Tag Archives: Adam Carlson

“You’re A Bunch of Legalists!” — Adam Carlson

Merriam-Webster defines legalism as “strict, literal, or excessive conformity to the law or to a religious or moral code.” In the religious world, especially among those who advocate a “seeker friendly” approach, the term legalist is hurled at anyone who expresses concern for biblical authority in religious matters. Sadly, this is sometimes done by some of our own. In this article, we’ll strive to see what the Scriptures say regarding this matter.

Example of actual legalism. In Acts 15 we’re introduced to Jewish converts who were seeking to bind circumcision on their Gentile brethren as a condition of salvation (15:1, 5). The apostles understood this wasn’t proper and thus only instructed them to maintain moral lives (vs. 19-20, 29). Paul further expounded on this (Gal. 5:2-3, 6). We must be careful to “not go beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). When we impose personal convictions as doctrine, it does nothing but create a stumbling block (Rom. 14:13).

Misrepresenting Jesus. In discussions where the charge of “legalism” is hurled, it’s common to appeal to our Lord’s public exposé of the scribes and Pharisees in an effort to loosen what they had bound (Matt. 23). He had good reason for the words He spoke to them. They were hypocritical (Matt. 6:2, 5, 16; 15:7; Lk. 13:15) and self-righteous (Lk. 18:9), among other things. Yet He never condemned them for adhering to Mosaic law and even told the people to do what they said (Matt. 23:2-3). Instead, He condemned them for not doing what they told others to do.

Not under law. Proponents of the “seeker friendly” approach will take Paul’s words in Romans 6:14-15 to argue that emphasis on doctrine doesn’t matter. Paul wrote, “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!” (emp. added). In the context of this section, Paul was arguing that God’s grace isn’t a license to sin; rather grace, when properly understood, grants access to forgiveness. He most certainly didn’t say doctrine doesn’t matter because he would have been contradicting himself (Rom. 16:17; 1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; Tit. 2:1).

Unchanging standard. From the dimensions of the ark to the dimensions of the tabernacle, God has always specified what He wants. To emphasize and practice what God desires of us isn’t legalistic but rather shows respect to Him by adhering to His instructions (Heb. 8:5). Furthermore, our Savior told His disciples that He has “all authority” (Matt. 28:18). He doesn’t change (Heb. 13:8). Those under the guise of standing against “legalism” who undermine our Lord’s authority are like the false teachers described by Peter and Jude. Peter wrote, “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bring upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1, emp. added). Jude likewise wrote, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4, emp. added).

False accusations. When scriptural authority is emphasized and charges of “legalism” are made, we’ll be called “divisive.” Elijah was met with this by the mouth of Ahab (1 Kings 18:17). Amos likewise was charged falsely by the corrupt Amaziah (Amos 7:10). One who is sincerely concerned for God’s Word is neither divisive nor legalistic. They seek to do God’s will.

Strive for balance. As Joshua was preparing to lead Israel across the Jordan after Moses’ death, he was instructed, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to that which Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7, emp. added). Some have gone too far in some things, yet the actions of others give no license to loosen what God has settled (Ps. 119:89). Extremes should be avoided.

A word of caution. It is certainly true that we must adhere to what has been commanded. Yet we must not deceive ourselves into thinking that we are acceptable to God merely because we obey the actions He prescribed. The Ephesian church was what we would consider to be sound. After all, they took a firm stance against false teachers (Rev. 2:2). Yet, they had left their “first love” and were told to repent (vs. 4-5). We can emphasize doctrine and proper worship (and we must)……but we can’t reasonably expect God to be pleased if we abandon Christ and lose our love (1 Cor. 13).

I hope these thoughts will be of benefit to you and that you’ll find it both encouraging and challenging as you seek to grow in His grace and knowledge (2 Pet. 3:18).

Adam preaches for the Midwest congregation in Ferguson, MO.

Soul-Winning For Jesus: Teaching About Baptism — Adam Carlson

Among the most common obstacles a Christian may encounter when sharing the gospel is objection to or misunderstanding about the role and purpose of baptism. Some teach baptism for the dead, others teach baptism by the Holy Spirit while others teach that faith and/or grace alone saves us with nothing being required by us. The purpose of this article to briefly discuss some questions we may ask when we’re met with this obstacle so we can effectively be about our Father’s business (Luke 2:49) and follow the example of the first century church: “And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus” (Acts 5:42).

