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Practical Considerations Of An Active Faith — Dave Redmond

A few years ago, I wrote a bulletin article concerning “Freedom in Christ.”  While preparing, I became aware of a wonderful blessing.  Under the Old Law, the Jews were expected to keep hundreds of rules and regulations.  I realized that as Christians, while we are expected to keep commandments under the New Covenant, we have the freedom to choose the way we wish to serve God.  This makes the Christian’s service joyous.

Today we are discussing the importance of an active faith.  Hebrews chapter 11 is known as the “Faith Chapter,” but calling it the “Active Faith Chapter” is also appropriate.  Here, the writer reminds us of Noah, who lived in a time of great wickedness.  He was commanded to build a huge ark in order to save his family and the world’s animals.  This was no small undertaking.  Not only was it physically challenging, but took many years.  All who watched thought he was foolish.  They had not seen rain, much less a flood.  Also, the writer tells us of Abraham, who left his home when God called him.  He was not even certain where to go!  Can you think of a harsher climate than in the Middle East?  With large families, animals, and all their belongings, it must have been a tremendous effort to move even a few miles.  Noah and Abraham are men who listened to God, really believed Him, and followed His instructions.  We are here today with the hope of salvation because of their active faith.

Most of us are familiar with James 2:26:  “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”  Perhaps less familiar is Ephesians 2:10:  “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”  Here we find our purpose as Christians.  We were created so that we can perform “good works.”  Amazingly, our loving and omniscient God prepared these opportunities ahead of time.  We have the choice of accepting these opportunities, but we are humbled that He would consider us worthy.  Our decision to demonstrate an active faith serves a greater purpose.  God tells us why we are to perform good works in Matthew 5:16:  “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in Heaven.”

Unfortunately, after we obey the gospel of Christ it is easy to become complacent in our Christian walk, becoming caught up in the problems of life.  Our faith can weaken, and we can neglect opportunities to serve God.

While we are usually motivated by God’s love, fear of punishment is also effective.  Jesus used the parable of the talents to warn against complacency and laziness when it comes to making use of our abilities and opportunities.  What happened to the man who hid his Lord’s money?  In Matthew 25:26 Jesus described this man as a “wicked and lazy servant,” and he was cast out into outer darkness (v. 30).

The verses which follow in Matthew chapter 25 are sobering.  Here Jesus is describing the judgment, and one’s destiny was determined in very practical terms.  Those who were blessed to inherit eternal life had cared for their fellow man: the hungry, thirsty, sick, homeless, imprisoned, or naked.  Those who did not were rewarded with everlasting punishment.  Jesus said that when we care for others, it is as if we are caring for Him.  When we neglect others, we neglect Jesus too.  He expects us to have an active faith and to demonstrate our faith by our actions (James 2:18).  James then reminds us, “Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin” (4:17).

Over the years I have seen Christians of all ages and backgrounds serving God in practical ways.  The remainder of this message is a practical application of the preceding Scripture.

For the child, one of the best ways to serve God is by honoring and obeying parents.  Nothing honors a parent more than to hear from a teacher or neighbor, “Your son or daughter is so well behaved.”  While the child does not understand what faith means, the habit of obedience is developed.

For the Christian teen, it is a blessing to be part of a youth group which serves others while having fun.  Youth groups can visit older people, those who may need help with cleaning the house or yard, and the blessings are mutual.  I remember a sweet older Christian who insisted on serving lemonade after our youth cleaned her yard.  Looking back, these were joyous memories.

After high school, we can demonstrate an active faith through our chosen vocation or during higher education.  For those who can attend college, I think it is a blessing to attend a Christian school.  However, many state universities have a Christian support group and this can offer tremendous encouragement at a time when we become independent.  Several of our local congregations support a campus minister who helps our young people remain faithful.

I remember the wonderful congregation and Christian friends we had during military service.  My wife and I were newly married, and a local church took us under her wing.  For me, learning to lead during worship services was a blessing.  My sweet wife was encouraged by the older ladies, and sometimes we would take communion to an elderly Christian.  We now look back to those years as formative in our relationship, and these were simple ways to put our faith in action.

Whether we remain single or marry and start a family, we can find opportunities to serve in our congregations by teaching, preparing communion, helping in the church office, holding a Bible study, inviting others to services, feeding the needy, donating clothing, or simply asking the church leadership what needs to be done.  For those with young children, getting in the habit of bringing our children to Sunday School is one of the difficult but most rewarding aspects of being a parent.

During our middle years, it is a blessing to be a part of a congregation with elders and deacons.  By now we know more about our talents, our strengths, our interests.  A deacon and his wife gain valuable experience in helping the church.  This is the time when some with children are older, and it becomes more convenient to open up our home to others.  Often, we can be of tremendous assistance during Vacation Bible School and other youth activities because we are old enough to be more mature, but young enough to have the energy.  By now we are often settled in our home and community and there are many ways we can give back, glorifying God by our actions.

