Tag Archives: Paul

A Shipwrecked Faith — Curtis Kimbrell

Our faith is one of the most cherished assets which we possess.  Yet there are many times in our lives when our faith is stronger than at other times.  When I am truly honest with myself and do some real “soul searching,” I may ask myself, “How can I really make myself more faithful?”  Or I may ask myself, “What can I do as a Christian to improve my faith and make it stronger?”

To answer these questions, I could easily revert to the well-known verse:  “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of God” (2 Ti. 2:15).  I may think of improving my prayer life as is stated by Paul to the Thessalonians:  “Pray without ceasing.  Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Th. 5:17-18).  When we take our Christianity seriously and it becomes more than just showing up at the church building on Sundays and Wednesday nights, it will greatly impact our lives and the lives of others.

But what do we do when something happens that threatens every thread of our faith?  When an event takes place in our lives that challenges us to even dare to ask God, “Why me?”  What if another person or Christian hurts us so badly that we feel like we are falling into a bottomless pit of hopelessness and despair?

Let’s briefly consider God’s servant Paul as we examine just one of his many hardships and how he dealt with it and overcame all odds with God’s help.  In the latter part of the book of Acts, we find that Paul was literally shipwrecked while sailing to Rome (27:13-44).  He was a prisoner sailing alongside many other prisoners and the ship’s crew when a wind known as the Northeaster hit them so badly that they eventually had to give into it (vs. 13-15).  They couldn’t fight what was coming at them.

In our lives, things are find at certain times…but sooner or later something beyond our control comes our way and there is absolutely nothing we can do.  Part of us says, “Give up!”  Another part tells us that God has a plan and we just need to hang in there a little longer.

Paul and his shipmates tried with difficulty to secure the boat.  They even threw over cargo in an effort to desperately save themselves (vs. 16-19).  In like manner, we try various ways to stay afloat through the storms that occur in our own lives.  It’s often difficult, even when others are there trying to help us.  Again, this goes back to the question:  How strong is my faith in the fact that God really will take care of me?

The others on Paul’s ship abandoned all hope (v. 20).  Each of us knows that we have felt like this in some way or another in our own lives.  No matter your age or experiences, it’s easy to think that giving up is the easiest and perhaps even the only way to handle things.  We forget that God’s timing and our timing do not always coincide.

While everyone was feeling hopeless on the ship and things were at their most critical, Paul began to encourage them.  He even told them that no life would be lost (vs. 21-24).  Do we encourage others when we feel hopeless?  Paul’s faith was at a stronger level than the others’ and he was reassured by the Angel of the Lord.  God’s Word reassures us that things will be okay in the darkest of times (Ro. 8:28).  Yet, so often we neglect to read it.

Paul had been told that he must stand before Caesar (v. 24).  God was not done with him, and he knew it.  He still had much work to do and a purpose to fulfill.  So as he continued to encourage these men, he told them to “take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told” (v. 25).  Yet, notice that he also gave them a warning that the journey wasn’t going to be easy because they would have to run the ship aground (v. 26).  The crew knew this would not be pleasant at all.  That’s why they were so fearful (vs. 29-30).  Yet, Paul cared enough to exhort them to not give up.  He told them to eat for strength, that “not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you,” and still managed to give thanks throughout all that was going on!  (vs. 33-35)

When we go through the worst times of our lives, do we have Christian friends who support us regardless of the cost or hardship?  Do we have that kind of support from our brothers and sisters even if we are fearful?  Are we ourselves willing to offer this needed support to others during their dark times?  It makes a world of difference in the outcome of our faith!

Paul gave the crew enough confidence to trust in God enough to throw the remaining food overboard (v. 38).  After that, they had to run the ship aground just as Paul had told them.  All 276 lives were spared thanks to Paul (vs. 39-44).  The apostle was leading and directing…but God was in control.  So many times control of the situation was out of the crews’ hands, but they continued to believe in God’s Word, spoken through Paul.

I truly believe there are times when we all feel that our faith is shipwrecked.  It could be a situation out of our control, a problem with another Christian, sickness, depression, or a host of other things which come up in this life.  If it becomes such an issue that we “quit church,” our faith was misplaced.  It was placed more in people than in God.

