Tag Archives: the Bible

The Canon of Scripture – Terry Wheeler

The number of books in the Holy Bible is important for a variety of reasons. The Protestant edition contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. The book of Psalms contains 150 songs. The order of the books in your Bible’s table of contents is based originally on Jerome’s Latin Vulgate edition of the Scriptures, finished in AD 384.

However, the Catholic edition contains some 11 additions called the Apocrypha. They are Jewish literature written between the Testaments (425 BC to 4 BC) which many through the ages have counted useful in their walk with God. Yet no Jew that we know of ever counted them as the Word of God, nor do any of these works claim inspiration. It wasn’t until the Catholic Council of Trent, 2000 years later, that these works were accepted as Scripture. The reason for this change was that the first book of Maccabees allowed for an interpretation of Purgatory. With this vote, the Catholic authorities could say with a straight face that Purgatory was in the Bible. Seriously.

There are also New Testament apocrypha that have been around from the second century which Christians have valued as well. Yet none were added to the 27 books of the New Testament canon, except in certain limited regions or ethnic fellowships.

How did the canon of the Bible develop? Why are only these books in it? These are very important questions that deserve serious consideration.

The term “canon” means “measuring line” and refers to a standard of uniformity, a recognized standard of acceptability. For the Bible, it is that standard that distinguishes men’s writings from God’s Word. A quick consideration of this standard involves a book passing the following tests: Is it authored by an apostle of Christ or a faithful associate of an apostle? Is it true as a whole and in particulars of fact? Is it consistent within itself? Is it consistent in doctrine and fact with other known Scripture? Is it old enough (first century or older)? Does it confess (or deny) inspiration within its pages?

Christianity owes much to Jewish understanding and practice. The Christian canon developed in light of the established Jewish canon–the first Bible. Translated from the Hebrew into Greek, the Septuagint version of the Old Testament was what the early evangelists carried with them to prove Jesus was the Christ. Of course, that brings on the question of how the Jews established their canon.

It began with Moses, Sinai, and the establishment of the Levitical priesthood.   When Moses finished compiling what God desired at first for Israel, Moses deposited the books (scrolls) into the care and keeping of the priests (Deut. 31:9). And so it continued to the end of the Restoration after Babylon. Therefore many of the Old Testament books have that priestly distinction about them. For instance, note the emphasis on Samuel and how the book of Psalms was authored by priests as well as King David, whose affinity for the priesthood is well documented. Plus, so many of the prophets being priests or having priestly connections is explained by the fact that Moses in the beginning appointed the Israelite priests as caretakers of the holy books.

It started with Moses, continued with Samuel, carried through the temple worship leaders, and ended with Ezra, a Levite and scribe who authored at least three books of the Old Testament and who tradition says compiled the final list of the Old Testament canon. This list is upheld by Josephus, Philo, the Septuagint (with the exception of some additions to the psalms), and the papyri found at Masada. It was well established before the council (or school) of Jamnia reiterated and confirmed its belief in the Old Testament books as we have them (ca AD 97). One thing to note is that the book count is different in the Hebrew Bible from what we have only because the books are arranged differently. But the books themselves and their content are the same as are in our Bibles today.

With this background, it was not a big jump for the Christians (the first of whom were Jews at the beginning) to determine that God’s Word, the New Testament, was needed in writing for the church. Even in Paul’s time false writings were being circulated in the name of the apostles which prompted a demand for a true list of apostolic writings to distinguish them from the false (2 Thess. 2:1, 2; 3:17).

The apostles were quick to start sending letters to the infant congregations to help them grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus. Paul’s letters were the most well known among the churches, Paul urging copies to be made and circulated through the established congregations (1 Cor. 1:2; 4:17; 14:37; 1 Thess. 5:27).

Paul’s epistles were bundled and put into church libraries for authority and reference. As the first century proceeded and the apostles began to show their age, they realized the need to document their knowledge of the life of Christ. The three synoptic gospel accounts were readily received by the church and circulated as a separate collection. When Paul went to Spain, the other apostles (especially Peter) determined to fill in the gap left by his absence and continued writing to the churches. Others continued after the deaths of Paul and Peter, so that these general epistles began yet another collection to be bundled and stored with the churches.

