Category Archives: 2018 – Oct

The Interrelatedness of Dispensations — Travis Main

I once witnessed a conversation in which the premise put forth was that the older generation did not understand the times. Culture changes! Ages go by. Therefore, the beliefs of the older generation were no longer considered correct. In part, there is truth to this. Traditions, skills, and knowledge which have been passed down over time aren’t always acceptable. Speaking in the language of an era passing away, “Use a #2 pencil to adjust the tape in the cassette” may not only be a confusing phrase, but outdated and irrelevant.

Yet, what are we to do with the biblical statement “…ask for the old paths…”? The context and source of any discussion are critical in determining their usefulness. When speaking of the old paths, the context is people needing to get back to what God commands. The source of the statement is God. This is a message that fits all cultures and times. Today, many people want to do what God says, but they are holding to practices which God no longer authorizes. So looking back over man’s time upon earth, what statements of God should one follow? Is there a thread of consistency or interrelatedness throughout the time of man upon the earth and the dispensations he has lived through that helps determine this?

The New Testament definition for the word dispensation is “the management or oversight of a household or property”. In other words, a dispensation is defined by the authority or laws under which it operates and is not confined to time or culture. It appears in the expanse of man’s life upon earth there have been four major dispensations given by God: Creation, Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian. Each has very specific characteristics.

The dispensation of Creation is remembered through two people: Adam and Eve. They were to be fruitful and multiply, tend the Garden of Eden, and not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was their dispensation (the authority they lived under).

The Patriarchal dispensation represented a time when God spoke directly to the fathers (patriarchs). It has been frequently taught that God spoke to them with different laws, each under their own dispensation as it were. To support this it is oft stated that Abraham was the only one told to sacrifice his son or Noah was the only one told to build an ark. However, it appears that despite individual directives by God, there was a universal law given. Consider the man Noah. What is it that Peter calls him? He calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). How could Noah preach righteousness if what was right to him was not also defined as right to others as well? The source of what defined righteousness to all men was God. Thus, Noah could preach righteousness to others. Later, but under the same dispensation, Lot is seen vexed with the filthy conversation of others (2 Pet. 2:7). Why? He was aware of a common dispensation all lived under, but some were rejecting.

The Mosaic dispensation is defined by a particular people and a particular law. By the authority of God, the nation of Israel was given the “Law of Moses” to live under. It was specifically for them and those who would voluntarily choose to live under it. When God directed that from the Israelites two silver trumpets be made and that only the Levites play them, no other people lived under that law. None other were under that authority.

The Christian dispensation, the fullness of time, the right time, began with the crucifixion of the Savior of the World, Jesus the Christ. He died as an Israelite man, fulfilling the law which God had imparted to Israel by Moses. The dispensation being fulfilled, a new dispensation began. All mankind became accountable to the household administration of Christ. Since that time, no other dispensation has been given by God.

In examining the dispensations of God, it is interesting to note that the first two dispensational laws never appear to have been written down. Beginning with the Mosaic dispensation, God commands His Law be written down (Ex. 34:27). These laws were to be at the forefront of every Israelite’s mind (Deut. 6:6-9). As Christ came onto the scene in the first century, John the Immerser heralded the kingdom of God as being at hand. Jesus and his disciples would share the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:1). Then, following the death of Jesus, his disciples continued on with that gospel in full knowledge. The apostles and disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit wrote down exactly what God desired us to know and follow (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The perfect Word of God, as we find it in the Bible today, enabled men to be fully mature in Christ (1 Cor. 13:9-13; Eph. 4:8-15).

There are commonalities throughout the dispensations. A few come quickly to mind. God put people on the earth to multiply and fill it (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; Lev. 26:9, Deut. 8:1; Matt. 28:19, John 3:5). God expects man to be obedient or face consequences (Gen. 3:3; 4:7-12; Ex. 15:26; Rom. 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). God requires blood sacrifice for the sins of man (Gen. 3:21; Job 1:5; Num. 15:25, Gal. 1:3-4). A list of like characteristics could get relatively lengthy if we continue on. However, there is the more pressing issue of the interrelatedness of the dispensations which explains what law is applicable today.

The thread interlocking all the dispensations and causing them to work together was once a mystery. Today, that mystery has been revealed. In the beginning the light of this mystery was dim, but with the arrival of the Christian dispensation it burns bright. Interestingly enough, the Creation and Patriarchal dispensations were once described by many a preacher as “starlight.” The light from stars is dim and limited. Similarly, so was information regarding the mystery. When the Mosaic dispensation unfolded more light was shed in regard to the mystery. This timeframe was referred to by ministers as “moonlight.” Finally, the Christian Dispensation brought “Sunlight” or “Sonlight” upon the mystery of God. What was once unperceivable was revealed and made known to the world. The mystery that glued all the dispensations together was the truth of the gospel of Christ. The good news was eternal life. Salvation!