All of us need to read Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 11:25-28.  Being shipwrecked was only one of the vast amounts of hardships which this man endured for Christ, His church, and ultimately for God.  Since we do not endure anything close to these types of events, it should make our faith easier to sustain.  Our faith is something which no one can take away from us.  We are the ones who decide to grow spiritually, stay spiritually idle where we are, or fade away.  Our faith should describe who we are, how we live, and every aspect of our lives.  Don’t get me wrong.  We all fail.  Sometimes we fall flat on our faces in our spiritual walk.  This is where our faith is tested.  It helps us overcome, repent, and then lean on God’s grace and mercy to continue walking down the narrow path.

Friends, I do not even feel worthy to write these words to you.  Because of two loving brothers that encouraged me to do so, it has helped to edify me and build my own faith.  I hope and pray this has been helpful and encouraging to you, and that it will get you even more motivated about wanting to grow in your own personal faith.  God bless you all!

curtisk29374@yahoo.com

 

 

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The God Of All Comfort — David R. Pharr

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

Troubles Come

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

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

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

The God of All Comfort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

drpharr@msn.com

 

Unity and the Christian — Eric Diaz

It has been suggested that you can bind the tails of two cats together and they will be united. While they would be joined together, there wouldn’t be unity. Likewise, there are indeed hundreds of religions and church affiliations today but God has always desired there be unity among His people.

The idea of spiritual unity presents us with the goal of being united or joined together as a whole so there are no divisions among us (1 Corinthians 1:10). Not only does God desire that Christians be united in doctrine but also in matters of judgment and in our daily work within the church. We know from reading Ephesians 4:1-6 that unity is expected because there is only one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all. If we are not one with God, we are not united with Him nor with our brethren.

Let us explore a number of ways in which we can be united and how we can contribute to this unification:

Speak The Same Thing

God desires of His children to be of the same mind when it pertains to what we believe. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth because it was reported to him that there were contentions and division within the congregation. Paul sent Timothy to remind the Corinthians to imitate Paul as he taught the same thing everywhere in every church (1 Cor. 4:17). He also encouraged them to imitate him as he imitated Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). It is by the authority of Jesus and the standard of His word that they should have been united.

It is no different for us today. We must be perfectly joined together as brethren in order to be pleasing to God. If we cannot agree on sound doctrinal matters then we cannot be united. There are many passages that encourage us to speak soundly in our teachings and passages that warn of those who do not (1 Cor. 1:10; Titus 2:1-15; 1 Tim. 1:3-11; 1 Tim. 6:3-5; Gal. 1:6-10; Rom. 16:17-18).

Imagine if I had a stick, passed it around a crowded room, and asked everyone to tell me exactly how long they thought it was. You might hear twenty different answers based on each individual’s perception of length. It isn’t until a ruler is introduced that all in the room can be united in their agreement of its length. The same principle can be applied to what we believe and why we believe it. Unity isn’t based upon each individual’s perception of truth but by the spiritual standard that is the Bible.

God’s Word has been recorded in a way that makes it possible for us to understand it. Paul prayed without ceasing for the brethren in Colosse that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will. By being filled with His will they would continue to grow together spiritually, being partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light (Col. 1:9-14). In order to remain in the light one must fight the good fight and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:6-8). By walking steadfastly in the light we have fellowship with God and with fellow faithful Christians, and the blood of Jesus Christ continues to cleanse us of our sins (1 John 1). May we never break a bond of fellowship that is in perfect harmony for the sake of our own desires.

Why Judge Your Brother?

An important facet regarding relationships with our brethren is not to bind our own convictions on others. There are some subjects that are matters of opinion and those who are strong must be patient with their weaker brethren. Likewise if you happen to be the weaker brother you would expect those who are more mature in the faith to be longsuffering. When we speak about matters of judgment we are talking about morally neutral topics according to the Bible but which still may affect a Christian’s conscience. In Romans 14 we read of the example that one believes he may eat all things while another eats only vegetables. If they do not judge or despise one another they will both stand because God is able to make them stand.

The type of language used describing scruples is very different than that used in matters of doctrine or salvation. In Romans 14 we read of such language: “Let each be fully convinced in his own mind,” along with, “Who are you to judge another’s servant? But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother?” In verse 13 it closes out with this statement: “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.” If we are aware of a certain weaker brother’s faith we must walk in love. We are to consider our brethren and the possibility of giving up something that is not sinful of itself in order to preserve unity.

