Tag Archives: leadership

Editorial: “It Is Better To Take Refuge In The Lord Than To Trust In Princes…” (October, 2016) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

At the time of this writing, the 2016 election for president of the United States and other elected governmental offices on the federal, state, and local level will take place in a little over a month.  Much attention has been given to the presidential race over the past fifteen months or so since the first candidates in each party announced their candidacies.  Many in the brotherhood, myself included, follow politics closely, especially in presidential election years, and like to discuss the various candidates and races in person and online via social media and the like.

There was a time when I never thought much, if at all, about any connection between my Christian faith and political views.  However, that changed in 2000 when I became a preacher and, not coincidentally, began to take my Christian walk more seriously.  During that first year of full-time work I read and for the first time personally applied to myself Jesus’ command and promise in Matthew 6:33:  “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”  I also read for the very first time ever Paul’s charge to Timothy:  “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Ti. 4:12).  These verses became very important to me, and still are.  I was 24 years old, a brand new preacher who had never planned to become one and had received no purposeful formal training.  My personal biblical studies and burgeoning experiences in dealing with brethren and the lost were, along with advice from older, more seasoned preachers and brethren, all I had to guide me.  I knew how easy it would be for people to condescend to me due to my age and inexperience, and so I was determined to do the best I could, however imperfectly that would be, to set the proper example before them in all areas of my life.  The only way I could do that would be to put God and his will as the top priority in every single aspect of my life as best I could.  That is still my goal today, and I still fallibly try to meet it.  It’s a good goal for all Christians to have.

I realized that if I as a Christian first and preacher second were going to “set the believers an example” by “seek(ing) first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,” then my politics would have to completely coincide with God’s revealed will.  Otherwise, I would be guilty of choosing to follow Matthew 6:33…except in the voting booth.  Christ’s condemnation of the hypocritical example the Pharisees set before those who sat at their feet (Mt. 23:2-3), at the time newly discovered and studied by me, weighed heavily on my heart and I did not want that same condemnation.  Thus it was that during that 2000 election year I started diligently researching God’s Word for guidance as to what governmental policy positions God would approve of and what kind of leader God would want America or any country to have so I could vote accordingly.

Something God said in the Psalms jumped out at me:  “It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes” (118:9), and again, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (146:3).  This was a stark contrast to how I had looked at politicians previously.  An honest retrospection of how I had viewed my choices for president in the 1990’s and in 2000 made me realize that I had thought them to be the only ones who could not only  save America from its woes, but also make my personal life more abundant and fulfilling.  My political discussions with my brethren that year—and every election year since, especially this one—made it clear that I am far from the only Christian who thinks this way.  If I was going to truly trust Jesus’ promise that he would provide for my needs if I put his will first (Mt. 6:33), then I would need to follow God’s directive to put my trust in him instead of princes and politicians.  Christians, please take this to heart.

David’s inspired words also caught my attention:  “The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me:  ‘He who rules over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God’” (2 Sa. 23:3).  Solomon wrote something similar:  “It is an abomination for kings to commit wickedness, for a throne is established by righteousness” (Pr. 16:12).  God wants men who are just, righteous, and who fear him to rule over nations.  My initial reaction to this was to wonder if I could only vote for faithful New Testament Christians since only we by the blood of Christ are completely justified and righteous…until I saw that the Bible also spoke of non-Christians possessing these attributes to a lesser degree (cf. Mt. 13:17; Ac. 10:1-2, 7, 22).  I concluded that I could follow God’s parameters if I supported a candidate who, as best as I could tell, showed by the fruits or evidences of his personal and political life that he was just, righteous, and feared God (cf. Mt. 7:16-18).  Any candidate whose personal life, personality, and policy positions were proven to be unrepentantly ungodly could not receive my support if I was to truly heed Matthew 6:33, 1 Timothy 4:12, Psalms 118:8 and 146:3, 2 Samuel 23:3, and Proverbs 16:12…no matter how much they promised to make my own life and the country better.

As I continued to study, I noted with interest how little the Bible had to say about the pros and cons of various domestic and foreign policy philosophies which held such prominence in what people looked for in candidates.  I couldn’t find guidance on which specific economic, educational, healthcare, or foreign policies God would endorse.  Rather, I found that God would rather his followers live in an impoverished nation which was rich in righteousness instead of a wealthy, unrighteous nation (Pr. 16:8).  I also saw that he was looking for leaders who surrounded themselves with wise counselors whose advice they would be willing to heed (Pr. 25:5; 29:2; cf. 1 Ki. 12:6-15), men and women who were tough on crime and evildoers (Pr. 20:8, 26; Ro. 13:3-4) and who would not oppress the poor while also refusing to enable the lazy (Pr. 28:15; 29:14; 31:9; cf. 2 Th. 3:10).