God “hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). God “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). The salvation planned by God was necessary “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” So before the world began, God had a plan of salvation through Christ for the promise of eternal life. In the creation, Adam and Eve did not know this plan. It was a mystery. They were happy in the Garden of Eden with no concerns. Then it all changed with the taking of the fruit against the Word of God (Gen. 3). Death came into the world. Sin separated man from God (Is. 59:1-2). How could men be holy before God if they were filthy from sin? This would be the opening dilemma starting the Patriarchal dispensation.  Perhaps the only clue came in Genesis 3:15 where it was said that man would crush the head of Satan, whereas Satan would crush only the heel of man.

The Patriarchal dispensation makes it clear that sacrifice and offerings were part of man’s worship based on the sin that had entered the world. Cain and Abel, Noah, Job, Abraham, and Jacob are all recorded as offering to the Lord. The related tie between the Creation and Patriarchal dispensations is the desire to get from the latter state back to the former. Yet, man being no longer in the presence of God, with the Fathers guiding the families, chose not to follow the righteousness of God but to perish in the waters of the flood and then afterward begin sin anew. Yes, Noah preached for them to do right! But mankind did not listen. How would God bring them back to the holiness of God and be faithful to His promise? A great mystery indeed! Again there are clues seen from the flood itself: salvation and the washing away of sinfulness through water. Additionally, three promises given to Abraham, one specifically stating through his Seed all nations would be blessed.

The Mosaic dispensation removed the focus from the worship of the patriarchs and presented a chosen nation to the world as a vessel for something greater and an example to the world. Israel was born out of Egypt. God gave them a Law from Sinai delivered by the hand of Moses. A priesthood was chosen from the nation and a sacred place of worship (the tabernacle) was built by the directive of God. God promised the nation of Israel that when they would obey Him, they would be blessed and that when they disobeyed they would be punished. This was a great teacher to all the world and still is today (Josh. 2:9-11), but the purpose of the Law was to be a pedagogue. A pedagogue is an individual who would take the children from home to school. He delivered them from point A to point B. The Law of Moses served to hold the people under sin and take them to the coming of the messiah (Gal. 2:22-25). Jeremiah 31:31 declared a new dispensation was coming. A new law would be needed because the many sacrifices since sin came into the world could not remove the filth of sin from mankind (Heb. 10:4). The nation of Israel had been given clues from Moses and the prophets about the coming Messiah. Clues about how He would arrive, where He would live, and what He would do, were given in abundance to the nation of Israel. The mystery was still hidden, but more and more was known. The end of this dispensation would see Messiah coming, heralded by John the Immerser. Christ declared the kingdom of God to be at hand. He instructed the people in righteousness with miracles as confirmation of the truth. Jesus went to the cross nailing the old dispensation to the cross (Col. 2:14). The Law of Moses had accomplished its task in bringing mankind to the cross. Now the mystery would be revealed. The link from creation to salvation, from sin to holiness, would come into full view.

After the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit of promise was poured out on Pentecost. The Spirit provided all truth to the Apostles (John 16:13). The mystery of salvation revealed, Peter then declared the Deity of Jesus and convicted 3000 souls of their sins against God. Horrified at their condition, the crowd asked what they should do. “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Once again, washing with water was taking away the sins of the world, one spiritual birth after another as God added to His Kingdom, the Church (Acts 2:47, 1 Pet. 3:21, 1 Tim. 3:15). The Christian dispensation had begun! The Christ by His once for all time blood sacrifice (Heb. 10:10), born of the Mosaic dispensation, was linking the Christian dispensation to the great washing flood of the Patriarchal dispensation for the purpose of returning to the state once present in the Creation dispensation.

It is Jesus who provides us the full assurance of returning to stand holy before God (Heb. 10:20-22) and authority and relevance under which we all live (Col. 3:17). His free salvation links all the dispensations together. Following any other dispensation, tradition or creed is done only by those who do not understand the times.

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.

The Uniqueness of Christianity — Dewayne Bryant, Ph.D.

The story is told about a British conference on comparative religions attended by the famed apologist C. S. Lewis. During one session in which a number of scholars vigorously debated the uniqueness of the Christian faith, Lewis wandered into the room and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” Those present told him they were debating whether Christianity offered any unique contributions in the world of religion. Without missing a beat, Lewis replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”

While Lewis was correct, he only touched the hem of the garment. When Christianity first appeared in the context of the Roman Empire, it proved to be a faith unlike anything else the world had ever seen. Contrary to the beliefs of some critics, Christianity does not owe anything to pagan beliefs that preceded it. Here we will survey just a few of the things that made the Christian faith distinct from other religions available at the time.

