Tag Archives: Jon Mitchell

God’s Promises to Abraham — Jon Mitchell

There is a reason God promised that Abraham would be the “father of many nations” (Ge. 17:5).   The Hebrews came from him through his son Isaac, while Arabic Muslims regard him as their ancestor through Ishmael.  And of course, all Christians are spiritual descendants of Abraham through Christ (Gal. 3:29).  No wonder his name was changed from “Abram,” meaning “exalted father,” to “Abraham,” meaning “father of a multitude” (Ge. 17:5)!  A study of the various promises God made to this great man reveals his importance to the overall plan of salvation revealed throughout the entirety of Scripture.

For example, the Lord promised Abram that his descendants would be “a great nation” (Ge. 12:2; cf. 13:16; 17:6; 18:18).  This promise was fulfilled when Abraham’s descendants through his son Isaac and grandson Israel became a nation of great numbers during their time in Egypt (Ge.. 46:3; Ex. 1:7; Dt. 26:5), a nation which would become great and powerful under the direction of godly leaders such as Moses, Joshua, and David who directed Abraham’s descendants to faithfully serve the Lord.

Along these same lines, the Lord also commanded Abram to leave his country and family and travel to “the land that I will show you” (Ge. 12:1), the land of Canaan (12:5-6).  At that point God promised Abram, “To your offspring I will give this land” (12:7), a promise he kept centuries later starting during the days of Joshua (Josh. 21:43-45) and ending in the days of Solomon (2 Ch. 9:26; cf. 1 Ki. 8:56).  This promise was based on the condition that Abraham’s descendants remain faithfully obedient to Jehovah (Josh. 23:14-16; cf. Le. 26:14-45; Dt. 28:15-68).  Old Testament history reveals how Abraham’s descendants repeatedly fell away from the Lord and as a result repeatedly lost control of their land and were taken into foreign captivity (Judges; 1-2 Kings; 1-2 Chronicles; Jeremiah; Lamentations; etc.), with the ultimate destruction of their claim to Canaan delivered to them by God through Rome after they rejected Christ as the Messiah (Mt. 21:33-46; 23:29-39; 24:1-34; Mk 13:1-30; Lk 19:41-44; 21:5-32; 23:27-31).  After the abominations visited upon them by Rome in the latter part of the first century AD, Abraham’s descendants through Israel could never again lay complete claim to the land possessed by their ancestors.  Even today, after the United Nations worked to reunite Jews with the land known in biblical times as “the Promised Land” in an effort to help them recover from the horrors visited upon them during the Holocaust of World War II, Abraham’s descendants through Israel daily fight numerous enemies from the nations surrounding them in order to hold on to just a small fraction of the land originally promised by God.  Since the days of the Truman administration, many in this country and elsewhere believe that the United States and other allies of Israel should help her retake Canaan’s land primarily because it is the will of God.  However, political pundits and commentators who claim that Israel currently has a divine right to the land directly east of the Mediterranean overlook the fact that God’s promise to Abraham was conditioned upon his descendants continued loyal obedience to him, a condition which they failed to keep (Je. 31:32).

Abram and his wife Sarai, or Sarah as she would later be named (Ge. 17:15), were childless when Scripture first introduces us to them (Ge. 11:26-30).  By promising to make of him “a great nation” (Ge. 12:2), God in effect was promising Abram “offspring” (Ge. 13:15-16).  After Jehovah declared himself to be Abram’s “shield” and promising him that his “reward shall be very great” (Ge. 15:1), Abram pointed out that he was still childless and that his current heir was his servant Eliezer of Damascus (15:2).  The Lord then promised Abram that “your very own son shall be your heir” rather than Eliezer (15:4), and then declared that his offspring would be compared to the innumerable stars of heaven (15:5).  Abram “believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (15:6), a passage quoted by centuries later by Paul to prove to Judaizers that one under Christ’s covenant were not required to do the works of Moses’ law in order to be justified (Ro. 4:1-25), and quoted by James to show that a person is justified by works of obedience to the commandments of God in addition to faith (Ja. 2:20-24).

Abram’s faith in God’s promises to give him offspring was not always constant, however.  This is shown in the numerous times he dishonestly presented Sarai as his sister rather than as his wife in efforts to preserve his life from those whom he feared would take it (Ge. 12:10-20; 20:1-18).  It is sadly ironic that due to Abraham resorting to lying because of a lack of faith that God would keep him safe in order to keep his promise of granting offspring to him, the son God promised to him would eventually follow his father’s sinful example and lie about his own marital standing in order to save his life even after God made him a similar promise (Ge. 26:1-11).  May Christian parents today heed this lesson and be warned about the power of their own example and the influence it has on our children!

