Category Archives: 2018 – Mar/Apr

Editorial: Am I As Stubborn As A Mule? (March/April, 2018) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

All of us have heard the phrase, “stubborn as a mule.”  This term was probably coined by frustrated farmers after they observed how difficult it was to get their donkeys to pull their assigned loads in the field.  (A case could also be made that the phrase was thought up as an observation made by frustrated spouses about their significant others.  I say that because I know what my wife’s answer to the question posed in the title of this editorial would be!)

Regardless, I think there’s a lesson we can learn about our relationship with Christ when we examine exactly why a mule is stubborn.  The reason it balks at pulling a load is not because it doesn’t hear the command to “giddy up.”  Rather, it would simply not hear it.  It has more than enough strength and ability to pull that load, but it would rather graze in the green grass of the pasture or bask in the noonday sun than work for his owner.  Our human minds are several levels above that of a mule, but we sometimes manifest the same characteristics.  How many times have we heard a clear command from God as revealed in His Word, but we, like the mule, try to evade obedience because the biblical command does not coincide with our mind’s individual prejudices and desires?

When I was a child, I was reluctant to hear my mother’s call because I knew that if I listened and obeyed her it would result in some unpleasant chore that would encroach upon my playtime.  That’s why I chose not to see my dirty hands and ignore her command to wash them, because I would rather have been eating.  This kind of evasive thinking is found in the minds of mules and children, but it should never be found in the thinking of mature, responsible adults (1 Cor. 13:11).

Yet, while the eternal destiny of souls are at stake, there are professed Christians who exhibit indifference and intolerance toward the true teachings of God as revealed in the totality of the Bible.  They do so because such teachings are contrary to their personal desires or disrupt their convenient, worldly way of life.  Jesus talked about such people when He quoted Isaiah by saying, “Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says, ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.  For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them’” (Matt. 13:14-15).

What a pity it is for people who could (and should) know God’s truth which is His Word (John 17:17), but reject it because it does not suit their evil lifestyles or tastes!  For example, God commanded that men have faith (John 3:16; Rom. 10:9-10), repent of their sins (Lk. 13:3; Acts 2:38; 3:19), and be baptized — literally in the Greek, immersed — in water in order to obtain salvation and forgiveness of sins (Mk. 16:16; 1 Pet. 3:21; Acts 2:38), and thereby be put into Christ and His body, the church of Christ, by the Holy Spirit through their baptism (1 Cor. 12:13; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27; cf. Eph. 1:22-23).  How sad it is for such commands to be rejected simply because they violate the wishes of family (Matt. 10:34-37) or the traditions and doctrine of religious groups (Matt. 15:1-9) who seek the god of convenience rather than the God Who demands obedience (1 Sam. 15:22; Acts 5:29; Heb. 5:8-9).

Other examples could be given.  We continually see reports from a media who gladly supports what they report about those in our country and elsewhere who selfishly and stubbornly promote homosexual “marriage” and the murder of innocent children through abortion, despite what God wishes (1 Cor. 6:9-10; Prov. 6:16-19).  Spring Break and summer are coming, and we will see many who choose to stubbornly flaunt their bodies through immodest apparel and actions, fornicate, and partake of alcohol and other hallucinogens regardless of the will of their Creator in such matters (1 Tim. 2:9-10; Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Thess. 5:6-8).

Closer to home, let’s examine ourselves and our own attitudes (2 Cor. 13:5).  Does our own stubbornness keep us from treating others as we would be treated (Matt. 7:12)?  Husbands and wives, are we so determined to have our own way that we end up treating our spouses in ways contrary to the will of the One who united us in marriage (Eph. 5:22-33; 1 Cor. 7:1-5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7; cf. Matt. 19:1-9)?  Children, you know as well as I that the primary reason you disobey your parents and thus disobey God is due to stubbornness (Eph. 6:1-3).  Parents, is our adamant refusal to put the spiritual raising of our children before unneeded work, TV times, our golf game and favorite book due to stubbornness (Eph. 6:4; Deut. 6:6-9)?  Brother and sister in Christ, does our constant criticism and backbiting against the shepherds of our local congregation come from being stubbornly adamant about having our own way above all (Heb. 13:17)?

Through the inspired apostle, our Father in heaven said this:

“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.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:1-8).

Do we have the mind of a mule, or the mind of Christ?  Jesus left being in the form of God, equality with God, and the glory of heaven for a wretched, hard life among men which ended in an agonizing, humiliating criminal’s death on a cross…and He did so because He considered us more important than Himself.  Are we anything like Him?

A stubborn mule looks only to its own interests.  It does not put the interests of its owner before itself.  Stubborn Christians look only to their own interests.  They do not put their Father’s interests before their own, nor do they care about the interests of their brethren.

Christians who are like their Savior are not like that.  Like Him, they sacrifice their own interests to serve God and the church.  May we be listed among their ranks!

—Jon

 

Christianity and Conflict Resolution — Roger L. Leonard

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!  It is like the precious oil upon the head, coming down upon the beard, even Aaron’s beard, coming down upon the edge of his robes.  It is like the dew of Hermon coming down upon the mountains of Zion; for there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever” (Ps. 133, NASB).

I will sadly add the words, “Behold, how ugly and how unpleasant it is for brothers to be divided due to conflict!”