As will be seen in the discussion, teaching Jesus is to teach baptism (Acts 8:35-36). Questions must be asked if we are going to effectively teach the gospel to the world (Luke 2:46). After these questions we will look at some tips which may help in these discussions as well.

What is your religious background? It is imperative to not make assumptions about what one believes. Thus, we must listen rather than argue (Prov.18:2). Phillip did this when he first encountered the eunuch. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35, emp. mine). In this section it can be ascertained that this man, like many among us today, was confused about the Scriptures. He needed teaching about the interpretation of Isaiah 53 (vs 30-33). It was at that point that he began to be taught and understood the need to be baptized (vs. 35-38).

Do you understand what you are reading? While this is the exact question Phillip asked it is still a pertinent one. When the Jews began to return to Jerusalem post-captivity, helping others gain a proper understanding of God’s word was needed. “Also Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, the Levites, helped the people to understand the Law, while the people remained in their places. They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading (Neh. 8:7-8, emp. mine). As disciples of Jesus we must remember it is our responsibility to make sure the hearer understands what we’re teaching.

What is your understanding of baptism? An important component of listening is seeing what one may believe regarding an issue as previously stated. When this question is posed you’ll likely get an array of answers, including but not limited to the notions that baptism plays no role in obtaining salvation, it’s a “sign” to show you’re already saved, etc. Again, with God’s Word as our guide we may direct one to show that it is a burial (Rom. 6:4), an inward circumcision (Col. 2:11-12), and the means by which one is cleansed (1 Pet. 3:21).

Why were you baptized? It must be understood that not all religious groups deny baptism. Thus it is not uncommon to encounter someone who will state they have been baptized previously. However, it may be that they did so believing they were saved prior to their baptism, they may affirm they were baptized by the Holy Spirit after a time of prayer, or a host of other unscriptural reasons may be given. At this juncture the one teaching must gently and humbly direct them to the scriptures (2 Tim. 2:24-26) and show there are no examples of anyone being saved prior to baptism. Saul was told by the Lord to receive further instruction (Acts 9:6), nor was he saved after three days of earnest prayer (9:9); rather, he was saved after he was taught about baptism and obeyed, which led to his conversion (9:18; 22:16).

Why do you tarry? This is another question taken from Scripture (Acts 22:16). Assuming the one with whom you’re studying is still hesitant, this question will need to be asked for various reasons. Some have difficulty accepting a loved one such as a beloved grandparent dying in a lost state. Like the five brothers of the rich man, we also have God’s Word (Luke 16:28-31). When one raises this objection we should lead them to consider what their loved one might say if they could communicate with them. Others may fear the severance of familial relations with those still living as the Lord foretold the disciples would happen (Matt. 10:36). It would be good to emphasize that family is not defined by DNA or genetics. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” (Matt. 12:50) Inform them they will have support (Gal. 6:2). Sadly, others may prefer the temporary, sensual pleasures of the flesh (1 Pet. 4:3). Lastly, there are also those who haven’t counted the cost (Lk. 14:25-33).

Additional Pointers

Asking questions is a great way to teach. However, some other things should be taken into consideration.

Diversity of backgrounds. Just as our culture is diverse, the culture of the first century was also diverse. This should be considered when teaching the gospel. In the first century, one preached to Jews and Gentiles. When preaching to the Jews, appealing to the Old Testament writings would be common (Acts 2:17-21, 25-28, 34-35; 17:1-2). When addressing Gentile audiences, we see an appeal to their intellect and established beliefs (Acts 14:12-17; 17:22-32). While the Scriptures are our standard, it needs to be understood that an agnostic or atheist isn’t likely to be persuaded by the Bible itself. Rather, they must first be convinced of its truth. This by no means advocates for compromise or watering down the message, but rather to show that we need to be adaptable (1 Cor. 9:19-23).

Maintain a proper attitude. Affirming the necessity of immersion for forgiveness of sins is sometimes a contentious subject. Like Naaman when he was instructed to dip in the Jordan River, some may become “wroth” (2 Kings 5:11). When someone is antagonistic it can be easy for us to succumb to anger. Yet we must remember what Solomon told us: “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). We must teach in love (Eph. 4:15) and contend for the faith rather than be contentious (Jude 3). Is it more important to us to win an argument than win a soul?

Remember not everyone will submit immediately. When studying the Scriptures with others, there will be those like the prison warden in Philippi who will respond immediately (Acts 16:30-33). We should be thankful for such reactions. There will be others like those in Athens who will want to hear more (Acts 17:32). Discouragement will come with lukewarm replies. When this happens, remember it takes time (1 Cor. 3:6).