Abram and Sarai’s faith in God’s promise to give him offspring was shown to be weak on another occasion when Sarai convinced him to obtain a child through marriage to her servant, Hagar (Ge. 16:1-4a).  This polygamous union resulted in the conception and birth of Ishmael (16:15-16), which in turn caused considerable strife in Abraham’s family both then and in the years to come (16:4b-6; 21:8-11).  However, God was able to use their weak faith and the sin that resulted from it.  Centuries later, he would inspire Paul to use the polygamous marriages of Abram, Sarai, and Hagar and the two sons that resulted from them to allegorically illustrate the differences between the Mosaic covenant and Christ’s covenant in order to show the superiority of the latter (Ga. 4:21-31).  He also used this sinful episode to fulfill his promise to make Abraham “the father of many nations” (17:5) by causing Ishmael also to be the ancestor of a great nation (16:7-12; 21:12-21).    Yet, the strife resulting in Abram and Sarai’s lack of faith in God’s promise is felt even today as we see Isaac and Ishmael’s descendants still at war with each other.  One cannot imagine how different the world would be if Abram and Sarai’s faith had been stronger and they had decided to wait for God to fulfill his promise to them on his own time (Ps. 25:3; 27:14).

On yet another occasion, Sarah’s faith in God’s promise was shown to be lacking (Ge. 18:1-8; cf. 18:22; 19:1ff).  Even though God had already specifically promised Abraham that Sarah would bear him Isaac in their old age (17:15-19), Sarah laughed to herself when she heard the Lord repeat the promise to Abraham and wondered how she and Abraham could conceive after menopause (18:9-12).  God called her on the lack of faith shown by her laughter, even though she initially denied that she had laughed (18:13-15).  A year later, God fulfilled his promise to them in spite of her laughter and she bore Abraham a son in their old age, naming him Isaac, which means “he laughs” (21:1-7).  Interestingly, by telling Abraham to give the promised son that particular name even before the episode in which Sarah laughed (17:19), God proved that he knew of Sarah’s reaction in advance…and yet gave the promised and the blessing of children anyway.  What a testimony to his love, grace, and patience (Mt. 5:44-45)!

In spite of these lapses, Abraham and Sarah’s overall faith in the promises of God stand as an example for us today.  Their faith in God’s promises was what prompted him to obey his extremely difficult command to leave their home and family to travel to an unknown and distant land (He. 11:8-9; cf. Ge. 12:1-5).  Sarah’s faith in God’s promises, even though proven to be weak on at least two occasions as we’ve seen, was still the reason the Lord kept his promise to her (He. 11:11-12).  As a result, she is the spiritual “mother” of Christian women who follow her example of respectful, pure, modest, quiet conduct today (1 Pe. 3:1-6).  Likewise, Abraham’s faith in God’s promise of numerous offspring gave him the strength to obey the extremely burdensome command God gave to test his faith when he told him to sacrifice Isaac (He. 11:17; cf. Ge. 22:1-12).  His faith in God’s promises was so strong that he considered that God would resurrect Isaac  in order to keep his promise to him (He. 11:18).  Thus, his faith exemplifies what true obedience to God is all about (Ja. 2:14-26).  The times when their faith was weak also serve as a warning for us to be watchful when we think we are strong (1 Co. 10:11-12).

Undoubtedly the most significant and important promise God made to Abraham is found in the statement, “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Ge. 22:18; cf. 26:4; 28:14; 12:3).  Peter pronounced this prophecy fulfilled in Jesus (Ac. 3:17-26; cf. Dt. 18:15-19).  Later, Judaizing Christians who believed salvation to be dependent upon adherence to the laws of Moses sought to limit this promise to those who were either physical descendants of Abraham or to Gentile Christians who were circumcised and kept the Mosaic commandments (cf. Ac. 15:1ff).  This prompted Paul to address the issue in his letter to the Galatians by first stating those who have faith are “sons of Abraham” (Ga. 3:7), i.e., his true descendants.  God’s promise to Abraham that in him “all the nations” would be blessed was fulfilled when God justified the Gentiles by faith, proving that in a sense Abraham had had the gospel preached to him centuries earlier (Ga. 3:8; cf. Ge. 12:3) and that under the Christian covenant Jew or Gentile who believe in God as Abraham did are blessed just as he was (Ga. 3:9; cf. Jn. 8:39; Ro. 4:11-12; He. 11:8-10).  Those Jews who tried to be justified by Mosaic Law (Ro. 9:31-10:13) would be “under a curse” (Ga. 3:10; cf. Dt. 27:26; Je. 11:3; Ez. 18:4; Ro. 3:10-19).  They would not find justification through works of the Mosaic economy which required perfect obedience, but rather through faith as the Old Covenant itself foretold (Ga. 3:11-12; cf. Hb. 2:4; Le. 18:5).  Paul went on to clarify that true sons of Abraham would have faith specifically in Christ by pointing out how Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” via his crucifixion (Ga. 3:13; cf. Dt. 21:23; 1 Pe. 2:24; Ti. 2:14; Ep. 1:7).  Therefore, it would be only “in Christ Jesus” that “the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles” in order for them to “receive the promised Spirit through faith” (Ga. 3:14; cf. Ge. 12:3; Jn. 7:37-39; Ga. 3:2; Ac. 2:38-39).  This is why Paul would specify how the promises God had made to Abraham did not say “‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of one, ‘And to your Seed,’ who is Christ” (Ga. 3:16; cf. Ge. 12:7).