People do have conflict. Christians have conflict. It is a part of life. Sometimes it is due to mere misunderstandings and easily settled, so life goes on. At times is it can be healthy and good because matters can be clarified and sins can be forgiven.  Sometimes, however, it is unresolved and continues in cycles of verbal and physical abuse. Unresolved conflict can cause divorce. Christians can have conflict and never settle their differences. Christians and churches can separate from one another. It can cause unbelievers to avoid the church and weaker saints to forsake the Lord.  Conflict can even end with murder. Worst of all, people can be lost in eternity over it. Are there no answers? No resolutions?  Yes, there are.

The Old Testament records examples of conflict.  Cain killed his brother, Abel (Gen. 4:8-10).  Sarai had conflict with Hagar (Gen. 16).  Jacob and Esau had conflict (Gen. 27).  Joseph and his brothers had conflict (Gen. 37).  In a mere two chapters — 1 Samuel 18 and 18 — Saul tried to kill David at least twelve times!

The New Testament also records examples of conflict.  Jesus had conflict with the Pharisees over several issues.  The Lord’s disciples had conflict over a power position in the kingdom (Lk. 22:24ff).  Stephen faced conflict for being truthful and direct in his message (Acts 7).  The Christians in Corinth had conflict over spiritual leaders, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, and more.  Euodia and Syntyche had conflict (Phil. 4:2).  Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark had conflict (Acts 15:37-40).  Diotrophes caused conflict by seeking to be first, making unjust accusations, and turning good men away (3 John).

The Scriptures also give us examples of resolutions.  Jacob and Esau finally made up after Jacob’s deception.  They wept, Jacob offered gifts, and they peacefully went separate ways (Gen. 33).  Joseph forgave his brothers for selling him as a slave, fed them during a famine, and eased the heart of his grieving father, Israel (Gen. 42-50).  Eventually the Lord’s disputing disciples became apostles and served Him until their deaths.  Although we don’t know how, Paul and John Mark worked out their differences and Paul found him useful (2 Tim. 4:11).

What Is The Lord’s Plan For Unity In The Church?  How About Conflict Prevention?

Consider the Lord’s prayer in John 17.  He prayed that His disciples would be one and at peace in several ways.

“Holy Father, keep them in Your name, the name which You have given Me, that they may be one as We are” (v. 11).  The Lord repeats this plea for oneness in verse 23, with a special emphasis on their behavior so positively affecting the world that it would believe the Father had sent Him.

He prayed, “…that they may have My joy made full in themselves” (v. 13).  He wants His people to be spiritually joyful!

He prayed that the Father would not “take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one” (v. 15).

Finally, Jesus said, “…I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them” (v. 26).

We should carefully examine the key points Jesus made and understand how this oneness can prevent conflict.  Note especially verse 26 and the love that exists between the Heavenly Father and the Son!  These petitions do not mean that Christians will never have conflict, and Jesus knew that.  They do mean that our first and foremost desire should be the same as His: seek the oneness that He and the Father had for which He fervently prayed.

How Are Conflicts Supposed To Be Resolved?

Conflict, disunity, and divisions arise from two approaches:

  1. I want my way. It is all about me and what I want.
  2. Not seeking God’s will to promote unity or prevent strife and division.

When unity is broken, the only way to repair it is by using the Scriptures.

Consider Matthew 18:15.  Break down the verse and you’ll see a pattern emerge:

If — Situation.  There must be certainty.

Your brother— Connection.  Someone in Christ.

Sins— Infraction.  A violation of God’s will (cf. 1 John 3:4).

Go and tell him his fault — Confrontation.  The charge needs to be made clear and explained.  Clarify.  Get everything out in the open.

Between you and him alone— Condition.  This is to be dealt with privately.  (Unfortunately, this is not the usual pattern.  Brothers will tell everyone except the one with whom they had the problem.  That is a sin!  Neither does it resolve the conflict.)

If he hears you— Contrition and confession.

You have gained him— Communion.

Jesus illustrated the contrite heart in the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector (Lk. 18:10-14).  The humble repentance which God desires is contrasted with self-righteousness.  The eloquent prayer of the proud Pharisee did not reach the heart of God, but the humble cry of the repentant sinner did and brought about his forgiveness.  They both needed mercy, but only the contrite heart was in a position to receive it.

Now consider Matthew 5:21-24.  As used in this passage, Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines “angry” as a sustained anger.  “Raca” means “good for nothing; empty-headed; stupid” and “fool” means “moron; one without reason; morally worthless.”  One of the reasons conflicts are often unresolved is because people do not have a Christ-like attitude toward others.  Like the Pharisee, they look down on them and speak evil words, even calling them names.

There are those in the kingdom who are always in conflict with others and love to fuss!  In Luke 22:24, “dispute” is a compound Greek word, “philoneikia,” which accourding to Mounce means “a love of contention; rivalry, contention.”  How are conflicts often handled?  Quite often they are not dealt with at all.  If they are dealt with, oftentimes they are not done so biblically.

In an article titled “Animal Instincts” published in Leadership, authors Norman Shawchuck and Robert Moeller identified “a variety of conflict management styles” and shared what “psychologists…labeled” as “responses with animal names: sharks (“I win; you lose”), foxes (“Everyone wins a little and loses a little”), turtles (“I withdraw”), teddy bears (“I’ll lose so you can win”), and owls (“Let’s find a way for everyone to win.”).

The personality types and approaches were described as follows:

The Sharks.  “Sharks tend to be domineering, aggressive, and open to any solution as long as it’s the one they want.  Sharks use whatever it takes to prevail: persuasion, intimidation, power plays.  Sharks don’t always appear menacing and may even possess a quiet demeanor, but make no mistake — they play to win, even if others lose.”

