Tag Archives: God’s Word

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

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

 

Advertisements

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

 

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

 

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

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.

The Faith Once Delivered – J.T. Wheeler

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  (Jude 3)

We have the truth.  And we have to fight for the truth.  Evil men hinder the truth (Rom. 1:18).  Righteous men spread the truth (Eph. 4:15).  Why is this corpus of revelation, this presentation of supernatural reality, this thing called the faith – why is it so important to us?

The Heavenly Body of Truth

Did you know that, before any word of Scripture was set pen to paper, the Message was enshrined in the holy halls of heaven?  It is true.  The Bible speaks of there being books in heaven (Rev. 20:12).  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89; see also Ps. 56:8 and 139:16).  Before Ezekiel was to write or speak a word, he had to consume the heavenly volume containing the message he would deliver to the Jewish refugees (Ezek. 2:8-10).  In the New Testament, the apostle John was told to do the same (Rev. 10:8-11).  Daniel, before he wrote down his final vision and interpretation, was told by the heavenly messenger, “But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth” (Dan. 10:21a; notice also Dan. 7:10).

That the New Covenant, or Testament, was established in heaven first is seen in Hebrews 10:7, 10, and in Acts 2:23.  Think about it.  If the covenant had to first be written down by men before it would be real to men, then Peter would have had nothing to say that first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, certainly nothing authoritative; for nothing of the New Testament was written on earth at that time.  And nothing would be written, as far as our Scripture is concerned, until around fifteen years later.  So the New Testament had to exist, real and in force, before Peter and the other apostles opened their mouths as authoritative messengers of this covenant.

Catholicism states that the Church as they understand it gave us the New Testament.  But we should see clearly that the church did not originate or even authorize any canon as God’s Word.  Such is beyond the ability of men (Matt. 16:19).

Did the New Testament exist in its fullness in the time of the acts of the apostles?  If not, what authority – what covenant – were the apostles demanding allegiance to (Acts 2:42)?  What would be the efficacy of the blood of Christ that the church would celebrate the first day of every week (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25)?  The Old Covenant ceased to be in force after the crucifixion of Christ (Col. 2:14-17).  And John’s ministry certainly concluded its course with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Yet the word, beginning in Acts 2, was preached with authority that validated the New Testament, the testament now in force because the risen Christ was on his throne (Acts 2:32-33; Heb. 9:15-17).

The message of the Bible is from the mind of God.  It is not arbitrary or capricious.  Rather, the Lord our God has graciously revealed what has been established in the will of God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:8-11).  This is good for us, because we could not know these things any other way (1 Cor. 2:7-10).

Delivered by the Miraculous Work of God

This Message was given to men as God chose to deliver it to us.  Speaking of Old Testament concerns, God delivered the revelations as he saw fit, but always with the same end in view (Heb. 1:1-3).  Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The term is verbal, plenary inspiration.  It refers to God giving the writers of Scripture the very words to use to convey the message He was revealing to them (1 Cor. 2:12-13).  Since it is God’s message from God’s mind being revealed and communicated, to think of inspiration in any lesser terms becomes illogical – and certainly unscriptural.  The fact that the Scripture indicates that God used the vocabulary and communicative skills already familiar to the writers shows us God’s gentleness in his use of men (1 Cor. 14:32), but not God surrendering to their understanding of what was to be revealed (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

And now the mind of God has been fully revealed as that mind speaks to our life and godliness (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).  It has been given by the authority of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is the New Testament which now establishes the apostles of Christ as the revealers, interpreters, and guides for all who would follow Christ (2 Cor. 3:3-6; Eph. 3:1-7; Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; 3:10-17).

For All Men of All Time

The Message is for all everywhere, for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), for every creature in this sphere of existence who can believe it and be baptized in obedience to it from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:15-16).  It is for all time, the eternal covenant which will not be abrogated (Heb. 13:20-21).  It will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).  The Message stands with us forever (2 John 2).  It does not matter that the Message is 2,000 years old.  It is as relevant and pertinent to us today as it has ever been (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:15).  It cannot be lost to humanity (though we may ignore it), so it will never need to be re-given to us.  There is no such thing with God as the restoration of revelation.