Paul later taught that the true heirs of Abraham are those who have become sons of God through faith in Christ (Ga. 3:26; cf. Jn. 1:12; Ro. 10:9).  This happened when they put on Christ via baptism into him (Ga. 3:27; cf. Ro. 6:3-8).  This is why Christians “are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Ga. 3:29).  May we preach God’s promise to Abraham to others so they may become heirs as well (Mk. 16:15-16) and receive forgiveness and eternal life!

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

 

“Therefore Let Him Who Thinks He Stands Take Heed Lest He Fall” — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: July/August, 2016)

The inspired apostle gave Christians a very serious warning when he wrote to Corinth centuries ago (1 Co. 10:12).  Oh, how relevant that warning continually proves to be when we are honest with ourselves!  Oh, but how easy it is to forget this warning or unconsciously allow ourselves to downplay it!

There are a lot of positive blessings associated with being a Christian.  We know we have access to “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” because we are “in Christ” (Ep. 1:3).  We know we are part of the body of Christ which is his church and of which he is Savior (Ep. 5:23), and are not deceived by the false doctrines and traditions of men associated with salvation and worship found in denominationalism which have drawn away so many (cf. 1 Ti. 4:1ff; 2 Ti. 4:3-4).  When compared to those out in the world, we may stand head and shoulders above them when it comes to morality and ethics.  Those of us who are active workers in the church can also take pride and comfort in the fact that “(our) labor is not in vain” (1 Co. 15:58) and we make a difference in the lives and souls of others.  All of this and more is good and we should gather great comfort from it (2 Co. 1:3-5).

Yet, let us never forget that even the best of us has sin and continues to sin (1 Jo. 1:8, 10).  We face temptations every single day, and one of Satan’s greatest tools to deceive us into giving into those temptations is to get us to not judge ourselves with the same righteous judgment God gives to us (1 Co. 4:4a; 11:31; cf. Jn. 7:24b).  God shows no partiality (Ro. 2:11), but we tend to show partiality to ourselves!  Like the Pharisee of the parable, we tend to focus on the good we are doing and the shortcomings of those around us while choosing to ignore or downplay our own sins (Lk. 18:9-14).

As a result, we may look at the good we do for the kingdom of God as a crutch instead of the acts of selfless service God wants them to be.  “Yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t do _____________, but it’s gonna be okay because after all, look at all the good I do for the church!”  We may compare ourselves to the sinners out in the world or our weaker brethren and use that as a crutch.  “Hey, why are you telling me to repent of ___________?  After all, it’s not like I murdered anyone/committed adultery/skip church all the time because I’d rather sleep in!”  Instead of gratefully finding comfort in our obedience to biblical doctrine concerning the oneness of the church and being motivated to obey further by repenting of our sins, we may use the fact that we obeyed the gospel and are part of the Lord’s church as a crutch.  “If there’s anyone who needs to get right with God, it’s those churches who add to God’s Word and are not the true church!  Focus on them instead of telling me I need to change ___________!”

I am so thankful Paul then gave us that wonderful way out in the next verse (1 Co. 10:13)!  I am so thankful God’s grace exists (Ti. 2:11) and offers continual, immediate forgiveness…but only should we sorrowfully and penitently confess our sins (1 Jo. 1:7, 9; 2 Co. 7:9-11) and follow grace’s instructions (Ti. 2:12-13)!  May we always examine ourselves honestly (2 Co. 13:5) and never insult God’s grace by choosing to rebelliously, unrepentantly, and willfully sin and thus bring upon ourselves his wrath (He. 10:26-31)!       — Jon

 

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

 

The Biblical Definition of Miracles – Jon Mitchell

Christmas is here. The time of year during which we are repeatedly told is “a time of miracles.” Think back over the holiday seasons of your life. How many times have you heard a commercial on the radio or saw a Christmas movie on the television in which the Christmas season or Christmas itself was referred to as “a time of miracles”?  Usually, what is meant by statements like that is that Christmas is a very special time.  In like manner, many of us have visited new parents who are holding their precious gift from God that was just born and have heard the baby referred to as “a miracle.”  Again, what is usually meant is that babies are very special, and they are.

Unfortunately, using the term “miracle” in such a way, while seemingly harmless, is one of several ways in which misconceptions about miracles are founded in the denominational world of Christendom.  Many who profess to be Christians believe, as shown above, that a miracle happens to them whenever anything special takes place in their lives.  However, the miracles one reads about in the Bible are not defined in such ways.

Start at Genesis and continue on through the pages of Scripture to the New Testament, and you will read about miracles being done from time to time by some of God’s people.  You will also read of God himself performing miracles directly.  Yet, each and every one of the miracles described in the Bible are acts which violate the known laws of nature and science which God put into place when he created this world and universe.  Not one time is a biblical miracle defined or described as nothing more than an event which is special in a sentimental way, as is often the case today.

