Tag Archives: God’s Word

We CAN KNOW The Truth, And The Truth Will Set Us Free! — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: October, 2019)

While teaching in the temple, Jesus famously said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, ESV). This prompted a discussion in which Christ answered criticisms from the Pharisees (vs. 13-29). As the crowds in the temple heard the answers he gave his enemies, “many believed in him” (v. 30). Recognizing their faith, our Lord “said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free’” (vs. 31-32).

“You will know the truth.” “Know” comes from the Greek term ginosko, which Thayer defines as “to learn to know, come to know, get a knowledge of, perceive, feel,” and “to know, understand, perceive, have knowledge of.” Ginosko is in the future tense (which is why English Bibles translate it as “will know”), and is in the indicative mood (meaning that it is a simple statement of fact). By saying we will know the truth if we abide in his word, Jesus is guaranteeing — making a simple statement of fact — that the result of abiding in his word will be “learning to know” the truth, “coming to know” the truth, “getting a knowledge of” the truth, “perceiving” the truth, “feeling” the truth, “knowing” the truth, “understanding” the truth, and “having knowledge of” the truth.

It is no accident that our Lord correlated the guarantee of coming to know, perceive, and understand the truth with abiding in his word. On the night before he died, he acknowledged in his prayer to his Father in heaven that “your word is truth” while asking that God “sanctify” his disciples in that same truth (John 17:17). The psalmist also stated that “the sum of your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160a), after having pleaded that God “take not the word of truth utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your rules” (v. 43).

The apostle John would later relate abiding in God’s word with coming to know (ginosko, perceive, understand, learning to know) Christ. He wrote, “And by this we know (ginosko) that we have come to know (ginosko) him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know (ginosko) him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfect. By this we know (ginosko) that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:3-6). Keeping his commandments, abiding in him, walking in the same way in which he walked…all of this is how we come to know, understand, perceive, and understand our Lord and that we are in him, just as it is also how we come to know the truth. This should not surprise us since Jesus said that he is the truth (John 14:6).   Yet claiming to understand, know, and perceive the Lord and his truth while not abiding in his word proves one to be nothing more than a liar.

Consider again the context in which Jesus said that abiding in his word is how one comes to know the truth which sets them free. The Pharisees had accused his testimony of being false because he was bearing witness about himself (John 8:13). Jesus responded that his testimony is true even if he did bear witness about himself because I know where I came from and where I am going” (John 8:14). “I know” comes from oida, a Greek term similar to ginosko which likewise means “to know, i.e., get knowledge of, understand, perceive.” Jesus perceived and understood his Deity, that he had been with God before his human birth and that he would go back to sit at God’s right hand once his work was complete (John 1:1, 14; Mk. 16:19). Note the confidence behind his reply to the Pharisees. That confidence was based on his knowledge, understanding, and perception of who he was, where he had been, and where he was going.

Take note of what he then said to them: “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. Yet even if I do judge, my judgment is true, for it is not I alone who judge, but I and the Father who sent me. In your Law it is written that the testimony of two people is true. I am the one who bears witness about myself, and the Father who sent me bears witness about me” (John 8:15-18). The Pharisees did not realize their judgments and criticisms were directed against Deity; in that way their judgments were “according to the flesh,” superficial, human, worldly. Jesus’ judgments, on the other hand, were different. His judgments are “true,” based on truth backed up by the corroborating witness of his heavenly Father (Matt. 3:17). His miracles were proof that God was with him and his message was from God (Matt. 12:28; John 3:2; 5:36; 9:33; Acts 2:22; 10:38).

After his enemies insincerely asked about his Father, Jesus did not hesitate to state of them: “You know neither me nor my Father. If you knew me, you would know my Father also” (John 8:19). He again uses oida here, stating that the Pharisees had no knowledge, perception, or understanding of him or his Father. He likewise did not hesitate to warn them, “…you will die in your sin” (v. 21). Seeing that they again misunderstood and thought he was talking of suicide when he spoke of leaving them (vs. 21-22), he again confidently told them the facts about himself and their spiritual state: “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins” (vs. 23-24). Again he affirmed his Deity and warned them of spiritual death if they did not believe that he is Deity. This prompted them to ask him again about his identity, to which he replied that he was “just what I have been telling you from the beginning” (v. 25). After again bringing up how his Father had sent him and was the originator of his message and seeing that they still did not understand his relationship with his Father (vs. 26-27), he pointed to his death and resurrection as the final proofs of his deity (v. 28a; cf. Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:20).

His next words are very telling: “…I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:28b-29). Jesus knew that he spoke nothing but his Father’s message. He was confident that God was with him. He had no doubt that he always did what pleased his Father. These statements are what prompted many who were listening to believe in him (v. 30), which in turn prompted him to urge them to abide in his word in order to truly be his disciples and know the truth which would set them free (vs. 31-32).