As older adults, we usually have a little more time to put our faith in action.  In the congregation, the younger ladies look up to the more mature ladies as examples of faith and service.  Perhaps there is time to attend a ladies Bible class, visit those in the hospital, or prepare food and flower arrangements for various needs.  Also, this is the time when we often begin to lose friends to death.  We can be an encouragement to the depressed, downhearted, and those who are facing financial hardship or difficulties with children.

For the older man, this is the ideal time for self-reflection, perhaps offering to serve as an elder in the congregation.  This is also the time when an older gentleman may be an encouragement to the congregation’s minister, since the preacher is often overworked and goes through the same hardships as others.  Many older men and women are ideal teachers.  In the community, there are ample opportunities to help our neighbors and those in need.  In our congregation, some with financial means help support an orphan’s home, a widows’ ministry, and a Bible camp where our youth interact and some respond to the gospel.

Some of the greatest examples of active faith I have seen are by our most elderly sisters in Christ.  I remember one who continued to teach Cradle Roll, getting down on the floor even when her knees were arthritic.  Another took the time to teach the young girls how to bake unleavened bread and in the process conveyed the importance of the Lord’s Supper.  Yet another would call members of her Life Group, providing updates on the sick, requesting various needs in food, and simply encouraging the lonely.  Age was not a hindrance to serve.

In summary, there are endless ways to exemplify an active faith, demonstrate Christ in our life, and bring glory to our Heavenly Father.  Good works which God has prepared for us are waiting.  Just as in Matthew 25:23, we yearn to hear Jesus say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Dave is a former elder at the Long Creek Church of Christ in Columbia, SC. He is a retired physician who started his career in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

 

 

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Editorial: The Solution To Our Troubling Times (October, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

I write this editorial the week after the shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, Tennessee.  Last Sunday afternoon, I had gone to Wal-Mart after worship services to get my daughter a birthday cake for a birthday party we were having for her at church that night.  As I was standing in the checkout line, my smart phone lit up with a notification from Fox News that there was a church shooting.  As was the case when my phone notified me of the shooting that took place in 2015 at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, my first prayer was for the safety and health of all within that place of worship, followed by a prayer that this church was not a church of Christ and that my brothers and sisters in Christ were not the ones suffering through this tragedy.  Sadly, when I then opened up the notification to read the news story I discovered that it was in fact a church of Christ who was the victim of this particular atrocity.  Since then, my heart both rejoiced to learn that most of those wounded have stabilized and sank with sorrow at the news of the death of a single mother of two, Melanie Crow Smith, as well as the news of the critical condition of the minister of that congregation, Joey Spann, who was wounded in the chest and hand after shouting for everyone to run.  (I’ve since heard that he seems to be improving, for which I and others are thankful to God.)

This shooting is just the latest of a long line of tragedies and divisive actions which make the times in which we live very troubling indeed.  In the past decade alone, in addition to the shootings at Burnette Chapel last Sunday and the church in Charleston in 2015 we can recall the movie theater shooting in Colorado; the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut; the Washington Navy Yard massacre; the tragedy at Virginia Tech; the shooting in Arizona which killed a little girl and wounded others, including a congresswoman; the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin; the bloodshed at San Bernardino, California; the slayings at the Orlando night club last year; the tragedy in Dallas which also occurred last year and Charlottesville this year; many more incidents of violence could be cited.

There also seems to be much division and animosity drawn along lines of race and ethnicity in our society today.  The president of Lipscomb University recently made national news after inviting minority students to his home to discuss their experience at the university.  After hosting Hispanic students in his home and serving them tacos, he then invited African-American students to his home the following night and served them traditional “southern comfort” food such as collard greens and corn bread at a table decorated with a cotton stalk centerpiece.  The students were offended, some of them taking to social media to air their grievances after trying to express them to the president, Randy Lowry, who later publicly apologized for insensitivity.  This controversy took place days before the aforementioned Burnette Chapel shooting in which a black gunman of Sudanese background opened fire on an assembly of Christians of different races, causing some pundits and commentators to wonder if racism played a factor in the shooting as it had clearly done in the similar incident in Charleston in which a white gunman had opened fire on a predominately black congregation.  Also taking place on the same day as Burnette Chapel was another controversy in which National Football League athletes and coaches knelt instead of standing during the singing of the National Anthem.  This controversy had its roots last year in the actions of a quarterback who had knelt during the Anthem in protest to another controversy: alleged police brutality against African-Americans in recent years, something which gained and kept national attention after the protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following Michael Brown’s death and a grand jury declining to charge a police officer with wrongdoing.  Since Ferguson, more protests, riots, and incidents of proven and alleged discrimination against minorities and police officers have taken place.  Much more could be cited, but these serve to illustrate the troubles facing our country and culture these days.