When John was the last apostle standing and after the Lord visited him on Patmos with the Revelation (AD 94), the church urged a gospel account from his hand, which at first was circulated by itself, but then was later bundled with the three others. Tradition holds that John gave final approval in Ephesus to the 27 books of the New Testament canon.

Modern scholarship has wanted to deny the first century authorship of many of these books, saying that a New Testament canon cannot be earlier than the fourth century. But that theory, like so many other theories of the unbelievers, is dashed to pieces by archaeological and textual evidence.

It is true that not every book of the 27 was originally received by all the churches. Hebrews and the Revelation especially had a hard time to be received, as well as 2 Peter. Yet it is just as true that all the early churches knew of them from the second century onward, John having died in AD 98. Hebrews eventually was bundled with the letters of Paul for circulation and distribution.

From a negative perspective, the heretic Marcion sought to remake the New Testament according to his own ideas (he hated the Old Testament and anything that validated it) around AD 145. Diocletian ordered the books of the New Testament confiscated and burned in 303. If there were no New Testament canon already in existence, then what were these enemies of Christ about in these instances?

The facts are that the churches were compiling their canon in the second century. The Gallic Christians reported their persecution to their brethren in 177 and referenced most of the New Testament books in their report. Only ten are missing. Yet that cannot mean these ten were rejected, for the missing books include the book of Mark and four of Paul’s letters.

The earliest list of canonical New Testament books is called the Muratorian Fragment, dated AD 170. Though Matthew and Mark are missing, Luke and John are not. Plus, they still count the gospel as four-fold. In any list of the New Testament canon, these four are at the top. Thus, we can expect the first two books to be lost to wear and tear. With that, there are only four books missing: Hebrews, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, and James. Yet it is difficult to say these are rejected because if the others might be, it is unheard of that 1 Peter would ever be. By the third century, church leaders reported that there was an accepted canon for both Old and New Testaments.

With the work of Lucian of Antioch (ca 310) in his efforts to establish a standard Greek text of the New Testament and Constantine’s order for fifty copies of the Bible in Greek (AD 331), it is obvious that by this time the New Testament canon was known and established throughout the empire.

There is no justification for the idea that Constantine created the present New Testament canon for the churches, simply because he could not have gotten away with that. These Christians were used to putting their lives on the line for the Lord. They knew the books they cherished as God’s Word. If Constantine were to have tried to insert himself into the discussion of what was Scripture, adding a book or taking one out, the church would have put that down to government interference and walked away as quickly as possible. That would have been disaster for the emperor who desperately wanted the Christians on his side. No, we can be certain the whole of what Constantine did was to seek to gain their political backing, not try to change their religion.

Even if one ignores Eusibius’ documentation (AD 324) of the biblical canon being well established years before he came along, the fact is no government official, not even Constantine himself, had enough clout to effect a change in the canon which the church had for long years before held as dear to them as their own lives or the lives of their loved ones. Athanasius, famous preacher of the fourth century, published a list of the accepted books in 367. The church council of Carthage in 397 did reiterate to all the churches the books counted authoritative and inspired, which are the 27 books we have known and cherished ourselves all our lives.

Every generation seems to find it necessary to prove again the validity of the canon of the Bible. That’s okay. Cream always rises to the top and its flavor is unmistakable. In like manner, truth cannot be hidden nor God’s revelation lost (2 John 2). The incomparable word of God can never be honestly mistaken for the shallowness of mere men. Every time men look, they will see the light from these pages that can only be classified as divine, the product of inspiration of the Holy Spirit that is God’s Word to us, eternal and indestructible, and all we need for life and godliness (2 Pet. 1).

jterrywheeler@gmail.com

The Bible’s Historical And Scientific Relevance – Greg Wanderman

Jesus taught that the Bible speaks truthfully about both the physical world and the spiritual world. John 3:12 is proof that Jesus “did not accept the false idea that the Bible could tell you how to ‘go to Heaven’ but not ‘how the heavens go’” (Geisler & Turek, 358). Put another way, if the Bible is not trustworthy in what it says about the physical world, it cannot possibly be trusted on spiritual matters. And so, if we are to teach, as Jesus did, that the Bible is accurate in matters of faith, we must teach that it is accurate in matters of history and science.

