Welcome to the Tiftonia church of Christ
ServicesPlease join us! ALL are invited
Directions and Location
Bible Study 10:00 am
Worship 11:00 am
Bible Study: 7:00pm
TO HEAR SERMONS, or VIEW SERMON VIDEOS, CLICK ON “FROM THE PULPIT” ABOVE
February 19th Sermons,
Morning: Identity Theft—Matthew 24:24-26
Evening: Congregational Singing Night—Hebrews 2:12
THE PRICE WE ARE MAKING OUR CHILDREN PAY
When Byron Henbest from Potter Children’s Home was speaking to us a couple of Wednesday nights ago, as he was describing the living nightmare so many children in our society are put through, it occurred to me that due to widespread systemic indifference and neglect we are making our children pay an unbelievably high price for our lifestyles. Byron and the staff at Potter’s are trying their best to do something about it in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Something must be done about it right here at home. While only a speck in a man-made universe of chaos, I want to help by trying to identify the price our children are paying and will continue to pay. Maybe someone entrusted with the life of a precious child will want to change the course they are setting him or her on.
We’ve read it a million times but it does no good unless it is applied to the children under our own roof. The Bible says, “And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might. And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates” (Deuteronomy 6:5-9; see the corresponding New Testament teaching in Ephesians 6:4 and Colossians 3:21). But, what is the price our children are paying and going to pay when this is not being done? Read it in Hosea 4:6, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.”
Now, what happens when God forgets our children because of their biblical ignorance? Let’s read again in Romans 1: “Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet. And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient; Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, Without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them” (Romans 1:24-32).
2 Corinthians 12:14
“For the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.”
MORE LOVE TO THEE, O GOD
A deep insight into the nature of God is presented by “the disciple whom Jesus loved” in his first epistle when he wrote, “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). A very healthy spiritual attitude is reflected in the desire for “more love to thee, O God.”
A view of this desire through the eyes of the inspired Psalmist will prove uplifting and edifying.
“O that my ways were directed to keep thy statutes.” “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word. With my whole heart have I sought thee; O let me not wander from thy commandments. Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.” “I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.” “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law.” “Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works.” “Teach me, O Lord, the way of thy statutes; and I shall keep it unto the end.” “I will speak of thy testimonies also before kings, and will not be ashamed. And I will delight myself in thy commandments, which I have loved.”
“Thou art my portion, O Lord: I have said that I would keep thy words. I entreated thy favor with my whole heart: be merciful unto me according to thy word. I thought on my ways, and turned my feet unto thy testimonies. I made haste, and delayed not to keep thy commandments.” “The earth, O Lord, is full of thy mercy: teach me thy statutes.” “Thou art good, and doest good; teach me thy statutes.” “It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes. The law of thy mouth is better unto me than thousands of gold and silver.”
“Let thy tender mercies come unto me, that I may live; for thy law is my delight.” “Quicken me after thy loving kindness; so shall I keep the testimony of thy mouth.”
“O how love I thy law! it is my meditation all the day. Thou through thy commandments hast made me wiser than mine enemies: for they are ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers: for thy testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients, because I keep thy precepts. I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word. I have not departed from thy judgments: for thou hast taught me. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”
Psalm 119:5, 9-11, 15, 18, 27, 33, 46-47, 57-60, 64, 68, 71-72, 88, 97-105.
AN OPEN LETTER TO CHRISTIAN COLLEGES,
SCHOOLS OF PREACHING, AND BIBLE INSTITUTES
This letter is written in sincere love and deep appreciation for all faithful Christian secondary schools, colleges, universities, Schools of Preaching, and Bible Institutes. I am a beneficiary of a Christian education (both high school and college), and have long been a proponent and supporter (financially and otherwise) of Christian education. Therefore, nothing that is said in this “Open Letter” is to be construed to mean that I am opposed to an academic education that takes place in institutions that are dedicated to providing a genuine Christian education (i.e., an education that honors the teaching of the divinely inspired word of God).
A cursory examination of the history of the schools that have been started by those dedicated to the restoration of apostolic Christianity reveals that many of them no longer are true to the principles on which they were founded, including nearly all of these established in the 19th century. In fact, many of the 19th century schools no longer exist. In the last forty or so years, we have seen several formerly very faithful Christian colleges/universities depart from the principles on which they were established. If those who founded them could know what is being taught in those schools now, they would, as we often say, “roll over in their graves.”
