Tag Archives: Travis Main

The Interrelatedness of Dispensations — Travis Main

I once witnessed a conversation in which the premise put forth was that the older generation did not understand the times. Culture changes! Ages go by. Therefore, the beliefs of the older generation were no longer considered correct. In part, there is truth to this. Traditions, skills, and knowledge which have been passed down over time aren’t always acceptable. Speaking in the language of an era passing away, “Use a #2 pencil to adjust the tape in the cassette” may not only be a confusing phrase, but outdated and irrelevant.

Yet, what are we to do with the biblical statement “…ask for the old paths…”? The context and source of any discussion are critical in determining their usefulness. When speaking of the old paths, the context is people needing to get back to what God commands. The source of the statement is God. This is a message that fits all cultures and times. Today, many people want to do what God says, but they are holding to practices which God no longer authorizes. So looking back over man’s time upon earth, what statements of God should one follow? Is there a thread of consistency or interrelatedness throughout the time of man upon the earth and the dispensations he has lived through that helps determine this?

The New Testament definition for the word dispensation is “the management or oversight of a household or property”. In other words, a dispensation is defined by the authority or laws under which it operates and is not confined to time or culture. It appears in the expanse of man’s life upon earth there have been four major dispensations given by God: Creation, Patriarchal, Mosaic, and Christian. Each has very specific characteristics.

The dispensation of Creation is remembered through two people: Adam and Eve. They were to be fruitful and multiply, tend the Garden of Eden, and not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. That was their dispensation (the authority they lived under).

The Patriarchal dispensation represented a time when God spoke directly to the fathers (patriarchs). It has been frequently taught that God spoke to them with different laws, each under their own dispensation as it were. To support this it is oft stated that Abraham was the only one told to sacrifice his son or Noah was the only one told to build an ark. However, it appears that despite individual directives by God, there was a universal law given. Consider the man Noah. What is it that Peter calls him? He calls Noah a “preacher of righteousness” (2 Pet. 2:5). How could Noah preach righteousness if what was right to him was not also defined as right to others as well? The source of what defined righteousness to all men was God. Thus, Noah could preach righteousness to others. Later, but under the same dispensation, Lot is seen vexed with the filthy conversation of others (2 Pet. 2:7). Why? He was aware of a common dispensation all lived under, but some were rejecting.

The Mosaic dispensation is defined by a particular people and a particular law. By the authority of God, the nation of Israel was given the “Law of Moses” to live under. It was specifically for them and those who would voluntarily choose to live under it. When God directed that from the Israelites two silver trumpets be made and that only the Levites play them, no other people lived under that law. None other were under that authority.

The Christian dispensation, the fullness of time, the right time, began with the crucifixion of the Savior of the World, Jesus the Christ. He died as an Israelite man, fulfilling the law which God had imparted to Israel by Moses. The dispensation being fulfilled, a new dispensation began. All mankind became accountable to the household administration of Christ. Since that time, no other dispensation has been given by God.

In examining the dispensations of God, it is interesting to note that the first two dispensational laws never appear to have been written down. Beginning with the Mosaic dispensation, God commands His Law be written down (Ex. 34:27). These laws were to be at the forefront of every Israelite’s mind (Deut. 6:6-9). As Christ came onto the scene in the first century, John the Immerser heralded the kingdom of God as being at hand. Jesus and his disciples would share the gospel of the kingdom (Mark 1:1). Then, following the death of Jesus, his disciples continued on with that gospel in full knowledge. The apostles and disciples by the power of the Holy Spirit wrote down exactly what God desired us to know and follow (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The perfect Word of God, as we find it in the Bible today, enabled men to be fully mature in Christ (1 Cor. 13:9-13; Eph. 4:8-15).

There are commonalities throughout the dispensations. A few come quickly to mind. God put people on the earth to multiply and fill it (Gen. 1:28; 9:1; Lev. 26:9, Deut. 8:1; Matt. 28:19, John 3:5). God expects man to be obedient or face consequences (Gen. 3:3; 4:7-12; Ex. 15:26; Rom. 2:8; 2 Thess. 1:7-9). God requires blood sacrifice for the sins of man (Gen. 3:21; Job 1:5; Num. 15:25, Gal. 1:3-4). A list of like characteristics could get relatively lengthy if we continue on. However, there is the more pressing issue of the interrelatedness of the dispensations which explains what law is applicable today.

The thread interlocking all the dispensations and causing them to work together was once a mystery. Today, that mystery has been revealed. In the beginning the light of this mystery was dim, but with the arrival of the Christian dispensation it burns bright. Interestingly enough, the Creation and Patriarchal dispensations were once described by many a preacher as “starlight.” The light from stars is dim and limited. Similarly, so was information regarding the mystery. When the Mosaic dispensation unfolded more light was shed in regard to the mystery. This timeframe was referred to by ministers as “moonlight.” Finally, the Christian Dispensation brought “Sunlight” or “Sonlight” upon the mystery of God. What was once unperceivable was revealed and made known to the world. The mystery that glued all the dispensations together was the truth of the gospel of Christ. The good news was eternal life. Salvation!

God “hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love” (Eph. 1:4). God “saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began” (2 Tim. 1:9). The salvation planned by God was necessary “in hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began.” So before the world began, God had a plan of salvation through Christ for the promise of eternal life. In the creation, Adam and Eve did not know this plan. It was a mystery. They were happy in the Garden of Eden with no concerns. Then it all changed with the taking of the fruit against the Word of God (Gen. 3). Death came into the world. Sin separated man from God (Is. 59:1-2). How could men be holy before God if they were filthy from sin? This would be the opening dilemma starting the Patriarchal dispensation.  Perhaps the only clue came in Genesis 3:15 where it was said that man would crush the head of Satan, whereas Satan would crush only the heel of man.