Christians, each of us can have the same confidence our Lord has. The whole purpose of being his disciple is to become like him (Lk. 6:40). We can in fact know, understand, and perceive the truth of Scripture. Having come to know, understand, and perceive it, we can be confident that we have done so. The key is to abide in his word by keeping his commandments and speaking nothing but the entirety of the word of God.

Preachers, we especially must do this. In recent years I’ve observed a hesitancy among some of us to state some biblical precepts with confidence. I’ve increasingly heard, “We’ve all been wrong before,” and “No one has everything figured out.” The charges of arrogance and dogmatism are easily and increasingly made against those who speak biblical truths authoritatively. Less attention is given to Scripture and more is given to theologians both within and outside of the Lord’s church. Doctrinal differences are increasing downplayed as “matters of opinion” and “not salvation issues,” even though we are commanded to “speak the truth in love” and unrepentant failure to do so would result in spiritual death (Eph. 4:15; Rom. 6:23). Speaking “with all authority” (Tit. 2:14) seems to be decreasing, while uncertainty seems to increase.

Yet we CAN know, understand, and perceive truth if we abide in his word which is truth. Will mistakes be made? Of course, but progress can and will be made continually by those with honest hearts if study of and adherence to the Bible is the highest priority (Lk. 8:15; 1 Tim. 4:15-16). As a result, those mistakes will decrease. We can know and understand that our message and judgments are not our own but God’s. We can confidently assert that our teachings are not from man but from God and he has our back! We can know we are “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). We can be humble and yet confident and authoritative too. We can truly be his disciples. We CAN KNOW the truth and rejoice that it has set us free!            — Jon

Why Emphasizing Scriptural Doctrine Is Right — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: January/February, 2018)

In our post-modernistic culture which shies away from the notion of absolute right and wrong, many do not embrace the idea that one can hold to a position which is authoritatively right and thus make all contrary positions authoritatively wrong. As with most other cultural trends, this relativism has seeped into the minds of many in the religious world, even to the point where embracing and defending doctrinal truth is labeled sinful. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Presbyterian author Timothy Keller writes, “Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.”

Some within the Lord’s church toy with this notion as well. This writer has discussed theology with many brethren in the church over the years, most of whom are preachers. In many of these discussions I’ve observed that some tend to shy away from the notion of stating with scriptural proof that a particular belief or person is absolutely wrong; others react with outright hostility to the idea that I or anyone else could state with authority and scriptural proof that they or anyone could hold to an erroneous religious belief.

I recently read two blog posts by brotherhood writers. One, authored by Jack Wilkie and titled “A Dangerous Trend In The Churches of Christ,” starts out by saying, “Right doctrine that leads to right actions is critically important, but if we’ve come to the place that our rightness outranks Jesus in terms of where we direct our attention (and I believe we have), we have a problem.” Citing the above quote from Keller, Wilkie then criticizes our “constant dwelling on the doctrines that set us apart from others, like baptism, music, women’s roles, and the like,” before talking about our supposed condescension towards outsiders, an unfriendly, unwelcome attitude we theoretically show towards any who question us, and our “ever-shrinking window of fellowship.” While he repeatedly clarifies that we must teach correct doctrine, the majority of Wilkie’s piece seems to promote the idea that we overemphasize correct doctrine, resulting in making us shallow, prideful, fearful people who de-emphasize Jesus, the cross, and the grace of God.

The second blog post, authored by Steven Hunter and titled “Has Our Bible Replaced Our Lord?”, asks this about our true faith: “Is it in the Scriptures themselves, or the Person to whom the Scriptures point us—Jesus?” Hunter wonders if we “have become more about our Scriptures than the Lord who gave us the Scriptures,” comparing some in the Lord’s church to the Jews whom Jesus chastised when He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Criticizing using the Bible “as a method to win debates and arguments,” “search(ing) the Scriptures to prove others wrong,” and “read(ing) the Scriptures in snippets to establish a doctrine,” Hunter believes the Scriptures “more often make us into Pharisees because we sometimes care more about being right in our obedience than in our carrying the whole of the purpose of Scripture.”

Those who hold to these views are likely sincere, but they overlook some facts of great importance concerning the value of focusing on the Scriptures. First, without emphasizing the Scriptures one would know absolutely nothing about God’s grace, the cross, Jesus, His will, salvation, the promise of heaven, or the curse of hell. One cannot look to Jesus or focus on Jesus without looking to the Bible.

Secondly, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that we must focus on the Scriptures if there is anything concerning the Christian religion about which we need instruction or correction. If we want to be right as God is right, we cannot achieve that goal without the Bible. If we want to grow more complete spiritually or be thoroughly equipped for any work God considers worthy, we must go to God’s Word.