This attitude is diametrically opposed to seeking God’s way and a fellow saint’s good.  The “shark” needs to look at the humility of Jesus, who had all power and yet submitted to the will of God (Phil. 2:6-11).

The Fox.  The “wily fox” represents someone who makes an “attempt to help everyone win-a-little, lose-a-little.”  The desire is for compromise to keep everyone from “breaking apart.”  And while “their primary interest is the common good, if people don’t immediately respond to their bargain they aren’t above arm-twisting and manipulation to impose an agreement” to resolve the conflict.  The fox seeks ways and means to get conflicting “parties to accept” their “solution.”  The problem with this is that “the problem will emerge again later in a different form.”  Compromise does not “address the underlying issues” which will “eventually re-emerge.”

Furthermore, no solution should compromise God’s truth nor leave sinful issues unsettled.  It is wrong to manipulate people (2 Cor. 4:2).

The Turtles.  “The turtles are so frightened by conflict that they pull into their shell.”  This reaction could be the result of abuse or a home where children were not allowed to voice their feelings in conflicting situations.

That said, the turtle reaction could also be the result of pent up anger or repressed feelings.  So the withdrawal approach can be counterproductive to remedying the conflict, because people can and do hold on to bitterness or anger for years.  Paul instructed to not “let the sun go down on your wrath” (Eph. 4:26); that is, deal with it quickly.  There are times when people need to speak up, even when it is uncomfortable or fearful to do so.  Often people are afraid to do what Jesus said in Matthew 18:15.  That’s fine if the offended can let it go.  Stephen did so (Acts 7:60).  Yet if one cannot let it go, fear has to be overcome and a meeting or confrontation must occur.

The Teddy Bear.  Described as “cuddly and accommodating,” the teddy bear “is typical of the most lovable creature in the conflict management menagerie.”  “In a threatening situation, teddy bears readily surrender their own interests to accommodate the disagreeing party” and “will maintain peace at almost any price.”  The article concluded that while there is value in surrendering selfish goals in pursuit of peace (Phil. 2:3ff), the downside is that relationships should not override the settling of legitimate issues.

The loving thing to do is solve problems God’s way.  Paul urged Euodia and Syntyche “to live in harmony in the Lord(Phil. 4:2, emp. added).  He obviously realized that the conflict was known by and affecting the church.  He expected the dispute to be resolved, and not to just have them give one another a hug and move on.

The Owl.  The “Collaborative Owl” will “‘co-labor’ with all parties until they arrive at a mutually satisfying solution.”  They “see disputes as opportunities to strengthen…not destroy.”  This fits the “spiritual” ones described in Galatians 6:1-2.  These Christians seek to help others who are overtaken in any sin.  The owls could also be the ones who would go with an offended brother (Matt. 18:16) with a goal to help resolve the conflict.  The wise owls will seek God’s wisdom and not take sides with anyone but the Lord!

Brethren Must Settle Their Differences God’s Way…But Often They Do Not

Jesus made it clear that further actions must take place if brothers cannot reconcile alone (Matt. 18:16ff).  Ultimately, a withdrawal by the church is commanded by the Lord if there is no repentance by the sinning offender.

Some brethren see this as optional — at least in practice — because they will not do it.  Yet the same Lord who commanded Mark 16:16 commanded this.

Conclusion

Those “who cause divisions (are) worldly-minded, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 19).  Solomon wrote, “Through insolence comes nothing but strife, but wisdom is with those who receive counsel” (Prov. 13:10).  Some brethren need to receive counsel and repent.  Some are able to give it.  “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matt. 5:9).

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

Endnotes:

Norman Shawchuck and Robert Moeller. “Animal Instincts: Five ways church members will react in a fight.” Leadership, Vol. XIV. Number 1 (Winter 1993): Pp. 43-44.

William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

 

Encouraging Our Youth To Faithfulness — Rob Albright

Growing up in “small town USA” is something I have always cherished. When you get to my age, you start remembering “they way it used to be” often. I still keep in contact with some of the people I grew up with. It is so good to know that most of our youth group is still faithful, involved, and some are leaders in the Lord’s church today. One friend recently retired after 46 years as church secretary and she is married to an elder. Her sister is married to an elder in another congregation. There are other such examples of young people who remained faithful over the years.

Of course, not all young people stay in the church. Some drop out and lead a life of unfaithfulness to God. So, why do some stay faithful to God and others leave the faith? That is a good question to think about.

To be faithful means to be “steadfast, resolute, trustworthy.” A servant of the Lord is to be faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). A faithful person will be blessed (Prov. 28:20a). So what is it that can help keep our youth faithful?

Let’s start out by recognizing that we need God in any successful endeavor. To begin following Him when we are young (Eccl. 12:1) is a blessing. When we are young and decide to follow Jesus, we are saying “Yes” to all that is good and right. The first two commandments in Exodus 20 deal with our attitude toward God: “I am the Lord your God….you shall have no other gods before me.” You simply cannot live the Christian life without making God top priority. Faithfulness and submission to God should be our goal.

With that goal comes two acknowledgments. First, we must accept the fact that we will give up our old life, a life different from the world’s standards. There will be constant temptations to become like the world rather than being different from many of our friends. Paul said, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

I am afraid many of those who become unfaithful started out with belief and baptism and initial encouragement , but did not know how to be transformed by renewing their minds. A transformation is an obvious change. Change starts with the mind — a decision and a commitment and a plan. The plan is found in the Bible. It includes training your actions, words, relationships, attitudes and goals. Every Christian must be a serious Bible student to continually change and become more like Jesus. John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15b).