Consider the miracles we read about in the Old Testament.   God giving Joseph the ability to accurate interpret people’s dreams and predict the future (Ge. 40-41).  God causing a bush to burn and yet not be consumed in front of Moses, and then giving Moses the ability to turn his staff into a serpent and instantaneously make his hand leprous by simply putting it inside his cloak (Ex. 3-4).  God giving Moses the ability to part the Red Sea simply by raising his staff out over the water (Ex. 14).  Bitter water made sweet by Moses simply by throwing a log in it (Ex. 15:22-25).  God raining bread from heaven and causing water to come from a rock simply by Moses striking it, and Israel defeating Amalek in battle only when Moses would have his hands raised (Ex. 16-17).  God causing the walls of Jericho to collapse simply by having Israel march around the city for a week and then shout and blow trumpets (Jos. 6).  God answering Joshua’s prayer to have the sun and moon stand still so that Israel could win the battle against the Amorites (Jos. 10).  Many more could be cited, but notice that they all have one thing in common.  They all violate the laws of science and nature.  That’s what makes these events miraculous in nature.

We see the same thing with the miracles we read of in the New Testament.  God causing a virgin to be pregnant with Jesus, itself a fulfillment of a prophecy made hundreds of years earlier (Mt. 1:18-21; cf. Is. 7:14).  Jesus instantaneously healing every disease and affliction among the people, including paralysis, epilepsy, those oppressed by demons, lepers, discharges of blood, blindness, the mute, those with withered hands, and even raising the dead (Mt. 4:23-24; 8:1-4, 28-34; 9:1-8, 18-34; 12:9-14).  Jesus giving his twelve apostles the ability to do the same (Mt. 10:1-4).  Jesus calming a terrible storm simply by speaking and walking on water after feeding thousands of people with only five loaves of bread and two fish (Mt. 8:23-27; 14:13-33).  God raising Christ from the dead on the third day after his death on the cross (Mt. 28:1-10; Ro. 1:4).  The Holy Spirit descending on the apostles on the day of Pentecost and giving them the ability to speak in other languages (Ac. 2:1-21), as well as healing the lame (Ac. 3:1-10), causing the instantaneous death of those who had lied to them and God (Ac. 5:1-11), healing the sick by simply having their shadows fall on them (Ac. 5:12-16), and healing paralytics and raising the dead (Ac. 9:32-43).  Again, many more examples could be cited, but notice once more than all of these events violate the laws of science and nature.

As people who will have to give an account for every careless word we speak (Mt. 12:36-37), we are commanded to speak the truth in love (Ep. 4:15) as oracles of God (1 Pe. 4:11), and God’s Word is truth (Jn. 17:17).  Therefore, when we speak of miracles we need to speak of them the same way that God speaks of them in his Word…not as special, sentimental events which come about naturally like the birth of a child, but rather as signs and wonders done by God through men which violate the laws of nature.

Furthermore, if we are to speak the truth about miracles done by God through men, we must also proclaim that they no longer takes place today.  There are several denominations whose adherents claim to perform miracles, but careful examination of what they do combined with comparisons made of biblical miracles shows their claims to be counterfeit.  The different types of miracles are listed by Paul in his letter to Corinth, in which he calls them “spiritual gifts” (1 Co. 12:1-11).  Two of those gifts were miraculous wisdom and miraculous knowledge (v. 8).  Knowledge (what one knows) and wisdom (the ability to use correctly that which one knows) are obtained naturally through education and experience; thus, miraculous knowledge and miraculous wisdom would come instantaneously, without having taken the time to grow in them via education and experience.  Paul also mentions faith as a spiritual gift (v. 9).  This is not the faith which comes naturally through the hearing of God’s Word (Ro. 10:17), but rather is the type of faith needed to do something miraculous like move a mountain (1 Co. 13:2; Mt. 17:20).  Today, the only way anyone obtains wisdom and knowledge is through natural means, and many people who have strong faith in their ability to perform miracles have attempted to move mountains, only to no avail.

Paul then lists gifts of healing and the working of miracles as spiritual gifts (vs. 9-10).  Those who claim to miraculously heal the sick and perform other types of miracles today do so quite differently from how Jesus and the apostles miraculously healed people and worked miracles back in biblical times.  Today, those who claim to do miraculous things to other people usually ask them to “wait a while” before they “begin to feel the effects” of the miracle.  Usually the only “miracle” done instantaneously is causing someone to “lose consciousness” by touching them on the forehead.  (This writer once visited a charismatic church and saw someone fall to the ground in the aisle, apparently having miraculously lost consciousness; it was interesting to observe the “unconscious” person shifting on the hard floor trying to find a more comfortable position!)

