appeared to me, saying, ‘I have surely visited you and seen what is done to you in Egypt, and I have said I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt… to a land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex. 3:16-17.) Moses then asked God what he should do in the event they would not listen to his voice and deny that God had sent him (Ex. 4:1). God subsequently demonstrated to Moses that the rod which was in his hand would become a serpent to convince them that God had appeared to him, thus giving credence to his message that he spoke for God (vs. 2-5).

But Moses began to make excuses that he was not an eloquent speaker and that he was “slow of speech and slow of tongue” (v. 10.) So God asked him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?” (v. 11) God went on to tell Moses He would be with his mouth and teach him what to say (v. 12). Yet Moses begged the Lord to use someone else (v. 13). God became angry with Moses and, although Moses would still be God’s messenger and representative, He let him know that Aaron would be his “mouth” (vs. 14-16) while Moses would maintain the staff and “perform the signs” (v. 17).

God’s plainly stated message: “Then the Lord said to Moses, Go to Pharaoh and speak to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of the Hebrews, Let My people go, that they may serve Me” (Ex. 9:1). This Moses did at least ten times and the message never changed.

God later instructed the prophet Jonah: “Arise, go to Nineveh the great city and proclaim to it the proclamation which I am going to tell you.” The message: “Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown” (Jon. 3:2, 4).

Every prophet in the Old Testament was to speak the specific messages which God had given them. No more and no less! The phrase “the word of the Lord” (found some 241 times) was the common theme of God’s prophets. While Peter plainly declared the “the prophet” (Deut. 18:15-19)to be “Jesus, the Christ” (Acts 3:18-23), verses 20-22 of Deuteronomy 18 apply to any prophet. God’s men must speak God’s words!

Under the new Covenant of Christ, we see from the Lord’s command that if we change the gospel we’ll be “accursed” (Gal. 1:6-9). Paul makes it clear here that the goal in preaching must be to please God and not men (v. 10).

Preaching that is proven. Looking back at God with Moses, miraculous proof was presented that he spoke for God. Jonah’s message was supported by the fact that he survived being in the belly of a fish for three days. Jesus corroborates this “sign” by comparing it to His time in the tomb and His own resurrection (Matt. 12:40). We also know the Lord’s apostles and prophets of the first century A.D. “confirmed the word (that they preached) by signs that followed” (Mark 16:20).

Today we have “all things that pertain to life and godliness” and “we have the prophetic word made more sure…” (2 Pet. 1:3, 19) in complete, written form. This is what we are to preach! While some balk at book, chapter and verse preaching, the New Testament is filled with references from the Old Testament. Why? Proof! We “preach the word” as proof that our message is from God!

Preaching that is pertinent. Consider the differences in the Lord’s discussion with Nicodemus, the Samaritan woman, Peter’s preaching on Pentecost, and Paul’s message on Mars Hill. In these evangelistic lessons each messenger dealt with the people where they were spiritually, in knowledge, and in understanding. Consider the letters to the seven churches in Asia in Revelation 2 and 3. Every church had different issues to be addressed.

When preparing lessons from week to week for local work, we typically preach to the same people. Yet there are so many different needs. In my classes under Tom Holland, I was taught to know the needs of the church, then to preach to the needs. We learn this by listening during conversations, noting comments made in class, etc. It may be comments about struggling with health issues, personal faith and struggles, or doctrinal confusion. We must prayerfully study for and address these pertinent needs.

Preaching that persuades. When John the Immerser, Jesus, Peter, Stephen and Paul preached, they sought to persuade people to repent and turn to the Lord’s ways (cf. Matt. 3:12; 4:17; John 3:3, 5; Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19; 7:51-53; 2 Cor. 5:11). The first word Paul uses in the charge to Timothy in preaching the Word is “reprove” or “convince” (2 Tim. 4:2). The word means “to put to proof, to test; to convict., lay bare, expose” (Mounce). While not all sermons are designed to persuade, if our preaching does not often seek to change the hearers’ hearts then we are falling short of a main goal. People will stay where they are (at best) or fall away (at worst). Preaching must seek to persuade people to change.

Preaching that provides promises. A friend and brother in Christ once sated that “our preaching must offer people hope.” Forgiveness is real (Jer. 31:34; Rom. 11:27)! Jesus’ blood cleanses us from all sin when we walk in the light (1 John 1:7)! Resurrection is a proven reality (John 20:19-29)! Heaven is promised by Jesus (John 14:1-3), and He is there now (Luke 24:50-53)! While we struggle daily and face opposition, the Lord Jesus said, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life(Rev. 2:10, emp. added). That is hope!