Another example of how to handle a matter of judgment can be found in 1 Corinthians 8. Concerning meat that had been sacrificed to idols, some would have violated their own conscience by eating it. There wasn’t anything inherently good or evil about eating the meat. Yet by eating the meat a more mature Christian would have sinned against the weaker brother by wounding his conscience. The attitude of Paul in this situation sums up how we are to walk in love: “Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble” (1 Cor. 8:13).

We Be Brethren

When it comes to unity between brethren I think of what Abram said to Lot: “Please let there be no strife between you and me, and between my herdsmen and your herdsmen; for we are brethren” (Gen. 13:8). I especially like the KJV rendering “…for we be brethren.” Even though they parted ways soon after this, they remained brethren and Abraham would later rescue and intercede for Lot and his family. Sometimes we forget that as children of God, we are heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ. If we stick together we will be glorified together (Rom. 8:16-17).

Another Old Testament passage that can be applied to unity is Amos 3:3: “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” This makes me think of a three-legged race, where two people are united at the ankles and must work together to move forward. If you have ever seen or participated in one of these races you will inevitably see some awkwardly stumbling, some falling down and sometimes one will fall and the other will try to keep going. Unless there is agreement and cooperation between brethren some will walk disorderly, some will stumble and some will fall. Yet, the words of the psalmist still ring true: “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)

Bringing these thoughts to the New Testament, we can turn to 1 Corinthians 12 and read of the diverse members within the one body of Christ needing to be united. We are taught the importance of each individual, the necessity of the weaker members and how God composed and views the body. In verse 25 we read again that there should be no divisions within the body but all should have the same care for one another. There is no doubt that problems will arise. Yet the more time we spend with brethren in the word, the easier it will be to avoid or solve our problems. We will be united in our common faith. If one does stumble the rest will be there to encourage, to pray and to build him up on our most holy faith (Jude 1:20). While those who do fall away will feel the godly sorrow necessary to repent and return to the light. It is a wonderful thing to be unified with brethren of like precious faith by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.

The Work of the Church

There are a number of scriptures that come to mind concerning how we can properly prepare ourselves to be united in the work of the church. The very first is 2 Timothy 2:15: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” I’m also reminded of 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which teaches us that the word of our living God is able to equip us for every good work. The Bible contains all that we need when it comes to being united in our work. In order for us to all be of the same mind and judgment we must be diligent in study, accurately handling the word of truth.

We must be knit together in such a way that our love for God will naturally lead to an unquenchable thirst and hunger for righteousness. Yet we must also grow together. One cannot remain on a milk-only diet while others feast upon the meat of the word. Ignorance of the scriptures can leave an individual vulnerable and we know how wolves and lions target the weak, sick and defenseless of a group. If those within the body, with Christ as the head, wear the necessary armor we will be able to stand together against the wiles of the devil (Eph. 5:23; 6:10-20).

If we can be truly united as God intended, the church will grow day by day both spiritually and numerically. We would have strong bonds and consideration for one another, stirring up love and good works. If we can be united with our brethren, in our doctrine and in matters of judgment there will be more time to carry out the work of the church. Without having to address constant dissension, discord and contention there will be more opportunities to study, to teach, to evangelize, to share the soul-saving gospel of Jesus Christ. If we can be united God will be pleased with us. We will be avoiding division and embracing unity (1 Cor. 1:10).

ericmigueldiaz@gmail.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

First Stop: Homosexuality. Next Stop: Pedophilia – Spencer Strickland

The lengths to which society and government have gone in order to force acceptance of certain sinful behaviors is nothing short of appalling.  As of this year, 9 states in the United States have legalized same-sex marriage (Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, and Washington).  Additionally, it is legal in the nation’s capital for two members of the same gender to marry.  Those who know what the Bible truly says about homosexuality sigh in disgust at such abandonment of basic moral principles.  Both Old and New Testaments condemn the practice of homosexuality (in spite of the efforts by some to suggest otherwise).  Sodom and Gomorrha’s sin of homosexuality was at the heart of God’s reason for destroying them.  As one recalls the incident at Sodom with Lot and the two angels who appeared as men (Gen. 19:1-3), the men of Sodom asked Lot, “Where are the men which came in to thee this night?  Bring them out unto us, that we may know them” (Gen. 19:5).  The Hebrew word for “know” is the same word used in Gen. 4:1:  “And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.”  Thus, it is obvious what went on in Sodom and it is clear that God destroyed Sodom because of their wickedness (Gen. 19:24-25).  One might say the divine commentary on this event is found in Jude 7:  “Even as Sodom and Gomorrha, and the cities around them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire [emphasis mine, SS].”  A few passages in the Old Testament describe homosexuality as an “abomination” (Lev. 18:22; 20:13) which credible and reliable Hebrew lexicons define as “a disgusting thing.”  Finally, Paul’s discussion of women changing “the natural use into that which is against nature” along with “the men, leaving the natural use of the woman” and consequently lusting after one another is a clear condemnation of homosexuality (Rom. 1:26-27).