Don’t become discouraged. It’s easy to be susceptible to discouragement when someone with whom you’ve spent time and energy studying ultimately rejects the message you share with them. It must be remembered that our Lord was rejected (Is. 53:3). Out of all the people on earth in Noah’s time, it was only eight who were delivered (1 Pet. 3:20). On these occasions we must recall we are only responsible for ensuring the seed is planted (Matt. 13:3). God grows it (1 Cor. 3:6-7).


This is by no means an exhaustive list of questions. It rather serves to lay a foundation and direct us to the Word for guidance as we go about the Father’s business. It is my prayer and hope this will be of benefit to you as we proclaim the gospel message to this lost and dying world.

Adam preaches for the Midwest Church of Christ in Ferguson, MO.

The Church and the LGBT Agenda — Adam Carlson

A responsibility of the Levitical priesthood was to know the difference between the “holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean” and teach the law (Lev. 10:10-11). As Christians we likewise have a duty to make this distinction and have no part of the unclean (1 Pet. 2:11). Sadly the movement to impose homosexual practices as a normal and mainstream part of our society has made gains over the course of several years and God’s people are not immune from falling prey to Satan’s ploys (2 Cor. 11:3). This article will focus on how this movement may impact us and what we must do.


The LGBT movement has had some of its greatest successes in the area of entertainment. Sitcoms and movies commonly depict homosexuals and transgenders as tolerant, welcoming and enlightening while those who oppose are portrayed as ignorant, close-minded and intolerant of other views. Those who in reality rebel against God labeling those who boldly stand against sin as troublemakers is nothing new (1 Kings 18:17-18).

We must never take the attitude of Judah in Jeremiah’s day: “‘Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,’ says the Lord.” (Jer. 6:15; 8:12). If we aren’t vigilant, we too will fall victim to accepting all manner of sin (1 Cor. 10:12).

Ignoring The Warnings

Certain things are recorded to serve as a warning to not repeat the mistakes of the past (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11). The consequences of practicing and accepting homosexuality are no exception. Advocates of the LGBT agenda dismiss biblical teachings by arguing that passages condemning homosexuality are taken out of context.

The most common is the fall of the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen. 19:1-29). They claim Sodom’s sin was a lack of hospitality rather than homosexual practices, when in reality they were guilty of many sins (Ez. 16:49-50). When compared to the Genesis account, it is abundantly clear homosexuality was a normal part of their heathen ways. The fact that two inspired New Testament writers give their fate as a warning to Christians is not something to be taken lightly (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7). Jude wrote, “Just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Fear Of Speaking Out

Yet another area where this wicked agenda has enjoyed success is instilling fear into those who speak against it. Sadly, some have given in to the intimidation. As God’s people, rather than hide our lights (Matt. 5:15) we should have the apostolic mentality: “And now, Lord, look upon their threats and grant to your servants to continue to speak your word with all boldness” (Acts 4:29).

Children of God are not to be fearful (2 Tim. 1:7). Some fear the IRS, loss of money (Acts 16:19) or the reactions of hearers (Is. 51:7; Ez. 3:9; Matt. 15:12) more than the living God (Heb. 10:31). Brethren, we must never lose or give up our convictions out of fear but rather continue despite the efforts of Satan to water down the truth of the matter. If we do, we’re people pleasers rather than God pleasers (Gal. 1:10).

Targeting Children

Children are one of God’s greatest blessings (Ps. 127:3-5). Yet sadly, the evil tentacles of this vile agenda has reached into the minds of these precious little ones. This has been done through television and literature; now some public libraries are inviting “drag queens” (men who dress and try to look like women) to read to children. The divine imperative to teach them becomes even more crucial for Christian parents (Deut. 6:6 -9). This is not something we can be passive about because souls depend on it.

When we look at the honesty and humility of a child, it is no wonder our Lord uses them to teach us and pronounces condemnation on those who seek to harm them (Matt. 18:1-6).

Redefining Terms

In a post-modern society where truth is viewed as subjective rather than objective & absolute comes putting new terms on what in times past many knew to be sin. Sadly this mindset is permeating in the minds of many who profess to be Christians. In many pulpits, homosexuality (and other sins) is rarely addressed. When it is addressed, the sin is watered down and referred to as “alternative lifestyles.” One may change the terminology but they do so to their own detriment (2 Thess. 2:11-12). Postmodernism leads to the redefining of terms and ultimately turns the truth of God into a lie (Rom. 1:25). We must be vigilant in our efforts to remain steadfast in guarding ourselves and the bride of Christ from blemish (Eph. 5:27). If we allow the philosophies of the world to enter our midst, we are guilty of spiritual adultery like some in Thyatira who permitted immorality in the church (Rev. 2:20-23). Rather, let us be like the faithful in Thyatira and not learn “the deep things of Satan” (Rev. 2:24).