Much false doctrine exists because most do not do this. The Scriptures command us to expose such error (Eph. 5:11; Jude 3; etc.) by “speaking the truth in love”; this is how we grow more like Christ (Eph. 4:14-15). God’s Word is that truth (John 17:17). Thus, we must teach topics on which error is taught by others such as baptism, worship, and the like. Doing so, even in love, may put us in a negative light in other’s eyes, but such can’t be helped (2 Tim. 3:12-13). The whole counsel of God must still be proclaimed, and the Bible is the sole source of that counsel.

The Scriptures are a major part of the method God chose to use to save us. One cannot overemphasize their importance; indeed, many are lost because they de-emphasize them. May we never do so.

—Jon

Is The Bible The Only Way God Communicates With Man? — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: November/December, 2017)

We call the Bible the Word of God, and so it is (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Yet if a sincere yet unknowledgeable soul asked you to explain why you believe the Bible is from God, or why you believe it is the only way God communicates with man today, would you be able to explain it to him?

It is true that many people during biblical times came to know God without reading Scripture.  In fact, no inspired record of any written communication between God and men exists from Eden until He gave the Ten Commandments to Israel at Mount Sinai and then inspired Moses to write the Pentateuch (Ex. 20:1-17; 17:14; 24:4; 34:27; Num. 33:1-2; Deut. 31:9-11).  Before Sinai, Genesis records God speaking directly to various patriarchs, people and kings (cf. 1:28-30; 4:9-15; 12:1-3) and also indirectly through miraculous prophetic interpretation (40:1-23; 41:1-39).  Genesis also speaks of God-fearing people from families, countries and backgrounds different from those to whom we read that God directly spoke, implying that God also directly communicated with these people even though we have no specific record of such (14:18-20; cf. Josh. 2:9-13).  This divine, miraculous communication outside of inspired Scripture would continue at certain times with certain people during and even after inspired men started writing the Old Testament (cf. Num. 22-24; Josh. 1:1-9; Judg. 6:11-27; et al).

It would also continue during the time when the New Testament was being written.  Men who already had inspired Scripture in the form of the completed Old Testament still directly received communication from Deity during Christ’s time, sometimes without knowing so (Matt. 1:20-25; 2:12-15; John 11:49-52; 12:28-30).  Jesus told His apostles that the Holy Spirit would directly communicate with them after He had gone (John 14:16-17, 25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15), which the Spirit did starting at Pentecost and afterwards (Acts 2; cf. 4:31; 5:1-10).  Later, the apostles would lay their hands on other Christians like Stephen and Philip and give them the ability to miraculously receive communication from the Spirit and thus prophesy (Acts 6:5-6, 8-10; 7:55; 8:18, 26-29).  During this time, some of these apostles and prophets were inspired by the Spirit to write the New Testament (1 Cor. 2:10-13; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Pet. 1:19-21; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Does God communicate to us directly today?  While He spoke to the Hebrew patriarchs in various ways at various times, He now speaks to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 15:15), who is interestingly referred to as “the Word” (John 1:1, 14).  When Jesus told the writers of the New Testament that they would be inspired by the Spirit, He said the Spirit would only communicate to them what the Son and the Father directed (John 16:12-15; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).  Thus, whenever we read our Bibles we are reading a message from the Son of God, Who is the only way the Father communicates with us today.  Any other method of communication is cursed and forbidden (Deut. 4:2; Prov. 30:6; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 Cor. 4:6; Rev. 22:18-19).  Not being Scripture, it would not equip us to any truly good work anyway (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The miraculous spiritual gifts imparted by the apostles  through the laying on of their hands — some of which being direct communication from Deity (1 Cor. 12:1, 4-11) — ceased “when that which is perfect has come” (1 Cor. 13:8-10), a reference in the literal Greek to that which is complete or mature.  The same Greek term is used to describe the complete Word of God (Jas. 1:25; Rom. 12:2).  Thus, the Bible says that miracles involving men — including receiving miraculous, direct communication from Deity — would cease when the New Testament was completed.  God does not lie (Tit. 1:2), so we can be confident that, rather than waiting and searching for some other form of communication from Him, all we need is to go to His Word and “rightly handle” it in order to be on the right path (2 Tim. 2:15).

Yet, can we know that the Bible truly comes from God?  Consider this.  No one can successfully dispute the overwhelming secular evidence that the Bible contains 66 books written by 40 authors over a period of 1,600 years on three different continents in three different languages.  These authors came from very different backgrounds and wrote in very different environments about extremely controversial subjects…and yet there is harmony and continuity in the Bible which is unmatched because all were inspired by the same Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21).  That combined with the overwhelming scientific foreknowledge within Scripture (cf. Is. 40:22; Job 26:7; 28:25; 38:16; Ps. 8:8; Eccl. 1:6-7), the hundreds of prophecies historically fulfilled, and the archeological discoveries continually made which support biblical events show the Bible to be what it claims to be: from God.