Several schools among us now have within their Bible Departments and Schools of Theology professors who no longer hold to the validity of the restoration plea and the New Testament concept of the church. To them, the church is just another denomination, the Bible is not inerrant, baptism is not necessary to the remission of sins, baptism is not exclusively immersion, instrumental music in worship is not wrong, women may preach and take other leading roles in the work and worship of the church, the homosexual lifestyle is defensible, the New Testament does not set forth a pattern that is to govern the people of God throughout all the ages, ad infinitum.
The Bible lectureships (which in some cases are no longer billed as Bible lectureships but as “Celebrations,” “The Summit,” etc.) of some of the schools have become platforms for denominational speakers to set forth their corrupted versions of “Christianity.” A female Episcopal priest, a female Lutheran pastor (and an ardent defender of the LGBTQ agenda), and an Anglican Bishop have been among those used by some of the schools in just very recent times. Denominationalists serve in the administration of at least one of the schools.
Other schools have not gone as far as those mentioned above, but some of them seem to be flirting with the possibility of moving in that direction. Some seem to be quite uncertain as to whether they will stay true to the principles on which they were founded or capitulate to the religious pluralism of the age. NONE (and I do mean NONE, not even the most conservative schools among us) is immune to the danger of compromise and the very real threat of apostasy!
The Bible lectureships of our Christian colleges, universities, Schools of Preaching, and Bible Institutes need, in my judgment, to be times of faithful preaching of the word of God and deep, rich Bible study. They should not be planned and conducted as public relations events in order to see how many different speakers can be invited to fill as many different slots on the program as possible. Able, seasoned gospel preachers need to be invited to speak several times during the course of the lectureship, addressing on a daily basis a relevant biblical theme. Some of my fondest memories of the Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship are of hearing on a daily basis such Bible stalwarts and scholars as Gus Nichols, G. K. Wallace, Franklin Camp, Guy N. Woods, Thomas B. Warren, Roy Deaver, Alan Highers, William Woodson, and others. I would make an earnest appeal to Freed-Hardeman and other loyal schools to again incorporate this kind of format into their lectureship programs.
In 1950, the theme of the Harding College (now University) Bible Lectureship was “Restoring the New Testament Church – A Present Need.” I wonder if it is not time for this theme to again be addressed by all of our Christian colleges and universities! It has been a long time since I have seen this as a theme for any of our schools’ lectureship programs. Will Lipscomb do it? Will Abilene? Will Pepperdine? Will Harding, Oklahoma Christian, Faulkner, Freed-Hardeman? Will our Schools of Preaching and Bible Institutes do it?
A host of relevant topics could be developed: The Church in God’s Eternal Purpose, The Church in Prophecy and Preparation, The Church Established, Who/What is the Church?, Getting a Clear, Biblical Concept of the Church, The Singularity and Unity of the Church, The Identify of the Church, Is the Church of Christ Just Another Denomination?, Overcoming Denominational Tendencies and Terminology (I know a former Head/Chairman of the Bible Department/Religious Division of one of our schools whose language is rife with denominational terminology, yet he does not recognize it or else he has too much pride to admit it), Non-denominational Descriptors of the Church, The Organization of the Church, The Work of the Church, The Worship of the Church, The Role of Women in the Church, The Church Victorious, etc., as well as a thorough examination of the validity and relevance of the restoration plea.
Tell us, school administrators and lectureship directors, why such a theme would not be exceedingly relevant in our day! Tell us why able, seasoned men could not be found to address these subjects, some of them in serial, in-depth fashion during several days of the lectureship program! Would not such a program be a great boon to the effort to restore and be the undenominational church of the Bible? Are we not facing a desperate need for such in our own day and time?
My wife and I recently heard a fine young man, an associate minister of a good church (he has since been selected to be the regular preacher for a fine congregation), deliver an outstanding sermon on “Jesus and the Samaritan Woman” (John 4:1-26). He did not attend a Christian college or study in the Bible Department or School of Theology of one of our schools. He did not attend a School of Preaching or a Bible Institute. He graduated from one of our large state universities. Yet, his exposition of the text and application of it was “spot on.” His observations about true worship were true to the Book. He had done his Bible homework! My wife and I both remarked what a contrast his sermon was to what we sometimes hear from young men coming out of our Christian colleges and their Bible Departments and Schools of Theology (even the most highly respected and conservative of them).