Jesus Never Addressed It

Some elements of Christendom influenced by LGBT proponents are regarding homosexual actions as okay because scripture never records Jesus explicitly condemning it. The Lord also never specifically mentions spousal abuse yet no rationally thinking person will argue that’s okay because He never spoke about it. Those who advocate for this position are like those described by Peter: “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction” (2 Pet. 2:1). Furthermore, they likewise twist scriptures (2 Pet. 3:16).

In reminding the Pharisees of God’s design for marriage Christ appeals to the creation of man (Matt. 19:3-9; Mark 10:1-9; Gen. 2:24). By showing who marriage is for it is evident that all other sexual relationships—including homosexual ones—are excluded.

What We Must Do

What can we do to ensure that even faithful brethren and entire congregations don’t succumb to the LGBT movement?

  1. Set an example by your actions (Jas. 1:27). It is easy to “amen” a sermon that admonishes us to not defile ourselves in the ways of the world, but we must put our agreement into action and live out our resolve.
  2. Be vigilant. Acceptance of sin in Christianity didn’t happen rapidly but rather over a span of time. Our Lord’s enemies are smooth (Rom. 16:18), subtle (Gal. 2:4), and ultimately empty (2 Pet. 2:17; Jude 12).
  3. Stay abreast of current events because whatever is in the world will manifest itself into the church. It is imperative that Christians be armed (Eph. 6:10-20).
  4. Remember there is “nothing new under the sun” (Eccl. 1:9). Whatever we face today has been dealt with in the past.
  5. Remember the gospel’s power. First century Corinth was a very wicked city but even there Paul proclaimed the gospel (Acts 18:8, 11). Among those who were converted there were homosexuals (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
  6. Be patient as you teach. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after having been captured by him to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:24-26, emp. mine).


There is no doubt we live in troubling times but despite this God’s people must press onward and endure so we can finish the race (Phil. 3:14; Heb. 12:1-2). Let us never fear to speak out but do so in a way that will be pleasing to God.

Adam preaches for the Midwest Church of Christ in Ferguson, MO.

Addressing Society’s Problems — Adam Carlson

Editor’s Note:  Brother Carlson’s article on recent societal problems mentions the tragedies in Dallas, TX, in July, 2016.  Since the completion and submission of his article for publication, other similar tragic events have taken place and made national news in Baton Rouge, LA, Tulsa, OK, and Charlotte, NC.  These calamities and the similar afflictions which have taken place repeatedly in recent times show the relevancy of brother Carlson’s thoughts from scripture as expressed in this article.  May we take these words to heart, and pray for our nation, the friends and families of all those tragically affected by these violent acts, and each other.


There are many sad and heavy hearts in light of the recent shooting deaths of two civilians at the hands of law enforcement and the murder of five police officers in Dallas, Texas.  When these tragedies happen there is much debate as to whether anger at law enforcement or abuse of authority by law enforcement is justified.  During these trying times, Christians must be proactive rather than reactive so we can bring about the positive change so many in the world desire.  The following six points for consideration will now be proposed so that each of us as followers of Christ may live in a godly manner in this ungodly society in which we find ourselves.  My prayer is that this may be of benefit to everyone who reads this article.

First, we must pray.  Prayer is a given…but when one finds themselves in afflictions such as the Dallas shootings, for what are we to pray?  We should pray that God comfort the loved ones of the victims (2 Co. 1:3-4).  We should also pray for those who perpetrate these acts because God’s desire as stated by Paul is that “all people…be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Ti. 2:4).

These acts of violence sadden and anger us but we must not let our anger blind us to God’s love (Ep. 4:26-27, 31-32).  It is easy to resort to calls for justice in these situations; certainly there does need to be consequences for those who commit acts of violence.  Yet we must not let that blind us to the fact that Christ died even for these individuals (Mk. 2:17).  We must remember that even we, before our conversion, were ungodly (Co. 3:5-7; Ti. 3:3-7).  God’s grace is for all (T. 2:11-14).  We must also remember the commandment of Jesus to love and pray for our enemies (Mt. 5:43-45).  These are not optional matters.  How can one proclaim the gospel but have animosity in their heart towards perpetrators of evil deeds?