Failure to teach an evidence based faith is in direct contrast to Hebrews 11:1.  Faith is the evidence of things unseen. We are poor stewards of the inerrant, inspired Word of God, if we accept the false notion that true science and religion are at odds with each other (Keller, 92). In fact, the honest seeker has far more information available to confirm the truth of the Bible today than in any generation before. In a world dominated by scientific thinking, few people will hear the truth of the gospel if the church fails to teach the reliability and relevance of scripture.

The Sincere Seeker

Many intelligent people have the false notion that all science is based on what is observable or known, while all faith is based on the unseen and unknown. When confronted with the unknown or unseen, the atheist responds “no God,” and the agnostic says “unknowable.” But the Bible gives verifiable, testable data when it speaks about the physical world. So the question is not necessarily, “Can a smart person believe in God” as Michael Guillen asks in his book by that name. Rather, what evidence are we giving to intellectuals to help them make an informed decision? I pray that every person would ask, as I did in my own journey, two simple questions and be willing to trust the evidence that demands a decision.

How did we get here?

No reasonable explanation has ever been given, outside of the Bible, for the most basic question of life: “How did something (matter, energy, space, time, etc.) come from nothing?” The God theory isn’t just convenient. Rather, it is the only answer to the Cosmological Statement: Every beginning has a beginner; the universe had a beginning; therefore, the universe had a beginner. Some have referred to this first cause as the “Unmoved Mover” (Craig, 97).

Einstein’s oscillating universe theory was proven false in 1922 by Alexander Friedman and others who displayed that Einstein had divided by zero in his cosmological constant or “fudge factor” (Geisler & Turek, 74). But it was the Hubble telescope that proved that the universe was not only expanding, but its rate of expansion was increasing! The universe has not always been here, oscillating in and out for eternity. Rather, it had a beginning, ex nihilio (out of nothing). The Bible explains this as, “In the beginning, God created…” (Genesis 1:1). It is a blind faith that would believe that trillions of stars, planets, and every living creature came from nothing. The evidence points to an intelligent being that caused matter to come into existence.

Is the Bible God’s inerrant Word?

The Bible is not meant to be a scientific textbook. Nevertheless, where the Bible speaks on any topic, it has been shown to be reliable. The Bible withstands attacks from every religion, theory, supposition, and fantasy; yet it shines despite rigorous scrutiny.

Inerrancy in Astronomy

Though Bible believers have been accused of thinking the world is flat, the Bible has always taught a round Earth (Isaiah 40:22). God wants us to use our ability to view the stars as a means of confirming Him. In Psalm 19, David wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands.” It is telling that many intelligent design proponents can be found in the field of astronomy. Isaiah wrote, “Lift your eyes and look to the heavens” (Isaiah 40:26).

Inerrancy in Physics

There is no new energy being created in the universe today. The Bible accurately reflects this in the words, “God created” and “rested” when the “heavens and earth were finished” (Genesis 1:1; 2:1). Though scientists traditionally argued this idea, it is now incontrovertible that nothing new is being created in this system. Matter and energy change form, but nothing new is being created (Thompson, 233).

Inerrancy in History

Archeology “does not prove the truth of the Bible in its theological and spiritual statements” (Hoerth & McRay, 11). Yet, archeology can correct historians who claim that Bible stories are myths. (Bryant, 54-56). As archeology unearths more data, the Bible has maintained trustworthiness. Whether it is Tel Dan proving David’s existence, the Black Obelisk of Shalmanesser III proving tribute from Jehu, the Taylor Prism declaring Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah, The Moabite Stone (c. 850 B.C),found in 1868, confirming 1 Kings 16:1, or the excavations of Nineveh, Egypt, Palestine, etc., each new dig leads to greater Biblical reliability (Bryant, 55; Hoerth & McRay, 50-129; Thompson, 240).

Conclusion

Unfortunately, too many people are fooled into thinking that true science and the Bible are at odds. God created an observable world so that we can seek Him while He may be found (Isaiah 55:6-7). The necessary information is available. Science has never answered how matter appeared ex nihilio or disproved any Bible statement. Christians should boldly proclaim the truth and reliability of God’s inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16).

The Church must teach these truths because the world will not show interest in matters of salvation if we aren’t proving the Bible is reliable on historical and scientific matters. Faith, of course, comes by hearing (Romans 10:17). Let them hear the whole full counsel of God (Acts 20:27).

