Tag Archives: David R. Pharr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are Worship Assemblies In View?

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Assemblies Are Required?

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

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

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

Ultimately, it’s an issue of the heart.

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

Adding Love To Brotherly Kindness — David R. Pharr

Editor’s Note:  This article was adapted from a lecture given by the author at Freed-Hardeman University in 1984.  Used by permission.

It is not surprising that “charity” (KJV), love, would be included in the list of Christian graces which are needed “to make your calling and election sure.”  It may be assumed that love is something one either has or does not have regardless of his own effort.  In fact, the Bible teaches that love is not only the supreme trait (1 Co. 13:13), but that it is something we can, and should, cultivate. Paul’s prayer for the Thessalonians was: “And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you” (1 Th. 3:12).

Love is the grace of a special commandment.  Jesus said: “[A] new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another, as I have loved you” (Jn. 13:34).  Love always was a priority. It is before, above, and inclusive of all other rules for human relationships (Ro. 13:8ff).  What, then, is “new” in Jesus’ commandment? It is that it goes beyond “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Le. 19:18), calling for love like Christ’s love.  It is a “new commandment” because of the new measure of love it sets before us. Certainly love is not peculiar to the gospel.  Rather, the New Testament gives new light on an old precept.  As someone stated it, “It is an old book in a new, expanded edition.”  The “golden rule” has become the “platinum rule.”

Love, therefore, is a grace we have in common with our Lord.  This may be one reason why love is greater than faith and hope (1 Co. 13:13).  Without love we cannot know God or have fellowship with him (1 Jn. 4:8, 16).  Peter said that as Christians, we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pe. 1:4).  So much of what is called “love” is sensual and selfish.  Jesus’ whole life was a demonstration of what love really means.  Usually we tend to think of the cross as proof of his love, but we need to remember that his love was not shown in just one single, supreme act, but in a lifetime of caring for others.  We must grow in grace that we may “walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us” (Ep. 5:2).  Jesus did not love us for what we could do for him, but for what he could do for us.  This is especially seen in the events of John 13, the occasion of the last supper.  First, consider how he reacted to the treachery of Judas.  Here was love overcoming hate.  We notice the emphasis in verse one that his love never failed.  Love washed his disciples’ feet.  Is it not a fact that most of the time the challenge is not whether we can keep from hating, but whether we can keep from being selfish?  The cross was only a few hours away, yet, knowing this, he continued to love sacrificially and without self-pity.  Even toward Peter, who failed to grasp the situation, and who seemed most concerned with his own self-confidence, Jesus could be patient and forgiving.

Love is the grace that identifies disciples.  “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (Jn.13:35).  The converse is also true.  Nothing denies discipleship as does an unloving spirit.  Jesus knew the impact that a church united in love would have on the world (cf. Jn. 17:21, 23).  But even unbelievers can see through claims of a church filled with selfishness, suspicion and strife.  Sound doctrine without sound hearts makes only an empty sound (1 Co. 13:1ff).  How can men be his disciples (learners) when they fail to learn experimentally what is his special commandment.  Those who serve Christ must wear his colors.  They have “put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness” (Co. 3:14).

Not only does this grace help to identify the church to the world, it also assures a disciple of his standing with God. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. . . .  My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.  And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (1 Jn. 3:14-19).  Genuine love provides the capstone of confidence for the faithful.

Love is a grace that is never is finished.  Some commands are completed at one time (i.e., baptism), but love is a continuing grace.  The use of the Greek present tense in 1 John 3:14 indicates “keep on loving.” It is an obligation that is never completely fulfilled.  It is without limits.  We never reach a time when we have loved enough.  There is no limit as to whom we should love, how long we should love them, or whether we have loved to a sufficient degree.  Instead it is a grace that should be always growing, ever expanding (1 Th. 3:12).

Finally, let’s consider that the grace of love is a common grace.  It is not command to a few, but to all.  Some people have more talent than others.  Some are more influential than others.  But everyone of us — rich or poor, educated or unlearned, skillful or clumsy, known or ignored — everyone of us has the same privilege of love.  One may be unable to deliver a sermon, compose a song, or write a book, but he can have as full a measure of this grace as any man, and this is the one thing that matters most (1 Co. 13).

drpharr@msn.com

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

The God Of All Comfort — David R. Pharr

“Euroclydon” is what the King James Version calls it. Others have named it “Euraquilo” or “Northeaster.” They were caught for over two weeks in an unrelenting Mediterranean storm. Hurricane like winds moving from every direction made it impossible to guide the ship. Every effort was made to keep from sinking. Valuable cargo was jettisoned. Even the rigging of the ship was thrown away. Day after day there was neither sun nor stars and in the darkness all hope of survival was gone. Only one man on board had absolute confidence in their survival. It was a prison ship and Paul was himself a prisoner, but when all the rest were giving up in despair, he stood before them to declare that he had been given assurance from God. The angel of the Lord promised that not a single one of the two hundred seventy six on board was going to be lost. “Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God (Acts 27:25, emphasis added).