Thus, let us “in humility receive the word implanted” (Jas. 1:21) and encourage others to do likewise!

— Jon

 

 

The Psalm Which Holds The Bible In High Regard — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: July/August, 2017)

In keeping with the theme of this issue which focuses on David, we would be amiss if we did not mention the book of Psalms.  David authored a great many of the psalms in this Old Testament book, and there is much to be gained by us as Christians by studying the psalms found within it (cf. Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Within them David and the other inspired authors cry out to God during times of sorrow, despair and trouble and praise Him with gratitude and awe for His kindness, power and wisdom.  These deeply heart-felt and personal talks with the Almighty lend great insight to us as to how to greatly improve our prayer relationship with God, teach us how to lean on Him and revere Him instead of taking Him for granted, and show us that we are definitely not the first followers of God to struggle with sin, sorrow,  and severe trials which bring us low.

The Psalms also teach us about the importance of God’s Word and the impact it must have on our daily lives.  Perhaps no psalm teaches this in greater detail than Psalm 119.  The author of this psalm is not formally revealed in Scripture; some believe David wrote it while others tend to think it was written later during the time of Babylonian captivity.  Regardless of its human authorship, its ultimate Source is God Himself (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  176 verses in length, this psalm makes up the longest chapter in the Bible and is two chapters away from being in the exact middle of the biblical canon of Genesis-Revelation.  It is very interesting that the longest psalm in the book of Psalms and the longest chapter in the entirety of Scripture is completely dedicated to showing the great need to know God’s Word and the numerous benefits which come from meditating upon it and obeying it.  Thus, this editorial will examine several of the precepts found within this psalm in order for us to better clearly see the value of the Bibles we possess and how important it is to meditate upon them much more than we perhaps do and apply their commands to our lives.

The psalm begins by stating that those “whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord…who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart” are “blessed,” ’esher in Hebrew, literally “happy” (vs. 1-2).  We must note how verses 1 and 3 correlate “those whose way is blameless” and those who “do no wrong” with “those who walk in the law of the Lord” and “walk in his ways,” showing that one cannot be forgiven of sins by God without obeying His Word.

We then read how the psalmist states that God has commanded that His precepts “be kept diligently” (v. 4); Christians likewise are commanded to be diligent in keeping God’s command to add Christ-like qualities to their faith (2 Pet. 1:5-10).  The psalmist then prays that his ways “may be steadfast in keeping your statutes”, anticipating that “having my eyes fixed on all your commandments” will result in avoiding being “put to shame” (vs. 5-6).  Looking back over our lives, how many times can we see that we would have avoided being put to shame ourselves in various ways if we had only done what God had told us to do in the first place?

In a society which encourages giving priority and acceptance to the young, in particular the young who engage in and uphold debaucherously sinful immoralities, the question asked in verse 9 is more relevant than ever:  “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By guarding it according to your word.”  Yet no young person will be able to do this unless their parents take seriously their charge to teach them God’s Word right from the beginning of their lives on a daily basis (Deut. 6:6-7; Eph. 6:4).

Want to overcome sin?  Be able to say along with the psalmist:  “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you” (v. 11).  Yet the only reason the psalmist was able to say this because he sought God whole-heartedly (v. 10), talked of God’s rules with others (v. 13), meditated upon His precepts and fixed his eyes on God’s ways (v. 15), and found just as much delight in “the way of your testimonies” and “your statutes” as he did in “all riches” (vs. 14, 16).  It is therefore no wonder that he had stored up God’s Word in his heart so much that it not only helped him avoid sin, but it also helped him to not forget it (v. 16).  Brethren, are we the same?  Do we find great delight in studying the Bible, so much so that we entreat God to teach it to us as the psalmist did (v. 12)?  What topic is discussed by us with others the most: politics, television, sports, the kids, gossip, complaints…or the laws of God?  Do we find it difficult to remember what the Bible says…yet find it easy to remember sports statistics?  Is God’s Word truly stored up in our hearts?  How much sin is in our lives will let us know.

We ask God to “deal bountifully” with us just as the psalmist did (v. 17), but is our purpose for wanting God’s blessings in our lives like the psalmist’s?  “…that I may live and keep your word.”  Could we honestly join the psalmist in saying, “My soul is consumed with longing for your rules at all times” (v. 20)?  Are the “testimonies” of God found in His Word our “counselors” (v. 24)…or do we rely more upon our own wisdom or feelings for counsel?

Many believe they can be faithful in the sight of God without following the Bible.  Yet when the psalmist had “chosen the way of faithfulness,” he “set (God’s) rules before” him (v. 30).  He clung to the Lord’s testimonies (v. 31), ran in the way of His commandments (v. 32), and asked God repeatedly to teach him “the way of your statutes” and give him understanding in order to keep His law (vs. 33-34).  We rightly cite Paul’s words in Romans about how faith comes from hearing God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), but Psalms 119 shows us exactly how God wants us to hear His Word and the type of faith He wants it to produce.  Christians, are we like the psalmist?