Secondly, with the goal of faithfulness in mind, we are reminded of John 17:14-15 where Jesus asked God to not take the disciples out of the world, but protect them while in it. We must realize the responsibility of being an influence for good while we are in the world. We are responsible for being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt. 5:13-16). It’s incredible how actions, words, and attitudes show others who we are. Yes, we live in the world but we cannot live like the world.

We cannot ignore these facts. Christians (young and old) belong to Jesus and that means we have adopted a different way of life. Young people are setting patterns for life. They are under the strongest peer pressure of any of us. They are a mixture of excitement and vulnerability, so developing strong relationships with Christian adults is vital. Yet, no matter where we are and what we do, we influence others. Each decision we make influences on someone. There are times when it is difficult to know the right thing to do. A number of years ago these questions were given to me. They may help others to decide what’s the right thing to do:

  • Can it be done to the glory of God? (1 Cor. 10:31)
  • Is it helpful? (1 Cor. 6:12)
  • Will it cause someone else to stumble? (1 Cor. 8:7-13)
  • Would Jesus do it? (1 Pet. 2:21-22)
  • Will it make me a better Christian? (1 Pet. 2:1-2)
  • Will it help lead others to Christ? (2 Cor. 5:17)
  • When Jesus returns, would I like to be found doing this? (1 John 2:28)

We are also responsible for sharing the gospel with others. Young people search for their own identity and for meaning in life. It takes boldness, but young Christians have open doors among their friends. Peers will have questions and they need to be prepared to explain their faith in the Bible, in Jesus, and the church.

So, with all the challenges we have by living in this world, do we have any hope of being successful in influencing our youth to faithfulness? Howard W. Norton in his article “Hope For The Family,” published in the Spring 2002 issue of Church And Family, gives these three reasons for hope:

  1. Because God made human beings with the capacity to change their lives. “Even though Americans have radically devalued marriage and the family since 1960, they have the power to turn things around and change their families for the better.”
  2. Because Jesus enables defeated human beings to be born again and restart life with a clean slate.  “Neither personal or family failure is hopeless if people are willing to turn to Christ for forgiveness and renewal.”
  3. Because the church is a spiritual community that places high value on the home and cultivates this kind of thinking.  “In the church people are most likely to receive a steady flow of exhortation, instruction, and support.”

What contributes to our youth remaining faithful?  Two important factors:

  1. The Home. Parents are responsible for modeling and teaching discipline and devotion to their children. In all areas of their lives – especially their spiritual growth – discipline and devotion are vital. There is nothing that can take the place of having godly parents in the home. Having living examples of faithfulness day in and day out during the early years was a great blessing for my sister and brother and I. We saw parents that loved each other and worked together to have a Christian home. They encouraged each other and served each other.  No parent is sinless but they can be faithful. Youth have plenty other influences (tv, peers, etc) but what is often missing is that godly parental influence. In the home there should be no doubt that God and His Word are the centerpiece of home life. Of course, in the home, youth learn great lessons that help in their occupation and family life as well as their spiritual growth.  Scripture says, “Hear, my son, your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching” (Prov. 1:8).  Parents must stand on God’s Word. They must teach their children and be involved in their spiritual growth However, not everyone is blessed with a family that believes, commits, and encourages the Christian lifestyle, Bible study, and prayer. Some families even discourage or make fun of their children’s choice to become a Christian. The church must be aware and actively involved in the growth of these young Christians.
  1. The Church. The spiritual family also has responsibilities to its members. Hebrews 3:12 teaches us to “exhort one another daily.” We must be involved in each other’s lives and be able to turn to one another for strength to remain faithful. Our youth must be a part of this. Building relationships across generations is important. Some may feel we have nothing in common, but we do — Jesus and our commitment to Him.  Young Christians in the church also encourage, teach, and influence each other by spending study and social activity times together. They can experience a “safe” place to interact and ask questions. These times are also opportunities to introduce their friends to the church family. Hebrews 5:12-14 reminds the church to teach young Christians with the “milk” and to continue teaching everyone toward maturity in God’s Word.

You may note that in both the home and the church, adults and youth are together.  In both places, mentoring our youth in faithfulness is vitally important.

Rob has been preaching for many years, and has also served as a shepherd of the church.  He serves on the board of directors for the Carolina Messenger.

 

A Review of the Leonard-Baisden Debate — Drew Leonard

On August 4-6, 2017, a three-night oral debate took place in Ludington, MI, between Drew Leonard and Steve Baisden. Holger Neubauer was the Master of Ceremonies and also the moderator for Steve Baisden. Both sides were very cool, calm and collected, and while points were pressed passionately, the decorum was Christ-like and civil. Three questions were exchanged by each side 30 minutes prior to the discussion each day. The topic was over the return of Christ and the bodily resurrection. Brother Baisden affirmed the following:

“Jesus has returned the second time in the first century for the judgment and the resurrection.”

I, Drew Leonard, denied his proposition and affirmed my own as follows:

“There is yet to be a future, bodily resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ second coming.”