Troubles Come

Storms come into every life. Most the time most people enjoy living. There are some whose lives have come to such pain and despondency that they dread living and crave dying. For most, however, life is a cherished thing. Solomon observed that it “is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labor” (Eccl. 5:18). The best life is in living as a Christian. “For he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile: Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (I Pet. 3:10f). Yet, even into the happiest and most faithful life troubles come. Regardless of what has been up to now, if we continue for long, there may be troubles more dreadful than we might ever have imagined. David spoke of going “through the valley of the shadow of death.” He meant not just the time of dying, but also anything that brings suffering and sorrow. Job had enjoyed a wonderful life, but then “the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me” (Job 3:25f). This is not to borrow trouble or to dread the future, but to remind that, like David, we need a Shepherd to lead us into whatever dark valleys we are forced to go.

Suffering is a primary theme of 2 Corinthians. The book opens with the need for comfort. All of humanity has its tribulations. For members of the church in Corinth there were things they would have to endure because they were followers of Christ. When trouble comes even unbelievers might wonder, “Why is this happening to me?” A Christian might ask, “Why do bad things happen to faithful Christians?” By recalling the things he had himself suffered, Paul could assure them of his sympathy and that they are not the only ones who have had to endure adversity. “For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves . . .” (2 Cor.1:8f).

One needs only to review his history to know that Paul understood suffering–hardship, exhaustion, beatings, imprisonment, near drowning, being robbed, double crossed, suffering hunger, anxiety, etc. (2 Cor. 11:3-29). The one thing that sustained him through it all can be summed up in the three word affirmation he declared in the midst of that tempest called Euroclydon: “I believe God.”

The God of All Comfort

To the Corinthians, therefore (and to us), he would write that the God he believed in is “the God of all comfort.”

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation”(2 Cor. 1:37).

Ten times in five verses (37) we find the words “comfort,” “comforts,” and “consolation.” God comforted Paul. Paul comforted them. What consolation he could give to others was only because of the comfort God had given to him.

God is the God of all comfort because He “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20). No trouble we ever have should allow us to doubt the power of God to help. “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary” (Isa. 40:28).

God is the God of all comfort because His love and mercy are immeasurable. “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us” (Eph. 2:4). Such love “passes knowledge” (Eph. 3:18f), and no one can keep us from embracing it. The story is told of a farmer who had a weathervane with the words, “God is love.” A skeptic, noting the changing wind directions, asked, “Does that mean God’s love is fickle?” “No,” the farmer said, “It means that no matter which way the wind blows, God is always love.” That’s what Paul knew in the midst of that tempest.

God is the God of all comfort because He knows what we cannot know. We can never know for sure the outcome of any life experience–good or bad (Jas. 4:15). Paul assured the Philippians that bad things can turn out for good. “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel . . .” (Phil. 1:12).

God is the God of all comfort because we can always trust His promises. Scripture provides us with “exceeding great and precious promises” (2 Pet. 1:4). We can have hope because of the “patience and comfort of the Scriptures” (Rom. 15:4). The supreme promise is eternal life (Tit. 1:2), but many of God’s promises pertain to our welfare in this life. In times of great distress it may sometimes seem more likely that God will keep His promise of heaven than that he will help us through the sufferings of the present. Let it be deeply remembered, however, that “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things” (Rom. 8:33). The point is that God had promised His Son. If ever we might imagine that God might fail to keep His promise, surely it might have been the promise to let His Son die. If in His faithfulness and grace He kept that promise, how could it be imagined He would ever go back on His word?

God is the God of all comfort because He has a wonderful family made up of brothers and sisters in Christ. David once complained to God: “For there is no one who acknowledges me, Refuge has failed me; No one cares for my soul” (Psa. 142:4). In our troubles we may feel very alone, that no one understands. Human imperfections too often keep us from caring for one another as we should. In fact, one who feels neglected should remember that they have sometimes been neglectful themselves. Still, we have family willing to “bear one another’s burdens,” “to weep with those who weep” (Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:15).