Faithful gospel preachers have striven to inform folks of the sin of homosexuality based upon God’s Word.  In addition to informing folks about this sin, there is a warning preachers sometimes attach to it.  Namely, if homosexuality is viewed as “normal” and same-sex marriage is accepted, then what is to stop society from embracing other perversions of God’s definition of marriage?  Now that homosexuality is being embraced by government and society, efforts are being made to suggest that pedophilia might be viewed as normal and acceptable behavior.  Pedophilia is defined as “sexual desire in an adult for a child” (“pedophilia”).  According to a recent article published in the British newspaper The Guardian, “There is a growing conviction, notably in Canada, that paedophilia [alternate spelling of the term, SS] should probably be classified as a distinct sexual orientation, like heterosexuality or homosexuality” (Henley).  In this article, Sarah Goode who is both an author of two studies on pedophilia and a university lecturer is quoted as saying, “There are a lot of people […] who say: we outlawed homosexuality, and we were wrong.  Perhaps we’re wrong about paedophilia” (ibid).  This article underscores the fact that when sin is tolerated and accepted on any level, it opens the door for any and all toleration of sin.  Returning to the first chapter of Romans, where he wrote of the condemnation of homosexuality, Paul went on to give a laundry list of other sins that Gentiles were openly practicing like fornication, covetousness, maliciousness and murder – just to name a few (Rom. 1:29-31).  The final verse of that chapter says of these Gentiles: “Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:32).  How is it that anyone could “take pleasure” in folks practicing these sins?  How could American society and government take pleasure in championing the cause of same-sex marriage?  How could anyone ever take pleasure in viewing pedophilia as “normal”?  The answer is found in Romans 1:28 – “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.”

The legalization of same-sex marriage and the acceptance of homosexuality as normal behavior is a clear step towards an all out rejection of God and His will.  If the entire country legalizes same-sex marriage, it is only a matter of time before such perverted behavior as pedophilia is accepted as indicted by the article cited.  Once this behavior is accepted, what is next?  For instance, what will stop such perversions as bestiality (sexual desire of humans towards animals) from being viewed as normal behavior and just another “sexual orientation”?  Long ago, Isaiah proclaimed, “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20).  In essence, government and society are “calling evil good and good evil” by accepting and legalizing these ungodly behaviors.  It is important, then, that Christians stand against these behaviors and stand up for the Word of God (Jude 3).  It is important that preachers inform congregations of the wickedness that continues to be promoted in society and government.  It is important that Christians insist that the home be defined as God defines it and to teach others that definition (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-5; Eph. 5:31).  Finally, it is important that every child of God beseech the Heavenly Father for help in stemming the tide of gross immorality practiced, endorsed, and legalized in this country.

Thoughts on Acts 19:1-5 – David R. Pharr

Acts 19:1-5 provides precedent for a person being “re-baptized” when his previous baptism was not according to scriptural instructions.  In the case of the persons in the text they had been immersed according to the preaching of John the Baptist, which had only anticipated the redemptive work of Christ.  John never baptized in the name of Jesus.  Baptism in Jesus’ name began on Pentecost (Acts 2:38; cf. Luke 24:46f).  They needed to know and believe that John’s preparatory work had been finished and that the “one baptism” of the Christian dispensation must be in Christ’s name.

The issue, however, is not whether one’s baptism is said to be “in the name of Christ.”  Much error and evil occurs with mere claims of being in his name (Matt. 24:5; Acts 19:13ff).  Various baptisms performed in various groups may be said to be in Christ’s name, but are not in fact if they are not in harmony with Christ’s instructions.  Only when a penitent believer is being baptized that his sins might be washed away is he “calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). – DRP

The Signs of an Apostle – J. Terry Wheeler

I have become a fool in boasting.  You have compelled me, for I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing.  Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds  (2 Cor. 12:11f).