The seriousness of the content is visible in the propositions. Steve Baisden is considered a “Full Preterist,” meaning that he holds the view that all prophecy has been fulfilled. His specific view states (as he clearly argues in the debate) that all prophecy was fulfilled in or by A.D. 70 in the event of the fall of Jerusalem. (Naturally, such a view raises questions about the coming of Christ, the bodily resurrection and etc.) The debate focused on these two main points.

Assessing Baisden’s Affirmative

Before I attended the debate, I told my father, “Watch. When the debate starts, Baisden and Neubauer will want to direct all of the attention in the debate to the book of Revelation, arguing that it was about the fall of Jerusalem” and although Baisden had the very first speech of the debate (the first affirmative), he began by giving three negative arguments to my view (that there is to be a future coming of Christ and resurrection from the dead). In the rest of his following affirmative speeches, he had two affirmative arguments: 1) that the book of Revelation contains material about the final coming of Christ and the resurrection, thus positing the fulfillment of the things in the fall of Jerusalem (per his view) and 2) that Paul and the other apostles constantly insisted that the “coming” of Christ was nigh (based on the time statements of the NT) in the fall of Jerusalem.

The time that I did spend answering his affirmative material (of which there was not much) was mainly used in explaining Baisden’s misunderstandings of prophetic expressions. Baisden insisted that the book of Revelation was “at hand” (1:3; 22:10) and “shortly to come to pass” (1:3; 22:6). His argument was that the book of Revelation includes the following:

  • The coming of Christ (1:7)
  • The great, white-throne judgment (20:11-15)
  • The bodily resurrection (20:11-15)
  • The new heavens and new earth (21:1-27)
  • The falling of Satan (20:1-15)

But as I continually pointed out in the debate, Baisden asserts that all of those things are “final things.” In two of my speeches, I was careful to take each of those things and show where they had happened at least once before in the prophets. For instance, Baisden insisted that the “coming” of Christ in the book of Revelation was “at hand” and “shortly coming to pass,” thus concluding that the second coming was imminent; however – and I pointed this out constantly in the debate – there are several “comings” of Christ. Be sure to read Isaiah 19:1 and Micah 1:2,3 to see a “coming” of the Lord that is in judgment, in an impersonal, representative way! I raised this point, but it’s Baisden’s glib view that insists that Revelation 1:7 must – must! – be about the second coming. It is not. The same kind of speech was used in the Old Testament to express judgment upon the wicked empires then; in Revelation, the same kind of speech is drawn from the prophets about the “at hand” or “imminent” fall of the Roman oppressor, Domitian. Of course, the Lord was coming quickly . . . and He did . . . and He bombed the Roman oppressor right out of existence. Baisden asserted that Revelation 1:7 was about the second coming of Christ and gave no evidence to support it.

Along that same line, Baisden failed to support that all of the other figures that he raised are “final things.” He assumed that the scene of Revelation 20 must discuss “end times,” but the prophets used similar figures before to speak of things that were not “end times” discussions. For instance, Baisden insisted that the falling of Satan was discussed in Revelation 20 – and it is – but the same thing was said in Isaiah 14:12 when Satan fell through the medium of the Babylonian king or in Luke 10:18 when Satan fell through the medium of his demons. Revelation 20 illustrates the same kind of falling of Satan, but that time, it was by the medium of the Roman dictator.

The rest of the things listed by Baisden, which he alleges came at the fall of Jerusalem, are figures drawn from the prophets.  And those things have happened before.  Isaiah saw a “new heavens and earth” in his own oracle, and it was the language of “recreation” whereas the language of “uncreation” pictured the fall of the Babylonian state (cf. Isa. 13:13; 65:17,18; 66:22,23).  Isaiah spoke of deliverance from the old, oppressive Babylon as a “new heavens and earth.”  Peter and John use Isaiah’s figure to speak of deliverance from the oppressors of their day also (cf. 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1ff).  Baisden insists that Revelation is about final things, but how could these things have happened before if they are intrinsically “final things”?

Essentially, Baiden failed miserably at demonstrating that the fall of Jerusalem contained the bodily resurrection (of 1 Cor. 15) or the final coming of Christ (of Heb. 9:28). His argument was rooted in the book of Revelation, but when I granted that the book of Revelation has already been entirely fulfilled, his argument was non-existent.

Most have objected to their view with an understanding that Revelation is yet to receive fulfillment in some parts, thus splitting the book into parts that were “at hand” and parts that were not “at hand,” or others have suggested that the phrase “at hand” carries no temporal weight whatsoever. Both suggestions in response are quibbles at best. The entire book of Revelation, says the angel, was “at hand” and it was entirely fulfilled in the fall of the Roman oppressor (cf. 1:1,3; 22:6,10). (Why split the book or demand that the time signatures carry no weight? There’s no need.)

The book is quite similar to an extended Isaiah 13-14 where the fall of Babylon is expressed in similar terms (e.g. coming of the Lord, cosmic disturbance, new heavens and earth, etc.). Once I granted that Revelation has been fulfilled but that the book does not discuss final things but rather draws figures from the prophets to speak of the Roman oppressor’s fall, Baisden did not know where to go. The same figures of the book of Revelation are the same figures of the Old Testament prophets about the falls of various nations.