God is the God of all comfort because nothing can overcome the love and understanding Christ has for us. Trouble and suffering are the common lot of mankind, yet each burden seems peculiar to the one to whom it is happening. An old spiritual laments, “Nobody knows the trouble I see . . . “ and then continues, “Nobody knows but Jesus.” This is the assurance of Hebrews 4:15. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Can anyone list all the bad things that might happen? How about Paul’s list in Romans 8–tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, sword, death, lie, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come, height, depth? All of these, he says, “neither any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the Love of Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:35ff).

“Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God.”

drpharr@msn.com

 

The Editor’s Page – David R. Pharr, Editor

When I became editor of Palmetto Messenger in 1997 I would not have imagined that I would hold that place for seventeen years.  (In 1999 the name was changed to Carolina Messenger.)  With this issue I have decided to pass the responsibility to another.  With only a few exceptions, there has been a deadline to meet month after month and I have decided to take a rest.  The board of directors has selected Paul Kirkpatrick to continue the paper as interim editor.  Brother Kirkpatrick is the able preacher for the Warners’ Chapel Church of Christ in Clemmons, North Carolina, and is the Director of the N.C. School of Biblical Studies.  The board is determined for the publication to continue.  In view of our current financial situation the schedule for now will continue to be six issues per year.  The purpose and principles have not changed.  From the beginning the purpose has been to apply the instructions of 2 Timothy 4:2.  “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

Much gratitude is due to those who have cooperated in this endeavor:  members of the board (past and present), writers who have contributed articles, the late Oscar Craft and Jerry Craft as business managers, Michael Jordan in charge of mailing lists, and Jimmy Bates of Bates Printing Company, which prints and mails the copies.  It has been a fellowship of good work.  Of course our efforts have been supported by individuals and congregations who provided the funds.

Over the years we have received many notes of appreciation and encouragement and we are grateful for every kind word.  There has also been criticism.  When it has been constructive, it has been appreciated.  When it has been in opposition to biblical principles we have espoused, we have not been dissuaded.

Though for several months I have been doing most of the preaching at the Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, my intention is to be retired from full-time work.  I will continue to do some writing and to preach as there are opportunities.

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Salute to Jerry Craft

Our faithful and efficient treasurer and business manager has decided to resign.  Jerry Craft has been in this position since 2005.  His brother Oscar Craft had managed the business aspect of the paper since the paper was started.  At the time of Oscar’s passing, we knew we needed someone who would show the same diligence.  Accordingly, Jerry was added to the board of directors and asked to serve as Treasurer.  Jerry’s efficient work has provided perfect financial records and has kept us on track in meeting our obligations.  As a member of the board he has been a keen adviser.  As a brother in Christ he has been a faithful encourager.  In whatever good the paper has accomplished, Jerry Craft has been an essential part.  We are grateful for his unselfish service.

— The Board of Directors

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Men’s Fellowship

March 8, 2014 is the date for the 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship.  This is a one-day lectureship with the purpose of encouraging men from churches of Christ over the Carolinas (and from a few other states.)  It is a day of strong Scriptural messages, tremendous singing, and visiting.  The Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, continues to host this gathering and provides a barbeque lunch.  There is no need for advance registration, no charge for attending, and no collection is taken.  Last year’s attendance was over 600.

In the first years the program was held in the Charlotte Avenue building.  Later it was moved to a public school building, then for a few years has been in the larger facilities of the Gold Hill Road Church of Christ in Ft. Mill, SC.  It is a cooperative effort with the Rock Hill congregation providing the program and the Ft. Mill congregation providing the location.

The keynote speaker this year will be Gary Hampton from Jacksonville, Mississippi.  Brother Hampton is the author of several books and was formerly the Director of East Tennessee School of Preaching.  One thing that differs from many lectureships is that several speakers are included, but very limited in the amount of time allowed.  The brief time between speeches is used for singing.

It is sometimes asked why this is designed only for men.  There is no reason except it is thought to be expedient and it has been successful in bringing together so many men from so many places.  Some lectures have been of particular application to men and boys.  Every message is intended to strengthen faith and to encourage steadfastness.  Opportunity is also provided to browse displays and bookstore selections.

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There was a warm fire in the courtyard where Peter was.  His surroundings were more pleasant than those in the building where Jesus was on trial.  Great issues were at stake, but Peter was not concerned about them.  He was thinking of his own welfare.

How many people today are willing to wait until the battle is fought before they are willing to identify themselves with the cause involved?

— Leslie G. Thomas, Another Hundred Sermons