It is my sincere and firm conviction that the love of God is the solution to our troubles.  As Carolina Messenger writer Lorraine Smith wrote in last month’s issue, love is “an overworked word with underfelt meaning.”  We tend to throw that word around a lot without really stopping to think about or put into practice its meaning.  Yet if both Christians and non-Christians would put the biblical meaning of God’s love into practice with all whom we come into contact, we would very readily find that love to be the solution to our troubling times.

Consider what 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 says about the love God has for us and which He desires for us to have for each other.  The passage states that love is “patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude.”  The kindness of godly love in itself would cause all acts of violence such as the aforementioned shootings to cease, since kindness demands that we would all treat each other the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12).  Such universal adherence to the kindly conduct prescribed by the Golden Rule would also exterminate all racism, bigotry, and discrimination.  Applying the other tenets of godly love would only further solve the division amongst us if they were universally applied.

What if the patience, kindness, humility, and respect of godly love had been in place by all from the very beginning with the Lipscomb controversy?  Much if not all of the contention would have been avoided if both sides had shown patience with each other from the beginning.  From what has been reported, President Lowry by his own admission initially dismissed the students’ expressed concern about the cotton centerpiece, something for which he later acknowledged as wrong and apologized.  In turn, some of the students showed little patience with his dismissiveness, instead taking to social media to complain about it.  Having read their posts  and similar posts about the controversy, including the subsequent comments of many from all sides, much of which were extremely profane and insulting to all parties involved, it is clear that such unkind, boastful, arrogant, and rude communication only exacerbated the problem and resulted in even more division.  The patience and kindness of godly love, if shown from the beginning in love’s humility and civility by not only all initially involved but also by all who have since made observations, would have gone a long way towards solving the problem.

The Bible also says that godly love “does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful.”  Imagine if all sides of the National Anthem controversy put these tenets into practice.  What would happen if everyone who attended a football game and saw an athlete kneel instead of stand attentively during the National Anthem decided to NOT resent it or be irritated by it?  What if the athlete who considers kneeling in protest saw the uproar resulting from others doing it and, rather than insisting on doing what he wanted to do above all, decided to put others’ interests above his own (Phil. 2:3-4) and protest in a way less controversial?  Would a solution to the problem be more easily attainable?  Probably.

The passage goes on to say that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”  It seems to me that with every allegation of police wrongdoing and racism in recent years, there are many who do not care about first finding out whether the police officer in question is in fact guilty of the discrimination and bigotry of which he is charged.  Many assumptions of guilt are made, often based on appearance and in many cases not even that.  Such lack of concern about obtaining the truth only more intensely fans the flames of the chaotic anarchy of the riots plaguing our society in recent years.  These tumults in turn result in more “rejoic(ing) in wrongdoing,” as many take advantage of the strife to loot, assault, and rape.  Would the riots and protests that were the catalysts to even more criminal activity and loss of life and property have taken place if everyone in our society refused to “judge according to appearance,” but instead decided to “judge with right judgment” (John 7:24)?  How much better would our society be if everyone cared solely about punishing only those found beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law to be guilty of bigotry and criminal conduct, and rejoiced that the truth was found and upheld when such was done?

God’s Word ends its discourse on godly love by saying that love “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  We all let each other down, disappoint each other, and hurt each other because we are all human and fallible.  What would happen if we all chose to bear with each other in all things, basically putting up with each other?  What if we all gave each other the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically assuming the worst about each other?  What if we all genuinely hoped for the best for each other and were all willing to endure each other’s mistakes and follies while actively working with each other to make our positive hopes for each other a reality?  How much better would our culture be?

Am I being naïve?  If I think that everyone will have God’s love for each other, of course (Matt. 7:13-14).  Yet, more people can be like this than we might think, Christians.  It depends on each of us to make it happen.  You see, only those who truly put the will of the Christian God first in their lives, continually striving to penitently grow in God’s love in every area of their hearts, with come to show God’s love to every person they see.  Yet that will never happen unless you — each of you — brings the gospel to them and lives it in front of them (Matt. 28:19-20).

Robert Engle, the Burnette Chapel usher who stopped the gunman last Sunday, refused to be called a hero, ascribing that honor to others and calling on everyone to pray not only for the victims but even for the shooter and his family.  That’s godly love.  Imagine if more were like that.            — Jon

 

 

 

Centurions In The New Testament — Dave Redmond

Our brotherhood is composed of many active and former military service members, frequently living in locations away from their original home.  There is therefore interest, and possible empathy, concerning the Roman centurions who are recorded in New Testament scripture.