Bibliography

Bryant, Dewayne12 Compelling Truths: Why Biblical Faith is Completely Reasonable. Nashville, Tennessee: 21st Century Christian, 2010.

Craig, William L. Reasonable Faith: Christian truth and apologetics. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2008.

Geisler, Norman L., and Frank Turek. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton, Ill: Crossway Books, 2004.

Guillen, Michael. Can a Smart Person Believe in God. Nashville: Nelson Books, 2004.

Hoerth, Alfred J., and John McRay. Bible Archaeology : an exploration of the history and culture of early civilizations. Grand Rapids, Mich: Baker Books, 2005.

Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God : Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.

Thompson, BertIn Defense of the Bible’s Inspiration. S.l: Apologetics Press Inc, 2001.

Greg Wanderman is the minister for the church of Christ at Clover, SC

 

Vexed by Gay Bullying – David R. Pharr

For all his failures otherwise, Abraham’s nephew Lot could not countenance the sordid ungodly deeds of the inhabitants of Sodom.  The Bible says he was “vexed with the filthy conversation [sensual conduct] of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).

From antiquity the name Sodom has been identified with homosexual perversion.  This was not their only sin.  Ezekiel adds the charges of “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness…neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (16:49).  But it was “giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh” that has especially perpetuated their disgrace and infamy (Jude 7).  (The term “fornication” covers all forms of elicit sexual activity, which includes homosexuality.)

Sodom and her sister cities were removed from the earth when the “Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24).  As The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible observes, “Sodom never occurs again in the Bible as a living city, but the memory of its sin and consequent destruction was kept alive by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the authors of the New Testament.  Sodom and Gomorrah have become bywords and tokens of God’s wrath on sin.”

Lot’s error of selfishness has been the subject of numerous sermons because he “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” a place where “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:12ff).  He moved his family into Sodom, and before long the influence of Sodom moved into his family!  Still, Lot’s fundamental sense of morality was shocked by the open and vile depravity he witnessed around him every day.

To be “vexed” (KJV) means to be severely “distressed” (NIV), to be “tormented” (McCord).  All sin should be troubling to God-fearing people.  Righteous souls grieve that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19, NASB).  However, some sins are especially egregious and homosexuality ranks among the most detestable of moral abominations, being classified alongside such things as bestiality and incest (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; cf. Rom. 1:26; 1 Cor. 6:9).

How did the society of Sodom and Gomorrah become so vile that there could not be found even ten righteous people among them?  The lessons of history suggest that it was degeneration which occurred over time.  What is at first repulsive comes to be tolerated.  Tolerated, it becomes commonplace, and the more commonplace and accepted, the wider its appeal.  Lines from the poet Alexander Pope describe the process:

Vice is a monster of such deadly mien [conduct],

That to be hated, needs but to be seen;

But seen too oft, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

One can hardly fail to see that there is a devilish agenda in America to convince the majority of society that homosexuality is so commonplace that it ought to be accepted and approved.  The evil expectation is that when people are sufficiently exposed to favorable portrayals of gay lifestyles, they will no longer find it repulsive.  So, more and more sitcoms and movies must have at least token gay couples.  Gays are depicted with upstanding and tasteful personalities.  How could anyone not admire them?  Newspapers and magazines include features about gays in almost every issue.  When there is some hate crime against homosexuals the papers give it full coverage, but when gays commit hate crimes it is hardly noticed in the media.  A major denomination elected a homosexual.  Denominations consider ceremonies for uniting homosexual couples.  When a Baptist church in North Carolina baptized a gay couple with no expectation of their repenting from that lifestyle, the media reported the event as if it were a milestone.

Various cities celebrate a “Gay Pride Week” with a “Gay Pride Parade.”  Some of the parades involve such vulgar antics that TV news will not show it, perhaps because it would violate broadcast standards and perhaps because it would show the public how deviant the gay movement really is.  The mayor of San Francisco granted marriage licenses to hundreds of gay couples.  He knew this was against the law in his state, but doubtless expected liberal courts to back him.  The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a state’s right to have laws against sodomy.  Same-sex marriage is now legal in several states.  in some places it is unlawful to distribute material which is opposed to homosexuality.  Even quotations from the Bible are not allowed.  What teacher would dare read such texts in class?  Indeed, how many preachers will read them from the pulpit?  Homosexual advocates claim that what the Bible says about it should be labeled “hate speech.”