The Patriarchal dispensation makes it clear that sacrifice and offerings were part of man’s worship based on the sin that had entered the world. Cain and Abel, Noah, Job, Abraham, and Jacob are all recorded as offering to the Lord. The related tie between the Creation and Patriarchal dispensations is the desire to get from the latter state back to the former. Yet, man being no longer in the presence of God, with the Fathers guiding the families, chose not to follow the righteousness of God but to perish in the waters of the flood and then afterward begin sin anew. Yes, Noah preached for them to do right! But mankind did not listen. How would God bring them back to the holiness of God and be faithful to His promise? A great mystery indeed! Again there are clues seen from the flood itself: salvation and the washing away of sinfulness through water. Additionally, three promises given to Abraham, one specifically stating through his Seed all nations would be blessed.

The Mosaic dispensation removed the focus from the worship of the patriarchs and presented a chosen nation to the world as a vessel for something greater and an example to the world. Israel was born out of Egypt. God gave them a Law from Sinai delivered by the hand of Moses. A priesthood was chosen from the nation and a sacred place of worship (the tabernacle) was built by the directive of God. God promised the nation of Israel that when they would obey Him, they would be blessed and that when they disobeyed they would be punished. This was a great teacher to all the world and still is today (Josh. 2:9-11), but the purpose of the Law was to be a pedagogue. A pedagogue is an individual who would take the children from home to school. He delivered them from point A to point B. The Law of Moses served to hold the people under sin and take them to the coming of the messiah (Gal. 2:22-25). Jeremiah 31:31 declared a new dispensation was coming. A new law would be needed because the many sacrifices since sin came into the world could not remove the filth of sin from mankind (Heb. 10:4). The nation of Israel had been given clues from Moses and the prophets about the coming Messiah. Clues about how He would arrive, where He would live, and what He would do, were given in abundance to the nation of Israel. The mystery was still hidden, but more and more was known. The end of this dispensation would see Messiah coming, heralded by John the Immerser. Christ declared the kingdom of God to be at hand. He instructed the people in righteousness with miracles as confirmation of the truth. Jesus went to the cross nailing the old dispensation to the cross (Col. 2:14). The Law of Moses had accomplished its task in bringing mankind to the cross. Now the mystery would be revealed. The link from creation to salvation, from sin to holiness, would come into full view.

After the crucifixion, the Holy Spirit of promise was poured out on Pentecost. The Spirit provided all truth to the Apostles (John 16:13). The mystery of salvation revealed, Peter then declared the Deity of Jesus and convicted 3000 souls of their sins against God. Horrified at their condition, the crowd asked what they should do. “Repent and be baptized…for the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 2:38). Once again, washing with water was taking away the sins of the world, one spiritual birth after another as God added to His Kingdom, the Church (Acts 2:47, 1 Pet. 3:21, 1 Tim. 3:15). The Christian dispensation had begun! The Christ by His once for all time blood sacrifice (Heb. 10:10), born of the Mosaic dispensation, was linking the Christian dispensation to the great washing flood of the Patriarchal dispensation for the purpose of returning to the state once present in the Creation dispensation.

It is Jesus who provides us the full assurance of returning to stand holy before God (Heb. 10:20-22) and authority and relevance under which we all live (Col. 3:17). His free salvation links all the dispensations together. Following any other dispensation, tradition or creed is done only by those who do not understand the times.

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years. He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH. He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.

The Law Of Moses Doesn’t Apply To Christ’s Church — Travis Main

Perhaps the subject of this article strikes you as something that is obvious. However, there are many religious bodies, proclaiming to be the church Christ founded, which validate some of their religious practices not from Christ’s new covenant, nor from the eternal principles of God, but from the Law of Moses. God gave the Law of Moses to Moses upon Mt. Sinai. Part of the law involved what the world knows as the “ten commandments” (Ex. 20). These are held up by society and many religions as the laws to live by today, but do they still have the authority of God? In truth, much like the Pharisees of Jesus’ time (Matt. 15:1-9), many entities promoting practices from the Law of Moses do not even follow them, but a form of them devised by the traditions of men. Such is the ground they stand upon, leading many to faithfully follow, though the foundation has been swept away by the hand of God. The covenant of Christ cannot be properly followed by those who still seek after the authority of an old law vanished away.

Malachi wrote, “Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it (Mal. 3:8). This passage demonstrates the neglect of the people of God. Under the Law of Moses, they were to bring forth tithes and offerings, tithes of corn, wine, oil, firstlings of herds and flocks, and tithes of increase (Deut. 14:23-29). If the Law of Moses applies to the faithful of God today and we are not obeying it, then His words in Malachi 3:8 are applicable to us. We are robbing God! However, if one undertakes deeper examination they will read Malachi 1:1 and 4:4. In these verses it is found that the words of God which Malachi shares are to the nation of Israel. Additionally, it is seen that the Law of Moses was given to the nation of Israel and no one else. The ten commandments? They were God’s law given to a specific people 3,400 years ago.