Paul also listed prophecy and distinguishing between spirits as spiritual gifts (v. 10).  Prophecy is not only the miraculous foretelling of the future, but also literally means “to speak on behalf of someone else.”  Today, prophecy takes place naturally whenever we preach and teach nothing more than God’s Word (2 Ti. 4:2; 1 Pe. 4:11); by doing so we are “speaking on behalf of” God.  Those who attempt to miraculously prophecy by predicting the future have always been proven to be false prophets when their prophecies fail to come to pass (De. 18:20-22).  The distinguishing between spirits refers to the miraculous power to automatically know what is in a person’s heart, a power Jesus had (Jn 2:24-25) and which was exercised by Peter in the incident with Ananias and Sapphira (Ac. 5:1-11).  Obviously, such a power doesn’t exist today.  How many times have we been sure about what a person has been thinking or planning, only to be proven wrong?

Paul then listed tongues and the interpretation of tongues as spiritual gifts (v. 10).  These are perhaps the most misunderstood and erroneously defined miraculous spiritual gifts in the list.  Those who claim to miraculously speak in tongues today say they are doing so when they speak nothing more than gibberish.  They are not speaking Spanish, German, Mandarin, etc., but rather nonsense babblings and gobbledegook.  However, the miraculous speaking and interpreting of tongues in biblical times was nothing more than the ability to suddenly speak in an actual, societal language or interpret it, without having first studied and learned it naturally (Ac. 2:6-8; 1 Co. 14:10-13).  Having tasked the early Christians with the awesome task of preaching the gospel to all nations, the miraculous ability to speak these nations’ languages would be very expeditious to the fulfillment of that task.

In the middle of his discourse on these miraculous spiritual gifts, Paul acknowledged that not all in the church had these gifts and then mentioned how having these powers was meaningless without love (1 Co. 12:27-13:7).  He then specifically stated that these miraculous spiritual gifts (citing prophecy, tongues, and knowledge) would “cease” and “pass away” when “that which is perfect has come” (1 Co. 13:8-10).

Many modern proponents of miracles believe that “the perfect” of verse 10 is a reference to Jesus, which is understandable.  However, the Greek word (teleos) which is translated “perfect” literally means “complete” or “mature.”  This same word is used in the New Testament to refer to God’s Word (Ro. 12:2; Ja. 1:25).  When Paul was writing 1 Corinthians, the New Testament was obviously not yet “complete” or “mature.”  That would change with the completion of Revelation not many years after Paul wrote to Corinth.  Therefore, Paul was stating in 1 Corinthians 13:10 that when God’s Word was complete, the miraculous spiritual gifts would cease.  This makes sense when one remembers that miracles were performed by Christ and his apostles and prophets through the power of the Holy Spirit in order to confirm the Word of God which was being proclaimed by them (Mk. 16:17-20; He. 2:1-4; 1 Co. 12:1-11; cf. Mt. 12:28).  Once that Word became complete and mature, confirming it through the miraculous would no longer be needed.

Again, we are commanded to “speak the truth” (Ep. 4:15), and God’s Word is truth (Jn. 17:17).  If we are to speak the truth about miracles, we must not only define them the same way the Bible defines them, but we must also acknowledge that they have already served their purpose in the plan of God and no longer take place today.

preacheroftruth.com

 

“We Must Pay Much Closer Attention To What We Have Heard…” — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: July/August, 2015)

A few years ago, during the Twilight craze that was sweeping the nation and the world and causing teen girls to violently debate the merits of “Team Jacob” versus “Team Whoever” (I can’t even remember the other guy’s name), I had the privilege to teach teens at Palmetto Bible Camp and later at a youth rally at a church in the Raleigh area. The lesson I gave at these events was probably very different from what the teens were expecting.

I started out each session by asking how many had seen Twilight (99% had), how many went to the midnight showing on opening night (again, 99%), and how many had read the books (99% of the girls had). From there I asked them to tell me the name of the female protagonist (immediately, 100% could), the name of the actress who played her (about 99% could), the names of both of her love interests (100% again), the actors who played them (99%), the name of the town and state in which the story was set (about 90% could answer this), the titles of each of the movies and books (100%), the name of the author of the books (95% could immediately answer this one), a summation of the plot of each book and movie (99% could do this off the top of their head), and how the books were different than the movies (about 90% could immediately answer this one.)

To give the long-suffering guys a chance to play, I asked them to name me their favorite professional athlete, his age, the position he played and the team for which he played, the stats concerning how well he played and the salary he earned, the stats about their favorite team’s standing in its particular league, their favorite video games, the plot of said game, their favorite movie, the star of that movie, the character he or she played, etc., etc. As with the girls, the overwhelming majority of the guys could answer these questions correctly off the tops of their heads.

I then asked how many of them were Christians. 99% raised their hands. I asked them if they loved Jesus (100%). I asked if Jesus was #1 in their lives (about 95% said yes to this; perhaps the remaining 5% could see where I was going with this by that point.)