Lord willing, we will continue this study in the next issue by examining the sound doctrine which makes up the kind of preaching needed today.

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.

Social Media Preaching — Will Hester

Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube have all gained notoriety over the last fourteen years because of the appeal of connection. As a society, we want to feel connected to the world in which we live and social media gives us just that. It has transformed from being only a “college experiment” to an international phenomenon.

Technology is racing to try and keep up with social media, yet we as a church are dragging our feet. Many churches try to buck the trend of being technologically challenged, using Facebook Live, YouTube Live Stream and other types of streaming. However, this has only been within the last six to seven years. Our brethren, for one reason or another, have always been leery of using innovative methods to get the Word out to a lost and dying world. “Don’t fix what is not broken,” is just one statement that has been used in regards to innovative ways to reach the lost.

Christ would say, “Go therefore and teach all nations” (Matt. 28:19), but are we truly going into the entire world? There is a notion that we need to only focus on our local communities and maybe the surrounding communities; whether it is in the church right now remains to be seen. Is that what the Great Commission actually says? Did Christ say, “Go therefore into the local community and only the local community?” Christ did not say that then and he is not saying that now. The Great Commission is still as valid today as it was in the first century. Christ does not change and His Word does not change, but our delivery of the message should change to help reach more people.

Every generation has had an advantage over the previous generation with regards to evangelism. Those who lived after the advent of the car and airplane had a bigger advantage than their fathers and mothers. Those of us in the twenty-first century have a major advantage over our parents’ generation. With the advent of the Internet, we can instantaneously let people know about God’s word.

The Hebrews writer would state, “For the word is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword” (Heb. 4:12). The word for “active” here is ἐνεργὴς (energés). This word carries the idea of being full of energy or being effective. As Christians, we must understand that this is a directive to us as well! We must be full of energy for the Lord and the cause of Christ. An energized church will be effective in spreading the gospel to the entire world. Social media is the best conduit for evangelizing a perpetually moving world.

Just as with any good thing, there are negatives that can be recognized. We must be careful with the rhetoric that we use on social media. The previous statement can be taken by some to mean that we should not speak out against false teaching, but that is the furthest thing from the truth. We must, as with anything we say from any forum, speak the truth in love and power. Paul would write, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). He would also state in his letter to the church at Ephesus in Ephesians 4:15-16, “…but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:15-16). In these passages, Paul makes it clear to not be ashamed of the Gospel and to speak about that power in love.

The problem the church faces is one of playing catch up to the growing trend of social media evangelism. Most churches are realizing that to be able to spread the gospel to a wider audience they must accept that social media is a resource. Some might say, “Well, we do not have the resources or funds to pay for a camera to be installed at the church,” or, “We do not have internet at the church.” These are excuses and not solutions. In the age of smart phones, there most likely is a person who has one at the church. There are apps that will allow you record your sermon and download that same sermon onto your computer in mp4 format. You can then post that recording on your personal Facebook page. I was once told, “It doesn’t matter what technology you have because you can make anything work in your favor.” Another idea that can be implemented is using the built in camera on your laptop. Understandably, the video most likely will not be high definition quality, but you will be able to put the lessons on the Internet. This can be a temporary fix for a long-term goal.

The previous ideas are easily implemented and can further the evangelism and personal work of the church. Many times we are scared of the unknown to the point that we lose sight of the end goal, which is bringing souls to Christ. Acts 8:4 states, “Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word.” We see that, although the Christians were scattered, they were preaching everywhere. They were not ashamed of the Gospel and they were not afraid. We must, with all of the tools at our disposal in the twenty-first century, be willing to do everything we can to bring souls to Christ. In Acts 2:46-47, Luke states, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” When we continue in one accord and the people outside the church see that, then we will have favor with everyone and God will give the increase. Paul would state, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor. 3:6-8).

I recognize that when reading these passages we do not read of social media or the Internet. However, we do read of what we must do as Christians to spread the gospel of Christ. As long as we do not go against Scripture when we spread the Gospel, then we must use any tool at our disposal. Gospel Broadcasting Network based out of South Haven, MS, has taken up the mantle to show churches that it does not have to be as hard as we make it to spread the gospel through various media mediums. After having spoken with Mark Teske, who is one of the men involved with GBN, he says, “If a church has website they can go to the Gospel Broadcasting Network website and copy the embed code of the live stream, then create a page on their website to embed the code. Once embedded on the page and it is made live, then you will have a 24 hour broadcast people can watch from the comfort of their own homes on their computers or other devices.” This simple addition can be wonderful tool to let people see the truth of the Word of God taught in its’ simplicity and power.