The centurion was not the equivalent of just any Roman soldier.  In today’s military, he would be among the middle to upper officer ranks, major to brigadier general, or among the highest enlisted ranks.  The name implies that he would be in charge of 100 men, but this could be 80 to several hundred.  Some achieved this status after first serving in the Legion, or soldierly class, while others were appointed.  It was an honor to be selected, and these are some of the qualifications:  centurions had to be literate, to read orders, to have letters of recommendation, to be at least 30 years old, and to have former military service.  The Roman writer Vegetius describes them as men chosen for their size, strength and dexterity; they were to be vigilant, temperate, active and “readier to execute the orders he receives than to talk,” strict in exercising and keeping up proper discipline among his soldiers.

The word centurion appears 20 times in the New Testament, sparsely among the synoptic gospels and more prolifically in the book of Acts. We will focus upon three very instructive accounts, and then note two other examples.

Our first example occurs during Christ’s ministry (Matt. 8:5-13; Luke 7:2-10).  Knowing Jesus’ reputation as a healer, a centurion approached and pleaded with Him concerning his servant who was paralyzed and “dreadfully tormented.”  In Luke’s account, the centurion’s servant was described as “dear to him” and “sock and ready to die.”  He also recorded that elders of the Jews begged earnestly on the centurion’s behalf, noting that “he loves our nation, and has built us a synagogue.”  Here we receive a glimpse of the character and reputation of this centurion.  While Jesus readily offered to “come and heal him,” the centurion demonstrated humility and faith when, according to Matthew, he replied to Jesus, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”  He recognized Jesus’ absolute authority and compared it to his own.  “For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me.  And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”  Jesus marveled at his answer, and credited this Gentle with “such great faith…not found even in Israel.”  He commanded the centurion, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.”  As a man ready to obey orders, the centurion obeyed Jesus.  The timing is noteworthy, as Matthew records that his servant was healed “that same hour”!  This centurion’s life reflected a love for his fellow man, as evidenced by the building of a synagogue and seeking help for his dying servant.  He recognized the power and authority of Christ, and through an obedient faith his servant was healed.

Our second centurion is recorded near the time of Jesus’ death.  It is with profound sadness that we recall the suffering of our Savior.  Before the crucifixion, Roman soldiers (not recorded as centurions) humiliated Jesus, stripping His clothes, putting on a scarlet robe, placing a crown of thorns and a reed in His right hand, mocking Him, spitting upon Him, and leading Him to be crucified (Matt. 27:27-31).  While we do not condone any of their actions, we understand that Jesus was delivered to be crucified by the governor, Pilate (Mark 15:15).  Their actions fulfilled prophecy, according to God’s will.  Afterwards, it was a centurion, and apparently his men, who were trusted to guard Jesus (Matt. 27:54).  After witnessing the earthquake and the things which had happened, they “feared greatly,” saying, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” (cf. Mark 15:39).  Mark also records that Pilate inquired of the centurion whether Jesus had been dead for some time, facilitating transfer of the body to Joseph of Arimathea for burial (Mark 15:44-45).  Luke emphasizes that the centurion “glorified God” in his pronouncement, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (Luke 23:47).  In each of these accounts, it was the centurion who was chosen to guard Jesus, and because of his “vigilance and temperance,” these honest observations lend credibility to the truth of the crucifixion and the surrounding events.  Vegetius described centurions as men “readier to receive orders than to talk.”  Fittingly, the short but powerful pronouncement of this centurion has echoed through time.

Our next example, Cornelius, is one of two centurions whose name is recorded in Scripture.  Acts 10 reveals the character and actions of this obedient Gentile.  In the first verse, we find that Cornelius was devout, God-fearing, and an example to his household.  He was generous to all around him and always prayerful to God.  Although not yet a Christian, his prayers and charity were recognized by God.  After seeing clearly in a vision from an angel of God, he humbly asked, “What is it, Lord?”  Then the angel indicated that there was something that Cornelius must do, and that this would be explained by Peter.  Instead of questioning the angel, or going about his daily business, Cornelius immediately obeyed and sent men to bring Peter (vs. 1, 3-4, 5-8, 33).

In anticipation of Peter’s arrival, Cornelius invited his friends and close relatives to come and hear.  Cornelius received Peter with humility and a mistaken desire to worship God’s servant, falling down at his feet.  Recognizing the Lord’s holy presence, the centurion and his household listened intently to the words commanded by God through Peter (vs. 24-25, 33).

Also through a vision, Peter had been prepared to preach to Cornelius and his audience.  “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.  But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.”  Peter preached the preparation for Christ by John the Baptizer and proclaimed Christ: His divinity, ministry, death and resurrection, and the remission of sins through faith (vs. 34-43).

In verse 44, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon those Gentiles who heard the Word.  Peter and the Jews with him were astonished as they heard Cornelius and his company magnify God.  They readily understood that salvation was now available to the Gentiles.  They must have recalled and reflected upon the events of Peter’s first gospel message on the day of Pentecost, as the apostles were also filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2).  Just as on Pentecost, Cornelius and his party were commanded to receive water baptism in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47-48).