Many zealously religious individuals and entities declare their usage of musical instruments comes from the Old Testament. They will readily agree they are not Israelites, but are following the example given by Israel’s worship of God. God commanded within the Law of Moses that Israel make two silver trumpets and blow them at the tabernacle for various secular and spiritual reasons, as well as over their worship time of burnt offerings and sacrifices (Num. 10:1-10). Similar, we see the trumpets playing during the sacrifices at Solomon’s temple along with instruments introduced by King David (2 Chr. 29:25-30). Whether the instruments were approved by God is debatable (see Adam Clark regarding the Arabic and Syric texts), but such is not pertinent to our scrutiny in this passage. What is critical is the observation that, as commanded when God handed this instruction down in the Law of Moses, the playing of instruments only occurred during sacrificing. What occurred following these sacrifices? Singing is only seen. In the New Testament, following the once for all time sacrifice of Christ and then the addition of souls to the church in Acts 2, only singing is ever commanded by God for the church. This is an interesting shadowing between the old and new covenants in regard to what happens after sacrifice. Reasoning to justify instrumentation in Christ’s church by going back to the Law of Moses ignores that it was not only not practiced by Israel as it is implemented today, but the first century church by its own example and command (Col. 3:16; Eph. 5:19) never had a practice of following the Law in this regard.

The Law was given to Israel. There is no example of Christ’s church following the Law by the authority of God. Contrary to those who would follow the Law, the apostle Paul wrote the Galatian churches to follow only the gospel which he had previously delivered to them (Gal. 1). He told Christians that “a man is not justified by the works of the law” (Gal. 2:16). He declared, “For if righteousness comes by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). Why? Paul stated, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made” (Gal. 3:19). He would later say the Law of Moses was a schoolmaster. The word here comes from the Greek paidagōgos and references one who takes a student from point A to point B. The Law of Moses took the children of Israel from their wanderings in the wilderness to the final fulfillment of the promise to Abraham by God — Jesus the Christ, the seed to bless all nations. The Law was not created to last forever. This is another reason that the church does not follow it today.

We do not follow the Law of Moses today because it was not given to us, the first century church did not follow it, and it was not made to last forever. Long before the New Testament was written, the Old Testament declared the end of the Old was coming. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). Jeremiah is quoted in Hebrews 8:8-13 and it is made clear that the Law of Moses by Jeremiah’s prophecy was already old and vanishing away. This is not the only Old Testament reference to a new covenant to be given. In the messianic passage of Isaiah 42, Jesus, the messiah that Israel was looking to arrive , would be given as a “covenant” to the people (Israel) and to the nations or Gentiles (v. 6). In Isaiah 61, a chapter which also sees messianic text and from which Jesus applies scripture to Himself, it is declared a covenant would be given to the “offspring” of God. Daniel 9:27 speaks of the Messiah establishing a new covenant. Hosea 2:18 speaks of a new covenant. There are other passages, but the point should be clear. Those in generations long before the establishment of the church knew the Law of Moses was temporary.

Once Jesus arrived upon the earth, He shared the good news given him by the Father. That is the “one faith” of the gospel (Eph. 4). He did so knowing His mission upon this earth was short and He was on the way to the cross to be crucified for the sins of mankind. He did so, was buried in a tomb, and arose after three days to be seen over a period of time by many before ascending into heaven (Acts 1). When he died upon the cross, the Law of Moses itself was figuratively nailed to the cross as well (Col. 2:14), taking away the ordinances of condemnation upon those whom it held in its grasp. Jesus shared the gospel in His ministry (Mark 1:1). His focus was not the instruction of the Law of Moses. After His resurrection but before His ascension, He told his disciples to baptize in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and to teach the disciples to follow the things He taught them. Jesus did not teach the Law. He nailed the Law to the cross. He brought a new covenant to mankind. On the day of Pentecost when Christians were added to the church (Acts 2:47), they were not added to the kingdom of God by following a covenant of circumcision but rather a new covenant in Christ. The Law of Moses could not forgive sins (Heb. 10:1-4), but Christ’s blood brought about forgiveness and a new covenant of eternal inheritance (Heb. 9:15). Christ came to take away the first covenant and establish the second (Heb. 10:9).

Why would the church of today follow something that was never intended for them? It makes no sense at all to follow something that the church when it was formed not only did not follow, but was warned against following. The Law was not created to last forever and ample proclamation declared it would end and another covenant would be coming. Only the new covenant based upon the sacrifice and gospel of Christ can provide eternal life. It is the words of His covenant that will judge us in the last day (John 12:48). Knowing these things, why would anyone choose to follow any other teaching and jeopardize their soul for an eternity?

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years. He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH. He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.

Learning From Nadab and Abihu — Travis Main

Numbers 3:4 states, “And Nadab and Abihu died before the Lord, when they offered strange fire before the Lord…”  The topic of our examination appears from this verse: Nadab and Abihu.  They died in the presence of, in the face of, or before the Lord.  The occasion involved an offering and the offering was strange.  The Hebrew term for strange means, “foreign, estranged, loathsome, or profane.”  What brought Nadab and Abihu to the presence of the Lord?  They had brought fire before the Lord for the purpose of worship.

“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therin, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not.  And there went out fire from the Lord, and devoured them, and they died before the Lord.  Then Moses said unto Aaron, ‘This is it that the Lord spake, saying, “I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified.”’ And Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:1-3).

This passage makes it clear God did not command the fire Nadab and Abihu offered.  God never suggested, requested, or authorized it.  Thus, Moses describes the fire as profane or loathsome.  Of great importance is the fact that the passage states Nadab and Abihu did not die from an accident with the fire.  They died when God purposely sent fire to devour them.  Moses provided the reason God acted in such a fashion to destroy Nadab and Abihu.  When individuals go before God, He requires glorification and sanctification.  Sanctification means treating something as set apart or holy.  Glorification means to make honorable.  Nadab and Abihu dishonored God with their behavior.

The issues presented by their actions for examination revolve around mankind’s treatment of God, the importance of God’s commands, and the intentions of mankind.