My belief is that churches should embrace the use of technology to spread the borders of the kingdom. We have the means and the access, but we must first step out of our comfort zone. Our mission as Christians is to bring souls to Christ each day and to show them the way of true salvation through the Word of God. Some people have never heard the Word preached and are afraid to come to a church service for fear they will be mocked by those in attendance. The avenue of social media is a great way to give those people a chance to hear the Gospel and to become acclimated to the way worship is done. As long as we make sure they understand that they are always welcomed in the services and that they will not be judged for what they have done, then we will see our attendance grow spiritually and numerically.

Social media preaching, when used effectively, is great source and tool to use to bring people to knowledge of the truth that would never have had the opportunity previously in their lives. We must work diligently to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ because souls are in jeopardy. May we strive to bring souls to Christ each day of our lives till the day we are called home to be with our Father!

Will is a fourth-generation gospel preacher who is married to Sarah. He preaches at the Osceola Church of Christ in Osceola, AR.

Preaching From The Old Testament — Victor M. Eskew

When individuals hear that the churches of Christ teach that the Old Testament has been “done away” (2 Cor. 3:11), they often believe that the churches of Christ do not believe in the Old Testament. Such is not true. Too, there are some members of the church who despise any preaching from the Law of Moses since the law has been abolished (Eph. 2:14-15). Again, this is not true. It is true that the Old Covenant has been taken away. Paul wrote: “Blotting out the handwritings of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). But, this same apostle also wrote: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Old Testament is not the law that governs man today. The law that now governs man is the New Testament, or, the Law of Christ. The Old Testament, however, is extremely valuable to a person’s studies. There is a wealth of information that can be obtained from it. In this article, we want to examine this topic: “Preaching from An Old Testament Perspective.”

There are so many ways that a preacher can use the Old Testament in his preaching. Let’s list several of them. First, the Old Testament has so much to teach us about God. The opening verse of the Old Testament states: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). So much can be learned about God from this one verse alone. Hundreds of others verses also give us insights into the Almighty God (Gen. 17:1). We learn about His attributes, His promises, His faithfulness, His generosity, His longsuffering, His anger, and His wrath from verses of the Old Testament narrative.

Second, Christ is also found in the Old Testament. He Himself affirmed this to the Jews during His earthly ministry. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah reveal Him unto us. We also seem a glimpse of Him in a figure referred to as “the angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:7; Exo. 3:2; Judg. 2:4). Several Old Testament characters are types of Jesus: Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon to name a few. Yes, the Son of God is manifest from Genesis to Malachi.

Third, we can study the narratives of the Old Testament and glean the bountiful harvest of lessons that are found therein. Every text taken from the Old Testament has some lesson that can be learned. In Genesis 2, we learn about marriage. In Genesis 3, we learn about temptation, sin, accountability, and punishment. In Genesis 4, we see the difference in the practice God-ordained worship and man-made worship. We could continue from chapter to chapter to chapter noting the storehouses of lessons the Old Law provides for us.

Fourth, the Old Covenant helps us to understand vital principles that are also taught in the New Testament. We often sing the song Trust and Obey. As Christians, we must practice both of these things to be right with God (Eph. 1:13; Rev. 22:14). These principles, however, are not new. They have been around since the dawn of time. A man who trusted God and obeyed Him was Noah. “By faith Noah…” (Heb. 11:7). Noah heard God’s words about the flood and the ark. He trusted everything that God told him…but he also obeyed. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). It was his faith that moved him to obey. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark the saving of his house…” (Heb. 11:7). Today, God has not warned us of a flood, nor has He commanded us to build an ark. He has given us other facts, promises, and commands that must be trusted and that must be obeyed. Noah encourages us to do these things. He did and was saved from the waters of the flood. If we will trust and obey, we can be saved from the wrath of God at the last day.

Fifth, preachers can take the Old Testament and preach about books, chapters, and verses found therein. There are thirty-nine unique books in the law. Each book has a theme. This theme can be tied to the overall theme of the Bible, “The Salvation of Fallen Man through Jesus Christ the Son of God.” When Christians come to have an overall view of a book, the internal matters of that book make so much more sense. There are many special chapters that preachers can focus upon such as: The Creation (Gen. 1), The Fall of Man (Gen. 3), The Call of Moses (Ex. 3), Blessings and Curses (Deut. 28), The Contrast of the Godly and the Ungodly (Ps. 1), The Shepherd Psalm (Ps. 23), and The Suffering Servant (Is. 53) just to name of the few well-known chapters. There are also individual verses that stand alone. Joshua 24:15 is one of them: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Another familiar text is found in the little book of Ruth. “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Many others could also be singled out.