Second, we must take action in a positive way.  “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror.  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing” (Ja. 1:23-25).

James calls Christians to put faith into action.  Listening is a good thing but one can listen to a sermon on loving our enemies and even agree with it…but it’s more challenging to put it into practice.  This is what must be done.  It goes beyond shouting slogans, hashtags, and updating profile pictures on social media.  This is a call to put our beliefs into practice by helping our fellow man.

Third, remember the real issue.  Violence against law enforcement or anyone for that matter is symptomatic of a larger issue.  It is easy to treat outward symptoms of a disease, but more difficult to treat the disease itself, said disease being how societal issues are manifested in the public arena.  Race or any issue which divides is used by Satan to his advantage.

We must heed Paul’s reminder to the Christians at Ephesus:  “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ep. 6:12).  How sad it is that these matters may be used even to divide brethren!  This is why it is imperative that we must be on guard and remember that Christ died for all…including the ungodly (Ro. 5:6).  Remember that it is because of our own selfish desires that strife arises among the body.  “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?  Is it not this that your passions are at war within you?”  (Ja. 4:1)

Fourth, remember that the world needs the blood of Christ.  We are redeemed by His blood (Ep. 1:7).  If one wants society to change for the better, this is the message which needs to be proclaimed.  Catchy slogans, demonstrations in the streets, politicians’ legislations and proposals…none of these will solve these issues.

Only the message of redemption through Christ will solve these problems.  As the song we commonly sing with children says:  Red and yellow, black and white, they’re all precious in His sight.  Regardless of our outward appearances, His blood covers all.  It is only through that avenue that true peace and equality will be achieved.  Only when we all realize that everyone has value in God’s eyes and it’s only by Christ that this is made possible (Ga. 3:26-28).

Fifth, take note of your conduct while you react.  There already has been and for the foreseeable future there will continue to be much debate regarding these matters.  Emotions and tempers will be running high.  This is why Christians who choose to engage in discussion on these matters must continually examine themselves and their conduct.  If one chooses to participate in debate, regardless of which side of the issue you may fall into, God expects you to conduct yourself in a way which glorifies Him (Co. 4:6).

We can expect ungodly behavior from those in the world.  It is for that reason we must be cautious to set a good example for them.  Hateful, divisive rhetoric is no excuse for a Christian to stoop to that level; we’re called to put away things such as that (Ep. 4:29, 31; Co. 3:8; 1 Pe. 2:1, 21-23).  It’s easy for one to be carried away by inflammatory statements made by others, but Christians should be careful that we don’t do the same thing.

Apply the “Philippians 4:8 Test” before speaking, especially on the Internet, and ask before one verbalizes or writes for the world to see if what you are about to say is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, or worthy of praise.  If there is any doubt, then simply find another way to say it or discard it completely.  There’s a reason we’ve been given two ears and only one tongue (Pr. 14:29; 15:1; Ja. 1:19-20).  There is a right way and a wrong way to speak, and at times it is even best to be silent altogether (Ec. 3:7).

Sixth, learn to listen.  Another problem which arises is the refusal to open our ears and listen to others.  This is due to either pride or the stubborn desire to be right in what we believe.  Paul gives Timothy attributes which the Christian must possess:  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness.  God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will” (2 Ti. 2:24-26).

We’re not always going to agree with thoughts or ideas put forth, but we must take the time to listen to other viewpoints.  This is not to say we must accept everything that’s said, but we should also not be quick to dismiss opposing viewpoints.

It’s easy to become angry and disillusioned when we see our society crumble before our very eyes at the sight of evil.  The prophet Habakkuk struggled with this very scenario as he questioned God about how ungodly Babylon could seem to get away with what they were doing:  “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?  Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save?  Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?  Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise” (Hab. 1:2-3, emp. added).

Many today join him in struggling with this question.  In time the prophet learned to trust God and learned that God was using Babylon for His purpose:  “Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.  God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places” (Hab. 3:17-19, emp. added).

As mere men we won’t always fully understand…yet we must trust.  Faith must be learned.  We must remember that God can and will use all things, regardless of how evil it is, for the purpose of His will.  Everything we do is to be done according to His will (Co. 3:17).  May everything which we do be done in a scriptural manner!


Adam preaches at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN. 

Adding Knowledge To Virtue — Adam Carlson

In 2 Peter 1:5, Peter instructs his readers to grow in knowledge. Peter understood that knowledge is an essential part of life, especially the Christian life.  It should constantly be increasing and supplementing our faith. Understanding this, it is imperative to have a working knowledge of Scripture, which is the focus of this article.