Baisden often suggested that the New Testament speaks of the imminent “coming” of Christ (cf. Mat. 24:34; Rom. 13:11,12; Jam. 5:7-9). I agreed with him, but every “coming” is not the first or second bodily, personal appearance of Christ. Again, Baisden was clueless when I granted that the “imminent” comings of the New Testament were imminent! But the passages speak nothing about the second bodily appearance of Christ. He comes in judgment impersonally and in blessing impersonally (cf. John 14:23; Rev. 3:11,20). Baisden asserted that all of the passages speak of the second coming of Christ, but if the prophets could speak of a “coming” of the Lord in judgment upon a wicked nation like Egypt – one that is completely divorced from the second coming – then, why couldn’t Paul speak of an imminent “coming” of the Lord in judgment upon a wicked oppressor like Jerusalem, Nero or Domitian, being completely divorced from a discussion about the second coming of Christ? In fact, that is exactly what Paul did.

Assessing My Affirmative

My basic arguments (given in syllogistic form in the debate) were the following:

First, we are looking for a “second” coming of Christ (Heb. 9:28). If there were impersonal appearances of Christ before in judgment (like Isaiah 19:1 or Micah 1:2,3), then Hebrews 9:28 cannot speak of an impersonal appearance of Christ.  It wouldn’t then qualify as the “second” coming because there would have been too many preceding it to qualify as the “second.” My argument was that Hebrews 9:28 speaks of a “second” coming of Christ, of which there has only been one before: a personal, in the flesh, bodily appearing (John 1:14). In response, Neubauer, from Baisden’s table, called a “point of order,” stopping the debate, in order to suggest that Christ’s coming in A.D. 70 was the final, bodily, personal coming of the Lord. I asked whether or not Isaiah 19:1 discussed a personal coming of the Lord, to which Neubauer, from the table, answered, “Yes!” The problem remained. Baisden and Neubauer were left to affirm that Isaiah 19:1 was a personal coming of the Lord, that John 1:14 was a personal coming of the Lord and yet somehow we’re also to believe that A.D. 70 (a third personal appearance) was the “second” coming of the Lord!

Baisden and Neubauer have suggested several things to dodge Hebrews 9:28. First, they suggested that the coming of the Lord of Hebrews 9:28 was to deal with the sin issue, which they insist has already been dealt with in A.D. 70. My argument in response was that Hebrews 9:28 can’t speak of A.D. 70 because the sin issue was already dealt with before then! Give Hebrews 10:10-12 a strong look and see if the “coming” of the Lord of Hebrews 9:28 is to deal with the sin problem. Hebrews 9:26 and 10:10-12 insist that the sin issue was dealt with in Christ’s first coming. (The “salvation” of Hebrews 9:28 is the redemption from our corruptible bodies, cf. 1 Cor. 15; Phil. 3:10-21.) They also tried suggesting that the word “second” in Hebrews 9:28 (from “deutero” in the Greek) could simply mean “again,” but even if that were the case, their own proposition affirms the “second” coming of Christ in the first century and not merely His coming “again.” (Had they affirmed only that Christ was coming “again” in the first century, I wouldn’t have denied the proposition! In some sense, He did! See Mat. 24:29-34 and Jam. 5:7-9.) Hebrews 9:28 speaks of a “second” appearance of Christ. The only way that it was a “second” appearance is that there has been only one before it; it was when Christ came in the flesh and died on the cross.  Acts 1:9-11 says that His second coming will be in like manner.

(I should also let you know that while Neubauer and Baisden argued early in the debate that Isaiah 19:1 speaks of a “personal” coming of the Lord, Baisden later made a large blunder in the Q & A when he answered that Isaiah 19:1 was a good example of an “impersonal” coming of the Lord by the medium of a physical force. I raised this point several times, showing how they had argued for Isaiah 19:1 being both a “personal” and an “impersonal” coming of the Lord. This was a perfect example of self-contradiction.)

My second major argument was that 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of the resurrection of the body. Baisden and Neubauer insist that the “body” was the dead body of Israel. I had chart after chart where they had suggested such in their periodicals. When they dodged and quibbled on my questions exchanged each day, I let them know that I had their writings and didn’t care if they actually answered my questions or not. They tried to equivocate on the point, but I had several quotes where they had flatly said that the “body” of 1 Corinthians 15 speaks of the collective, Jewish body that was in process of dying from A.D. 30 until 70. Basically, the argument is that the Jewish body and the Christian body (the church) were both in process of dying/rising from A.D. 30 to 70. They’ve suggested that when the Jewish body started to enter the grave at the cross, the Christian body started resurrecting. The “body” was dying/rising simultaneously.

Yet isn’t this against everything about “resurrection?” The word truly means “to stand again.” But they’ve got, in their system or view of things, the body (which they assume to be Israel) beginning to die at 30 A.D. and finally dying in 70 A.D. If the “body” of Christ is the “body” of Israel, they’ve got the church, the body of Christ, rising before it had even died yet! Remember, the church is the resurrected body of Israel in their view, but how could the body of Christ be alive, resurrecting after the cross, when it wouldn’t even yet die until 70 A.D.? Paul hotly rejected the view in 1 Corinthians 15:36, when he wrote, “Fools, don’t you know that you can’t quicken something that hasn’t yet died!?” What can the theorists do? They can suggest that there are two bodies, but if the Christian body is independent of the Judaic body, then we’ve abandoned the concept of resurrection and have accepted and favored a “conjuring” and not a “rising again” of a once-dead entity.

The only way to accept the biblical view of 1 Corinthians 15 is to notice that it has nothing to do with a collective, dead body of Israel. The text says a lot about the resurrection of our corruptible, vile bodies to glory at the second coming of Christ (cf. 15:23). These two arguments insist that a future coming of Christ is to be expected and that a bodily resurrection is to be anticipated.  The “Full Preterist” view of these two points simply cannot be accepted.