These are just a few of many ways that the Old Testament can be profitably used by ministers of the gospel today. If we ever begin to think that we have run out of preaching material, all we have to do is start reading the book of Genesis. We will find enough sermons in the Old Testament to keep us busy for a lifetime. Many of the New Testament writers did not hesitate to use the Old Testament in their preaching. When we read Acts 2, 1 Corinthians 10, and Hebrews 11 we see this to be true. Dear preacher, “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2). This includes preaching the wonderful messages of the Old Testament.

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: More Thoughts On What The Bible Says About Drinking (October, 2018) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

The editorial from the last issue of the Carolina Messenger started a study on what the Bible says about drinking alcoholic beverages. We looked at the definitions of the Greek words translated “drunkenness” (Gal. 5:21), and “drunkards” (1 Cor. 6:10). We examined how the definition of the Greek term translated “get drunk” (Eph. 5:18) — methusko — is an inceptive verb condemning the entire process of becoming drunk. We saw how the Greek word for “sober” (1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 5:8) — nepho — literally means “to be free from the influence of intoxicants” (Vine), “…to abstain from wine (keep sober)…” (Strong), and “to be temperate…” (Thayer). We looked at how nepho is the verbal form of nephaleon (“temperate,” 1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Tit. 2:2), and how an early form of nephaleonnephalios — means “sober: and of drink, without wine, wineless” (Liddell and Scott). Therefore we came to the conclusion that, with the exception of ingesting small amounts of intoxication for medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23), our Lord wishes us to abstain from drinking intoxicating beverages, the practice sometimes known as “social drinking.” Several medical authorities and other official reports and statements were cited to show how even the first sips and drinks of alcoholic beverages immediately act upon our brains in an intoxicating fashion. We also studied how the wine which Christ miraculously made from water at the wedding feast (John 2:1-11) was not intoxicating in nature because the Hebrew and Greek terms translated “wine” in the Bible could refer not only to intoxicating beverages (Prov. 20:1) but also to freshly trodden grape juice (Is. 16:10), clusters of grapes which were just gathered (Jer. 40:10), or the grapevine itself (Num. 6:4).

We will now continue our study on what the Bible says about drinking by examining objections commonly made to the aforementioned fact that “wine” in the Bible is defined not only as an intoxicating beverage, but in other contexts fresh grape juice. One such objection is the notion that “wine” in biblical times exclusively indicated a fermented, intoxicating drink. Yet Aristotle (Meteorologica 4.9), Athenaeus (Deipnosophistae 1. 27; 5199), and Pliny (Natural History 14.11) all spoke of unfermented wine existing in their time. In Pliny’s case, he talked about a Spanish wine which was called inerticulam, (“inert, not affecting the nerves”); it was also called justius sobriam (“more justly, sober wine”) as well as viribus innoxiam: siquidem temulentiam sola non facit (“harmless to the strength, as of itself it does not cause intoxication”). Columella, a Roman agricultural writer, spoke of this wine being called by the Greeks amethyston (“unintoxicating”), inerticula (“not intoxicating”), innoxia, quod iners habetur in tentandis nervis, quamvis in gustu non sit hebes (“harmless because guiltless of disturbing the nerves, though it was not wanting in flavor”), thus showing that unintoxicating wine was both known and appreciated during biblical times (De Re Rustica 3.2).

Others object by claiming that there were no methods of keeping grape juice free from fermentation during biblical times. For example, the removal of moisture from grapes keeps them from fermenting. Columella wrote of drying grapes before the skin was broken and preserving them in that condition in order to produce, even after a considerable period of time, an unfermented beverage after they had been soaked in water, calling it the Roman term passum because the grapes had been spread out in order to dry (De Re Rustica 12. 39). He also wrote of how the Romans had boiled wines by boiling the grapes. The boiling evaporated the water and thus prevented fermentation. Grape juice boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit and ethyl alcohol evaporates at 172 degrees Fahrenheit; thus boiling was a great way to expel alcohol from the juice. Additionally, Columella and Pliny also wrote of lining earthen containers with pitch, filling them with fresh juice before sealing them, and then sinking them in water or burying them in the ground in order to prevent air from coming into contact with the juice and causing fermentation (De Re Rustica 120; Natural History 14.11).