I then asked them to quote for me John 3:16 and to tell me who said it and to whom he said it. About 40% could answer the first two questions, and none of them knew to whom Jesus was talking when he said that. I asked them to tell me what I must do to be saved. About 60% could tell me that I needed to hear God’s Word, believe in it, repent, confess my faith, and be baptized. However, when I then asked them to show me exactly where in the Bible I could find each of these commands, only 5% could show me right then and there. About another 5-10% could after a few minutes of searching.

I then asked them if they found worship services boring. About 80% raised their hands affirmatively. I asked them how many of them had jobs, and of those who did how many gave generously to the church every Sunday. Only about 1-2% raised their hands. I then asked them if they found Twilight or football boring, and if they would spend a generous amount of money to be a part of those events if given the chance. All of them raised their hands.  I then asked them if they thought God would want them in heaven with him for all eternity if they care more about a movie or a sport than about praising him and learning more about his Word. The point was made.

Adults who are reading this, perhaps you might be thinking something along the lines of These kids today… Well, may I pointedly but respectfully ask us this. How different are we from these teenagers, really? When I started the ministry in my early twenties, I thought I would be surrounded by brethren who was as excited and willing to discuss the Bible as I was. It didn’t take long for me to find out that starting a serious Bible discussion outside of the prescribed Bible class and worship times in the church building was as difficult as pulling teeth for quite a lot of Christians, most of them older than me. Yet, simply mention the name of a politician, sports team, or television show and I was guaranteed to have started a conversation that in many cases would last longer than the average Bible class or sermon! Fast forward 15 years, and not much has changed.

Parents, if we want our children and their children to grow to be faithful, active Christians and thereby go to heaven, it starts by following the prescription of Deuteronomy 6:6-7. However, in order to do that we ourselves must first have that same interest and habit.

It’s no accident that God told us that the righteous man who “is like a tree” and “who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” is one whose “delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night” (Ps. 1:1-3), before very pointedly adding, “The wicked are not so” (v. 4). Brethren, our actions speak louder than our words. What consistently comes out of us in the form of our deeds speaks very loudly as to the true condition of our hearts (Mark 7:20-23). When we far more easily find delight and interest in topics other than the Bible and eagerly spend far more time focused on those things than on the Word, let’s not fool ourselves. We’re lying when we sing All to Jesus I Surrender and None of Self and All of Thee. We’re as lukewarm as the Laodiceans and as lacking of our first love as the Ephesians (Rev. 2-3). So let’s not be surprised if our kids feel the same way and are following in our footsteps.

Rather than sitting in judgment on them for sins we ourselves commit (Rom. 2:1, 17-24; Matt. 7:1-5), let’s humble confess our sins and repent (1 John 1:7-9; 2 Cor. 7:9-11) and then let God lead both us and our children in the right paths by spending more time studying his Word individually, as a family, as a church, and with the lost.

“Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.” (Heb. 2:1)

Jon

Christians, We Need Each Other!! — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: May/June, 2015)

The times in which we live are filled with discouragement. As I write this, the United States Supreme Court is hearing arguments concerning whether homosexual marriage should be nationally legalized, while preachers in the city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, are being told by officials that they are breaking a city ordinance when they refuse to marry homosexuals. Baltimore is being torn apart by the latest of a series of riots which have been taking place across the United States.

You might have been going about your day when suddenly a policeman knocked on your door or you received a call from the local hospital informing you that your loved one has died after being in a car accident, or after suddenly suffering a heart attack or stroke. Perhaps you have sat by their sickbed for long hours months on end watching them deteriorate from cancer or some other life-threatening disease, have held their hand as they slipped from this life, and now you are facing a future without them. Maybe you showed up for work at the job you so desperately need to put food on your family’s plate and a roof over their head, only to suddenly be handed the dreaded pink slip while you’re informed that the bad economy is forcing the company to make some changes and they have to let you go. Perhaps your spouse of many years has told you out of the blue that they no longer love you and want a divorce, or your child has grown and started their own life only to then fall away from the Lord.

Perhaps you are a preacher who has just been unexpectedly told that your services are no longer required in the congregation whom you’ve served and for whom you’ve sacrificed much, or who has spent many hours pouring your heart and soul into a lesson only to watch some sleep through it. You might be an shepherd who has just left the home of a wayward member, heartbroken that they have rejected your pleas to return to the fold. Perhaps you’re an elder or preacher who is worn down by the continuous complaining by those “well-intentioned dragons” who continually nit-pick every decision you make and find fault every day with everyone but themselves. You might be a deacon who finds it very hard to get some or all of the members excited and involved in various service projects. Maybe you’re a member of a local congregation who has just gone through a split, or a Christian who is heartbroken over the doctrinally liberal stances many are taking and the evangelistic apathy which exists among more and more in the church.

Faced with so many hurdles and obstacles, how can we stay strong and loyal to the Lord? How can we focus only on what is good and pure (Phil. 4:8)? The apostle Paul was “afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Cor. 4:8-9). We try to be like him and “not lose heart;” we try to let “our inner self (be) renewed day by day;” we want so desperately to “look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen” and “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 4:8-9, 16, 18; 5:7). How did he do it? How can I do it?

