Category Archives: 2018 – July/Aug

Editorial: A Historical Overview of Apostasy (July/August, 2018) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

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 emerged 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. In 2013, 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 precedent 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 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 premillennialism 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 2013 they voted to allow unrepentant homosexuals in leadership roles. The International Church of Christ, also known as the Boston or Crossroads Movement, also came into existence in the late twentieth century.

The current and previous generations have 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.

Where Does This Leave Us?

On the night before He died, Jesus prayed to His Father, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as We are one, I in them and You in Me, that they ay become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved me” (John 17:20-23).

Paul would later command the church at Corinth, “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. What I mean is that each one of you says, ‘I follow Paul,’ or ‘I follow Apollos,’ or ‘I follow Cephas,’ or ‘I follow Christ.’ Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Cor. 1:10-13). He later returned to the subject of their lack of unity, calling it worldly and immature by writing, “But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? For when one says, ‘I follow Paul,’ and another, ‘I follow Apollos,’ are you not merely being human?” (1 Cor. 3:1-3). He would also exhort the saints at Philippi, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil. 2:1-2).

Sadly, we see now how far the overwhelming majority of professed followers of Christ have come from the unity for which He prayed and His inspired apostle commanded repeatedly. Our God knew this would happen and why: the selfishness, greed, and arrogance of unmerciful, hedonistic men who purposefully turn from the truth towards liars who will scratch their itching ears with myths (2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:3-4).

Yet in the end, the truth still remains. Christ is the head of His body, and His body is His church (Eph. 1:22-23). There is but one body and faith (Eph. 4:4-5), which means there is only one church: the church which is the pillar and support of nothing more than the truth of all Scripture (1 Tim. 3:15; John 17:17; Ps. 119:160), since the one faith comes from hearing and heeding the Word of God (Rom. 10:17; Jude 3). Let us remain faithful by preaching and obeying nothing but God’s Word (2 Tim. 4:1-2)!

— Jon

Considering A “Top-Down” Approach To Evangelism — Edwin S. Jones

Often, we find our approach to evangelism emphasizing a “Bottom Up” methodology. What I mean is this, we commonly emphasize particulars such as the Five Steps or the identity of the church and, I suppose, assume our study will progress toward the overarching principles that give these subjects their more complete biblical meaning. I want to offer an alternative approach, a “Top Down” method.

Please allow me share with you why I wish to propose a Top Down approach. First of all, this proposal creates an initial “Big Picture” model. This larger view takes us to the beginning of a thing to look at it from the standpoint of what God intended to accomplish. This can help us find common ground that is both helpful and inviting. To the contrary, however, if we begin with a method designed to gain someone’s affirmation of certain specific steps or identifying marks, we could quickly enter into controversy.

Some engaging conception-based openings to our study discussions might include: When Jesus announced He was going to build His church, what do you suppose He had in mind? How would the church He purposed to build come to know His expectations for worship? What would Jesus give as prerequisites for church membership? How would people come to know what these entrance requirements were?

The preceding questions center on Jesus and His wishes as well as providing a clear path to Scripture as the only place we could discover what He wants. This makes the project less of a math problem and more of a discovery inquiry into the mind of Christ.

Second, principles or concepts embrace a host of interrelated specifics. Discovering connections among Scriptures allow for strong, memorable, self-supporting, richer understandings. Accepting a given principle or concept leads to some level of buy in to the particulars clearly attached to them. When we begin with Jesus and His intentions, it is more difficult to dismiss a particular point of specific teaching. Isolated commands are more easily dismissed as “prejudiced opinions” than are commands linked to Jesus and His intentions for the church.

Let me demonstrate how this Top Down thinking can also be usefully applied to a specific subject such as baptism. If we were to use as the Top Down point of reasoning to investigate baptism, we might begin with this premise “baptism is not for the remission of sins.” Starting with this premise at the top of our inquiry would make it very difficult to explain almost everything the Bible says about baptism. The specifics do not fit the proposed overarching concept. Conversely, starting from the Top Down point of “baptism is for the remission of sins” makes biblical statements appear to be very straightforward and unambiguous.