Returning our focus to Scripture, the Old Testament says about consumption of intoxicating beverages. The first sin on record in Scripture after the flood was drunkenness, committed, unfortunately, by Noah himself and leading to further sin by his son Ham and the cursing of Canaan by his grandfather (Gen. 9:20-27). Drunkenness also led to the downfall of Lot, another righteous man who had previously stood out as a light among a sin-filled culture only to be taken down by imbibing intoxicating drink and becoming drunk to the point of committing incest with his daughters (Gen. 19:30-38). So it should not surprise us that God refers to intoxicating wine and strong drink as “a mocker…a brawler, and whoever is led astray by it is not wise” (Prov. 20:1). We should understand why he attributes “tarry(ing) long over wine” and “go(ing) to try mixed wine” as the cause for those who have woe, sorrow, strife and complaining before telling us not to even look at these intoxicating drinks and warning of the adverse effects they will have on us (Prov. 23:29-35). We should heed his caution that “wine is a traitor, an arrogant man who is never at rest” (Hab. 2:5) and understand why he pronounced a “woe” upon “him who makes his neighbors drink” (Hab. 2:15-16) … yet another reason why the wine Christ miraculously made for his fellow wedding guests was not intoxicating in nature. These admonitions combined with the direct commands found throughout the New Testament in the Greek terms for “sober” (1 Thess. 5:6-8) and “do not get drunk” (Eph. 5:18) should make it very clear to all of us that our Lord does not want us drinking alcoholic beverages.

Yet the objections still come. For example, some point to Deuteronomy 14:24-26, which records God telling the Israelites to spend their money on whatever they want, including “wine or strong drink.” The thought is that if God told Israel to spend their money on “wine or strong drink,” then he must have permitted them to be social drinkers. Again, it must be pointed out that “wine” (yayin in Hebrew) is used biblically in both an alcoholic andnon-alcoholic sense depending on the context; since elsewhere in the Old Testament God strongly disapproves of ingesting intoxicating yayin, it is clear that the yayin of the Deuteronomy passage is non-alcoholic in nature. The same can be said for “strong drink.” Just as most today automatically associate intoxicating beverages with the term “wine,” such is even more so the case with “strong drink,” and understandably so. Yet “strong drink” comes from the Hebrew term shekar, and like yayin with “wine” scholars have also acknowledged that shekar can refer to the sweet, either fermented or unfermented, juice of many fruits other than grapes (some of which possibly having a particularly strong taste, thus earning the term “strong drink”). For example, the Cyclopaedia of Biblical Literature says shekar “was much broader than ‘strong drink,’” listing other definitions which include “luscious, saccharine drink or sweet syrup, especially sugar or honey of dates, or of the palm-tree; also, by accommodation, occasionally the sweet fruit itself…”, and “date or palm wine in its fresh and unfermented state…” (emphasis mine). Thus, if one is to take the Bible in its entirety (Ps. 119:160a), it is clear that God was not commanding Israel to buy alcoholic wine and alcoholic strong drink, but rather grape juice (“wine,” yayin) and sweet fruit drinks (“strong drink,” shekar).

Another objection is centered around the words of the mother of King Lemuel to her son in which she says, “Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their poverty and remember their misery no more” (Prov. 31:6-7). Clearly the context surrounding verses 6-7 promote the definition of intoxicating beverages, but one must go further to determine if divine support for social drinking is found here. For example, we could look at the previous two verses where his mother says to Lemuel, “It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted” (vs. 4-5). The question must be asked as to why God and this obviously wise woman would warn about the dangers of alcoholic consumption for royalty in one sentence and then in  the very next sentence promote alcoholic consumption and its dangerous results for the dying and impoverished. Since the ethyl alcohol within intoxicating drinks is a medically proven toxic poison, why would God tell us to poison the dying and poor in the same book where he provided instruction to prevent early deaths and care for the poor (cf. Prov. 2:18-19; 5:23; 14:21; 17:5)? Why would God promote “drinking our worries away,” an obvious reference to drunkenness? It is clear when one takes into account the entirety of the Bible’s condemnation of the consumption of alcoholic beverages, including in the immediate context of Proverbs 31:6-7, that King Lemuel’s mother is not advocating social drinking. On the contrary, she is emphasizing the warning she had just given her son in verses 4-5. She is basically saying, “When you become king, remember that kings shouldn’t drink. Bad things will happen if you do. You’ll forget important policies and treat your subjects in an unjust way. Look at those out on the street who are dying and poor. With some, their alcoholism got them there and keeps them there by helping them forget their troubles and taking away their motivation to fix themselves. Don’t be like them.”

More could be studied concerning the biblical admonitions against drinking as well as the objections some have to them, but it is our hope that the study produced in this editorial as well as the one in the previous issue will make it clear to the reader that it is not God’s will that they socially drink alcohol. We are called to be lovingly obedient to our God (John 14:15) and an excellent example to our fellow man (Matt. 5:16; 18:6-7; Rom. 14:21; 1 Cor. 10:32; 1 Pet. 2:12).

It’s simply impossible to do that with a beer or wineglass in your hand.