“Be ye holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; 1 Peter 1:16)

The concept of sanctification and holiness relates to more than purity or being without sin.  God first used the term holy in Exodus 3:5 when He called a certain ground holy.  Ordinary and common cannot describe holy.  Approaching holiness requires reverence.  Reverence sees holiness and treats it with respect, humility, and even fear.  Fear closely draws to its side the knowledge that the individual cannot be equal to, but rather stands lacking in cleanness, stature, or quality to that which is holy.  Nadab and Abihu failed in this respect.  They approached their Creator in a manner which did not revere Him.  Their approach to worship treated God as nothing more than common.

Consider this.  If the sanctification and glorification of God stands so critical that the consequence of its absence meant death, how ought mankind approach God today?  Does the phrase casual worship service seem inappropriate?  Perhaps consider the irreverence of checking and sending texts and e-mail during worship.  If Moses approached the holy ground in his sandals toting along snacks and sipping on a latte or soda, would God have shown pleasure?

God does not stand on equal footing with a movie, picnic, or other common event.  Being in the presence of God is not a come-as-you-are event.  God is holy!  Nadab and Abihu failed to treat Him so.  We should draw from their example and not behave in the same fashion.

“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15)

The wind and the sea obey God.  Unclean spirits obey Him.  Adam and Eve disobeyed God and were punished.  The world disobeyed God and were destroyed, save eight souls.  Sodom and Gomorrah disobeyed God and God destroyed them.  Israel disobeyed God and He punished them in many ways from diseases, to wandering in the wilderness, to captivity, even to death itself.  Uzzah, like Nadab and Abihu, lost his life disobeying the commands of God.  Paul chastised the apostle Peter and the Galatian Christians for failing to obey the commands of God.  2 Thessalonians 1:8 declares destruction on those who do not obey God, while Jesus stands as the author of salvation to those who do obey Him (Heb. 5:9).  Why would anyone disobey God willingly?  Yet, this is exactly what Nadab and Abihu did.

Many people today despise following God’s commands, even some within religious bodies bearing His name.  They feel as if God provided His commandments as mere suggestions, used as guidelines, bendable depending on the situation.  Those who desire to follow God’s Word as it was given actively find themselves victims of mockery and shaming by others.  A favorite and misused term which others apply to them is legalist.  The American Heritage Dictionary defines legalism as “strict adherence to the law.”  This sounds exactly like what God desires throughout the entire Bible.  When they stood before the Sanhedrin, the apostles declared obedience to God rather than to men.  Why would they do so if obedience to commands was subjective?

Now, one might quote Matthew 9:13, “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, ’I will have mercy, and not sacrifice,’ for I am come to call not the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Upon reading, they would declare that God never desired exact obedience.  Yet, all Scripture shows He most definitely did desire obedience.  Contextually, Christ identified that one aspect of the law cannot be dropped and that individual still be pleasing to God.  One cannot worship without spirit and truth.  If a person goes through the motions of obedience in physical acts, but not obedience to a pure and holy spiritual nature, the physical acts presented to God result in God’s dissatisfaction.  He will not desire the sacrifice!

In view of Nadab and Abihu, they presented worship to God.  One might think that God would be thrilled with the “spiritual” demonstration of these individual’s hearts.  Yet, He rejected their worship because it failed to follow His commands.  In so doing, Nadab and Abihu demonstrated disdain in their worship rather than love for God.  They disobeyed and treated God in a profane manner.  Paul declared in his letter to Rome, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).  Learn from Nadab and Abihu’s example of disobedience.

“But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead?”  (James 2:20)

Grease fires break out while cooking on occasion.  Good, well-intentioned individuals frequently take action to attempt to put out the fire with water.  This can result in the fire spreading further because “water and oil don’t mix.”  Good intentions do not by themselves result in God’s pleasure.

Nadab and Abihu worshiped God.  Worship indicates a desire to please.  Yet, they attempted to present worship on their terms.  They presented as Can did, who when presenting his offering to the Lord did not do so in faith.  The so-called faith of those who present worship to God is dead if the works are guided by intention and not truth.  God will be treated as holy and will be obeyed.  No matter of intent (again, see Uzzah) will cause God to smile on a worshipful action not requested.

God declared through the apostle Paul that preaching saves.  Jesus commanded the proclamation of the gospel to all creation.  Yet, men in their good intentions decided to present God’s truths through acting and drama rather than proclamation. God declared that man sing as one body to Him in worship.  Yet, the intentions of man to worship in song resulted in playing instruments, choral groups, and praise teams with handclapping rather than what God commanded.  Will God be glorified with such behavior?  Will He be sanctified when His commandments are ignored?  Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper as a memorial of His life, death and resurrection.  The first-century church partook of this on the first day of the week.  Paul exhorted the Corinthians to take it properly and not treat it as a common meal.  Yet, through the intentions of man the Lord’s Supper is not taken every first day of the week in many places.  It is taken yearly, quarterly, monthly, or on special occasion.  In many places the Supper is offered with leavened break, water, or in the midst of a meal.  Is the intention worship?  These behaviors result in will worship condemned by Paul (Col. 2:23).  If Nadab and Abihu, guided by good intentions to worship God, could not worship Him in a pleasing fashion, what makes men think they can today?

As Paul exhorted the Christian regarding the Scriptures written beforehand, man can learn from Nadab and Abihu how to properly worship God.  Christians treat God as holy.  Christians love Him by obeying His commands.  Do not follow your intentions, Christians.  Follow the truth.

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years.  He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH.  He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.

 

 

The Merciful And The Pure In Heart — Travis Main

Matthew writes:  “‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.’  From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (4:15-17).

Early in His ministry, the word of Jesus quickly spread even beyond Israel.  Multitudes followed Jesus, sitting at His feet, and He taught them doctrine unique to their ears, differing from the rabbis, scribes and wise men of Israel.  He did not teach the Law of Moses.  He did not clarify it.  He imparted the teachings of the kingdom of heaven.