Another way of looking at this style of reasoning is to consider that there is no one particular verse of Scripture that contains hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized as representing the process of one’s salvation. I believe this process is fully supported by the Bible, yet to arrive at it as a formula requires connecting verses together. We would better serve how God chose to present this process if we allowed for a Top Down discovery.

Beginning with the overarching truth that God wants men and women to find salvation “in Christ,” we can begin to find the things associated with salvation, being “in Christ,” and the transition from darkness to light, etc. Rather than “doing the math” for someone we allow those we study with to discover the very rich, interconnected appropriate response to the cross.

Another way to illustrate this Top Down idea can be found in Matthew 22:40 and related Scriptures such as Matthew 7:12 and Galatians 5:14. These verses let us know that the two Greatest Commands give rise to all other commands involving our relationship to both God and man. Therefore, when we radiate out from these principles to the myriad of specifics that flow from them we insure the particulars will be infused with a robust dose of love and not simply be seen as a check list of things to do.

The next time you find yourself engaged in a religious conversation, think about starting at a conceptual high point and then following with biblical connections from that overarching principle, concept, or intention. Then work your way down to the related specific responses. This is how God reveals often such things; we would be less than wise should we choose to commonly rely on another approach.

Edwin has been active in a wide variety of ministries for almost fifty years. Currently he serves the Lehman Avenue congregation in Bowling Green, KY, and is director of the Commonwealth Bible Academy (CBAKY.com).

The Law Of Moses Doesn’t Apply To Christ’s Church — Travis Main

Perhaps the subject of this article strikes you as something that is obvious. However, there are many religious bodies, proclaiming to be the church Christ founded, which validate some of their religious practices not from Christ’s new covenant, nor from the eternal principles of God, but from the Law of Moses. God gave the Law of Moses to Moses upon Mt. Sinai. Part of the law involved what the world knows as the “ten commandments” (Ex. 20). These are held up by society and many religions as the laws to live by today, but do they still have the authority of God? In truth, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (Matt. 15:1-9), many entities promoting practices from the Law of Moses do not even follow them, but a form of them devised by the traditions of men. Such is the ground they stand upon, leading many to faithfully follow, though the foundation has been swept away by the hand of God. The covenant of Christ cannot be properly followed by those who still seek after the authority of an old law vanished away.

Malachi wrote, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:8). This passage demonstrates the neglect of the people of God. Under the Law of Moses, they were to bring forth tithes and offerings, tithes of corn, wine, oil, firstlings of herds and flocks, and tithes of increase (Deut. 14:23-29). If the Law of Moses applies to the faithful of God today and we are not obeying it, then His words in Malachi 3:8 are applicable to us. We are robbing God! However, if one undertakes deeper examination they will read Malachi 1:1 and 4:4. In these verses it is found that the words of God which Malachi shares are to the nation of Israel. Additionally, it is seen that the Law of Moses was given to the nation of Israel and no one else. The ten commandments? They were God’s law given to a specific people 3,400 years ago.

Many zealously religious individuals and entities declare their usage of musical instruments comes from the Old Testament. They will readily agree they are not Israelites, but are following the example given by Israel’s worship of God. God commanded within the Law of Moses that Israel make two silver trumpets and blow them at the tabernacle for various secular and spiritual reasons, as well as over their worship time of burnt offerings and sacrifices (Num. 10:1-10). Similar, we see the trumpets playing during the sacrifices at Solomon’s temple along with instruments introduced by King David (2 Chr. 29:25-30). Whether the instruments were approved by God is debatable (see Adam Clark regarding the Arabic and Syric texts), but such is not pertinent to our scrutiny in this passage. What is critical is the observation that, as commanded when God handed this instruction down in the Law of Moses, the playing of instruments only occurred during sacrificing. What occurred following these sacrifices? Singing is only seen. In the New Testament, following the once for all time sacrifice of Christ and then the addition of souls to the church in Acts 2, only singing is ever commanded by God for the church. This is an interesting shadowing between the old and new covenants in regard to what happens after sacrifice. Reasoning to justify instrumentation in Christ’s church by going back to the Law of Moses ignores that it was not only not practiced by Israel as it is implemented today, but the first century church by its own example and command (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) never had a practice of following the Law in this regard.