— Jon

Editorial: What Does The Bible Say About Drinking? (September, 2018) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

This is a subject which should be addressed within the body of Christ. My wife once told me about one of her co-workers, a very religious lady, who talked freely of storing six packs of beer in her automobile’s trunk. Some college friends of mine who profess Christianity drink alcoholic beverages socially and defend the practice. Some leaders and teachers in the church also defend the practice or hesitate to see anything wrong with it. Thus, we see a great need for biblical teaching on this subject (Hos. 4:6). In addressing it, my goal is to present the evidence of Scripture to the reader and respectfully and kindly encourage them to have God’s will as their highest priority (Col. 3:17), recognizing that this is a sensitive and controversial subject (Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

To my knowledge, all who want to follow the Bible will acknowledge that drunkenness is listed among the works of the flesh which condemn those who practice them as not inheriting God’s kingdom (Gal. 5:19-21). The point of disagreement lies around the question of when one is drunk scripturally. When does God consider someone to be drunk?

The Greek-English lexicographer W.E. Vine cites “drunkenness” (Gal. 5:21) as methe in the original Greek, defining it as “‘strong drink’…denotes ‘drunkenness, habitual intoxication’… Vine also ascribes the word translated “drunkards” (1 Cor. 6:10) to the adjective methusos, defining it as “‘drunken’…used as a noun…in the plural…‘drunkards’…” So far proponents of social drinking completely agree because in their minds there is a difference between consuming one margarita and being drunk. I understand that reasoning, yet also am reminded of God’s warning in Isaiah 55:8-9.

With that warning in mind, note that Vine also cites the verb translated “get drunk” in the command against doing so (Eph. 5:18) as methusko, which “signifies ‘to make drunk, or to grow drunk’…an inceptive verb, marking the process…‘to become intoxicated’…” (emphasis mine). Vine specifically includes in the definition of the verb “get drunk” not only what the proponents of social drinking would call the end result of several drinks (drunkenness), but also the entire process of becoming drunk. Robert Young’s Analytical Concordance to the Bible defines methusko as “to begin to be softened.” Therefore, the word which the Spirit of God inspired Paul to use in this command against drunkenness would not only condemn the inebriation resulting from a consumed six-pack of beer, but also the entire process one would undergo to reach that state of inebriation (social drinking).

Elsewhere, the Holy Spirit inspired Paul and Peter to command us to be “sober” (1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 5:8). Paul’s command is part of a contrast between the Christian being of the day and thus awake and sober rather than of the night and sleeping the sleep of drunkenness. Peter’s command is part of a warning to be continually on the lookout for the devil who is always on the prowl like a lion, seeking someone to eat. The Greek word they used which is translated “sober” is nepho, which Vine defines as “to be free from the influence of intoxicants.” Greek authority James Strong defines it as “…to abstain from wine (keep sober)…” Joseph Thayer’s second definition of nepho says, “to be temperate, dispassionate, circumspect” (emphasis mine). Regarding the term “temperate,” social drinking proponents cite how it is sometimes defined as moderation with regards to consumption of alcohol. As we examine that notion, it is worthy to note that nepho is the verbal form of nephaleon (“temperate,” 1 Tim. 3:2, 11; Tit. 2:2). Lexicographers Henry Liddell and Robert Scott define nephalios, an early form of nephaleon, as “sober: and of drink, without wine, wineless.” Thus, the promotion of total abstinence from wine in Vine and Strong’s definitions of nepho and Liddell and Scott’s definitions of its derivative of nephalios and nephaleon leads us to conclude that Thayer had in mind the definition of “temperance” found in The New World Dictionary for his definition of nepho: “total abstinence from alcoholic drinks.”

This shows us that by inspiring Paul to use a word which in the Greek meant total abstinence from intoxicating drinks, God’s idea of “sober” (1 Thess. 5:6-8; 1 Pet. 5:8) is more along the lines of how Alcoholics Anonymous use the word when they ask their members, “Are you sober?” When AA says “sober,” they do not mean, “Does your blood alcohol content meet the legal requirements to operate a vehicle?” Rather, they are asking, “Have you totally abstained from consuming alcoholic beverages?” That is what nepho means in the New Testament, which has this command completely in sync with Ephesians 5:18’s condemnation of methusko, the entire process which would result in methe, drunkenness.

The only divinely approved allowance of the ingestion of any intoxicating beverage would be small amounts for medicinal purposes (1 Tim. 5:23). There is no comparison between the command to “use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments” and the notion to have a cocktail at dinner or a can or two of beer at the party. Concerning the latter, drunkenness results much sooner than one might think.