When Jesus sat down to teach the multitudes in Matthew 5-7, His oration left the people astonished.  At the beginning of His discourse, He stated the following:  “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (5:7-8).  Proclaiming how men could do well for themselves, Jesus spoke of mercy and purity.  He opened the door to things not seen by men, a  peek into how to ultimately dwell in the presence of God.  Indeed, these two traits are living sermons seen in Jesus, the Word of God and the Christian.

The Mercy and Purity of Jesus

The apostle John writes these words of Jesus:  “And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him” (8:29).  The Christ declares that His actions stand as testament that the Father is always with Him.  What a man Jesus was!  He did not covet His position as Deity, but chose to come as a savior to this world of sin (Phil. 2:6).  How the world needs Jesus!

Isaiah wrote, “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (59:2).  Every person walking this earth from the beginning to end — except Jesus — commits sin (Rom. 3:23; 1 John 1:8).  So when Jesus came to this earth, He found a people in need of spiritual mercy.  They were unclean, unhealthy, impure, weighed down with the filth of sin and therefore separated from the God who created them.  Jesus arrived as a great spiritual purifier for mankind, teaching how to return to God (Mark 2:17).  Yet this is not why the multitudes of Matthew 5-7 followed Jesus.  They were seeking the mercy of His miraculous healing.  Jesus was not just spiritually merciful (Matt. 4:23-24).  He showed compassion in healing all who came to Him (Matt. 9:35-36).  His mercy also caused Him to feed the hungry who followed Him for days on end (Matt. 15:32-38).  He cared about the physical well-being of others and for good reason.  Jesus came to this earth, living in the flesh as a man.  He subjected Himself to the intentional and unintentional consequences of the actions of mankind.  He breathed the same air we do under the same sun.  He experienced temptation and hardship just the same as mankind has since the beginning of time.  He endured what the struggle of mankind feels like.  Thus, Jesus shows mercy spiritually and physically for our plight (Heb. 2:17-18).

However, though merciful, Jesus also needed to be pure.  Purity is demonstrated when an individual lives a life of serving God rather than the world.  Jesus led a life free from the sins that whirled around Him in the lives of mankind.  He rejected temptation (Matt. 4).  He championed thinking on the good things of life.  “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.  When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten…” (1 Pet. 2:22-23).  Peter describes the blood of Christ as that of a lamb without spot (1 Pet. 1:19).  It was only in this way that He would fulfill the Law of Moses and be acceptable as a sacrifice for mankind.  Though He was tempted as us, He did not sin (Heb. 4:15).

In showing mercy to us, Jesus obtained the mercy of the Father who raised Him up from the grave.  By living a life of purity, Jesus “after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God” (Heb. 10:12).  The life He presented to others in Matthew 5-7 turned out to be a living illustration on how things can go well for one’s life.

The Mercy and Purity of the Word of God

The Word of God which Jesus taught was only that which the Father gave Him (John 12:49-50).  Jesus shared a parable in Matthew 18:22-35 which told of a servant forgiven a huge sum by his master.  Sadly, the servant goes away and refuses to show the same mercy to another owing a small debt.  In fact, he causes the man to be thrown in prison over the sum.  When the master hears of the actions of the unmerciful servant, the servant is delivered over to be punished.  God’s Word declares the same will be done by the Heavenly Father to those not showing mercy.  The parable Jesus spoke in Matthew 18 is the other side of “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”  The Word of God displays mercy by not only telling us how to do well, but how to avoid punishment (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Note how the psalmist declares the purity of the way of God!  He wrote:

              “The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times” (Ps. 12:6).

              “The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.  The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps. 19:8).

Peter refers to the Word of God when he tells Christians to long for the “pure spiritual milk that by it you may grow up into salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2).  As God Himself is pure, so goes His Word.  God is light and in Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5).  This is why purity at its simplest and most recognizable form is God.  Many times in Scripture God declared this by declaring that He is holy.  Now consider John 1:1:  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  John declares Christ as that Word (1:14).  We know God to be merciful and pure.  We know Christ to be merciful and pure.  The Word of God thus demonstrates the traits of mercy and purity as taught by Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount.

The Mercy and Purity of the Christian

As Jesus spoke to the multitudes, He offered teaching which established what a citizen of the kingdom of God looked like.  The citizen of the kingdom of God replicates Jesus in mercy and purity (Eph. 5:25-27).  The citizen of the kingdom of God also replicates the Word of God in mercy and purity because the Christian sees salvation through the implanted, merciful, and pure Word (James 1:21).  Jesus commanded mankind to be merciful when He shared the parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk. 10).  The apostle Paul preached to the Christians of Colossae telling them of mercy and the moral perfection which is purity (Col. 3:12-14).  Christianity represents the light of God.  In action, true Christianity shows faith in our unrealized hope, the coming of Christ and entrance into His kingdom.  That such a belief mandates traits of mercy and purity becomes clear when Paul speaks of the selfishness and immorality which will keep us out of the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor. 6:9-10).

While speaking to His disciples as they were concerned about rank in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus stated, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).  A young child yet unstained by the world wants to please.  He or she will share their cookies and toys and freely give their love.  They want to do anything they can do to help when someone hurts.  Children demonstrate mercy and purity every day, just like Christ.  These traits need to become ours.  The Father longs for this.  Christ lived it.  The apostles taught it.  The world can  read this in the Word of God which was given for their guidance and perfection.