Paul was not alone. Yes, he had the Lord with him always, a true Companion who can’t be surpassed. However, he also had his fellow brothers and sisters in Christ with him. Timothy, Barnabas, Luke, Silas, Titus, Philemon, the churches at Thessalonica and Philippi…all of these and more helped, refreshed and encouraged him throughout the dark times in his life. Fellow Christian, you are not alone either. You have the Lord Jesus, and you have his family, your family, his church.

Church, in order to be the beacon of light to both Christians and the lost who are groping through this dark world of discouragement, we must be what God would have us to be. Each of us must let our light shine (Mt. 5:16). We all must treat each other like family (1 Tim. 5:1-2). We must avoid complaining, grumbling, gossip, and backbiting, and strive not to produce it ourselves (Phil. 2:14; Gal. 5:15). Rather, we must “be at peace…encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient…(and) seek to do good to one another and to everyone” (1 Th. 5:13b-15). We must bring the saving message of the gospel to everyone and live it in our own lives and in our dealings with each other (Mk. 16:15; 1 Pt. 2:12). Our assemblies must always be gatherings of edification and encouragement as well as worship in spirit and truth (Heb. 10:24-25; Jn. 4:24).

That’s how we “bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2) and bring others and ourselves out of the darkness of despair and into the light of hope. When peace, unity, true love, and encouragement exist in the local church, the lost soul looking for the hope and salvation found only in Jesus will be drawn to you. The new convert will not lose his zeal, and you and your fellow Christians will have your batteries recharged, ready once again to live for Christ in this dark world.

Look around you next Sunday during worship and remember that you need these precious, like-minded brethren…and they need you. — Jon

carolinamessenger@gmail.com

Good Stewardship, Financial Report, Coming Soon Next Year — Jon Mitchell, Editor (Editorial: November/December, 2014)

The Carolina Messenger has seen some changes over the past year. Several sound brothers in Christ were added to the board of directors: Michael Grooms, Steve Miller, Michael Morton, and Spencer Strickland. Terry Wheeler turned the chairmanship of the board over to Paul Kirkpatrick before leaving the Carolinas to pursue a good work in Florida, and we all wish him and his family the best. David Pharr retired as editor after many years of serving the publication in that role, and the board as well as our readership thanks him wholeheartedly for a job well done. After several months of Paul Kirkpatrick and myself serving as interim editors, the board recently asked me to serve as the publication’s new editor. It’s a privilege to take on this responsibility, one for which I am very grateful.

Under brother Pharr’s guidance as editor, the Carolina Messenger taught and edified many souls in the Carolinas and beyond due to his decision to publish articles written by sound men who taught biblical truth in a loving, balanced manner. I’m reminded of the words of the apostle Paul to the Corinthians: “This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1-2, ESV).   “Stewards” comes from the Greek word oikonomos, and is defined by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon in part as “a manager, superintendent.” David Pharr’s work as editor of this paper was the epitome of good, trustworthy stewardship, and my hope and goal is to follow in his footsteps by managing this paper in such a way that it continues to lovingly proclaim sound, balanced truth that will convict, encourage, edify, and admonish as needed. I ask for your prayers that our Lord helps me to do a good job so that his name and kingdom are glorified.

The scriptural principle of good stewardship applies not only to the work of Paul and his fellow workers, nor solely to those of us who preach and teach God’s Word from the pulpit or on the printed page. Christ’s parable of the talents as recorded in Matthew 25:14-30 teaches all Christians about the need of good stewardship over the abilities and opportunities our Master has placed before us in order to be fully prepared for the day he comes again. The three servants of were each given “according to his ability” varying amounts of “talents,” extremely large sums of money. The two servants who had each received a plurality of talents “went at once and traded with them,” doubling the amount originally given to them and thereby proving themselves to be “good and faithful” stewards or managers of what had been entrusted to them. However, the third servant who had been given a single talent “went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money,” thus proving himself to be a “wicked and slothful” steward in the eyes of his master, who upon returning and hearing of his poor stewardship “cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.”

Christians, our Lord and Savior has entrusted with us the responsibility of being “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The need for us to be trustworthy stewards of this responsibility is very great.

Within the Lord’s church several deride and reject the concept of “follow(ing) the pattern of the sound words” (2 Tim. 1:13) and “have crept in unnoticed” (Jude 4), “draw(ing) away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Indeed, more and more seem to be ignorant of even the basic teachings found in the sacred writings. Even among those of us who wish to uphold sound doctrine regardless of what persecution may come, a decidedly noticeable apathy exists when it comes to being as evangelistic and spiritual as God calls us to be. This issue lists some of the problems facing the church from within along with some of the ways all of us can easily bring the saving power of the gospel to more people.

