Category Archives: 2013 – Sept/Oct

Culture and Bible Commands – Carl O. Cooper

There are some commands in the Bible that, to quote the late Howard Winters, “that are easy to understand, but hard to apply.”  One such scripture is the statement by Jesus in Matthew 19:9 where he says:  “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (NKJV).

In our modern culture where divorce is considered a commonly acceptable practice by the majority of the population, even members of the church have a hard time applying this verse to people and situations they encounter.  There is a natural tendency to soften this verse or explain it away to sidestep and avoid the consequences of this command.

The two most common ways that men use to try to nullify these words are to either claim that this is regulated by the culture and the laws of the land, or to try to spin a different meaning from the words by claiming, “They have a new meaning because of the tenses of the Greek words.”  They say the phrase, “commits adultery,” is said to be punctiliar rather than linear action, a onetime action and not continuing.  With that explanation it is said to be a sin, but once you repent of it, it is not necessary to do anything else because you have been forgiven for the action and you do not have to separate.  That explanation solves a lot of hard, difficult “messes” that people have created for themselves by their divorces.  The only problem with this explanation is that there is a very simple way to show that claiming this explanation is not valid.  Suppose we slightly change the words in the sentence to say, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries a man commits adultery.”  Doesn’t this clearly tell you what this phrase means?  There are no questions to be asked about tenses of the words, and no questions about this action and what needs to be done.  Don’t look for this explanation to be respected permanently.  With our culture changing and the acceptance of homosexual activity as normal, soon the example I just gave will no longer be enough to satisfy this explanation.  Culture makes a difference in how the Bible is interpreted, even in the church.

Another scripture that is more and more diluted by the culture of our time is Genesis 3:16.  To the woman He said:  “I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; in pain you shall bring forth children; your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”  Once again, the culture of our times has influenced women to demand equality in all things with the men.  This includes equality in authority in the family and even within the church in some locations.  Even though the scriptures teach different roles for men and women in the home and in the church and even in life in general, these concepts and laws are “easy to understand, but hard to apply.”

1 Timothy 2:11-14 is an explanation of a difference in the roles of women and men.  “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.  And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.”  Is there any clearer way to tell us why a woman is to “learn in silence (quietness) with all submission,” and why she is “not to teach or have authority over men” but to be in silence?  It is because “Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not deceived, but the woman fell into transgression.”  But, here again, the culture of our day is making men and women everywhere want to explain this verse out of the Bible.

First, there is a tendency to restrict this instruction to only within a church assembly.  But this passage is much broader than that.  The context is not just restricted to an assembly of the church.  Look at the context starting with verse 8:  “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere…”  Now, it is obvious that this is talking about anywhere men and women are gathered together and a public prayer is given.  The word “everywhere” is pretty broad and there is nothing in the context that restricts this to “an assembly of the church.”  In fact, it is just the opposite.

The very next verse says this:  “In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel.”  Now, my question is this.  If the context is restricted to a church assembly, can a woman dress in immodest apparel everywhere else?  I think the answer to that is clear, don’t you?  The word “everywhere” is broad and inclusive, as it should be.  Just like the role of women as defined in Genesis 3:16 is broad and all-inclusive, so is the application of it in life.  This prohibition on women does not depend on the culture of our times to define it and it is broad and inclusive enough to flow continuously from woman to woman, from generation to generation, and from culture to culture, forever.  I like what Barnes has to say in his commentary on these verses:

The direction in 1 Timothy 2:9-12, therefore, is to be understood particularly of the proper deportment of females in the duties of public worship.  At the same time, the principles laid down are doubtless such as were intended to apply to them in the other situations in life, for if modest apparel is appropriate in the sanctuary, it is appropriate everywhere.  If what is here prohibited in dress is wrong there, it would be difficult to show that it is right elsewhere.  (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament)

And while we are looking at these verses, how does the culture of our day define “modest apparel”?  Even the young women in the church are “driven” to become like the images they constantly see portrayed on TV and in magazines and the movies.  This advertising is provocative and tempting and the culture of the world around us promotes and endorses it.  The way women dress absolutely catches the eyes of men.  This is the obvious and simple reasoning behind the clothes some women wear, and yet it is usually denied to give respectability to any immodest dress that culture promotes.  Is this “easy to understand?”  Yes, but “hard to apply.”