Jesus, the great Healer of mankind, looked out at the multitudes which constantly surrounded Him and shared the words of the Father which provide eternal life.  He did so knowing they were all condemned to die in sin.  He did so knowing they would eventually beat Him, spit on Him, reject Him and crucify Him.  His greatest act of mercy and purity took place upon that cross as the pure sacrificial lamb of God.  Showing mercy, He pleaded, “Father, forgive them…” (Lk. 23:34).

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years.  He is the creator of www.churchofchristarticles.com.

 

 

What The Bible Says About Homosexuality — Travis Main

In any discussion of opposing groups regarding the topic of homosexuality, there are a litany of “facts” provided.  Whether the issue is the number of practicing homosexuals, the health risks, the prevalence of violence in homosexual relationships, the number of faithful or promiscuous partners, the conversion to heterosexuality, or the genetic factors suggested to influence homosexuality, there is debate.  An examination of human studies, polls of acceptance, or agendas of various homosexual proponents is not the focus of this article.  What does the Bible say regarding the practice of homosexuality?  This is the central thrust.  Christians as a priesthood of God (1 Pet. 2:9) have a responsibility to teach the truth of God’s Word (Matt. 28:19-20) and protect it (1 Pet. 3:15).

1 John 4:21 declares:  “And this commandment have we from him, that he who loveth God love his brother also.”  This is the obligation of a Christian.  The command of loving mankind applies to everyone.  It applies to those in all manner of goodness or sin.  Jesus came to save those in sin (1 Tim. 1:15).  “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).  However, the times of ignorance are over and man is called upon by God to repent (Acts 17:30).  Thus, it should be the loving motivation of Christians to share the truth of God’s Word to all mankind with no partiality (James 2:1).

Christ declared he would establish his church (Matt. 16:16-18).  After Jesus’ resurrection, he declared, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18).  He promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would reveal to them “all truth” and “bring to your remembrance all that I said to you” (John 14:26; 16:13).  This leads us to the following statement by the apostle Peter:  “Knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.  For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The great importance of this verse is the fact that the apostles did not write by conjecture, cultural teachings, or personal opinion.  The words they wrote were directly from God and are the teachings of Jesus.

The gospel which Jesus preached was heralded with the coming of John the Baptizer (Mark 1:1).  Under that gospel Jesus declared the only people who would enter the eternal kingdom of heaven would be “he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).  This was the one gospel of the kingdom (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9; Jude 3).  With the crucifixion of Jesus, the Law of Moses (given only to the nation of Israel) which was old and ready to disappear became obsolete (Heb. 8:13).  On the day of Pentecost when the first Christians were added to the church (Acts 2:47), the new covenant of the teachings of Christ came into effect.  The Holy Spirit was poured out and the apostles were given the promised truth.  The keys of the gospel were used as commanded by the apostles.  The teachings Jesus taught during his life were being taught to the world.  The entire world became subject to the law of Christ.

As the teachings of Jesus Christ from his apostles are examined, it is of interest to note that there is no same-sex couple ever mentioned in the New Testament (nor is there in the Old Testament).  When Jesus discusses marriage, he talks of man and woman (Matt. 19:1-9; Mark 10:6-9; Matt. 15:1-12; 5:31-32; cf. Deut. 24:1-2; et al).  The apostles who shared Christ’s teachings through the Holy Spirit also spoke of marriage between a man and a woman (Rom. 7:2; 1 Cor. 7; 1 Tim. 5:9-14; Matt. 22:25; Mark 6:17; Luke 14:20; Eph. 5:22-33; et al).  The mention of any marriage by the same sex is completely absent from scripture.  The question of whether or not man is authorized to marry a woman or a woman a man is clearly answered in scripture and its guidelines are also clearly taught.  God has authorized the marriage of a man and a woman (Matt. 19:5) and Jesus establishes that as a teaching from the beginning of mankind.

Matthew 22:23-32 discusses the resurrection of mankind and mentions the subject of marriage while doing so.  Jesus demonstrated from the Old Testament scriptures that there is an afterlife.  He was encouraging the Sadducees who were questioning him to use the words of God to infer a given truth.  There must be an afterlife if physical beings who had died were spoken of as alive.  He then mentioned that marriage does not exist in the afterlife, speaking again only of marriage between a man and a woman.  Following the example and authority of Jesus, if scripture only speaks of a man and a woman being married then marriage applies to only them.  It does not authorize the marriage of a man and an animal.  It does not authorize the marriage of two non-human beings.  It does not authorize the marriage of two people of the same sex.  It authorizes only the marriage of a man and a woman.  By this alone, this discussion could finish.  However, we will continue.

The New Testament is not silent about the sexual habits of same-sex individuals.  Romans 1:18-2:8 establishes that those who engage in activity which is ungodly and unrighteous will face God’s judgment.  If they do not repent, their stubborn disobedience will cause them to experience God’s wrath.  Is the activity of homosexuals ungodly and unrighteous?  This passage says yes.  The women desired women, something God calls unnatural (v. 26).  The men desire men, also abandoning their natural function.  What is natural?  God established man and woman to come together to create offspring.  They were to share their desires together in marriage, not in unauthorized, unnatural, sexual sin.  God declares such people who do not repent to be worthy of death (v. 32).  That judgment is in the hand of God.  Understand clearly, God does not wish that upon them (2:4; cf. John 3:16; 2 Pet. 3:9).  However, death is what they choose if they reject God and continued in an unauthorized lifestyle.

The covenant of Christ in the New Testament says:  “But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; according to the glorious gospel of the blessed god, which was committed to my trust” (1 Tim. 1:8-11, emp. added).

The phrase “for them that defile themselves with mankind” is the Greek word arsenokoitēs.  Thayer defines it as “someone who lies with a male as a female.”  In other words, a homosexual.  This passage speaks of such behavior as “contrary to sound doctrine.”  It is lumped in with other sinful behaviors and appropriately assigned with that which is called “lawless and disobedient.”  Those who are disobedient will “pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thess. 1:6-10).