Yet in spite of these obstacles, the church of Christ still stands, and will continue to stand regardless of these problems (Matt. 16:18; 24:35). Moreover, “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” continues to be found “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3-4), i.e., in his body which is his church (vs. 22-23). The Lord’s church continues to be a blessing especially for those who are a part of her, as this issue will also bring out.

The reason we as the church of Christ continue to experience these blessings from God comes from the power of his grace and providence, but also because of those of us who respond to his grace as he instructs us to do (Tit. 2:11-14). When we “renounce ungodliness and worldly passions” and “live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives,” we are proving ourselves to be trustworthy stewards of the privileges and responsibilities God has entrusted to us. When we “do good to everyone,” especially by bringing them the saving power of the gospel of God (Gal. 6:10; Mark 16:15-16; Rom. 1:16), we are good managers of what God has given to us and God uses us to be a blessing to many. However, we join the ranks of those with poor, untrustworthy stewardship when we allow ignorance, apathy, and worldliness to dominate our lives and hearts.

Paul, whom we are told to imitate (1 Cor. 11:1), was a good steward of what God had given him. As 2014 ends and 2015 dawns, let us likewise work to be found trustworthy in the management of our own God-given responsibilities as Christians. — Jon

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The board of directors and the writers of the Carolina Messenger would like to thank each of you for reading this publication. We also thank all of the congregations and individual Christians who financially supported our work this year. Without your generous contributions we would not be able to use this publication to bring the saving truths of God’s Word to so many in the Carolinas, the United States, and abroad. As many of you know, this publication is given free of charge to any who subscribe, and all who write for the paper do so without cost to the publication. We depend on the generosity of you, our readers, to be able to continue to print this paper and mail it to our subscribers. As 2014 ends and many churches, families, and individuals plan their monetary budgets for 2015, we ask that each of you consider contributing toward the support of the Carolina Messenger so we can continue to produce this publication for the benefit of the kingdom.

Below is the latest financial report of the Carolina Messenger (4/8/14-10/31/14):

Church contributions

Duncan, Wildwood, Mauldin, West Walker, Concord, Corinth, Charlotte Ave, Cape Fear, Meadowbrook Road, Cornelius: $3700.00

Individual contributions: $622.00

Total contributions: $4322.00

Expenditures

Bates Printing: $7226.34

Labels: $359.88

Accuzip: $1590.00

P.O. Box: $56.00

New checks: $26.85

Total expenditures: $9259.07

The Carolina Messenger currently has a balance of $9558.43 in our checking account. As our long-time readers know, we used to be able to produce 11 issues per year, but recently have had enough funds to produce only 7 issues in 2014. Our monthly expense to produce those 7 issues is about $922.00. The board of directors and many of our readers would like to be able to return to producing 11 issues per year. In order to do so and also pay postage, labeling, and banking costs, we need your help.

Please use the enclosed envelope to contribute to the Carolina Messenger and help the gospel reach more souls throughout this land while edifying your brethren in Christ. Again, thank you so much for your support. — Jon

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COMING SOON NEXT YEAR…

The Carolina Messenger is not the only thing that has seen change in recent days. Christians have watched our society undergo numerous changes in the past year or so, not all of them for the better. The religion of Islam has gathered much attention recently from the terrible, murderous actions of ISIS overseas. In our own country, we have been saddened to see the sinful abomination of homosexuality become increasingly accepted by more in our culture, even among those who profess to follow Jesus Christ. Many among our brotherhood struggle to cope with these realities along with problems, and questions which Christians have faced for decades.

The mission of the Carolina Messenger is to teach God’s Word in love and in an understandable, balanced way that not only opposes error but also instills habits of thought which promote godly morality and Christian character. Thus, we will publish in 2015 articles that give a balanced, biblical approach to the following topics:

  • The need for evangelism
  • The religion of Islam
  • Christian apologetics
  • Works of the flesh
  • How to contribute to unity
  • Same-sex marriage
  • Godly leadership
  • Godly marriages
  • Avoiding foolishness
  • Lessons our youth need to know
  • Proper perspectives on prayer
  • How to react to persecution
  • The Christian’s involvement in politics
  • Spiritual gifts
  • And much, much more!!

We hope you continue to read and ask for your continued prayers that the Lord bless in 2015 both the Carolina Messenger, his church worldwide, and his disciples and their families. Lord willing, see you next year!! — Jon

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DON’T MISS THIS!!

The 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship

Saturday, March 14, 2015

9 AM to 3 PM

Location: Gold Hill Road Church of Christ, Fort Mill, SC

Questions? Call the Charlotte Avenue congregation at 803-327-7853 or email charlcoc@comporium.net or drpharr@msn.com

—AND—

The 71st Annual

Carolina Lectures

April 5-8, 2015

Theme:  “What The Church Needs”

Location: Duncan Church of Christ, 1234 S. Danzler Road, Duncan, SC

Questions?

Call the Duncan

congregation at 864-439-9263 or email

carolinamessenger@gmail.com