Despite the protection from severe, life-ending persecution the First Amendment gives us in this country, many American Christians hesitate to openly speak of their faith to others because they fear ridicule and ostracism.  The psalmist was not like that.  He prayed, “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then shall I have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in your word” (vs. 41-42).  He acknowledged the ridicule thrown his way, but he trusted in God and His Word so much that he wanted to answer the ridicule.  He was not afraid to “speak of your testimonies before kings,” knowing that he would “not be put to shame” because “I find my delight in your commandments, which I love” (vs. 46-47).  He saw that “the insolent utterly deride me,” but nonetheless “I do not turn away from your law” (v. 51).  No matter what, even “though the cords of the wicked ensnare me,” the psalmist was determined to “not forget your law” (v. 61).  Indeed, in spite of the persecution thrown his way he still acknowledged that God had “dealt well with your servant…according to your word” (v. 65).  He even saw the spiritual benefit of his hardships when he wrote, “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word” (v. 67) and “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes” (v. 71).  In fact, the psalmist saw the benefit of delighting in following the commandments of God when he said, “If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction.  I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have given me life” (vs. 92-93).  What an example for us to follow!

The psalmist loved God’s law so much that it was “my meditation all the day” (v. 97).  As a result of his continual daily study of God’s Word, he was “wiser than my enemies,” had “more understanding than all my teachers,” and “understand more than the aged” (vs. 98-100).  More importantly, it resulted in him being able to say, “I hold back my feet from every evil way, in order to keep your word” (v. 101).  Friends, if we can get to where studying and obeying the Bible is “sweeter than honey to my mouth” (v. 103), then we will not only gain wisdom (“Through your precepts I get understanding”) but also come to “hate every false way” (v. 104).  That is how God’s Word can be “a lamp to (our) feet and a light to (our) path” (v. 105).

Do our eyes “shed streams of tears” because “people do not keep your law” (v. 136)?  Do we have a “zeal” which “consumes” us because our “foes forget your words” (v. 139)?  As I study Psalm 119, what continually keeps my attention is the evidence that the psalmist was a man whose whole life completely revolved around pleasing God, striving to be like Him in every way possible, and passionately wishing that everyone else could be the same way.  What great benefit could come if every Christian on earth could be the same way!

Much more could be said about Psalm 119.  An in-depth study is far beyond the scope of this piece.  So we shall close by examining one final passage:  “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever” (v. 160).  God’s Word will never pass away, and only by whole-heartedly taking into account everything it says will one come to know and obey the truth.  May we all come to know it and obey it more fully!

— Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

Denying the Historicity of Genesis Does Not Uphold Biblical Christianity — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: January/February, 2016)

 

A few years ago my wife’s employer, a professed believer and follower of Jesus Christ, informed Beth of her belief that the events of the book of Genesis (the creation of the world in six days, Adam and Eve, the global flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, etc.) was fictional.  When Beth asked her why she believed this, she cited the genealogical timelines recorded in Genesis (Gen. 4:17-5:32) which, when taken into account alongside the historical fact that Jesus Christ lived about two thousand years ago and the biblical genealogical records tracing his lineage back to Abraham and Adam (Matt. 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38), would promote the conclusion that this world is only around six thousand years old.  She then explained how this contradicted the scientific “facts” of evolution which promote a rather lengthy age of 4-6 billion years for this planet.  She also pointed out that the historical existence of Adam and Eve contradicts the “proven facts of evolution” which proclaim that mankind evolved over millions of years from animals.  As for the global flood, she dismissed it as an obvious fable and myth.

Sadly, this was not the first time (nor would it be the last) in which I had heard of a supposed Christian denying the authenticity of Genesis in favor of upholding the erroneous, unproven, and inconsistent man-made theories of evolution.  About fourteen years ago, I was involved from time to time in a college ministry.  On one occasion, the college minister had invited a brother in Christ who taught at a university to speak to these college students about how the six days in which Genesis says the world was created in reality were each symbolic of millions of years.   When asked by me and a few others why he believed this, he said that due to the “proven fact” that this world is millions and millions of years old, we should not take these six days in Genesis chapter one literally.  According to him and many others, the six days are obviously representative of much longer periods of time, which would then back up what science has supposedly proven to be true.