What Our Disposition Toward It Should Be

Notice that the Message is called the Faith.  That is telling and instructs us as to our response to this wonderful gift from God.  We are to believe it, trust it, be fully convinced of its truth.  Some brethren struggle with whether the word “faith” deals with subjective understanding or objective revelation.  The fact is that, most of the time, it references both.  The fact that the objective revelation from God, known to God from eternity, the fact that this is called the Faith demands that we hold it personally, intimately, subjectively in our own hearts.  The Faith does you no good unless it becomes your faith (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 4:13-25; 10:17).

What to say about this gift that is appropriate, adequate, impressive?

We are able to save our souls from eternal destruction because of this gift.  We can learn a depth of love beyond ordinary human comprehension.  We can commune with the Divine and make his realm our home.  We can see the invisible.  We can know the unknowable.  We can experience the best of the unspeakable.  The past is explained; the present is understandable; the future is relatable.

We can beat our weaknesses and promote our strengths.  We have a clear vision of perfection while we are able to see our own failings.  Community is enhanced while we still hold to individual worth, dignity, and honor.  Circumstances are seen as transient while we understand that real value is in the internal and eternal.

To surround yourself with Bible believers is to touch heaven.  To have a home where the Bible is believed, taught, and celebrated is to know peace, love, enrichment, and empowerment.  Children grow up secure and ready to take hold of challenges, understanding the greater good to be all important, as God himself has defined such.

Freedom is real, but to be used for the good of others.  Everyone gets a hearing but no one gets to control the soul.  With the revelation of God delivered perfect and complete, nothing new is to be feared, because nothing else is allowed authority over the soul (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9).  Peace rules and good advances.  And the Kingdom of God is realized on this earth!

All of this and so much more are found in the wonderful treasures that God has revealed to us in his Holy Bible.  We can know God with it.  We can know how to worship God with it.  We can know what redemption is, what sin is, what righteousness is, what real hope is.

Such a thing cannot be exaggerated.  Such a gift cannot be overstated.  Such a book cannot be spoken about too much.  Oh, the terrible consequences if we were to lose this gift!  The horrible darkness that would enshroud us, the ignorance that would relentlessly beat down on us, the loss of all that could bring good and prosperity to friend and neighbor!

But if we do not appreciate this gift of God’s grace, this divine act of intervention into the affairs of men, this demonstration of love beyond all love, then we will lose the blessings it brings – for ourselves, for our children, for our society.  It has happened before.

Israel lost their focus on God’s revelation and lost great blessings, until at last the word was rediscovered by efforts of reform (2 Kings 22:1-20).  The Great Apostasy occurred with the failure to keep faith with the word of God; and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages until men determined to relearn and re-teach the truth, at the cost of their lives, families, and fortunes.  To honestly think that we can treat such treasure lightly and still keep it is to fool oneself into blindness.

Imagine such a book forgotten on a dusty shelf, trampled as a foot stop, thrown around as a paper weight.  Imagine such a book given less time than is given to an empty TV show or a crass movie.  Imagine children being taught that their secular school work was more important than to study God’s word, or that their job carried more weight than their soul or their God.  Unfortunately, we do not have to imagine, do we?  Such absurd attitudes and declarations are all too familiar in our fellowship.

What would such a treasure demand of us?  What would be the appropriate response to a real revelation from God?  Well, the Bible gives us plenty of historical examples of the wisdom found in those who listened to God and positively responded to him, and the foolishness of those who did not.  In other words, as always, so now, too, when God speaks, we are to listen.  He has spoken, and the Message reverberates to this hour, and will continue to do so, to the end of time and forever more.

charsaint@aol.com

The Challenge To Teach The Truth – Dave Wood

The Proverbs writer once challenged young men to, “Buy the truth and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23).

One might wonder why Solomon needed to challenge any young Israelite to appreciate the truth.  Is it possible that Israel suffered from the very issues that plague Christians today?  Namely, there will be times when the truth is not popular and you will be pressured to “sell” it.  Paul would instruct his “child in the faith” to “preach the Word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Marshall Keeble explained that preaching the word, as used in this verse was “…preaching when they want to hear it and preaching when they don’t.”