The last thing I want to mention is the list of sins mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10:  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived.  Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.”  The culture of our day is driving sin.  Here is a list of sins that will prevent a person from being saved if they are engaging in these activities.  There is not a shadow of doubt that this behavior described here is sin.

By now, most have heard of the NC Amendment One that was voted on May 8, 2012.  This amendment is not make our laws in NC clear that “Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”  The culture of today has been carefully manipulated for a long time now to bring us to the point where we are today.  All of the children within our public schools have been fed a diet of “tolerance” for homosexual behavior for many years now.  This amounts to a public “brain washing” of the general population.  The only relief that any children have had for this is where a church or a parent has taken the time to give them the proper explanation at home or at church.

For many people, the Bible verses condemning homosexual behavior are “easy to understand, but hard to apply.”  Already laws are on the books to make it a criminal act to discriminate against this behavior in the work place.  Laws are also in place to allow full disclosure of this behavior within the military services and civil service jobs.  The media of all types glorify this behavior and make it “politically incorrect” to speak out against it.  Even this amendment won’t change much of this cultural acceptance of homosexual lifestyles by the general population.  There is likely to soon come a day when laws will appear making it unlawful for a church to discriminate against it and to speak publicly about it as a sin.

“Easy to understand, but hard to apply.”  Many things are.  But there is only one answer:  don’t give up!  It would be easy to hide our heads in the sand like an ostrich in fear of conflict and confrontation with the evils of sin.  But I am reminded of what the Bible says in Revelation 21:8:  “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

Not only do we have an obligation to those caught up in these sins to tell them and teach them that this behavior will lead to eternal punishment and condemnation, but to cowardly avoid this responsibility is not respected by God either.  Sometimes it would do us good to remember the story of King David’s men.  In 2 Samuel 23:15-16 the Bible tells us:  “And David said with longing, ‘Oh, that someone would give me a drink of the water from the well of Bethlehem, which is by the gate!’  So the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines, drew water from the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate, and took it and brought it to David.  Nevertheless he would not drink it, but poured it out to the Lord.”  God so respected what these men did and the bravery they demonstrated in the army of the Lord that he recorded these events in the Bible as an example for us to honor as well.  Can we cowardly avoid telling the world about the consequences of sin?  And let us be very careful that we do not allow our own thoughts to be contaminated by the culture of our day.

The Bible also says in Romans 1:32:  “…who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.”  To approve of sin is also a sin.  We must not allow ourselves to be influenced by the pressures of the culture of the day.

ccooperapp@aol.com

Worth Quoting

Let the world call us mad if it wants to, and let the false teachers rant and rave all they please…I still believe the clarion sounding forth of Truth will be received by the discerning hearts of those who really are hungering and thirsting after righteousness (Matt. 5:6).  As the “pillar and ground” of the Truth (1 Tim. 3:15), the true church of the Lord will always boldly proclaim His Word without favor or compromise!  Truth is distinctive.  It always has been and it always will be.

My prayer for the brotherhood of Christ is that we will have enough good sense to reject the madness and follow of him wisdom and cleave to the revelation of God’s will, and to preach it boldly, yet in love (Eph. 4:15).

Maxie B. Boren, “Truth or Madness,” Voice of Truth International, Vol 75, p. 50

Editor’s Page, September/October 2013 – David R. Pharr, Editor

It is surprising that a Baptist preacher would write a book to expose the error of instrumental music in worship.  John Price, who is a Baptist preacher, has provided an excellent work, Old Light on New Worship (Simpson Pub. Co. 2007).  The book includes detailed reviews of Scripture and history regarding use of instruments in worship.  His conclusion is firmly against the practice.

Other than footnote citations he makes no reference to a capella worship in churches of Christ, yet the form of his argumentation is very much parallel to the points we would make.  Consider this paragraph on page 46:

The regulative principle of worship remains, and what God has not commanded in the New Testament we have no authority to use.  He has not commanded the use of any musical instruments as he did in the days of Moses and David.  Therefore, we have no authority to bring them into the worship of His church.  The complete silence of the New Testament on musical instruments is a most compelling argument that they are not to exist in the church.  Only singing is commanded (1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16).

It is especially noteworthy that the author comes to these conclusions in spite of having a religious background that continues to use instruments.