Other Thoughts About The Debate

Baisden insisted that the Greek word “mello” indicated “imminence.” He insisted that Matthew 16:27,28 (which uses “mello” in reference to its event) speaks of A.D. 70. What is demanded by their view of “mello” is that Christ speaks in Matthew 16:27,28 of A.D. 70 as being imminent, but watch them crawfish hard in the debate when asked about why Christ flatly suggested that A.D. 70 wasn’t imminent when His ministry closed (cf. Luke 21:28-31).

Baisden suggested that only a spiritual resurrection was ever anticipated by New Testament figures. He insisted that baptism is the spiritual resurrection. He also insists that the only people to “resurrect” in this manner before 70 A.D. were Jews that converted to Christianity, but why do we read of Paul anticipating resurrection then (Phil. 3:10-21) and why do we hear of Gentiles who aren’t anticipating that kind of resurrection (Col. 2:11-13)? What a mess…

Concluding Thoughts

There is much more to be said about this debate. The event only solidified my view that Christ is coming again in our future and that we’re to anticipate a resurrection from a physical death.

If you’re interested, please do a search for the “Leonard-Baisden Debate” on YouTube. Also, you may purchase the debate book and any of my other writings by searching “Drew Leonard” at lulu.com. My book A.D. 70 – Taking a Look at Hyper-Preterism critiques the view thoroughly.

Drew is the author of several books, including Thinking Through Zechariah and Night Visions: A Commentary on the Book of Daniel.

Jesus-Centered Evangelism — Edwin S. Jones

Church growth, in my experience, seems to have developed much like a game I grew up with, “Pass it On.” In this game, someone reads a message from a piece of paper, whispers the words to the next person and so on until the relayed message gets back to the person with the original. Even if you have not played the game, I suspect you know what happens.

As has been observed in conversations about the Restoration Principle, the source, Scripture, is the only place to go if we are to be sure we are getting Christianity right. My following words on evangelism suggest we need to apply this original source principle to our outreach efforts. See what you think.

Have We Seen What The Bible Reveals?

When we see the various ways that evangelism is promoted and defined among us, we ought to ask ourselves why the New Testament does not address evangelism the way we commonly do.  Where, for instance, do we find much of our current language represented in principle in the New Covenant?

Where are all the verses urging us to remember to take the gospel to our friends and neighbors?  Where are all the “deathbed” stories?  And where do we find that inspiration’s favorite inquiry is, “If you died tonight would you be lost?” Odd, do you not think, that such things, and many more modern areas of emphasis, are conspicuous by their absence in the Bible?

By speaking this way I do not at all want to question anyone’s sincerity or deny that the reality that souls have been won by the gospel through methods I believe to be a few steps removed from strict biblical patterns. What I ask us to do is to see what we discover by taking a fresh look at Scripture.

I purpose we need to take another look at the Bible to measure our efforts by the original message. We would agree God’s Word is the very place we will find God’s plan for evangelism.  It is in Scripture where we will learn what we are asked to do in church growth.

When we embark upon a search for the original message about evangelism, we will see a picture that is both personal and practical.  We will discover that the most basic needs in evangelism are not for more programs, better methods, bigger and fancier campaigns, or an increasing reliance on mass media.  The main need, the most central component of evangelism, is found in our daily living of the principles of Jesus.  It is the daily practice of biblical Christianity that Scripture emphasizes.

God’s goal for the church has always been that Christians would be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).  It is therefore no coincidence that the Bible says Scripture gives us “the knowledge of the Son of God to a mature man, the measure and stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:13).  We have, consequently, “the mind of Christ” revealed in the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:16).

The “mind of Christ” is, however, not intended to be something that is  found only on the printed page.  We are to have Christ’s mind in us (Phil. 2:5). Paul’s prayer for brethren was that they would have Christ dwelling in their hearts by faith (Eph. 3:16-17; cf. Rom. 10:17).  Paul intended that every Christian would be a living epistle (2 Cor. 3:1-4)!

The “process” of this transformation is most significant.  We learn in the Bible that it is a daily walk with Christ that changes us from the inside out. We are to look to the Lord as the model or pattern for our change, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18; cf. Rom. 12:1-2). In this process, we are to “in humility receive the word implanted,” and “prove ourselves doers of the word and not merely hearers” (Jas. 1:21-22).

Paul could well relate to this process of transformation for he was a zealous participant, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me” (Gal. 2:20).  Paul practiced what he preached and we must also realize that the preaching of this process of transformation was not a lesser concern—it was central to Paul’s message.

In Colossians 1:24-29 we find Paul relating the plan he used when  he  worked  with newly formed congregations.  We are more accustomed to thinking of Paul as a congregation starter.  However, we need to see the rest of the story—how Paul worked to bring congregations to maturity.  This methodology is vital to understanding our need for evangelism. Also, we need to understand that this method was not the exclusive method of Paul. Paul did not start the Colossian church; it was Epaphras. Nevertheless, Paul knew that the approach he took was the approach taken by all who would follow the Lord’s pattern.

Paul pointed out in this passage that Christ “in” a Christian was a believer’s hope of glory (Col. 1:27).  Paul saw his ministry to the saved as being one of presenting them “complete in Christ” (Col. 1:28).  It was for that very purpose that Paul would “labor and strive” (Col. 1:29). This work or labor of developing Christ in a Christian was what Paul engaged in after he planted a church (cf. Acts 20:17-35).