Paul discussed the sinful behavior of the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.  He declared they had repented from a number of sins which would have kept them from the kingdom of God.  Among those sins from which they had repented was homosexuality, translated from the same Greek word previously discussed.  While the ultimate penalty of punishment is the same as previously mentioned, the concept of repentance is still very alive in the text.  One practicing homosexuality does indeed have the option of stopping his or her behavior and thus is able to please God.

There are those who declare they were born with desires for the same sex.  As mentioned at the beginning of this article, I will not argue genetic factors.  An examination of scripture finds an answer for the proposition that at birth there was such a desire.  Paul stated, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that year are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Cor. 10:13).

Furthermore, James also said, “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him” (James 1:12).

Temptation is part of our life upon the earth.  Yet, giving into it is not something from which we cannot escape.  There are all manners of sins which entrap mankind every day.  Through Christ we can triumph in this swiftly fleeting stay on earth.  We can overcome our trials with love for God and one another by authorized behavior in Christ (John 14:15). 

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years.  He is the creator of www.churchofchristarticles.com.

 

Drawing Closer To God And Each Other — Travis Main

Making tents consumes time.  The apostle Paul, amidst the sharing of the most important message mankind has ever heard or ever will hear, made tents (Ac. 18:3).  As time has gone by, it appears to me the number of tent making preachers is increasing.  Of course, the reference here is to the practice of additional work and responsibility beyond that of sharing the gospel.  Most preachers want to fill their lives with nothing but the gospel; yet, a plethora of life’s obstacles often get in the way.

This desire is not exclusive to preachers.  Christians as a whole envision a life where they are one, large, harmonious, ever increasing family of believers who are bringing the lost to Christ in droves.  The reality is different. After an 8 to 13 hour day of work, running errands, hauling kids around, home repairs, grocery shopping, laundry, meal preparation, etc., the first thing on the mind is a moment of relaxation or hours of sleep.  It seems impossible to focus long enough to keep the family from struggling let alone find the time to fit in God, Christian brothers and sisters, and the rest of the world.  Who even has a moment read a brotherhood article?  Desperation, resignation, and guilt seem to be riding hand in hand as the days grow shorter.  You want change, but how?

Jesus once spoke to his disciples about the response of normal folks to the spreading of the Word of the Kingdom.  He compared it to an individual spreading seed.  The seed fell in many places and one of those places was among the thorns.  Here is what Jesus said in regard to that:  “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the Word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the Word, and it proves unfruitful.” (Mt. 13:22)  This is how many of us often feel.  We hear the Word, believe it, and want to act on it.  Yet, all the activities of the world seem to choke us out.  Perhaps as Felix we are always looking for that right opportunity or convenient time (Ac. 24:25), but it never seems to come.  It is as if we are the puppy that runs round and round and never catches his tail.

Knowing your unique situation is impossible for me.  My sympathies go out to you.  The words above describe my life in many ways.  Though I may not have the perfect solution to your life dilemmas, perhaps the suggestions I am about to share will enable you and ultimately those around you to draw closer to spiritual peace.  The dilemma really breaks itself down to two components:  when and how.

When?  Finding time is critical.  You could work faster to buy more time but as a practical matter that isn’t going to last. The truth is you will just spend the same amount of time working, only at an increased speed, and end up even more tired in the end.  The ultimate solution is prioritization, organization, and realization.

When a person looks at their day and sees they do not have time for everything, prioritization is a must.  Something has to go.  Most evenings last summer, I spent the day thinking that when my wife arrived home from work we would go kayaking.  We ended up going kayaking only two or three times.  Predominantly, we simply had to cut it out of the schedule.  It was not high on the priority list.

Here are some common things you might have on your list that could perhaps be cut out or shortened:  internet time (including smart phone, tablet, and texting), television time, and phone time.  What did we do before the days of electronics?  How did people function?  We carry our electronic devices everywhere we go.  Put them down and step away.  If you ever had time to research the biggest time wasters in the life of man, you would find much of it has to do with electronics.

Understand also that not everything is really that important.  Martha missed the important things while Mary did not (Lk. 10:38-42).  Can you find more time if you choose to put aside listening to talk radio, not read that secular magazine or book, dust or vacuum a little less often, or make a simple meal instead of “something special”?  Ask yourself:  Is spending time on this item really all that critical at the moment?

Concerning organization, remember that the more organized a person is, the more time they have.  Do you spend all day Saturday working on laundry?  Consider doing a load a day instead.  Are you running back and forth to town to run errands?  Plan out your day to where you can combine tasks and make one trip instead of three.  Are you checking Facebook all day long?  Cat videos, selfies, and one-line quotes may be funny, but they are time stealers.  Get organized!  Confine your Snapchat, Instagram, e-mail, and sports updates to once in the morning and once at night.

Do you spend a lot of time in the car each day?  Are you using this time for something other than daydreaming?  You can!  Organize this time to do something helpful or productive!  When you make meals, do you cook enough to cover future meals…or do you have to start from scratch every time?  Save time with organization!  Do your tasks require concentration?  One of the biggest mistakes I make is trying to study when everyone is running around the house.  Organize that schedule!  Choosing the right hours for the right tasks is critical.  Organizing your day will buy you time.

In the topic of finding time, what on earth is “realization”?  In this case, realization is short for realizing you cannot do everything by yourself.  Ask for help.  Solomon established that we do better with help (Ec. 4:9-12).  Family, friends, and even hired help can buy us a little more time each day.  I am naturally an introvert.  I like to do things by myself without others around.  However, this isn’t beneficial to my spirituality or my proper use of time.