The author traces the historical evidence from the earliest post-apostolic writers down to the 20th Century.  “The early Church Fathers were unanimous and vehement in condemning musical instruments in the worship of the church.”  Further, he observed:  “How can it possibly be assumed that musical instruments existed in the apostolic church when they were absent from the periods immediately prior and following?”  Further, the book provides a large collections of quotations on the subject from centuries of theologians and commentators, including an appendix listing over two pages of names and groups who have opposed instrumental music in worship.

Mr. Price shares our disdain for what is advertised in worship in the modern setting.

In many worship services today, little difference can be found between a rock-and-roll concert and the music of the church.  It was in the atmosphere of these musical instruments that the development of “Contemporary Christian Music” took place… (139).

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A poisonous influence came out of the Richland Hills (TX) church when they announced their decision to include instrumental music in their worship.  Their preacher, Rick Atchley, preached three sermons to argue that it is scriptural to worship either with or without the involvement of instruments.  His arguments have been published abroad and apparently have given excuse for some liberal congregations to tilt farther to the left.  Alan Highers in The Spiritual Sword and Dave Miller in his book, Richland Hills and Instrumental Music, published effective biblical responses to Atchley’s position.  Another careful and thorough response is in the book by Thomas C. Alexander, Music in Worship (Gospel Advocate, 2010).  Though all three of these capable brethren cover much of the same ground and hold the same conclusions, each of their presentations has its own special value.

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Not many congregations in our area have been troubled by the strange doctrine called “Realized Eschatology” which, having been aggressively advocated by one Max King and his sympathizers, has devastated churches of Christ in other parts of the country.  However, there are indications of its influence coming into the Carolinas.  This is sometimes called “The 70 AD Theory” because of its contention that all Bible prophecy was fulfilled at the time of the Romans’ destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.  This includes (according to the theory) even the second coming of Christ, the resurrection, judgment, and the end of the world.  Yes, it is insisted that prophecies of the consummation of the world (as foretold in 2 Peter 3:10) were actually only the end of the Jewish system.  To those not yet exposed to such extremities of interpretation, this might seem to fantastic to entertain.  It happens, though, that by redefining terms and manipulating scriptures, the King movement has caught the fancy of some who are “unlearned and unstable” (2 Pet. 3:16).  Two books by King set out his theory: The Spirit of Prophecy and The Cross and the Parousia of Christ.  Other publications by King and his henchmen have continued its promotion.

I remember the late Burrell Prince’s reply when he was challenged to read King’s book.  He was urged to read it all the way through.  He said he had read enough to know he need not waste more time.  He said, “If I get on a train and soon discover it is headed to the wrong destination, I don’t want to stay on it to the end of the line!”  He had read enough to know the book was trying to take him in the wrong direction.*

For solid and clear refutation of the Max King doctrine, I recommend the book by Wayne Jackson, The A.D. 70 Theory (Courier Publications).  Brother Jackson is always thorough and careful in his explanations.  He shows the errors of false definitions of terms and inconsistencies in the appropriation of texts.  It is a small book (just over 100 pages).  It is needed anywhere there are issues related to Bible teaching on eschatology (“last things”).

Our brotherhood has been greatly blessed by Wayne Jackson’s writings on a wide variety of subjects.

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While yet on the subject of books, perhaps it is acceptable for me to reference five of my own.  Churches over the country and in other parts of the world continue to use The Beginning of our Confidence, lessons for new Christians (21st Century Pub.)  It has been translated into four other languages.  Thy Kingdom Come (Publishing Designs Co.) is a simple refutation of the errors of Premillennialism.  It is in English and Russian.  Many have used it privately and in classes for a simplified refutation of the more prominent errors of popular millennial theories.

A Happy Coincidence on a Desert Highway (Firm Foundation Pub.) is a collection of sermons.  Modern Messages from the Minor Prophets (Quality Pub.) contains full sentence sermon outlines on all the Minor Prophets.  These sermons seek to apply their Old Testament concerns to our current needs.  It has also been translated into Russian.

Voices of Calvary (Publishing Designs Co.) has thirteen lessons on things Jesus and others said at the time of his crucifixion.  Bible students know of the seven statements of Jesus from the cross.  Each has a wealth of spiritual implications.  In addition there are statements made by others at Calvary and each of these deserve more than a passing glance.

*Brother Prince was the first preacher in the church of Christ I ever heard.  It was with what is now the Broad Street congregation in Statesville, NC.  At the time they were meeting in the American Legion Building.  In later years, when I was with the East Tennessee School of Preaching, we became closely associated with him and several times stayed in their home in Nashville.