The second letter to the Corinthians is one of the most fascinating books in the Bible.  It is as clear a picture of the heart of the great apostle Paul as one can find (2 Cor. 6:11).

In that letter he is answering many concerns:  “Where has he been?  Why hasn’t he come back as he said he would?  Does his apostleship really compare to the other apostles?  He acts crazy, takes no money, has a pathetic ‘pulpit’ presence; why do we even listen to him?”

Titus, who had recently visited the church at Corinth, has his own questions for the apostle which the second letter answers:  “Are you sure they are going to have their contribution ready?  It sure didn’t look like it when I was there.”  Corinth was forever questioning Paul’s authority (1 Cor. 9:2, 3).  There were differences with him that the other apostles did not seem to share: he was not married nor did it seem he ever intended to be (1 Cor. 7:7; 9:5); he did not take a dime from Corinth to help in his ministry (2 Cor. 12:13); in fact, he worked as hard in secular labor as he did in ministry (1 Cor. 9:6); he was much more active than the rest (1 Cor. 15:10); he was much more at home with the Gentiles than the others (1 Cor. 9:21); he was the last apostle commissioned (1 Cor. 15:8), which meant no personal contact with Jesus (so far as anyone knew).  And of course, his history was blotted with the innocent blood of Christians (1 Cor. 15:9).

To a congregation that prided itself in preachers and in impressing the surrounding area and community with its sophistication, Paul was, for some, the last guy they wanted to depend on for spiritual guidance (1 Cor. 1:12; 4:10).  Add to that the obvious fact that some had designs on the church.  They wanted to make it their hang-out, their little nest-egg.  Paul’s influence threatened their machinations (1 Cor. 15:33, 34).  The quicker they could dispose themselves and the church of that, the better for them.

It is to this last bunch of brethren that Paul speaks so frankly in the last four chapters of 2 Corinthians.  He is confronting these fellows, who even presume to put upon themselves the designation of “apostle of Christ” (2 Cor. 11:13).  His love for even these false teachers is plain.  The pain in his heart is obvious and saddening (2 Cor. 12:15).  But he has had enough of their interference with the Corinthian brethren (2 Cor. 13:2).

The first time he came was to start the church and introduce them to the Savior (Acts 18:1-18).  The second time, he was so disappointed in them, he had to leave lest he “cut loose” on them, to their destruction (2 Cor. 1:23-2:4).  But now, after Titus returns to them with this letter, and they have had a chance to meditate on its contents, he will be at their doorstep (2 Cor. 13:1).  And he will not leave till this whole mess is settled one way or another.

It is exactly in this context that Paul speaks to them of his apostolic credentials.  These would be the validation of all Paul has done in Jesus’ name (Mark 16:20).  He reminds them of what they have already seen from him, and strongly indicates that, if they want it, there is much more to come (2 Cor. 13:3).

What he designates as “signs of an apostle” are the miracles, wonders, and mighty acts of power that fill the New Testament and so fire our imaginations today.  it is a demonstration of control over nature (John 2:7-11), over the hidden “nether” world (John 11:43, 44), and over future events (John 13:38).  It involves what man has dreamed over for eons but what has always seemed elusive to him: the ability to corral and harness all the threatening forces that surround us daily, a power reserved, apparently, only for Deity.

It is this power that the Son of God came to us with and demonstrated so freely for our benefit.  It is the same type of power that his authoritative representatives continued to demonstrate (Acts 2:43; 3:6, 7; 4:33; 5:12).

But before he goes into these sensational aspects of his ministry, Paul stresses the humble parts of his service: his deprivations, his sacrifices, the dangers he was constantly facing, his emotional turmoil – the things that no one would count as valuable or helpful, and what his antagonists in the church were struggling so hard to avoid (2 Cor. 11:1-12:11).  But it was his use of these things to establish legitimacy that, to use Paul’s phrasing, “cut the ground out from under” the false teachers (2 Cor. 11:10-12).  They were into comfort, privilege, prominence, monetary satisfaction, and worldly sophistication, even to the point of lasciviousness, uncleanness, and fornication (2 Cor. 11:19-21; 12:21).  Paul was showing the church that, between him and them, there was no comparison.