Thus, I realized that if I was to put God’s righteousness first in the voting booth, a candidate’s positions on promoting what God calls righteous in our nation would have to matter more to me than their domestic, economic, and foreign policies per se.  All my life, the killing of innocents in the womb and the legitimizing of the abomination of homosexuality have been matters of governmental policy.  Both have been promoted and fought to be further legitimized, by various candidates, even though God condemns both (Ps. 139:13-16;  Ro. 9:11-13; Ez. 18:1-20; Pr. 6:16-17; Mt. 19:4; Ro. 1:26-28; 1 Co. 6:9-10).  In addition, I’ve seen candidates excuse away or defend certain crimes and criminals, candidates who themselves have oppressed the poor and needy or have promoted policies which do the same, while also enabling the lazy to continue to avoid honest work.  Keeping Jesus’ and James’ admonitions to heed all of God’s will in mind (Mt. 23:23b; Ja. 2:10-11), I realized that I could not support a candidate unless I could see that they were making an honest effort to promote and defend God’s righteousness in all of these areas and  humbly listen to wise counselors who upheld the same.  This would have to be top priority, more important than any attractive promises about healthcare, education, foreign policy, taxes, and the like.

The last biblical truth I found was that God ultimately decides who will rule America (Da. 2:21; 4:17, 32, 34-35; 1 Ti. 6:15; Re. 1:5; cf. Ro. 13:1ff).  If it is his will that an ungodly person rule our country, he will make that happen and, as Habakkuk also taught me, will do so likely to punish our country in an effort to bring us back to him (Hab. 1:1-11).  Since righteousness exalts a nation and God abhors evil rulers (Pr. 14:34; 16:12), the only reason he would allow an evil ruler is to bring a nation low in order to motivate it to come back to him (cf. He. 12:5-11).

Normally as far as I can tell, there has always been at least one candidate who has come across both personally and in the policies he promotes as just and fearing God.  This year is different.  For the first time in my adult life, it is generally agreed in both religious and secular circles that both major candidates are personally abhorrent by biblical standards, and both promote various ungodly policies.  Both have recently been under investigation for wrongdoing.  Both are well known for personally saying and acting both publicly and privately in ways that are extremely ungodly.  Still, both are loudly supported by those who wear the name of Christ…and the lost in the world are noticing.  Social media and the blogosphere show that many  are turned off to Christianity by what they (correctly) perceive to be our inconsistency.

Many Christians loudly support these ungodly choices because they are understandably scared.  Yet, let’s remember that God wants us to live by faith (Hab. 2:4), to put his righteousness first, even if it seems that doing so will bring harder times, and trust that he will still take care of us.  He doesn’t want us to put our trust in princes, in Trump or Clinton or anyone else.  He just wants us to put our trust in him.

God doesn’t ask our help to put the ungodly into power…but he does want us to bring souls to him.  The Bible doesn’t require us to vote, but we are commanded to let our light shine, set the proper example, bring souls to Jesus, and put his righteousness first.  Lost souls are watching us to see if God’s standards matter outside the church building.  Let’s not give them a reason to think they don’t.  If we choose to vote, let’s trust in God and put his standards first.

— Jon

Lessons Learned From The Jerusalem Church – Tim Bench

Acts chapter 2 discusses in great detail many of the attributes and details of the church established in Jerusalem. It can and often has been often argued that the ideal, perfect, and biblical precepts of how a church is to be operated is exhibited within this chapter of Acts. In this article, we will briefly analyze and discuss four facets of this first century congregation and how the church of the 21st century can, and should, in many ways emulate this example.

The amazing effectiveness of the evangelistic efforts of the Jerusalem church

We are to “take the Gospel into the whole world” and “unto every creature” (Mark 16:15). Nowhere in scripture does a church fulfill this command and commission more effectively than the church at Jerusalem.

In Acts 2:41, we see 3,000 conversions from a largely Jewish audience in a single day, with 5,000 more on another day (Acts 4:4). Mass numbers of Jews had ventured to Jerusalem for Pentecost, one of the three feasts of the Jews (2 Chr. 8:12-13), with the others being Passover and Tabernacles. “Pentecost” was also known as “Firstfruits,” “Harvest Festival,” and “Feast of Weeks” (Lev. 23:15). Having such a massive Jewish audience would provide the perfect opportunity for these earliest Christians to widen their following. These mass baptisms likely occurred at the pool of Siloam, just south of the Jerusalem Temple, or possibly Upper Gihon or Lower Gihon (“Pool of the Sultan”).

The sheer numerical tallies, impressive as they may seem, of these early evangelistic efforts do not serve to adequately express the impact of these early efforts. We can certainly assume there were uncounted and unrecognized results from that first sermon in the power of Pentecost, lost to history. Masses of people heard the Word, and were converted, and obeyed and received baptism, and were thus added to the Lord; these people would soon return to their homes and native lands across the known world of the time, and would thus help dramatically to help spread Christ’s message. We can never know precisely how many souls were ultimately affected and influenced for the cause of Jesus Christ due to the Jerusalem church efforts, but certainly it would be exponentially higher than the specific numbers we are provided in Acts 2. A seed was planted, so to speak, which would spread across the Middle East, and ultimately the world.