Departures From The Faith – Jon Mitchell

I remember well the first time I ever read 1 Timothy 4:1-3.  I was in college at the time and dating a Catholic girl who was interested in learning more about the Lord’s church.  After learning that we were studying the Bible together, my father suggested I show her Paul’s prophecy to Timothy while discussing the Catholic doctrines surrounding Lent and the celibacy of the priesthood.  Reading that passage for the first time, and then seeing the impact it had on her once she read it, had a profound effect on my faith, especially in regards to my trust in biblical prophecies and my high regard for scriptural teachings concerning apostasy.

The term “apostasy” comes from the Latin apostasia, which in turn is derived from the Greek aphistasthai, the word Paul used under Spirit inspiration which is translated “will depart from” (1 Tim. 4:1, ESV).  Thus, “apostasy” means “to depart from.”  Accordingly, Merriam-Webster defines “apostasy” as “renunciation of a religious faith” and “abandonment of a previous loyalty.”

We see why secular dictionaries correlate a religious tone to the definition of “apostasy” when we read how the Spirit explicitly warned Paul just a few decades after the beginning of the church that some would apostatize or depart from “the faith” (v. 1).  This would be  the “one faith” (Eph. 4:5) that comes from hearing only God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), “the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).  This apostasy would happen “in later times,” a reference to these “last days” and “end of the ages” which began alongside of Christ’s covenant and church two thousand years in Jerusalem following his death and resurrection and continues on until he comes again (Matt. 28:20; Acts 2:14-17; 1 Cor. 10:11; Heb. 1:1-2; 9:26; 1 Pet. 1:20).

Before the church began, Jesus prophesied of those who would lead people astray (Matt. 7:13-27; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22).  Almost from the very beginning of the church, attempts were made from within it to depart from the faith.  Judaizing brethren attempted to add to God’s Word by requiring Gentile converts to obey tenets of Mosaic Law, prompting Spirit-inspired teaching to the contrary throughout the New Testament (Acts 15:1ff; Rom. 3-11; 1 Cor. 7:18-19; 2 Cor. 3:3-11; Gal. 1:6-5:15; Eph. 2:1-22; Col. 2:8-23; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; Tit. 1:10-11; 3:9-11; Hebrews).  Other false doctrines and those who would promote them were warned about and condemned as well, some specifically and others generally (Acts 20:29-31; Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 11:13-15; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; 1 Tim. 4:1-7; 6:3-6, 20-21; 2 Tim. 2:14-26; 3:1-13; 4:1-5; Tit. 1:9-2:1;  James 5:19-20; 2 Pet. 2:1-22; 3:3-5, 15-16; 1 John 1:8, 10; 2:4, 18-27; 4:1-6; 2 John 7-11; Jude 3-16; Rev. 2:2, 9, 14-16, 20-24; 3:9; 13:1-18; 19:20; 20:10; 21:8, 27; 22:15, 18-19).  The reader can see here the amount of scripture relating to apostasy in the New Testament alone, which should show how seriously God takes departures from the faith and why this subject is worthy of our attention and study.

Paul warned elders that false teachers would rise from among their own ranks, leading many astray (Acts 20:29-31).  He also warned of a “rebellion” which would come before and last until Christ came back, a rebellion which would reveal “the man of lawlessness,” also described as “the son of destruction” (2 Thess. 2:1-3).  This “man of lawlessness” would “take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God,” and would come “by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception” lead astray the perishing who refuse to love the truth (2 Thess. 2:4, 9-12).  Paul also warned Timothy of insincere people with seared consciences who would apostatize by paying attention to the doctrines of demons which forbid marriage and require abstaining from certain foods (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

A study of church history reveals the fulfillment of these prophecies not long after the apostles died (cf. 2 Thess. 2:6-7).  It started when elders in the church started making changes to the governmental organization of the church, changing it from the scriptural pattern of autonomous congregations overseen by pluralities of elders (Acts 14:23; 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-2) to a collection of congregations in a particular region being under one bishop.  From then it wasn’t long before there was one bishop over all the other bishops, a man who became known as the Pope.  Roman Catholic history reveals that the Pope was thought of as God on earth, and that he consolidated his power among the superstitious by the performing of “miracles.”  He and the leaders under him came up with doctrines such as forbidding priests to marry and requiring parishioners to abstain from certain foods at certain times.  Other man-made doctrines such as instrumental music in worship, praying to Mary, the idea that Mary was a perpetual virgin and our intercessor, the paying of indulgences, Purgatory, apostolic succession, the Apocrypha, sacraments, transubstantiation, the canonization of saints, the forgiveness of sins by the church and assignation of penance for those sins, and many more.  Most recently, the current Pope made it known that he would grant indulgences to his followers on Twitter.