It is intriguing to consider just what Paul might have had on his mind to discipline the members.  It is also interesting that Paul is somewhat afraid of further humiliation in their eyes, as if what would discipline them would humble him (2 Cor. 12:21).  But come what may, if they needed sharpness, as Paul put it, to get the point (that “rod” he referred to in the first letter – 1 Cor. 4:21), he was ready to supply it (2 Cor. 13:10).

Discipline is a principle in the Scriptures that, for our day and age, seems absolutely tasteless, if not downright mean.  We can hardly stand the idea of someone speaking so directly as to hurt our feelings (2 Cor. 2:2).  To contemplate actual physical discomfort as something good someone might truly deliver upon us is insulting and oppressive.  And to consider that God would be happy with that outrages us and throws us into total confusion.  Such things cannot be love at all, right?

But God would “beg” to differ.  Since we are so given to fleshly pleasure and comfort, stress and even pain are necessary tools to discipline our thinking and therefore our behavior (Rom. 8:5-13).  Paul disciplined himself as an athlete would, so he could win his “race” (1 Cor. 9:26-27).  But when one cannot (or will not) exercise such effort over themselves, the church must care enough to exact enough discomfort to bring the brother back to serious attention to spiritual matters (1 Cor. 5:5).  And if the church won’t, then God will (1 Cor. 11:31, 32; Heb. 12:4-11; Rev. 2:14-16).

Generally, discipline is not considered a miraculous manifestation as the Bible puts it forth.  It is a social and personal concern that Christians exercise toward each other as the need reveals itself (Heb. 10:24; 2 Thess. 3:14, 15; 2 Tim. 3:1-5).  Or it is a matter of providential care, God working within nature to provide us the necessary discipline for our sakes (Amos 4:7-10; Hab. 3:17-19; Rev. 2:22, 23; 9:20, 21).  But in the early years of the church’s development, the miraculous powers that declared God’s presence and power were called on to not only convey the truth of God, not only bless and heal in the context of that message, but would also be used to bring discomfort on the enemies of Christ and of righteousness, to discipline the church.

So what exactly would these signs be? It would be the impressive stuff, even the deadly stuff, that apostles could do to glorify Christ (John 14:12).  It brings to mind the deaths of Ananias and Sapphira at the feet of the apostle Peter, which had a marvelous salutary effect on the church at that time (Acts 5:1-11).  It brings to mind Paul striking Elymas the Magician with temporary blindness, which certainly impressed Sergius Paulus (Acts 13:6-12).  These wonders would be likened to what Paul did at Ephesus, when simple articles of clothing like handkerchiefs that Paul had touched could be brought into the presence of the demon-possessed and the demon would be forced out that instant (Acts 19:11, 12).  But ultimately, as Paul implies, it would be whatever it took to get the church’s attention to either withdraw from the false teachers or to help reclaim them after their repentance (Rom. 16:17, 18; Gal. 5:12; 6:1).

To speak directly to the point, the signs of an apostle would be the miraculous works that only an apostle could do to underscore the authority of Christ, which the apostle represented (Matt. 10:8, 40).  It would be of a broader sweep than the spiritual gifts obtained by the laying on of the apostles’ hands (1 Cor. 14:18).  It would also mean a certain depth in the demonstration of power unique to them (2 Cor. 12:12).

It should be pointed out that, since Paul is the last apostle commissioned, and since there is no apostolic succession as far as the New Testament is concerned, it must follow that when the last apostle passed away, then the signs of an apostle died with him.  On the other hand, those who would claim latter day apostolic commission from Christ must be ready to defend the claim with the same sort of signs (raising the dead comes to mind here – 1 John 4:1).  Since God, like the truth, is perfectly consistent, we can expect no more apostles today.  The completed New Testament serves in their place (2 Tim. 3:16, 17).

It is worth noting that the book of Romans was written by Paul immediately after this third visit (or even during), while Paul was in the same locality (Rom. 15:22-25).  Most scholars are convinced that Paul wrote the book from Corinth itself.  That being the case, the book of Romans strongly implies that the problems of Corinth were truly settled to Paul’s satisfaction.  The secular history of the Corinthian church definitely bears that out.

If so, then we must take note that “the signs of an apostle” most certainly got their attention.  Perhaps simply the referencing of them in the second letter so put the “terror of the Lord” in them, that that was all that was needed.  We would hope so.

It is also worthy of note that the referencing of the signs is indeed all we do have in our day, the Lord obviously thinking that that is sufficient for us.  May such a reference to the Lord’s authority be effective with us.

CharSaint@aol.com