The account of Cornelius, a devout centurion, was central to the understanding that the gospel is for all people of all nations.  It was a fulfillment of the promise made to Abram centuries earlier, “In your seed all nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 26:4), and “that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:14).

There are other citations which also lend credence to the character of centurions.  In Acts 22:25, Paul inquired of a nearby centurion, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman, and uncondemned?”  Paul knew his Roman citizenship conveyed protections, and that the centurion would be able to intervene as he did.  He told his commander, “Take care what you do, for this man is a Roman citizen.”  In Acts 23 and 24, centurions delivered Paul safely to the governor, Felix, and then guarded him under house arrest.  Later in Acts 27, Paul started his final voyage to Rome.  Julius, another centurion, was responsible for Paul and the other prisoners.  Along their journey, they stopped in Sidon, where Julius permitted Paul to visit his friends who might provide for his needs (vs. 1, 3).  Later in this account when the storm arose, Julius prevented the crew from escaping in the lifeboat.  After the shipwreck, Julius again intervened to prevent the soldiers from killing Paul and the other prisoners (vs. 11, 31-32, 42-43).  As Paul’s ministry was drawing to a close, we see that centurions played  vital roles in his protection.  These men acted decisively, with discretion and great courage.

In conclusion, we see that God worked through each of these centurions: one, as an example of great faith during Jesus’ ministry; another, to boldly proclaim that Jesus is the Son of God; still others for the protection of Paul.  Most importantly to us as Gentiles, Cornelius was called upon to help fulfill the promise that through Abram all nations would be blessed.

These centurions, though not perfect men, were chosen by God to accomplish His perfect will.

Dave is a former elder at the Long Creek Church of Christ in Columbia, SC.  He is a retired physician who started his career in the U.S. Army Medical Corps.

 

Learning From Nadab and Abihu — Travis Main

Numbers 3:4 states, “And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire before the Lord…”  The topic of our examination appears from this verse: Nadab and Abihu.  They died in the presence of, in the face of, or before the Lord.  The occasion involved an offering and the offering was strange.  The Hebrew term for strange means, “foreign, estranged, loathsome, or profane.”  What brought Nadab and Abihu to the presence of the Lord?  They had brought fire before the Lord for the purpose of worship.

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therin, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.  And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.  Then Moses said unto Aaron, ‘This is it that the Lord spake, saying, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:1-3).

This passage makes it clear God did not command the fire Nadab and Abihu offered.  God never suggested, requested, or authorized it.  Thus, Moses describes the fire as profane or loathsome.  Of great importance is the fact that the passage states Nadab and Abihu did not die from an accident with the fire.  They died when God purposely sent fire to devour them.  Moses provided the reason God acted in such a fashion to destroy Nadab and Abihu.  When individuals go before God, He requires glorification and sanctification.  Sanctification means treating something as set apart or holy.  Glorification means to make honorable.  Nadab and Abihu dishonored God with their behavior.

The issues presented by their actions for examination revolve around mankind’s treatment of God, the importance of God’s commands, and the intentions of mankind.

“Be ye holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16)

The concept of sanctification and holiness relates to more than purity or being without sin.  God first used the term holy in Exodus 3:5 when He called a certain ground holy.  Ordinary and common cannot describe holy.  Approaching holiness requires reverence.  Reverence sees holiness and treats it with respect, humility, and even fear.  Fear closely draws to its side the knowledge that the individual cannot be equal to, but rather stands lacking in cleanness, stature, or quality to that which is holy.  Nadab and Abihu failed in this respect.  They approached their Creator in a manner which did not revere Him.  Their approach to worship treated God as nothing more than common.

Consider this.  If the sanctification and glorification of God stands so critical that the consequence of its absence meant death, how ought mankind approach God today?  Does the phrase casual worship service seem inappropriate?  Perhaps consider the irreverence of checking and sending texts and e-mail during worship.  If Moses approached the holy ground in his sandals toting along snacks and sipping on a latte or soda, would God have shown pleasure?

God does not stand on equal footing with a movie, picnic, or other common event.  Being in the presence of God is not a come-as-you-are event.  God is holy!  Nadab and Abihu failed to treat Him so.  We should draw from their example and not behave in the same fashion.

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

The wind and the sea obey God.  Unclean spirits obey Him.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were punished.  The world disobeyed God and were destroyed, save eight souls.  Sodom and Gomorrah disobeyed God and God destroyed them.  Israel disobeyed God and He punished them in many ways from diseases, to wandering in the wilderness, to captivity, even to death itself.  Uzzah, like Nadab and Abihu, lost his life disobeying the commands of God.  Paul chastised the apostle Peter and the Galatian Christians for failing to obey the commands of God.  2 Thessalonians 1:8 declares destruction on those who do not obey God, while Jesus stands as the author of salvation to those who do obey Him (Heb. 5:9).  Why would anyone disobey God willingly?  Yet, this is exactly what Nadab and Abihu did.