Letters in newspapers reveal abysmal ignorance of the Scriptures as writers assert that Jesus never condemned homosexuality and lovingly accepted everyone regardless of lifestyle.  (Jesus defined what marriage IS and thereby precluded what it is NOT – Matt. 19:4-5.)  Other theologians (sometimes more ignorant than ordinary people) suggest that maybe Sodom’s sin actually was not in their perverted sexuality, or that maybe Jonathan and David were homosexual, or that Paul was gay, or that passages which condemn the sin really don’t mean what they say.

We are told that people are homosexual because they are “born that way” in spite of no evidence to prove it, and some blaspheme by saying “God made me gay.”  Polls are regularly published to suggest that the trend is toward accepting gay practices and gay marriage.  The gay agenda expects that moral sensibilities will become weary of objecting and that the majority will approve.  Satan’s expectations is that the more we are exposed to it, the less shocked we will feel.

In all of this there is an underlying hatred of Christianity.  People who hate God’s rules are haters of God.  But gays and their fellow travelers have appropriated the word “hate” to apply it against Christians.  Christians do not hate homosexuals.  We love their souls and want to see them repent and turn to God.  We do in fact hate their sinful lifestyle.  (By comparison, we can speak of hating cancer while not hating the cancer patient.  Homosexual conduct is a “malignancy” of character.)

Thus, we have sometimes expressed it:  “We love the sinner, but hate the sin.”  A pro-homosexual and anti-Christian newspaper columnist ridiculed this as hate speech.  The more Christians express their love and concern for souls, the more they will be despised by the ungodly.  There was a time when most all churches were bold in their denunciation of sin, even specific sins.  Now many are intimidated out of fear they will be accused of being intolerant and unloving.  But while churches are hiding behind a curtain of timidity, the anti-Christian world marches with bold belligerence to trample underfoot moral decency and reverence for God.

The homosexual agenda is determined to bully people and churches into acceptance.  Now, back to Lot.  He was a righteous man and was vexed by the sin around him.  But it was a society ruled by bullies.  The Sodomites pounded at his door demanding submission to their ungodly lusts.  That was an actual door, but it reminds us that the bullies of moral corruption are beating at the doors of our families and churches.

“Preach the Word…Do The Work of an Evangelist” – Michael Grooms

To stand before a group of people and proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ is at the same time the greatest honor and the most humbling experience.  It is the greatest of honors because the message proclaimed is that from the very words of God.  The preacher is a messenger of God, insofar as the message preached is indeed the word of God.  It is the most humbling of experiences because no man is worthy of the task.  The preacher must first examine himself before he proclaims the word of God to others.  Such an examination may reveal inadequacies in his life.  Having thus examined himself in the light of God’s word, having prayed for God’s mercy, and having applied the message to his life, he may then be ready to preach the message to others.  Even the great apostle Paul realized this truth.  He stated, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).  He referred to himself as a chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) who was placed into the ministry not because he was worthy, but because he was a recipient of the mercy of Christ, who enabled him and counted him worthy (1 Tim. 1:12).  Every minister of the gospel would do well to echo these sentiments.

The preacher is first and foremost just that, a preacher.  It is very easy for a preacher of the gospel to become inundated with many tasks and responsibilities as he feels the pressure to meet the demands and expectations of others.  This can lead to a life that is very busy, but sorely lacking in proper study and preparation to preach the word of God.  If one gives his life to the preaching of God’s word, then he should guard that charge from distractions that would diminish his ability to do so effectively.  The preacher is to “minister to the saints” (Rom. 15:25); that is, he is to serve them in their spiritual needs.  This is not the task of the preacher alone, but that of every Christian (Heb. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:10). When the preacher capitulates to the expectations to do the work which God expects of every church member, he not only robs them of the fulfillment of having done their duty, but may find his duty as a minister of the gospel hindered.  Elders do well who protect the preacher from unnecessary burdens that hinder his ability to focus on the study and proclamation of the word of God.  The apostles had the wisdom to understand this.  When approached with the complaint that the Hellenist (Greek speaking) widows were being neglected in their care, the apostles stated that it was not fitting for them to “leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2, NKJV).  They charged the church with the task of finding those who they would appoint to that task so that they could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).  While preachers are not apostles, they are to be ministers of the word.  The wisdom of the apostles should guide elders, deacons, preachers, and all members in being certain that each fulfills their own duties and responsibilities.