The Law was given to Israel. There is no example of Christ’s church following the Law by the authority of God. Contrary to those who would follow the Law, the apostle Paul wrote the Galatian churches to follow only the gospel which he had previously delivered to them (Gal. 1). He told Christians that “a man is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). He declared, “For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Why? Paul stated, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). He would later say the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster. The word here comes from the Greek paidagōgos and references one who takes a student from point A to point B. The Law of Moses took the children of Israel from their wanderings in the wilderness to the final fulfillment of the promise to Abraham by God — Jesus the Christ, the seed to bless all nations. The Law was not created to last forever. This is another reason that the church does not follow it today.

We do not follow the Law of Moses today because it was not given to us, the first century church did not follow it, and it was not made to last forever. Long before the New Testament was written, the Old Testament declared the end of the Old was coming. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). Jeremiah is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-13 and it is made clear that the Law of Moses by Jeremiah’s prophecy was already old and vanishing away. This is not the only Old Testament reference to a new covenant to be given. In the messianic passage of Isaiah 42, Jesus, the messiah that Israel was looking to arrive , would be given as a “covenant” to the people (Israel) and to the nations or Gentiles (v. 6). In Isaiah 61, a chapter which also sees messianic text and from which Jesus applies scripture to Himself, it is declared a covenant would be given to the “offspring” of God. Daniel 9:27 speaks of the Messiah establishing a new covenant. Hosea 2:18 speaks of a new covenant. There are other passages, but the point should be clear. Those in generations long before the establishment of the church knew the Law of Moses was temporary.

Once Jesus arrived upon the earth, He shared the good news given him by the Father. That is the “one faith” of the gospel (Eph. 4). He did so knowing His mission upon this earth was short and He was on the way to the cross to be crucified for the sins of mankind. He did so, was buried in a tomb, and arose after three days to be seen over a period of time by many before ascending into heaven (Acts 1). When he died upon the cross, the Law of Moses itself was figuratively nailed to the cross as well (Col. 2:14), taking away the ordinances of condemnation upon those whom it held in its grasp. Jesus shared the gospel in His ministry (Mark 1:1). His focus was not the instruction of the Law of Moses. After His resurrection but before His ascension, He told his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach the disciples to follow the things He taught them. Jesus did not teach the Law. He nailed the Law to the cross. He brought a new covenant to mankind. On the day of Pentecost when Christians were added to the church (Acts 2:47), they were not added to the kingdom of God by following a covenant of circumcision but rather a new covenant in Christ. The Law of Moses could not forgive sins (Heb. 10:1-4), but Christ’s blood brought about forgiveness and a new covenant of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Christ came to take away the first covenant and establish the second (Heb. 10:9).

Why would the church of today follow something that was never intended for them? It makes no sense at all to follow something that the church when it was formed not only did not follow, but was warned against following. The Law was not created to last forever and ample proclamation declared it would end and another covenant would be coming. Only the new covenant based upon the sacrifice and gospel of Christ can provide eternal life. It is the words of His covenant that will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Knowing these things, why would anyone choose to follow any other teaching and jeopardize their soul for an eternity?

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years. He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH. He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#2: Be Consistent

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

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

#3: Be Persistent 

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

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

#4: Help Them Have Their Own Faith

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

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

Can we rear faithful children? Yes, we can.

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

References

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

 

Big or Little? — Lorraine Smith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Worship Assemblies In View?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Assemblies Are Required?

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

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

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

Ultimately, it’s an issue of the heart.

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

Do False Teachers Exist? — Victor M. Eskew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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