Even Jewish priests, seemingly the ones who would be the most resolute in their dedication to Judaism, were brought to the gospel (Acts 6:7). Souls were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47), proving that these jaw-dropping evangelistic results were ongoing, consistent, and startlingly effective.

We may well never equal the amazing numerical conversion results, but we certainly can, and should, apply the evangelism efforts seen in Acts 2 to today’s world, largely apathetic and indifferent to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As is stated above, we cannot know the effect, for untold generations to come, of a person who obeys Christ…saving “merely one” might well be the prelude to saving many, many more. One saved soul, fervent and dedicated to the cause of Jesus Christ, may influence many more to follow, across geographical areas as well as for the future.

Stewardship and need

We see a startling view of wealth, money, and stewardship from these early saints. Let us briefly consider the circumstances and atmosphere of the day. There were literally thousands of people on pilgrimage in Jerusalem, many of them hundreds of miles from their homes, with no effective way to provide for themselves food and shelter. The only realistic way to provide for the gathered masses was for followers of Jesus Christ to surrender their own possessions, selling what they owned so that the proceeds might be given to the church for “distribution” to every man who had need (see Acts 4:31-35).

The Jerusalem church was filled with cheerful and supportive givers (2 Cor. 9:7). There was no rampant greed, no thought of self, no hoarding or desire to gather and accumulate the temporal possessions of this world. Possessions were “all things common,” the expressed ideal of community of goods, lands, wealth, and possessions. This phrase does not, as some would claim, indicate that everyone was obligated to sell off everything that was owned, but instead illustrates the ideal that all held their possessions not for satisfaction of their own wants and lusts, but as a communal trust for the good and benefit of all. We see this theme expressed in 1 John 3:17 as well.

Many of the Jews present had traveled vast distances and had few, if any, supplies. People willingly give what they had so that others might have what they needed. This is a startling and foreign mindset for many in modern culture, where the pursuit of wealth and “things” is tantamount to self-worth and “success” for many people. The Jerusalem church did not merely give from convenience, as we often do today, but gave until they impoverished themselves (see Heb. 10:32-34, Acts 11:27-30, Rom. 15:25-27) for the cause and the mission of Jesus Christ. These amazing first century Christians did not regard their possessions and wealth as belonging to them, but instead as the property of the brethren as a whole, and thus to be shared as need arose (see Acts 2:44 and Acts 4:32).

How many of us today would truly be able to say that we would do likewise? Could you literally sacrifice EVERYTHING you owned in the name of Jesus, to help provide for the needs of others you do not even know?

Necessity of baptism clearly established

Numerous faiths, denominations, and “churches” of today will claim that baptism is not at all necessary for salvation, or that salvation may be a necessity but somehow precedes salvation. It is imperative that churches of today can effectively address this all-too-common viewpoint, which is also thwarted in Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, etc.

A cursory reading of Acts 2:37-38 seems to clearly illustrate the necessity of baptism, except for those who simply choose to not read the text openly. The Jews, upon hearing the preaching, were “pricked in their hearts” and ask the eternal question of “What shall we do?” for salvation (this clearly demolishes the viewpoint that “faith alone” or “faith only” provides salvation). Peter does NOT tell them that they are saved by faith alone, and replies “Repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” Scripture is abundantly clear here in response to the “What shall we DO?” query. What they were “to DO” in response to hearing the Gospel is stated with no ambiguity by Peter. They were to be baptized for the remission of their sins.

Earthly leadership established

The church at Jerusalem was established and organized as per biblical principle, not upon the whims of culture of popular opinion. Specifically, elders were selected and installed to oversee the church (Acts 15:6 and Acts 15:22). Deacons were likewise selected (Acts 6:1-7). These men (and contrary to popular public opinion amongst many today, elders and deacons were NOT to be women) were selected based on qualifications very clearly specified and described in 1 Tim. 3:1-10.

It is important to note that the church at Jerusalem, established biblically, did NOT belong to or adhere to dogma from any “society”, national group, “accrediting agency”, “convention”, denomination, ecumenical “alliances”, board of directors, or any other earthly foundation. Each individual church was to be established and overseen by elders, who would be responsible for their individual congregation (Acts 11:29-30).

In summary, the Jerusalem church serves as the epitome of Christianity in its most pure, first century-form. The structure, function, and amazing effectiveness of this church should serve as the inspiration and goal of Christians every bit as much today as it did nearly 2000 years ago. We have no better model to emulate or imitate than the Jerusalem church.

Tulsa4@aol.com