How To Grow In Knowledge

Read the Scriptures. If one is to grow in biblical knowledge, it is logical to go to the Scriptures themselves and spend time in simply reading them.  Ezra did this in the time of Nehemiah so the people would have a better understanding of the Law of Moses.  “And he read from it facing the square before the Water Gate from early morning until midday, in the presence of the men and the women and those who could understand.  And the ears of all the people were attentive to the Book of the Law…They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading” (Ne. 8:3, 8).

In another example which shows the importance of reading, consider when a copy of the Law was found after being neglected during the time of Josiah.  “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, and for the people, and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found.  For great is the wrath of the Lord that is kindled against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (2 Ki. 22:13, emp. mine).  One can’t have the knowledge God desires if he doesn’t take the time to read the Word.

Similar instruction is found in the New Testament as well.  Paul reminded Timothy to give attention to reading in addition to exhortation and teaching (1 Ti. 4:13).  It is noteworthy that Paul saw fit to mention reading first.  Again, if one desires to have a good knowledge of Scripture it must first be read.

At times it may be a good idea to consult reliable reference tools, such as concordances or commentaries, to gain a better understanding.  While caution must be exercised with outside resources, it can be beneficial to one’s study as long as it is understood that such are simply tools not to be elevated to the same level as Scripture.

Apply what has been read. Reading is beneficial and absolutely critical when it comes to obtaining knowledge, but it must be realized that reading alone isn’t enough. What is read must be applied to our everyday lives; otherwise it’s of no benefit. It is important to remember the words of James:  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like” (Ja. 1:23-24, emp. mine). Knowledge is a good thing but it must be put to use (He. 5:14).

Why We Must Grow In Knowledge 

To understand the importance of spiritual growth, it is equally important to understand why one must grow in knowledge.  The reasons will be discussed in the succeeding points:

To go from infants to maturity. Physical development of the body and mind take place as a child grows from infancy to adulthood.  Likewise, Christians must do this in a spiritual sense.  There are instructions regarding this.

Immaturity was why Paul wasn’t able to address Corinth as he wished to do (1 Co. 3:1-3).  The Hebrew writer faced the same problem, which prompted his point that a knowledgeable Christian is one who is able to go beyond the basics (He. 5:12-6:1).  Peter likewise reminds his readers to grow in this manner (1 Pe. 2:2).

A lack of knowledge is one of the reasons some of the problems within the Lord’s church exist.  If there were an unusually high infant mortality rate, there would be action taken to determine the reasons why and how to prevent it.  Yet, in a spiritual sense some never grow past infancy.  It is the duty of mature Christians to assist them in their growth and walk in Christ.

To withstand false doctrines and Satan. One of Paul’s great concerns for his brethren is found in his letter to Ephesus.  His desire was for them to not be “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Ep. 4:14).

There are numerous warnings about false doctrines and those who teach them throughout Scripture.  They are written within the inspired pages so that we may not be deceived by error.  Some brethren are led astray by these things simply because they do not study the Scriptures as God intended them to be read; rather, they look at them through the lenses of their presuppositions.  Studying in context without preconceived biases will prevent this from being an issue.

In addition to false doctrine, Paul’s other concern was Satan himself.  Thus, he further instructed the Ephesians to withstand the devil by putting on the armor of God (Ep. 6:11ff).  Just as a soldier must be adequately equipped to meet his enemy on the battlefield, Christians must be equally prepared to meet our spiritual enemy.  Knowledge is one way in which this can be accomplished.


As seen from this study, growth in knowledge isn’t an option.  It’s a command.  So let’s continue to grow in knowledge!


Adam graduated from the Tri-Cities School of Preaching and Christian Development in 2011 and since 2013 has been preaching at the Valley Church of Christ in Kingsport, TN.  He is the son of the late Richard and Carla Carlson (the former of whom had been a valued member of the Carolina Messenger board of directors).

Ways To Encourage Each Other – Adam Carlson

Webster defines encouragement in part as, The act of giving courage, or confidence of success; incitement to action or to practice; incentive.” Encouragement is something that everyone needs, especially within the body of Christ. The focus of this article will be to look at some ways in which this can be accomplished along with examples. This is a needed topic and one which will hopefully be beneficial to each reader.