Remember that God created us and thus knows our bodies and how they react to social consumption of intoxicating beverages. Dr. Haven Emmerson wrote Alcohol, Its Effects on Man, in which he reported that even the first sips of an alcoholic beverage causes changes in mood or behavior. He cited studies of how the first measurable effects on younger, inexperienced drinkers were detected after half a can of beer, the equivalent to half a cocktail or half a glass of wine, while on adults who are occasional drinkers the first measurable effects were detected after only one beer or cocktail. Toxicologist Clarence Muehlberger wrote an article on drunkenness for the 1959 Encyclopaedia Britannica in which he said, “The higher nerve functions of the forebrain, such as reasoning, judgment, and social restraint are impaired by very low concentrations of alcohol in the blood.” Dr. Donald Gerard wrote in his article “Intoxication and Addiction” in Drinking and Intoxication that “judgment and inhibitions are affected” with “the first few ‘social’ drinks.” The 1971 First Special Report to the U.S. Congress on Alcohol and Health reported that even the first few sips of an alcoholic beverage can cause changes in mood or behavior. The American Automobile Association said, “The effects of alcohol begin with the first drink…The first effects are impairment of judgment and reasoning and weakening of self-control and normal inhibitions.”

Yet objections to these clear biblical and biological facts still come. A common one centers around how Christ turned water into wine (John 2:1-11). The wine in question is understandably assumed to be an intoxicating beverage, since that’s what wine is today. Because of this, some have even gone so far as to assume the master of the feast saying that the guests were already drunk by the time Jesus made the good wine (v. 10), defining “good” as “best for getting smashed.” However, in biblical times the terms translated “wine” could refer not only to an intoxicating beverage (Prov. 20:1), but also to the grapevine itself (Num. 6:4), clusters of grape which were just gathered (Jer. 40:10), or freshly trodden grapes (Is. 16:10). Furthermore, Strong defines the master of the feast’s phrase “drunk freely” (methuo) not only as “to drink to intoxication,” but also adds another definition: “drink well.” Liddell and Scott, along with lexicographer Samuel Bloomfield, agree and state that it could refer to the quantity of drinking without necessarily indicating as to whether the drink was intoxicating. Also, Thayer defines the “good” wine (kalos) as “beautiful” and “excellent,” which logically correlates much more to taste or appearance than supposed intoxicating qualities.

Thus, the wine Jesus made was not intoxicating in nature, but rather sweet grape juice. The master of the feast was accordingly saying that normally the best tasting and looking wine was served first with the sub-quality being saved for after the guests had drank well, or all, of the former. To claim otherwise would have Christ making intoxicating wine for guests who had already become tipsy at best (cf. Hab. 2:15). Such does not correspond with Christ’s nature.

More study will be given to this topic in the next editorial. I pray this study will be beneficial to the reader and glorify God.   — Jon

Living In Spirit And Truth In A Social Media World — Tony Brewer

Worshiping in spirit and in truth simply means worshiping with the proper attitude and doing the right things (John 4:24). If worship is to be done in spirit and truth then the service we offer by our lives is to be done in spirit and truth as well (Rom. 12:1). Living in spirit and truth has always been complicated but in the last two decades we have introduced social media and made it even more complicated.

The platform of social media changes from time to time. Myspace gives way and makes room for Facebook. Snapchat fell out of favor with the masses. Instagram rose in prominence. YouTube is holding on and revamping to be more conducive to social interaction between its subscribers. It does not matter which platform is popular or which platform you use, you must maintain a life of service to God in spirit and truth. How is that done? To answer that question we will notice the main misconception about social media, the main problem with social media, and the solution to the problem.

The Main Misconceptions About Social Media

What we do in this plane of existence lasts in eternity. According to the voice from heaven, the labor of the dead who die in the Lord follow them (Rev. 14:13). In like manner, our evil deeds will follow us if we die outside the Lord (Rom. 2:6). Thus it is with social media.

Sadly, many refer to their face to face interaction with this world as the “real world” and social media as “not the real world.” The concept that social media does not affect our existence in this world and the next is absurd.

A cursory search of the internet turns up cyberbullyhotline.com, which list statistics concerning the pandemic problem of bullying online. Cyberbullyhotline.com lists, “42% of teenagers with tech access report being cyberbullied over the past year,” “of the 69% of teens that own their own computer or smart phone, 80% are active on social media, and “20% of kids cyberbullied think about suicide, and 1 in 10 attempt it.” Am I saying that Christians on social media are bullying people to the point of suicide? No, I am not. However, these statistics are indicative of a powerful tool that can not be relegated to the realm of “not the real world.”

What we do on social media affects us, period. It does not happen without consequences. If we can understand that social media is simply media, and there is no difference between social media and the real world, then we will be much better equipped to live in spirit and truth in a social media world.