Meanwhile, during the first thousand years of Christianity other departures from the faith were taking place outside of the establishment of the Roman Catholic Church.  After the Judaizers and Gnostics of the apostolic era, other man-made doctrines emerged in the form of Marcionism, which promoted rejection of the Old Testament and limited usage of the New Testament; Montanism, whose founder, Montanus, and his followers were a copy of the future Charismatic movements when they claimed to be given uncontrollable miraculous spiritual gifts of prophecy; Monarchianism, which taught that Jesus was born a man and became God at his baptism; Manichaeism, whose founder, Mani, believed that he was the manifestation of Christ on earth; Donatism, a movement which taught that those who gave communion to others must be free from sin; Arianism, a copy of the future Watchtower movement in that they believed the Son of God was a created being; Nestorianism, whose founder, Nestorius, taught that Jesus as man and God was nothing more than a “merging of wills;” the Paulicians, who held the writings of Paul to be inspired while teaching that the rest of the Bible originated from an evil spirit; there were others also.

The next five hundred years would see the rise of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which eventually would denominate and organize itself into various Orthodox Churches along national lines; the Waldensians, who preached a doctrine of “apostolic poverty”; the Cathars, who were Gnostic in their theology; and the Hussites, precursors of the Protestant Movement about one hundred years before Martin Luther, who would usher in the Reformation in earnest.  His followers, who would call themselves Lutherans, initially sought to reform the Roman Catholic Church, and, failing that, formed their own denomination.  Around the same time, the Anabaptist Movement would form and coalesce behind Menno Simons, thus forming the Mennonites.  From them would split another group who followed Jacob Amman and became known as the Amish.  Meanwhile, John Calvin established a theology around the notion that God has already determined the fate of every person, and thus saves man by grace alone.  His Calvinism would produce the Presbyterian Church in Scotland, later Puritanism in England, and from them the United Church of Christ of today.  English King Henry VIII, upset that Catholicism would not grant him an annulment to his marriage with Catherine of Aragon, formed the Church of England, known as the Anglican Church in England and the Episcopalian Church in America today.

  

The 1600’s saw the rise of the Baptist movement begun by John Smythe, a group who – initially, at least – taught the need for immersion in water for remission of sin, only to later embrace several Calvinistic tenets.  Meanwhile, George Fox started the Religious Society of Friends after supposedly receiving divine revelations; his followers came to be known as “Quakers” due to how they shook with emotion during their worship assemblies.  After the Pietist movement split from Lutheranism, John and Charles Wesley would be influenced by them and decide to attempt to reform the Anglican Church by founding within it a “Methodist society;” eventually in America the Methodists would split from the Episcopalians to form their own church.  The “holiness theology” promoted by Methodists would form many Holiness Churches, which would consolidate into the Church of the Nazarene in the 1900’s.  About one hundred years before that, Ireland would produce a group known as “the Plymouth Brethren,” whose promotion of dispensationalism and premillenialism would influence many American denominations in the 1800’s and the modern Evangelical movement.  The 1800’s would also see the rise of Mormonism, the Watchtower Society (also known as Jehovah’s Witnesses), and Pentecostalism.  In 1865 William Booth of England would modify aspects of Methodist doctrine to form the Salvation Army, called such due to its organizational doctrine literalizing biblical military metaphors.

Around forty years earlier, Thomas and Alexander Campbell would seek to restore pure, unadulterated New Testament Christianity in America.  Congregations who remained true to the biblical pattern would come to be known as churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16; Matt. 16:18), but over time the congregations who decided to stray from the New Testament doctrine would form other man-made churches.  The Christian Church, known also in some circles as the Disciples of Christ, began over their decision to embrace the Catholic doctrine of instrumental music in worship; in recent months they have voted to allow unrepentant homosexuals in leadership roles.  The International Church of Christ, also known as the Boston or Crossroads Movement, was also started recently by Kip McKean.