However, much scientific, archeological, and historical evidence exists which contradicts these notions.  My purpose in writing this editorial is not to directly present such evidence; therefore, I encourage the reader to examine the material published by Apologetics Press in order to see it for themselves.  I encourage any readers of this editorial who do not believe in Christianity and/or are atheists to examine the material at Apologetics Press with an open and honest heart.  To my Christian readers, I commend you to them in order for you to learn more and thus be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Pet. 3:15).  To further help us obey this scriptural command, this editorial will consider the biblical evidence which supports the historicity of Genesis so that we can see how logical consistency would force those professed followers of Christ who deny Genesis’ authenticity or try to change its message in favor of man’s evolutionary theories to also deny Jesus Christ and his teachings.

To begin with, let’s examine exactly why we believe in Jesus Christ.  Why are you a Christian?  What is the basis for your faith in Jesus?  Is it only because your parents were churchgoers and taught you to be the same?  Similarly, is it “because I’ve always believed”?  While both of these reasons are important and should not be discounted, our faith must be built on more.  Why?  Because both the skeptic and the honest seeker of truth will, legitimately, be dissatisfied when they ask you, “Why should I become a Christian?” and the only answer you give them is, “The reason I’m a Christian is because my parents brought me to church and taught me since childhood, and so I’ve always believed.”  “Fine,” they will say, “but WHY have you always believed?  Why did your parents believe?  Why did the Christians who taught them believe?  Why should I believe?”

“When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…” ( 1 Cor. 13:11).  I went to church because my parents wanted me to, and I believed in Jesus because they believed in Jesus.  That needed to change as the years passed, because when “I became a man, I gave up childish ways” (1 Cor. 13:11).  My faith needed to be my own, and it needed to have concrete, thought out, scriptural, logical, and consistent reasons (Rom. 10:17; 1 Thess. 5:21).  Therefore, I as an adult believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, my Savior, and my Lord because God raised him from the dead (Rom. 1:3-4; 1 Cor. 15:12-19) after he lived a sinless life (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15) in order to die on the cross as the saving propitiation for our sins (1 John 2:2; Rom. 5:6-11).

There are additional reasons for my faith in Jesus, but for the purpose of this editorial I want us to focus on the fact that our faith in Christ is meaningless if he wasn’t raised from the dead…after having died on that cross to save us from our sins…after having lived a sinless life.  If Jesus hadn’t lived a sinless life, then his death on the cross would not have been the propitiation for our sins.  Therefore, God would not have raised him from the dead to prove to us that he is our Savior.

The key to this which I want us to focus on is the necessity of Jesus having lived a sinless life.  Specifically, I want us to focus on the fact that no deceit was found in his mouth (1 Pet. 2:22).  Think about that for a minute.  If Christ had been dishonest in any way, he could not be the propitiation for our sins and God would not have resurrected him.  Therefore, he could not be our Savior, which means that our faith, the Christian religion, would be meaningless.

Bringing this back to the historicity of Genesis, we will see below how both Jesus and the apostles and prophets his Holy Spirit inspired (John 14:26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15; Acts 2:1-4ff; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 14:37; Eph. 3:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:19-21) talked about the events recorded in Genesis as if they were factual, historical events.  This is significant because if they in fact were mistaken or lying, then Christ could never have been our Savior.  Therefore, Christianity as a whole would be completely false.  Those who deny Genesis while professing to be followers of Christ need to realize this.

For example, Jesus while describing how Judgment Day will occur compared it to the day when the Genesis flood came (Matt. 24:35-39; Luke 17:22-27; cf. Gen. 6-9).  Peter also used the flood to illustrate the importance of immersion (1 Pet. 3:18-21) and the importance of not being a false teacher (2 Pet. 2:1-5, 9-10).  Notice that they did not imply nor refer to the flood as a story or myth in any way.  If the global flood did not actually occur, then by talking about it as if it did occur Jesus and his apostles were being less than truthful, and therefore sinned.  If that was the case, why are we Christians?

Again, Jesus on several occasions referred to the Genesis account of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah during the days of Lot as illustrations of lessons or warnings he wanted to give to cities or people he or his apostles were teaching (Matt. 10:14-15; 11:23-24; Luke 10:10-12; 17:22-32; cf. Gen. 19:1-29).  Paul, Peter, Jude, and John also referred to Sodom to illustrate warnings God gave to Christians (Rom. 9:27-29; 2 Pet. 2:1-10; Jude 6-7; Rev. 11:7-8).  Again, notice that they talked about what happened to Lot and Sodom as if it was an actual historical event.  If in fact it wasn’t, then we’ve put our faith in liars and our religion is meaningless.

While teaching about divorce, our Lord quoted Genesis twice (1:27; 2:24), specifically referring to the marriage of Adam and Eve (Matt. 19:4-5; Mark 10:6-8).  By talking about Adam and Eve as if they were historical characters, Jesus himself confirmed their historicity.  The Holy Spirit-inspired Paul would later affirm this by referring to Adam as “the first man” (1 Cor. 15:45), also doing so as if he were referring to a historical figure.  Therefore, to call Adam and Eve mythological would be to imply that Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and Paul were at best mistaken and at worst liars.  And since the message of all three ultimately originated with God the Father (John 12:49-50; 16:12-15; 1 Cor. 2:9-13; 2 Pet. 1:19-21), to say that Adam and Eve were not real or were not the first human beings would be to call God the Father either mistaken or untruthful as well.  While one would expect this from a militant atheist, the Christian who would do so is either ignorant of the Scriptures or rebelliously blasphemous, and in either case has exposed a serious flaw in his faith.