This plan that Paul pursued with such diligence is reflected in his striking remarks to the churches of Galatia.  The brethren in Galatia were being led astray by Judaizing teachers who sought to take them into a legalistic, Old Testament oriented manifestation of Christianity. Paul knew that the brothers and sisters only real hope was in bringing them to maturity in Christ.  His words still ring with passion, “My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you” (Gal. 4:19).

Paul well understood that if the Christian life was to be lived successfully, people had to be brought to maturity.  The maturing process would not only provide great preventive medicine against false teachers and false doctrine; it would equip the saints for their work of service (Eph. 4:12-15).

It is with the most positive aspect of Christianity, Christ-likeness, that we find the Bible’s central teaching about evangelism.  As we “grow up in all things unto Him who is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15), one of those “things” is most certainly evangelism.  As we become more like Jesus, we become better able to relate to the lost in Jesus’ own way and as suggested by the Great Commission, “as you are going” (Matt. 28:18-20).

In taking this look at the way of Christ concerning evangelism, we must be careful to understand the seriousness of reviving this vital pattern.  We would be most remiss if we saw the value of the pattern for first becoming a Christian, organizing the church, and worshipping God under the authority of Jesus, but did not esteem God’s pattern for evangelism.

Even as Moses was instructed by God to “make all things according to the pattern” (Heb. 8:5), so we must give “much greater attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2:1).  There is a great need for the church to return to God’s pattern for evangelism!

The Christ-Centered Evangelistic Plan

The New Testament pattern for evangelism is what the church needs. This pattern centers in personal Christ-likeness.  All through the record of the New Testament the church is constantly and passionately admonished to live in a manner compatible to the nature of Christ.  That is what walking in the light and fellowship are all about.  “If we walk in the light as He, Himself is in the light; we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son, cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

Consider the wisdom of this plan.  Who could do a better job with God’s work than a person conformed in a mature way to the image of Jesus?  Is there a better plan than that?  Of course not!

There could be no better way of conducting the Father’s business.  Whether the service to God would involve benevolence, edification or evangelism, the best way to conduct the business of God is to do it as Christ would do it.  Jesus’ entire earthly mission was followed by a singular devotion to the will of the Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10).  We cannot do no better than to follow His example.

As we come to see the significance of the Christ-centered New Testament plan, we come to see certain well-known teachings in a broader light.  For instance, consider the Bible’s teachings on Christ as the head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:19; I Cor. 11:3).  We realize that this means that there is only one head and thus only one church.  This is devastating to modern denominationalism, but there is more to this teaching than just what it rules out.  There is much here that is ruled in.

By studying the headship of Christ as it relates to the need for the church to practice biblical evangelism, we might readily think of a number of applications.  One example is how a body cannot function unless it receives instructions from the head.  Likewise, the church cannot carry out God’s will unless it understands the thinking of the head, Christ.  Without a strong connection to Jesus, the church is capable of only spasmodic movements that cannot accomplish God’s purpose.

Remember the slogan for the United Negro College Fund, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste”?  That memorable phrase has an application to our subject.  The church has been given the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16) and each Christian is to take up that mind (Phil. 2:5).  What a waste it would be if Christians looked to themselves and their own devices in evangelism, rather than to the thinking of Christ.

Another thing in this evangelistic rethinking of ours concerns Christ as the Master Teacher.  We readily acknowledge that Jesus is the master teacher, the greatest teacher that ever lived.  Are we, however, really using what we know about Him in our evangelistic efforts? To what extent are our evangelistic patterns compatible with the practices of Jesus? Do we traditionally begin with a first look at the Christ, or at something steps removed?

What we do learn from Jesus is unmistakably that He did not have any one-size-fits-all method.  While He was always seeking to get people to arrive at the same place,  His methods were as numerous as the people, circumstances and situations He faced.  The truth never changed, but the way Jesus addressed the many conditions He encountered was forever changing. Is that not one of the main reasons we call Him the “Master Teacher”?

I realize that Jesus’ approach requires maturity and growth before a Christian would be able to go at personal evangelism in such a flexible way.  I also know that the various program methods available can be helpful in getting us to a more confident, mature, flexible approach.  However, I even more significantly know that we rarely give priority to the flexible teaching example of Christ.  We speak of Christianity being a lifestyle; yet rarely see the obvious connection with evangelism being a lifestyle.  We might go as far as to say that Christianity is God’s plan for evangelism just as it is for everything else.

Methods can easily get us in a rut.  A thing that might help us to grow can, at times, actually become a crutch. Studies have shown that the most effective means of study is one person sitting across the table from another with an open Bible between them.  Good, old-fashioned Bible studies that use the Bible as the “equipment” not to mention Jesus sanctified in the heart as the always ready as you are going “method.”

One more thing about the Jesus emphasis, and this might be the most important benefit of all.  As we come to know Him better we will grow in our love for Him. When all has been said, the conclusion of this and all things Christian is this.  If we love Jesus, we will keep His commandments (Jn. 14:15, 23; 2 Cor. 5:14-15)! Good bye apathy, hello Christ motivated life!

Conclusion

Brethren, the need for evangelism is great, but evangelism needs to be understood by first listening to God.  The slower, less sensational way of the New Testament is to be chosen over a  “quick fix.”  We of all people who stand for  Pattern Theology should make every effort to get back to the Bible to learn the old way of evangelism.

“Thus says the Lord, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it!” (Jer. 6:16a).

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).