Many people today despise following God’s commands, even some within religious bodies bearing His name.  They feel as if God provided His commandments as mere suggestions, used as guidelines, bendable depending on the situation.  Those who desire to follow God’s Word as it was given actively find themselves victims of mockery and shaming by others.  A favorite and misused term which others apply to them is legalist.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines legalism as “strict adherence to the law.”  This sounds exactly like what God desires throughout the entire Bible.  When they stood before the Sanhedrin, the apostles declared obedience to God rather than to men.  Why would they do so if obedience to commands was subjective?

Now, one might quote Matthew 9:13, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, ’I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I am come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Upon reading, they would declare that God never desired exact obedience.  Yet, all Scripture shows He most definitely did desire obedience.  Contextually, Christ identified that one aspect of the law cannot be dropped and that individual still be pleasing to God.  One cannot worship without spirit and truth.  If a person goes through the motions of obedience in physical acts, but not obedience to a pure and holy spiritual nature, the physical acts presented to God result in God’s dissatisfaction.  He will not desire the sacrifice!

In view of Nadab and Abihu, they presented worship to God.  One might think that God would be thrilled with the “spiritual” demonstration of these individual’s hearts.  Yet, He rejected their worship because it failed to follow His commands.  In so doing, Nadab and Abihu demonstrated disdain in their worship rather than love for God.  They disobeyed and treated God in a profane manner.  Paul declared in his letter to Rome, “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).  Learn from Nadab and Abihu’s example of disobedience.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  (James 2:20)

Grease fires break out while cooking on occasion.  Good, well-intentioned individuals frequently take action to attempt to put out the fire with water.  This can result in the fire spreading further because “water and oil don’t mix.”  Good intentions do not by themselves result in God’s pleasure.

Nadab and Abihu worshiped God.  Worship indicates a desire to please.  Yet, they attempted to present worship on their terms.  They presented as Can did, who when presenting his offering to the Lord did not do so in faith.  The so-called faith of those who present worship to God is dead if the works are guided by intention and not truth.  God will be treated as holy and will be obeyed.  No matter of intent (again, see Uzzah) will cause God to smile on a worshipful action not requested.

God declared through the apostle Paul that preaching saves.  Jesus commanded the proclamation of the gospel to all creation.  Yet, men in their good intentions decided to present God’s truths through acting and drama rather than proclamation. God declared that man sing as one body to Him in worship.  Yet, the intentions of man to worship in song resulted in playing instruments, choral groups, and praise teams with handclapping rather than what God commanded.  Will God be glorified with such behavior?  Will He be sanctified when His commandments are ignored?  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His life, death and resurrection.  The first-century church partook of this on the first day of the week.  Paul exhorted the Corinthians to take it properly and not treat it as a common meal.  Yet, through the intentions of man the Lord’s Supper is not taken every first day of the week in many places.  It is taken yearly, quarterly, monthly, or on special occasion.  In many places the Supper is offered with leavened break, water, or in the midst of a meal.  Is the intention worship?  These behaviors result in will worship condemned by Paul (Col. 2:23).  If Nadab and Abihu, guided by good intentions to worship God, could not worship Him in a pleasing fashion, what makes men think they can today?

As Paul exhorted the Christian regarding the Scriptures written beforehand, man can learn from Nadab and Abihu how to properly worship God.  Christians treat God as holy.  Christians love Him by obeying His commands.  Do not follow your intentions, Christians.  Follow the truth.

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.

 

 

Job’s Miserable Comforters — Roger L. Leonard

The book of Job addresses perhaps the most difficult of life’s questions: “Why does God allow human suffering?” This article deals with Job’s three friends who tried to answer this question. Some things they said were wrong and some right…but mostly they were wrong. We must also bear in mind that God allowed Satan to bring this suffering on Job.   (Note: Only chapter and verse citations are used for Job references.)

Job’s three friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, “made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him” (2:11). When they saw him “they did not recognize him” and “they raised their voices and wept” (2:12). They sat with Job for seven days in silence (v. 13), which they eventually broke by launching into an oratory on Job’s problems. Becoming weary of their unhelpful counseling, Job eventually said, “You are miserable comforters, all of you!” (16:2) In the end they were condemned by God (Job 42:7-9).

But did they get everything wrong? They got a few things right.  Job’s friends were helpful in at least three ways (2:11-13): 1) They came to him when he was suffering. 2) They had empathy; “they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads” (v. 12). 3) They were with him in silence for seven days (v. 13).

However, they finally broke their silence.  In chapters 4 through 25, we read a series of speeches with many false notions, primarily concerning why God allows suffering.  To them, Job’s suffering was because he had sinned.  So they insisted that he confess and repent so that God would bless him again.