The current and previous generation has seen the rise in popularity of various religious movements in Western society such as evangelicalism, which promotes a “salvation by faith alone” doctrine mixed with various Calvinistic tenets; ecumenism, which attempts to embrace unity among all churches by ignoring differences in doctrine; and fundamentalism, which sprang from evangelicalism in its efforts to promote not only biblical doctrine but also human tradition.  The Community Church movement has resulted from a combination of evangelicalism and ecumenism, the largest congregations of which have come to be known as Megachurches.  Most recently, many evangelicals have embraced the Emergent movement, which promotes post modernistic concepts of Christianity.

Sadly, we see now how far Christendom has come from the unity prayed for by Jesus and commanded by divine inspiration by his apostle (John 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13; 3:1-3; Phil. 2:1-2; cf. Eph. 1:22-23; 4:4-6).  Our God knew this would happen and why: the selfishness, greed and arrogance of unmerciful, hedonistic man who purposefully turn from the truth towards liars who will scratch their itching ears with myths (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3-4).

Let us pray that we instead remain faithful and preach nothing but God’s Word!  (2 Tim. 4:1-2)

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com

The Faith Once Delivered – J.T. Wheeler

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  (Jude 3)

We have the truth.  And we have to fight for the truth.  Evil men hinder the truth (Rom. 1:18).  Righteous men spread the truth (Eph. 4:15).  Why is this corpus of revelation, this presentation of supernatural reality, this thing called the faith – why is it so important to us?

The Heavenly Body of Truth

Did you know that, before any word of Scripture was set pen to paper, the Message was enshrined in the holy halls of heaven?  It is true.  The Bible speaks of there being books in heaven (Rev. 20:12).  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89; see also Ps. 56:8 and 139:16).  Before Ezekiel was to write or speak a word, he had to consume the heavenly volume containing the message he would deliver to the Jewish refugees (Ezek. 2:8-10).  In the New Testament, the apostle John was told to do the same (Rev. 10:8-11).  Daniel, before he wrote down his final vision and interpretation, was told by the heavenly messenger, “But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth” (Dan. 10:21a; notice also Dan. 7:10).

That the New Covenant, or Testament, was established in heaven first is seen in Hebrews 10:7, 10, and in Acts 2:23.  Think about it.  If the covenant had to first be written down by men before it would be real to men, then Peter would have had nothing to say that first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, certainly nothing authoritative; for nothing of the New Testament was written on earth at that time.  And nothing would be written, as far as our Scripture is concerned, until around fifteen years later.  So the New Testament had to exist, real and in force, before Peter and the other apostles opened their mouths as authoritative messengers of this covenant.

Catholicism states that the Church as they understand it gave us the New Testament.  But we should see clearly that the church did not originate or even authorize any canon as God’s Word.  Such is beyond the ability of men (Matt. 16:19).

Did the New Testament exist in its fullness in the time of the acts of the apostles?  If not, what authority – what covenant – were the apostles demanding allegiance to (Acts 2:42)?  What would be the efficacy of the blood of Christ that the church would celebrate the first day of every week (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25)?  The Old Covenant ceased to be in force after the crucifixion of Christ (Col. 2:14-17).  And John’s ministry certainly concluded its course with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Yet the word, beginning in Acts 2, was preached with authority that validated the New Testament, the testament now in force because the risen Christ was on his throne (Acts 2:32-33; Heb. 9:15-17).

The message of the Bible is from the mind of God.  It is not arbitrary or capricious.  Rather, the Lord our God has graciously revealed what has been established in the will of God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:8-11).  This is good for us, because we could not know these things any other way (1 Cor. 2:7-10).

Delivered by the Miraculous Work of God

This Message was given to men as God chose to deliver it to us.  Speaking of Old Testament concerns, God delivered the revelations as he saw fit, but always with the same end in view (Heb. 1:1-3).  Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The term is verbal, plenary inspiration.  It refers to God giving the writers of Scripture the very words to use to convey the message He was revealing to them (1 Cor. 2:12-13).  Since it is God’s message from God’s mind being revealed and communicated, to think of inspiration in any lesser terms becomes illogical – and certainly unscriptural.  The fact that the Scripture indicates that God used the vocabulary and communicative skills already familiar to the writers shows us God’s gentleness in his use of men (1 Cor. 14:32), but not God surrendering to their understanding of what was to be revealed (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

And now the mind of God has been fully revealed as that mind speaks to our life and godliness (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).  It has been given by the authority of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is the New Testament which now establishes the apostles of Christ as the revealers, interpreters, and guides for all who would follow Christ (2 Cor. 3:3-6; Eph. 3:1-7; Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; 3:10-17).