Furthermore, by stating in Matthew’s account, “Have you not read that he (God) who created them (Adam and Eve) from the beginning made them male and female,” and in Mark’s account, “But from the beginning of creation, God made them (Adam and Eve) male and female,” Jesus is placing Adam and Eve at the very beginning of the existence of this world.  The Genesis record does the same by stating that Adam and Eve were created on the sixth day along with the land-dwelling animals (Gen. 1:24-31).  Christians who state that the days in Genesis were in reality symbolic of millions of years each in their attempts to make the biblical account coincide with the flawed and unproven theories of Darwinistic evolution have Adam and Eve coming onto the scene millions of years after “the beginning.”  By doing so, they are disagreeing with their Lord and Savior who said the opposite.  If they choose to persist in doing so, even after “receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Heb. 10:26-31), they make their Christianity meaningless and put their soul in eternal peril.

I am continually amazed that some can apparently believe that God raised a Man from the dead after giving this same Man and his followers the ability to perform many miraculous signs which defy the laws of science…all while finding it hard to believe that God could also create the world, animals, and man in six literal days, and later decide to destroy that entire world with water and several cities with fire and sulfur.  I am even more amazed that these same folks proclaim to put their faith in this Man as their Lord and Savior…all while basically stating or implying that he, his followers, the Spirit who inspired them, and God the Father himself are wrong about their testimony as to the beginnings of our race.

Yet, perhaps we should not be amazed at this, because the same God who told us about the beginning of the world in Genesis also told us that false teachers would come, giving preference to empty human theories and philosophies over doctrine, and that many naive brethren who lack knowledge themselves would follow after them (Hos. 4:6; Matt. 7:15-27; Acts 20:28-32; Rom. 16:17-18; Gal. 1:6-10; Eph. 4:11-14; Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 1:3-7; 4:1-2; 6:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:1-9; 4:1-5).

You can’t confess Christ while denying his Word, but that’s what you do when you do not take Genesis for what it says. May we all choose to have faith which trusts in our God over men! —Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

Some Guided By Feelings Over Women’s Role Controversy — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: January/February, 2015)

Much discussion and debate erupted online among the brotherhood on December 3, 2014, after a YouTube video surfaced which showed the 4th Avenue church of Christ in Franklin, TN, hiring Lauren King, a young Christian woman from Lipscomb University, as their preaching intern and having her preach to the entire congregation on a Sunday morning. As I watched the video (which has since been made private by its owners), wrote an article about it which immediately received numerous comments, and read the many other blog articles and online discussions among brethren about it, I could not help but notice the sharp divide between those who applauded and defended Miss King for using her obvious talent for public speaking to serve God and those who were very concerned and upset about hers and other’s blatant dismissal of clear scriptural commands prohibiting sisters in Christ from teaching men in the church (1 Cor. 14:34-35; 1 Tim. 2:11-12; cf. 3:14-15).

Miss King defended her actions by stating that “the Lord made it very clear” to her “through a lot of discernment and prayer” that she was on the right path. She claimed to be “perceiving the Lord’s voice” whenever she “(had) peace when I walk through open doors” and also said, “If I have peace about where I’m going, that’s the Lord telling me yes…” I observed the majority of her supporters making similar statements about their beliefs which held no common ground with very plain scriptural commands and principles about women preaching and several other topics.

While condemning those who looked at the Lord’s Word as “an object of scorn,” Jeremiah warned, “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace,” and exhorted Benjamin to “ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it…” (Jer. 6:10, 14, 16). I feel nothing but deep concern, compassion, and sorrow for this young lady and the numerous others who allow their feelings of peace to guide them instead of God’s Word (Prov. 14:12; 28:26; Jer. 10:23; cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). I pray Miss King and her supporters will see their error, repent before it’s too late, and then use their talents and great passion for God with proper knowledge and in obedience to his will.

Preachers, we have our work cut out for us. The large number of misguided supporters of this error and others like it make it very clear that our pulpits must preach Bible instead of buncombe, scripture over stories, and facts instead of feelings (2 Tim. 4:1-5).

Pastors, you have your work as elders and shepherds cut out for you. All of you must “hold firm to the trustworthy word” and “build up the body of Christ” so that “we may no longer be children…carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Tit. 1:9; Eph. 4:11-14).