Solomon’s challenge is still pertinent to preachers today: “Buy the truth and sell it not…”

There is considerable pressure for a preacher to just use pleasing words and not disrupt the status quo.  A preacher, however, is a proclaimer of God’s Word.  With that thought in mind a preacher ought always to let God have His say in every lesson and sermon given.  Let us consider this challenge issued by God’s inspiration.

“Buying the truth.”  What should this mean for the preacher, especially the preacher who is involved in a new work?  Naturally with a new work there can be great pressure on the preacher and his family.  This man has many new faces and names to learn and alongside those faces there are personalities for this preacher to understand.  There exists a desire in every man to be accepted and appreciated.  To meet these pressures, a man might think to soften his Sunday morning sermon or to skip certain verses in a Bible class.

But we are to buy the truth, which gives the idea of making an investment.  When it comes to truth (i.e., God’s word, the Bible, the gospel) no expense is too high.  “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in so doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16).

Men, in order to “take heed…unto the doctrine” you must know the doctrine.  You must know the truth!  Because you cannot proclaim what you do not know, the challenge is to invest time in studying God’s Word.  “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Timothy was challenged to study, to give diligence to the truth of God’s Word.  There is a sense of urgency in Paul’s admonition.  Do not put off knowing God’s will, do not put off doing God’s will, and do not put off teaching God’s will!

“Buying the truth” also means that you might, at times, be at odds with people.  In Romans 1:18 Paul described some people as holding down the truth by their unrighteous behavior.  When mankind shrugs off the truth of God’s word they certainly do not appreciate a reminder of God’s counsel.  It becomes offensive to such a darkened heart.  Those at Galatia had listened to false teaching and Paul reminded them again of the truth.  “For do I now persuade men, or God?  Or do I seek to please men?  For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).

If there is a choice to make between pleasing God or men, make sure to please God.  It is difficult to know which way the winds of men are blowing.  What is popular one day has perished tomorrow, but truth is always right.  The preacher’s challenge is to buy the truth.

Solomon’s warning is two-fold.  It is not enough to make an investment in the truth, but never, ever sell it.  In other words, the challenge given is to not be a sell-out.  Balak, the king of the Moabites, had a problem.  The Israelites were coming.  Balak had heard about a man who lived a long way from the Moabites, in Mesopotamia.  Balaam was a man whose talents were for hire.  do you remember this man?  Balaam had a reputation for blessing people or cursing people.  His reputation was such that representatives in Moab would make the journey to Mesopotamia to secure the services of Balaam.  Balaam had a great opportunity to stand firmly with the Lord and he wasted it.  Both 2 Peter 2:15 and Jude 11 mention Balaam and how he sold the truth for financial gain.  This man had a price.  Do you?  Do not sell the truth, no matter what!

A preacher sells the truth when he fails to teach all of God’s commands.  Paul confidently declared to the Ephesian elders, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).

When Paul declared the whole counsel of God, was there anything that he left out?  What would happen if Paul felt fear of being rejected and shunned?  Preachers have put a price tag on godly counsel by refusing to preach on Matthew 19:9 where Jesus stated there is only one reason which a person can seek a divorce and be remarried without living in adultery.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they add to God’s word by teaching that the inclusion of mechanical musical instruments in worship is acceptable to God.  This is not God’s counsel because there is no authority for it anywhere in the New Testament.  Preachers put a price tag on the truth when they bind their own scruples on others.  There are those who feel it is wrong to eat “in the church,” so they wrest and twist the scriptures to their satisfaction.  Either way, whether a preacher is taking away from the counsel of God or adding to the counsel of God, he has auctioned off the truth.

There are members of the church who will attempt to persuade preachers to teach and preach their own way.  There is only one thing that will save souls and that is the pure, unadulterated gospel of God.  Consider Paul’s thesis statement for the book of Romans:  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Rom. 1:16).

To hear some preachers teach, it is obvious that they think their abilities are the power to salvation, because in their lessons they make more references to their personal stories than to scripture.

There is one path that is always right, there is one message that is always true, and it is found in the Bible, not in the minds of men.  “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).

The challenge stands to everyone in the Lord’s body, whether preacher, teacher, elder, or deacon: buy the truth, and sell it not.  Now what will you do?

Broad Street Church of Christ, Statesville, NC