For All Men of All Time

The Message is for all everywhere, for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), for every creature in this sphere of existence who can believe it and be baptized in obedience to it from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:15-16).  It is for all time, the eternal covenant which will not be abrogated (Heb. 13:20-21).  It will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).  The Message stands with us forever (2 John 2).  It does not matter that the Message is 2,000 years old.  It is as relevant and pertinent to us today as it has ever been (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:15).  It cannot be lost to humanity (though we may ignore it), so it will never need to be re-given to us.  There is no such thing with God as the restoration of revelation.

What Our Disposition Toward It Should Be

Notice that the Message is called the Faith.  That is telling and instructs us as to our response to this wonderful gift from God.  We are to believe it, trust it, be fully convinced of its truth.  Some brethren struggle with whether the word “faith” deals with subjective understanding or objective revelation.  The fact is that, most of the time, it references both.  The fact that the objective revelation from God, known to God from eternity, the fact that this is called the Faith demands that we hold it personally, intimately, subjectively in our own hearts.  The Faith does you no good unless it becomes your faith (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 4:13-25; 10:17).

What to say about this gift that is appropriate, adequate, impressive?

We are able to save our souls from eternal destruction because of this gift.  We can learn a depth of love beyond ordinary human comprehension.  We can commune with the Divine and make his realm our home.  We can see the invisible.  We can know the unknowable.  We can experience the best of the unspeakable.  The past is explained; the present is understandable; the future is relatable.

We can beat our weaknesses and promote our strengths.  We have a clear vision of perfection while we are able to see our own failings.  Community is enhanced while we still hold to individual worth, dignity, and honor.  Circumstances are seen as transient while we understand that real value is in the internal and eternal.

To surround yourself with Bible believers is to touch heaven.  To have a home where the Bible is believed, taught, and celebrated is to know peace, love, enrichment, and empowerment.  Children grow up secure and ready to take hold of challenges, understanding the greater good to be all important, as God himself has defined such.

Freedom is real, but to be used for the good of others.  Everyone gets a hearing but no one gets to control the soul.  With the revelation of God delivered perfect and complete, nothing new is to be feared, because nothing else is allowed authority over the soul (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9).  Peace rules and good advances.  And the Kingdom of God is realized on this earth!

All of this and so much more are found in the wonderful treasures that God has revealed to us in his Holy Bible.  We can know God with it.  We can know how to worship God with it.  We can know what redemption is, what sin is, what righteousness is, what real hope is.

Such a thing cannot be exaggerated.  Such a gift cannot be overstated.  Such a book cannot be spoken about too much.  Oh, the terrible consequences if we were to lose this gift!  The horrible darkness that would enshroud us, the ignorance that would relentlessly beat down on us, the loss of all that could bring good and prosperity to friend and neighbor!

But if we do not appreciate this gift of God’s grace, this divine act of intervention into the affairs of men, this demonstration of love beyond all love, then we will lose the blessings it brings – for ourselves, for our children, for our society.  It has happened before.

Israel lost their focus on God’s revelation and lost great blessings, until at last the word was rediscovered by efforts of reform (2 Kings 22:1-20).  The Great Apostasy occurred with the failure to keep faith with the word of God; and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages until men determined to relearn and re-teach the truth, at the cost of their lives, families, and fortunes.  To honestly think that we can treat such treasure lightly and still keep it is to fool oneself into blindness.

Imagine such a book forgotten on a dusty shelf, trampled as a foot stop, thrown around as a paper weight.  Imagine such a book given less time than is given to an empty TV show or a crass movie.  Imagine children being taught that their secular school work was more important than to study God’s word, or that their job carried more weight than their soul or their God.  Unfortunately, we do not have to imagine, do we?  Such absurd attitudes and declarations are all too familiar in our fellowship.

What would such a treasure demand of us?  What would be the appropriate response to a real revelation from God?  Well, the Bible gives us plenty of historical examples of the wisdom found in those who listened to God and positively responded to him, and the foolishness of those who did not.  In other words, as always, so now, too, when God speaks, we are to listen.  He has spoken, and the Message reverberates to this hour, and will continue to do so, to the end of time and forever more.

charsaint@aol.com