The Main Problem With Social Media

In my personal ministry I am heavily involved with social media as a gospel preacher. I am part of a group of men who work together to spread the gospel on Facebook. From personal experience, the negative things Christians do on social media have less to do with living a wicked life in their face to face interactions and more to do with how they conduct themselves fulfilling their obligations to the Great Commission.

There have been more atrocities committed in the name of contending for the faith on social media than I would care to try and list. I know we are told to contend for the faith (Jude 3). Are we to contend to the point of casting the very life of a Christian in a negative light? If you will allow me to appropriate the words of Paul, God forbid!

A principle comes to mind from Paul’s letter to the Christians in Corinth. These Christians were trying to live in spirit and truth in the socioeconomic climate of the first century. Sadly, they were taking fellow Christians to court and suing them (1 Cor. 6:6). Paul spoke of this as being a shame to them (1 Cor. 6:5). He said that the solution to this is to just take the wrong (1 Cor. 6:7). Notice that Paul equated the wrong of going to court in front of unbelievers to the wrong that the offending brother committed in the first place (1 Cor. 6:8). This principle is applicable to Christians living their lives in spirit and truth in a social media world. Christian, take the wrong!

Being offended is the new “it” thing to be. If we look in the right places we will find offensive things on social media. If we look hard enough and diligently enough, we will find Christians who disagree with us on matters of judgment and on matters of salvation. It seems that some Christians on social media take it upon themselves to reprove all the unfruitful works of darkness in existence (Eph. 5:11). I know that reproving the unfruitful works of darkness is a commandment that is in the Bible and that it is applicable to Christians even in a social media world. Yet, there are unbelievers who see everything we do on social media. When we publicly mark someone as a heretic, in principle we are going to law before the unbelievers. Christians have not been living and interacting with social media long enough to understand the ramifications of hauling a alleged heretic before a social media tribunal and denouncing him as hell bound. We are not called to be spiritual policemen. Contrariwise Paul asked whether we should rather take the wrong or at least deal with the alleged heretic privately. When we publicly mark alleged false teachers on social media we are sacrificing our effectiveness to reach others with the gospel upon the altar of being right. Friends, that might be in truth, but it is certainly not in spirit.

If we want to live and serve in spirit and truth on social media, we must cast our Christianity in the best possible light. As Christians we must not wallow in the mud with those who would tarnish the very name of Christ which we wear. Publicly airing our grievances, whether justified or not, is the main problem otherwise faithful Christians face while trying to live in spirit and truth in a social media world.

Now, if you are like me you have fallen short from time to time. Do not lose heart. Simply resolve to be more Christ-like in your approach to evangelism on social media (Phil. 2:1-11). Now, let us look at some Scripture in order to understand how to solve the problem of social media.

The Solution To The Problem

The solution to the problem facing the Christian living life in spirit and truth in a social media world is simple. Do less contending for the faith and more evangelism. The microcosm of social media is not the place to contend for the faith by policing brethren. We have to shine light on error, we have to preach truth which convicts, and we must preach the whole counsel of God. However, we can not do this by imposing our opinions of the way things ought to be on others (Acts 20:27; Eph. 5:11; 2 Tim. 4:2).

How can we solve the problem of social media? It is simple. Lead a quiet life, mind our own business, and work as we are commanded by God (1 Thess. 4:11). If we can accomplish these three things, then we will lack nothing, and we will be known to walk honestly to those who are unbelievers (1 Thess. 4:12).

Keeping the commandments given to us by God will help to solve the problem with social media. If we are busy doing the Lord’s evangelistic work, then we will not have time to haul others before a social media tribunal. Again, we are not called to be spiritual policemen.

If we believe the best in our brethren and do not jump to conclusions, we will not be offended so quickly (1 Cor. 13:7). In so doing, we will be able to show the love of Jesus to the world by showing a love for the brethren (John 13:34-35). By showing love toward our brethren, we can show the world that it is desirous to be a Christian. Then perhaps those that see us will be drawn to study with us and consequently be drawn to Jesus (John 6:44-45).

Conclusion

Living in spirit and in truth in a social media world can be daunting. It is fraught with danger. Social media is a difficult place to live and keep the proper attitude along with doing what is right. If Christians can understand that what happens on social media is real, if Christians can be aware of the main problem of social media, and if Christians will solve their problem, then they will have no difficulty living in spirit and truth in this social media world.

Tony is the gospel preacher for the Bay Church of Christ in Bay, AR. He is a 2015 graduate of the Memphis School of Preaching. He also does extensive social media evangelism and Bible teaching.