What makes a good minister?  In 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns the preacher Timothy of the impending departure from the faith and his duty to preach concerning the truth of God’s word.  He then states, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6, emp. added).  He continues to admonish Timothy to avoid “profane and old wives fables,” to exercise toward godliness, and to be an example to the believers.  He reminds Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine.  Timothy is instructed to meditate on these things, to give himself entirely to them, and to “take heed to yourself and to the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). This is how the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to define a “good minister.” A good minister will not fail to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).  He will not shun to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  He will speak those things that are proper for sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1).  

Unfortunately, the “corporate” mindset of our society has affected the way people define roles in the church today.  While there are many elderships which view the role of the elder as a shepherd, too often elderships conduct themselves as a board of directors.  This mindset has also affected how elders and church members often view the role of a preacher.  The preacher is identified as an employee of the church.  He is hired to preach and visit.  Often, he is hired to do the work that others in the church should be doing.  The plea of the restoration movement is to “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent. Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names. In matters of faith, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In all matters, charity.”  If the church is to speak where the Bible speaks and call Bible things by Bible names, then should not this principle define the roles of those who serve in the church?  The employer/ employee relationship that so often defines the role of preachers in churches is nowhere to be found in the scriptures.  The two epistles of Paul to Timothy and his epistle to Titus define the role of the preacher.  In Ephesians 4:11, the scriptures teach that God gave the role of evangelist, just as he did that of apostles, prophets, and pastors (elders).  Each of these roles was intended by God to fulfill a purpose in the building up of the church, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).  The roles of apostles and prophets have been fulfilled and are no longer extant. The roles of evangelists (preachers) and pastors (elders) as well as that of deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13) are all ordained by God and defined in scripture.  It is proper for churches to support one who preaches to them, not because he is an employee, but because God has thus ordained (1 Cor. 9:14; Mark 10:9-10; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Tim. 2:6; Gal. 6:6).  By so doing, the church enables the evangelist to devote himself to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).   In John 10:12, Jesus spoke of the hireling who flees because he does not care about the sheep.  The church needs fewer hirelings and more servants of God in its pulpits!

It is imperative that evangelists and elders foster good relationships!  The failure to nurture such relationships has hindered the work of many churches.  Those churches which are blessed by elders and preachers who love and respect each other are empowered by such.  Stephen Guy has served the Lord’s church as both a preacher and an elder, as well as helping to train many preachers as a college instructor.  The following are the words of brother Guy as spoken to this author:

“Young and older preachers alike look for a congregation to spend their life in ministry.  The relationship between a minister and congregation has been compared to a marriage.  At the center is the elder/ preacher relationship.  The elders do make the final decision on the hiring and firing of the minister, and the minister answers to his elders as every member.  The relationship between an eldership and minister should be one of mutual love and respect.  However, in a number of congregations a corporate mentality has crept into the elder/ minister relationship in which the elders act as CEOs and the ministers are treated or function as hirelings. The Bible says that elders are not to lord over the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).  This includes the sheep, known as the minister and his family. The shepherds are to treat every sheep in a godly manner. If the minister is not acting in a godly manner or being effective, they should be corrected in the same way as any other member, in love.  There are times when it is best for the minister and elders to part ways, however it should be done in love and be God honoring.  Elders and ministers who love the Lord, and one another, make for a great marriage.  Elders and ministers, if you are enjoying such a relationship, pray for and praise, publicly and privately, one another, and the congregation will follow your example.  One compliment from an elder can make a minister’s day, and one compliment from the minister will make an elder’s year.”

Michael serves as the pulpit minister for the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC.  He can be reached at gospelpreacher@charter.net.

The Faith Once Delivered – J.T. Wheeler

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

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

The Heavenly Body of Truth

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

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

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

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

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

Delivered by the Miraculous Work of God

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

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

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

For All Men of All Time

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

What Our Disposition Toward It Should Be

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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