Eliphaz

Eliphaz the Temanite is introduced in the first verse of chapter 2.  He is one of Job’s would-be comforters.  However, all three failed in their attempt to comfort their suffering friend.  Their sympathy shown in verses 12-13 of chapter 2 was replaced by accusations, false theology, and challenging Job’s character.

After Job’s complaints (3), Eliphaz speaks first (4-5) with a thesis of the innocent prospering.  In other words, Job was obviously not prospering because he must have done something wrong.

In response, Job declared his innocence. Then in a second speech Eliphaz asserts that Job does not fear God (15).. If Job feared God, he reasons, he would not face such suffering. Job responds that his friends are “miserable comforters” (16:2).

Eliphaz’s third speech is recorded in chapter 22. This time, he says, “Is not your wickedness great, and your iniquities without end?” (22:5). He enumerates Job’s supposed sins (vs. 6–9). From his perspective, God would only allow great evil to befall someone who had done something very bad. Job replies by asking for God to intervene on his behalf (23).

God intervenes and rebukes Job’s friends: “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has” (42:7). These men are required to offer burnt offerings, and Job prays on their behalf. In the end, Job’s fortunes are restored (doubled), and he is blessed with new children in place of those whom the devil had taken.

Eliphaz exemplifies the world’s wisdom to suffering. To him that suffering was the consequence of sin and worthy of punishment by God.  He was wrong. Job’s life is a clear example of how the innocent sometimes suffer. God can allow suffering to strengthen a believer’s spirit and to change the lives of others for His glory.

Bildad

Bildad the Shuhite is first seen as one of three friends who come to comfort Job (2:11). He, Eliphaz and Zophar visit Job after hearing of the calamities that had befallen him. Bildad cannot believe Job’s horrific condition. He mourns silently with him for seven days (2:12-13).

Bildad is the second of Job’s friends to speak. In chapter 8, he suggests that Job’s children got what they deserved (v. 3). And of Job he said: “If you would seek and implore the compassion of the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, Surely now He would rouse himself for you and restore your righteous place” (8:5-6). The implication is that Job is not pure and upright and that material prosperity is directly linked to righteous behavior. Job responds in chapter 9, desiring to plead his case before God and lamenting the fact that there is no one to intervene for him.

Bildad’s second speech focuses on the theme that God punishes the wicked (18). His logic is that Job must have done something wrong since he is being punished.   In chapter 19 Job responds by saying: “How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” (v. 2). He also asks for his friends’ pity (v. 21) and declares that his God is alive and knows all things. God would be the one to judge him fairly, and Job trusts in Him (vs. 25–27).

Bildad‘s third speech focuses on the idea that a person cannot be righteous before God (25).  He says, “How then can man be just with God?  Or how can he be clean who is born of woman?” (v. 4)   Job answers in chapter 26, sarcastically arguing that God alone knows all things and fully understands the situation.

As noted above (42:7), Bildad and his two friends are rebuked by the Lord.  Job’s three friends then obey the Lord’s command to offer burnt offerings (42:8-9), “and the Lord accepted them.”

Job’s friends’ speeches exemplify how people often view suffering from a human perspective, assuming that suffering is always the result of personal sin.  In the end, these friends learn that God had allowed Job to suffer as part of His divine plan and that Job was not at fault for his trials.

Zophar

Zophar the Naamathite is first mentioned as the third friend who came to comfort Job (2:11).  The verses following show their response to his distress:  “When they lifted up their eyes at a distance and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept.  And each of them tore his robe and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky.  Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (vs. 12-13).

Zophar’s speech begins in chapter 11. Giving the strongest of the three initial speeches, he stated, “Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves” (v. 6). Job responds in chapter 12 that the Lord brought this suffering upon him, and in chapter 13 maintains his innocence: “…I know I will be vindicated” (v. 18).

Zophar’s second speech states, “The increase of his house will depart; his possessions will flow away in the day of His anger.  This is the wicked man’s portion from God, even the heritage decreed to him by God” (20:28-29).  In chapter 21, Job says of the wicked:  “They spend their days in prosperity, and suddenly they go down to Sheol” (v. 13).  Job was suffering and yet had done no wrong, while others who did evil lived “…safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them” (v. 9).  This was why Zophar’s assessment of Job’s condition was in error.

Following Job’s long defense after Bildad’s third speech, a fourth man, Elihu, speaks up.  His two concerns are expressed thus:  “But the anger of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram burned against Job; his anger burned because he justified himself before God.  And his anger burned against his three friends because they had found no answer, and yet had condemned Job” (32:2-3).

In the end, God rebuked all three.  “My anger burns against you…for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (42:7).  Yet all three repented and offered sacrifices to God (42:9).

Zophar and his friends exemplify how suffering is often viewed from a human perspective.  While it is true that those who do wrong often suffer, God also allows suffering for reasons often unknown to us.  Instead of assuming all suffering is due to our wrongdoing, we should joyfully endure trials, pray in faith for wisdom, and consider God’s compassion (Ja. 1:2-8; 5:11).