Monotheism

The Judeo-Christian tradition stood apart from all other religions because it advocated the worship of one God. Christianity and Judaism existed as the only monotheistic faiths in the ancient world. In contrast, Roman religion was thoroughly polytheistic. The number of gods, divinities, and spirits recognized by Romans numbered into the thousands.

Human beings attached gods to peoples (1 Kings 11:7), forces of nature (1 Kings 18:24), and geographical areas (1 Kings 20:28). Throughout the Greco-Roman world, cities had patron gods, a practice that existed as far back as the earliest times in ancient Mesopotamia. The Romans went even further by revering divinities responsible for such minuscule things as the lock of a door or the first cry of a newborn child. Roman deities could very well be an example of micromanagement at its finest.

Unfortunately, the exclusive worship of God in the early church caused Romans to perceive it as dangerous and subversive. Romans feared that the Christians would offend the gods of Rome by failing to give proper respect. This would, in turn, cause the gods to withdraw their blessings from the empire. The authorities considered Christianity so potentially harmful that they punished believers with the death penalty, a fact illustrated by the correspondence between Emperor Trajan and Pliny the Younger in the early second century.

Christianity as a “Book Religion”

Today, religions can be identified by texts that most represent their teachings. This was not possible before the emergence of the early church. Pagan religions did not have sacred texts that served in an equivalent manner as the Bible. While important sacred texts did exist (such as the Egyptian Book of the Dead), these were not intended for public reading, nor were they used to reveal the will of the gods or shape the behavior of faithful believers.

Jews considered Scripture reading essential. In the Old Testament, God commanded the reading of the Law (Deut. 31:11). During the time of Ezra, the law was read publicly for hours on end while Jewish believers reverently stood at attention (Neh. 8:3). The importance of reading Scripture continued in the New Testament period with readings in synagogues (Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:14-15; 15:21). This practice continued in Christianity with an emphasis on the written word (Col. 4:16; 1 Thess. 5:27; 1 Tim. 4:15; 2 Tim. 3:16). Although Jews valued the reading of Scripture, Judaism had always been concerned more with orthopraxy (proper behavior or religious observance) than orthodoxy (proper belief), the latter of which was distinctive to the early church.

The existence of such a vast number of manuscripts also implies the importance of doctrine. Pagans had little concern for proper beliefs concerning their gods, as numerous stories offer contradictory accounts of events during the experiences of the deities worshiped in the Roman Empire. Christianity has always been concerned with sound doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2 John 9), which has no true parallel in any other religion, ancient or modern. Romans looked to philosophy, not religion, for teaching on proper living.

Exclusivity and Openness in Christianity

The contrast between Christianity and other religions regarding membership could hardly be more vivid. Formal cults offering the traditional worship of the gods were very open. Membership was not exclusive, unlike Christianity which recognized only those as members who had gone through specific steps including expressing faith, repenting of sinful behavior, adopting a holy lifestyle, and being immersed for the forgiveness of sins (cf. Acts 2:14-41).

The mystery religions—so-called because of their secrecy—opened their doors to almost anyone who had sufficient resources to cover the cost of initiation. Membership in one did not preclude membership in another (although the expense of initiation could be cost-prohibitive). The price of admission finds no parallel in Christianity.

Mystery religions valued secrecy so much that a mob nearly murdered the Greek playwright Aeschylus (c.523–c.456 BC) because an audience perceived one of his play as revealing secrets of the Eleusinian Mysteries. Christianity, on the other hand, has always been open to all regardless of gender or socioeconomic status and offers membership to any who would follow Christ. While the mystery cults were open to a select few, the gospel is for all (Rom. 1:16; Gal. 3:26-29).

Efforts made by critics to show that Christianity evolved from other religious traditions in the ancient world cannot withstand scrutiny. This is familiar territory in critical scholarship, as various writers have attempted to connect both ancient Judaism and early Christianity with other religious movements and ideas. If Christianity emerged independently from upon other religions, then its distinctiveness must be explained. It bears the marks not of invention or evolution, but of divine revelation.

Dewayne is a minister at the New York Ave. Church of Christ in Arlington, TX. He serves as a staff writer for Apologetics Press and the Apologia Institute, and as a professional associate for the Associates for Biblical Research.

Preaching’s Foundational Task and Intended Purpose — Tony Brewer

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

The Design of Preaching

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

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

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

The Despair of Preaching

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

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

The Desired Result of Preaching

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

The Kind of Preaching Needed Today — Roger Leonard

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

What kind of preaching is needed today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

References

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

Social Media Preaching — Will Hester

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preaching From The Old Testament — Victor M. Eskew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Jon