Parents, we have the most important job of all, the job of training our children daily to have the Bible as their sole authority (Deut. 6:4-9; Eph. 6:4). If not, feelings will lead them astray too.     — Jon

“The Elders Who Are Among You I Exhort” – Garland White

After Jesus told His apostles that He would build His church, He said to them, “Verily I say unto you, whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 18:18).   Christ commissioned the apostles and they were inspired to set in order those things to be taught and practiced by Christians.  “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,  for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,  till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-13).   In the early church members had various abilities, some were given spiritual gifts by which to promote its growth.  When the apostles had finished their work and the complete word of God had been revealed, spiritual gifts ceased (1 Cor. 13:10).   Mankind now has access to God’s word which contains “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3).  The inspired word converts the sinner and leads him or her in becoming a mature Christian.  Every Christian is to “grow in grace and knowledge” (2 Pet. 3:18) and practice those things set in order by the apostles.  The apostle Paul admonishes us to grow, “For when the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not strong meat” (Heb. 5:12).   It is our responsibility to become a mature Christian so that we may save our self and bring others to Christ.

The church found in the New Testament was organized according to God’s word and this spiritual order has been sealed by the blood of Jesus Christ.   Spiritual leadership as ordained by God involved the appointment of qualified men to guide the local church.   The same holds true today, qualified men are appointed as elders with the responsibility to function as shepherds and overseers in leading the local congregation in the way of truth.    With this in mind, let us consider some of the responsibilities of elders to the congregation and the members to the elders.

Hebrews 13: 17 describes the personal work of an elder:  “for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief.”  Elders, are you watching over the souls for which God holds you responsible?   In order to do so, it is imperative that you personally know each member of the flock you oversee, much like a good father knows his children.   An elder must have more than just a casual knowledge of the members he oversees – watching over souls is a fearful responsibility.  This duty is carried out by a man who is “a lover of hospitality” (Tit. 1: 8) and possesses “a sincere love of the brethren,” an elder who “loves one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Pet. 1:22) and places the value of a soul above all else.  Joy awaits faithful elders who lead the flock to eternal bliss, while grief and sadness lie ahead when members perish by the way.

An elder must have a good knowledge of God’s word and practice it.  2 Timothy 2:15 commands all children of God to “study (be diligent) to show yourself approved unto God…”    Elders are ordained by God to teach and enforce His laws without compromise.  Everyone likes to be accepted, but on occasion an elder may become unpopular for taking a biblical stand for the truth.  Many times an elder has lonely and soul searching issues to contend with and may be tempted to make concessions for the sake of keeping the peace.   However, he must remain strong, keeping in mind that the truth of God’s word cannot be altered to satisfy man.

It is equally important that each member be a good student of the word and respect the qualifications required to be an elder. When considering someone to serve as an elder, it is important that the congregation know the individual well enough to compare his manner of life with God’s word.   Men, both young and old should make it a personal goal to live according to the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.  Elders must regularly compare themselves against these standards.  “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith, test yourselves…” (2 Cor. 13:5).   The apostle Paul warned the Ephesian elders to take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.  For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.  Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.  Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:28-31).  Elders must be diligent and ever watchful for the adversary, “taking the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17) “which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among all them which are sanctified”  (Acts 20:32).

Having served as an elder, I know it is one of the most awesome responsibilities a man can have.  Elder, you have been asked to be keepers of the flock and will have to give account.  That’s awesome!  “The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed: Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock; and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pet. 5:1-4).  The impact an elder has on the local congregation affects the lives of each member, as well as his own…with eternal consequences.  Elders must serve as patterns to the church and set a good example in their service to the Lord.  A common pitfall facing an elder is “sleeping on the job” by placing emphasis on material things (housekeeping) rather than the spiritual welfare of the church.  It is a grave responsibility to serve as an elder, as he will give an account to God of how he discharged his duties.  This fact requires an elder to get on his knees often and ask the Lord to help him.

Just as elders have divine responsibilities, the Lord has also instructed individual members in their roles and obligations to the local church.  Each Christian is commanded to “obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves” (Heb. 13:17).  The inspired writer wrote these words to the early church and it applies to all Christians until the end of the age.  It is the duty of members to yield to the instruction and governing of faithful elders.  With this in mind, let us all reflect on the following questions:

  1. Have I considered my duty toward the elders?
  2. Am I in submission to the elders and willingly do what I am called on to do?
  3. What is my attitude when I need to make correction in my life and the elders call on me to do so?
  4. What is my relationship to Christ, to His church, to the elders, to my brethren, and to the world?

The lives each of us lead will have eternal consequences.  May God bless our efforts as we continue in prayer and earnestly contend for the faith.

Garland has served the Lord’s church in numerous positions, including as an elder.  His son, Michael, is also an elder at the Duncan Church of Christ in Duncan, SC.  Garland may be reached at gjwhite@tds.net.