Job erred in professing his righteousness (42:1-6), yet his trials and suffering were not caused by his behavior.  God used them as a lesson on His sovereignty in the end, blessing Job with twice as much as he had before (42:10).

What can we learn from the errors of Job’s friends?  We should not assume that troubles are due to personal sin (cf. John 9:1-3).  Instead of telling a hurting person to confess wrong and repent (especially when we do not know why they are hurting), we can encourage them to faithfully endure.  God always knows their pain and He has a purpose in allowing it.

What good might we learn from Job’s friends?  When a friend is hurting, go to them and cry with them, spending time together.  Our presence is powerful, even if we don’t know the words to say.

People do not need our surmising as much as they need our sympathy.  The apostle Paul wrote:  “Mourn with those who mourn” (Rom. 12:15).  Let us do our best not to be “miserable comforters.”

Roger and his wife Alisa live in Valdosta, GA.  He graduated from Lipscomb University in 1988 and the Nashville School of Preaching in 1992.  He preaches for the Adel Church of Christ in Adel, GA.

 

 

 

Second Realized Eschatology Debate Recap — David W. Hester

Carolina Messenger

Editor’s Note:  The October, 2016 issue of the Carolina Messenger featured an article written by Dr. Hester in which he shared his thoughts and perspectives about a debate he had participated in with Don Preston in Ardmore, Oklahoma concerning the doctrine of realized eschatology.  Since then, Dr. Hester and Mr. Preston have conducted a second debate over this erroneous doctrine and Dr. Hester has agreed to share his thoughts on this debate with us again.  This misguided doctrine, also known as the “AD 70 Doctrine” or “AD 70 Theory” among other designations, has slowly gained a degree of prevalence in the brotherhood in recent years and needs to be scripturally refuted.  We appreciate the efforts of Dr. Hester and others to show from the entirety of God’s Word the numerous errors and contradictions found within this theory.

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The second debate between myself and Don K. Preston took place June…

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Editorial: Discouragement – Satan’s Greatest Weapon (September, 2017) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

Discouragement.  A tool Satan can use so much more easily than many of the others in his arsenal.  It sits off to the side, looking harmless, assumed to be nothing more than a normal part of life.  How little we realize that with discouragement Satan can open doors in our hearts and minds which are so tightly locked up against his other tools…and once he’s inside our hearts and minds via his key of discouragement, he can use any other tool he wants.

God’s Word records many sad accounts of followers of God who lost heart and gave up.  When Moses sent the spies into the Promised Land, all but Caleb and Joshua came back with discouraging news.  The fearful saw the size and strength of their opponents rather then remembering the size and strength of their God (Num. 13-14).  Elijah  did great things for God which resulted in the conversion of thousands of Israelites (1 Kings 18:1-40; 19:18).  Yet, he had become so discouraged when Jezebel threatened his life that he deceived himself into thinking he was the only servant of God left (1 Kings 19:1-18).  After Peter promised that he’d never leave Jesus’ side, he ran with the rest when the Lord was arrested and a few minutes later became so afraid that he denied even knowing Christ (Matt. 26:31-75).  He did so because he was discouraged after seeing the apparent lost cause his Lord’s ways had become upon His arrest.

We become discouraged when we make the same mistake that these folks made and start paying more attention to the obstacles than the opportunities.  We become discouraged when we start believing Satan, “the father of lies” (John 8:44), instead of the Father “who cannot lie” (Tit. 1:2).  What has the God who cannot lie promised us?  He has promised us that our work is not meaningless, so be steadfast and immovable (1 Cor. 15:58).  He has promised us that our trials and hardships make us stronger if we allow them (Jas. 1:2-4; Rom. 5:3-5).  He has promised us that the hardships we endure seem painful now, but they cause us to become more righteous later if we allow ourselves to be trained by them (Heb. 12:1-11).  Do we believe His promises?  Do we?  Our actions always prove how strong our faith really is (Jas. 2:14-26).

God can do great things with a heart which is His and a mind which believes it.  Joshua and Caleb, the two spies who refused to be discouraged, went on to do great things for God and His people for years afterward.  Elijah recovered from his discouragement and went on serving God, resulting in being brought directly into heaven rather than being allowed to die.  Fifty days after a discouraged Peter denied Christ, he converted thousands of people through courageous preaching.  All of these men faced what they thought were impossible situations, seeing no light at the end of the tunnel and no hope whatsoever…but it turns out they were wrong.  Why?  Because they forgot that God was with them (Phil. 4:13).  Once they remembered that, look at the heights to which they climbed!

What heights can you reach with God’s help?  What can God do with you?  Does He have your heart and mind, or is Satan having his way with you?  Remember James 4:7 and Hebrews 12:12-13, dear friends.  Don’t let Satan discourage you!       — Jon