Don’t let pride get in the way either.  It’s okay to admit we cannot do it all.  Again, ask for help!  You may just find that accomplishing a task side by side with someone will have the side effect of developing closeness too!  More on that in a moment.

Prioritization, organization, realization.  Simple solutions for finding time.  The more time you have at your disposal, the more you can focus on drawing close to God and others.  Now I want to provide some direction as to how we draw close to others with the time that we have.

How?  My father or mother once told me, “If you want to have a friend, you must be a friend.”  From this simple piece of advice, I suggest three points for drawing closer to others:  seek others out, communicate with them, and serve their needs.  These points apply not just to earthly relationships, but to spiritual ones also.

If your objective is to draw closer to others, whether they be brothers or sisters in Christ or those who do not yet know Christ, then you most often must take the time to seek them out first.  Jesus Himself came seeking (Lk. 19:10).  If there is anything I have learned in this world, it is that we all have issues.  Insecurities, selfishness, and feeling like we have no time are problems with which most people struggle.  Consequently, folks just don’t dive right into getting to know you.  Frequently, you have to take the first step, and then another, and then another toward reaching out to someone.  Relationships aren’t “I did this, now it’s your turn.”  If either you or your spouse didn’t make the first move, it is likely you wouldn’t be married.  A Christian gentleman once expressed to me that the building where we assembled to worship had a sign on it letting people know where we were, so it was up to them to show up.  Sadly, there are a lot of near-empty buildings where people aren’t seeking and are just waiting for someone to show up.  Get out there!  Go Ye!  If they are busy working, help them out!  Spending the time will create bonds whether in work, play, conversation, or study.

“Draw nigh to God and he will draw nigh to you.  Cleanse YOUR hands, YE sinners; and purify YOUR hearts, YE double-minded” (Ja. 4:8).  Yes, the ball is in your court when wanting to get closer to God.  We cannot see God, but He has promised we will find Him if we seek Him (Mt. 7:7).  Man has what we need before us to get to know God (2 Ti. 2:15; 3:16-17; 2 Pe. 1:1-3).  It takes effort and even change on our part to truly draw close to Him.  Perhaps the time we save by prioritization, organization, and realization can be filled with coming to know Him.  Perhaps that commute can be spent listening to His Word.  Perhaps the little things can be put aside to sit at His feet.  He is not so far we cannot find if we seek (Ac. 17:26-28).

Communication is difficult.  My daughter is like me in a lot of ways.  She is introverted, which means she would rather you did the talking so she can listen. Over the years, I have learned how to start, maintain, and yes, at times dominate a conversation.  Yet, my daughter is at that point in her life when communication is very hard.  What do you say beyond “Hello”?  This will be expanded upon in a moment when discussing serving others, but for now consider what you have to communicate.

You have information that will change another person’s life eternally.  You have something important to say.  Second, you have family, you have been places, you have seen things, you have experiences, you have commonalities with others which you can share.  Once you let others know you are just a normal friendly person, you are likely to get communication in return.  It’s that conversation which enables a closer relationship.

Communication is also important if you want to draw closer to God.  Prayer is something we must not overlook in our life (1 Th. 5:17).  God wants to hear our cries for help, our concerns, and our thanksgiving.  Could that quiet time right in the morning when we get up, or perhaps before we go to bed, be shared with Him?  He has shared His mind in scripture.  He has expressed His love toward us.  Can we communicate that in return?

All good relationships require both sides be willing to serve the other.  It took my wife and me years to realize that happiness in marriage wasn’t about having our own needs met, but being able to meet the needs of our partner.  Jesus Himself provided the biggest example of love and closeness by sacrifice.  It is the Golden Rule!  Love others as thyself! (Mt. 22:39)  Service and kindness to others is what Jesus communicated to His disciples when He washed their feet (Jn. 13).

When we communicate with others, the conversation isn’t just about us.  The conversation involves us serving the needs of the other person by enabling them to share aspects of their lives.  It means us listening so we can hear about their hopes, concerns, and encouragements.  Quite frequently, there is nothing someone likes to do more than talk about themselves!  Yet, that too can be therapeutic.  Such interactions draw us closer.  The simplest of conversations can build into much deeper matters.

How do we show love for our Savior?  We serve!  We keep His commandments (Jn. 14:15).  His ways are higher and deeper than our ways, so we serve to draw closer so that we can be more like Him.  The more we know Him and act like Him, the stronger that bond becomes.  The apostle Paul described his own actions as a servant of others:  “For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more” (1 Co. 9:19).  As mentioned previously, when we spend time with others we build bonds.  Everyone on earth needs help in some way.  Service can be provided to young or old, in big and little ways.  As you serve others, you will find opportunities to better serve God by glorifying Him through good works.

Our life and time are not our own.  They are gifts given by God.  We can show ourselves to be good stewards of what God has given us, or we can simply ignore what has been given (Mt. 25:14-30).  God desires we use our time wisely (Ep. 5:15-17).  This means we must prioritize, organize, and realize.  When we do this, we will find time to further devote to getting closer to God, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and those of this world.

Yes, this requires effort on our part.  We must seek the closeness of others.  We must communicate with others.  We must engage ourselves in the service of others.  These suggestions for redeeming the time and making the most of it are simply stated.  Putting them into action requires concentrated effort.  We don’t need to worry, for we can do this when our service is focused upon Christ (Ph. 4:13).  I pray we all may achieve the closeness we are seeking.

preacher@thatchristianwebsite.com

Travis has been a minister in the Lord’s church for over 15 years.  He attends and teaches at the Eastside Church of Christ in Mt. Vernon, OH.  He is the creator of churchofchristarticles.com.