Encourage by being there for one another.  Israel, the descendents of Jacob, fought against the Amalekites, the descendants of Esau (Ex. 17:8; cf. Ge. 36:8-16). During the battle, Moses was encouraged by Aaron and Hur to uphold his arms because he couldn’t do it alone (v. 12). It’s the same way today. One can’t do everything alone. That’s why we need to make a conscious effort to be there for one another in times of need. The words of Solomon come to mind. Do not forsake your friend and your father’s friend, and do not go to your brother’s house in the day of your calamity. Better is a neighbor who is near than a brother who is far away” (Pr. 27:10, ESV). When Christians realize the blessing of encouraging and being encouraged by one another, this is something that will become much easier to practice.

Please be there to fulfill the needs of brethren. I have been on the receiving end of encouragement during times of great need. The brethren stepped up and encouraged me and from their comfort I can hopefully pass on similar encouragement to others who need it.

Encourage by speech.  Hezekiah is a good example of one who could encourage. When he restored the system of worship as given to Moses, the following words are recorded: “And Hezekiah spoke encouragingly to all the Levites who showed good skill in the service of the LORD. So they ate the food of the festival for seven days, sacrificing peace offerings and giving thanks to the LORD, the God of their fathers” (2 Ch. 30:22).

In another instance during his reign Judah was invaded by Assyria (2 Ch. 32:1). During this time of crisis, Hezekiah spoke to the commanders of the army: “And he set combat commanders over the people and gathered them together to him in the square at the gate of the city and spoke encouragingly to them, saying, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or dismayed before the king of Assyria and all the horde that is with him, for there are more with us than with him. With him is an arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles. And the people took confidence from the words of Hezekiah king of Judah’” (2 Ch. 32:6-8).

Brethren can do a great work by simply speaking encouraging words. Christians are instructed to speak in a truthful and gracious manner (Ep. 4:25, 29; Co. 4:6). Words are indeed a powerful thing and great caution must be practiced before speaking (Ja. 1:19). The example of Hezekiah should be followed in that our words should encourage those who need it and inspire confidence in those who listen.

Encourage by helping new converts.  I would be amiss if I didn’t mention Barnabas, who is introduced in Acts 4:36. Notice how he was known as “the son of encouragement” because of his ability to encourage the brethren. Also consider the way he assisted Paul after his conversion. The brethren were experiencing a great deal of trepidation because of his previous conduct (Ac 9:26). Notice what Luke says next: “But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus” (Ac. 9:27, emphasis mine). It must be realized that one who is new to the faith is need of encouragement often times due to their background. Some may face opposition from their families, others may face other struggles. They need to know they have people who love them and will do all they can to encourage them in their new walk.

Let us examine another episode in the life of Barnabas. Luke writes, “When he came and saw the grace of God, he was glad, and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose, for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith. And a great many people were added to the Lord” (Ac. 11:23-24, emphasis mine). The church needs people of the character of Barnabas who will practice encouragement on a regular basis. Physically speaking, children – especially infants – are assisted in their growth and development. It’s no wonder Paul talks of this in a spiritual sense (1 Co. 3:1). He uses this same analogy in describing their approach to new converts in Thessalonica (1 Th. 2:7). The writer of Hebrews speaks of his readers’ child-like state in spiritual growth (He. 5:12-13). Peter also uses similar language to describe this growth process (1 Pe. 2:2). There are none who would neglect to make sure infants are physically growing. It shouldn’t be any different with a new brother or sister in their spiritual growth. This is accomplished by continual teaching and encouragement as they grow.

Encourage by being present. Encouragement can be as simple as being physically present and assisting the brethren with a task. The descendants of Reuben and Gad wanted to stay on the east side of the Jordan River rather than accompany Israel to fight for the rest of the Promised Land, but Moses told them, “Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them?” (Num. 32:7). We later read that they did what they were supposed to do and went into battle, thus encouraging rather than discouraging (v. 18).

People can be encouraged by our presence. It was for this reason that Paul sent Tychicus to Ephesus and Colossae (Ep. 6:21-22; Co. 4:7-9). Remember the words of David: “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!’” (Ps. 122:1). By being present when the church gathers Christians encourage and are encouraged by each other.

These are a few practical ways and examples of how individual Christians can encourage each other. We all need encouragement, whether we wish to acknowledge it or not. Encouraging someone doesn’t have to be anything elaborate. It can be as simple as sending a note to someone who’s struggling with something in their life, whether it be the death of a loved one, finances, job security, or whatever other problem of life which comes their way. Encourage those who are laboring in a worthy manner to continue on in that good work.

It would be good to remember that there may be a time when you may be the one in need of encouragement. Therefore, help those who need it so you can first practice it in your own life. Remember the words of Paul when he spoke to the elders of Ephesus: “In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac. 20:35, emphasis mine).













The Joys Of Sharing The Gospel – Adam Carlson

The greatest thing one can do in life as a Christian is help a lost soul come to obedience to the gospel message. The Lord has given each of us a divine responsibility to share the gospel message (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16). As followers of Christ this should not be viewed as a burden to bear, but rather as a joy to bring the message of redemption through His blood (Col. 1:13-14). “Where sin as gone must go His grace, the gospel is for all,” as we sometimes sing. We are the ones who must share that message because those lost and dying in their sin won’t know about God’s salvation and their need to obtain it unless they’re told by us (Acts 8:30-31; Rom. 10:10-14-15).

There is great joy that comes from helping one obey the gospel! By our continual teaching, those whom we convert will be empowered to share the gospel with someone else. Continual teaching is something which should be done if the church is to thrive (2 Tim. 2:2). The apostle John said, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4). Another positive effect received from sharing the gospel is that we ourselves learn more about God and His will for us. Continual study of scripture will always reveal something new, regardless of how many times one has read a particular passage. Just as Ezra read the Law of Moses for the people (Neh. 8), Christians must constantly give heed to teachings of scripture. When we discover something in the Bible we had not known before, we should cling to it with all our being (Prov. 23:23).

There will be even more great joy when one realizes there is truly only one name by which one can be saved (Acts 4:12). There is much confusion in the religious world today due many “preachers” tickling the ears of their listeners with “feel good” messages while lining their own pockets. Many today are searching for the truth. We must be the ones willing to step up and share this great message of Christ’s death (1 Cor. 2:2), which will save those who are willing to heed and obey it!

Joy also occurs when one seeks opportunities to share the gospel. Many in the world are ready and searching for the truth (Matt. 5:6; 9:37-38; Jn. 4:35). While we should pray for those who do the work, we must also have the attitude of the great prophet Isaiah who said, “Here am I. Send me” (Is. 6:1). Like the Macedonian, there are many who are asking us for help (Acts 16:9-10). Opportunity can come in many forms; it’s our job to be able to see them when they arise. Let’s always be alert!

Some are reluctant to share the gospel for a variety of reasons. For some it’s fear of rejection; others join Moses in having a fear of speaking. However, we don’t need to be afraid because we have the complete word of God to guide us. Let me share with you some ways to help you overcome any reluctance to share the gospel with others.

When sharing the gospel, it would be wise to take someone with us who has more experience in Bible studies so we can learn from them. Remember that the Lord sent His disciples in pairs (Luke 10:1).

Boost your confidence by engaging in steady study by yourself so that you can be a teacher, rather than someone have to teach you (Heb. 5:12-14) and can be ready to answer questions that will arise (1 Pet. 3:15).

As Christians we are to be gentle and patient (2 Tim. 2:24-25). It must be remembered that not everyone is on the same level of understanding and knowledge or from the same background as us, so we must be patient as we lead them to the gospel. It must also be realized that a lot of people aren’t going to obey after the first study (cf. Acts 17:32).

It is also imperative to simply listen so we can learn where to begin as they start their spiritual journey. James reminds that we are to be quick to listen rather than speak (Jas. 1:19). A major error commonly made is to make assumptions about someone’s beliefs should not be made. This is why listening before speaking is so important. We can’t speak about what we don’t know (1 Tim. 1:5-7).

Remember that Jesus as a boy both listened to and asked questions of the Jewish teachers in the temple (Luke 2:46).This is a good example to follow because it’s a good way to open dialogue to determine the spiritual state of the one with whom you’re studying (1 Jn. 4:1). Don’t be afraid to be open for questions yourself either (Acts 17:11).

Remember there are different ways the gospel can be shared. The Lord simply commanded us to teach the gospel (Matt. 28:18-20). How we do so is a matter of judgment as long as long as truth is taught. When one obeys the gospel it brings us great joy. I can only imagine the good feelings Philip and Ananias felt when the eunuch and Saul rendered their obedience to the Lord’s plan (Acts 8:38-39; 9:18). We likewise will experience great joy in knowing that we have fulfilled what the Lord has asked of each of us.

There is much work to be done until the Lord returns. It must be done with urgency as if souls depend on it…because they do! “As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess. 3:13). Our work isn’t done when one obeys the gospel. No, it’s only just begun!