The church of our Lord can and will survive without a single one of the schools. All of them can apostatize if they so choose, but the gates of Hades will not prevail against the church. But what an asset the schools could be if they would remain rooted in the Scriptures rather than being so enamored of denominational theologians, denominational theology, and denominational divinity schools, and if they would stay true to the principles on which they were founded!
The apostle Paul warned that “in the last days perilous times will come” (II Timothy 3:1). Morally, doctrinally, religiously, and spiritually we are in such times. Those who serve on the Boards of our schools have a great responsibility to see that the schools stay true to the faith of the gospel. Board members need to be held accountable for the decisions they make regarding those who will lead these institutions and for the direction of the schools. The presidency of our schools seems to be changing with greater frequency than in former days. This makes for instability in the school. The kind of man chosen to head a school is vital to the future spiritual safety, soundness, and integrity of the school.
In the June 1, 1893 issue of the Gospel Advocate, V. M. Metcalf wrote, “May God grant that the church related schools today remain loyal to the ideal for which they were established.” Was there concern even back then over the direction of some of the schools?
In Sincere Christian Love,
January 24, 2017
HELPING THE NEEDY
Every faithful Christian wants to help the needy and is aware of Our Lord’s teaching in Matthew 25:40, “Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” In a society like ours one challenge we face is uncovering the legitimacy of the need. There is so much drug and alcohol abuse the line may quickly be crossed from actually helping someone to enabling their destructive behavior. Thankfully, we have dedicated, transparent groups like Pine Vale Children’s Home in Corinth, Mississippi which we support out of the church treasury here at Tiftonia where we can rest assured our help is conscientiously applied to meet the needs of orphans.
Another children’s home like Pine Vale is Potter’s Children’s Home in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Potter’s Children’s Home traces its beginning all the way back to 1901 when Clinton and Mary Potter started Potter Bible College in memory of their son, Eldon, making Potter’s one of the oldest children’s homes in the brotherhood. Regarding transparency, www.potterministries.org is the website for the home where things like their contact information, history, staff, and financials are posted for the world to see.
One way all of us can pitch in and help the needy at Potter’s Children’s Home is to participate in their 2017 food drive. It is called “Commodities Outreach Program” and while there are a variety of ways to help, we want to collect needed pantry items. They have written to us saying, “We have all seen our grocery bill rise constantly over the last several years. The cost of meat, milk, eggs, fresh fruit and vegetables are higher than we have ever seen. At the present time we have 60 residents not counting our foster parents and their children. It takes a lot of groceries to feed this group!”
David Byrd has volunteered to organize the collection of the needed pantry items from us here at Tiftonia. Carlos Molina will be here Wednesday, February 1st, to collect the items we bring. If you’d like to help the needy in this way, here’s your chance!
POTTER’S CHILDREN’S HOME
COMMODITIES OUTREACH PROGRAM
Needed Pantry Items:
Diapers Sizes 2, 3, & 4
Mac & Cheese Mixes
Bring your items to the church building by Wednesday night, February 1st
“THE LORD MADE NOT THIS COVENANT WITH OUR FATHERS”
In the Church Manual issued by The General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (1942), “Section XI—Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists” items six and seven state:
The position then is the Ten Commandments are “binding on men in every age”: Patriarchal (Genesis), Mosaical (Exodus-Malachi), and Christian (Matthew-Revelation).
About the fathers in the Patriarchal age, the Bible says:
The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day.
So, the Lord did not make a covenant with “our fathers,” the patriarchs, commanding Sabbath day observance in the book of Genesis.
The New Covenant for the Christian age says:
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord.
So, the Lord did not make a covenant with us in the Christian age commanding Sabbath day observance in the New Testament.
Therefore, the Church Manual of the Seventh-day Adventists stands in opposition to the Word of God, the Bible. In order for the Word of God to attain the desired effect, it must be received into “an honest and good heart” (Luke 8:11, 15). We appeal to the conscience of Seventh-day Adventists to see the error of their way and believe the Bible.
THE “SINNER’S PRAYER” IS NOT IN THE BIBLE:
A RESPONSE FROM MARK BRANDON
(Please see orignal article below this article)
Mark Brandon, “pastor” of the Tiftonia Baptist Church and author of “God’s Simple Plan of Salvation” tract (published and copyrighted in 2007 by Lifegate, Inc., P.O. Box 5, Monrovia, IN 46157), read the article I wrote, “The ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ Is Not In The Bible,” over the phone to me, and we discussed it for a couple of hours. I had written a letter to him and enclosed a copy of the article requesting we discuss it. I appreciate his call.
One point he brought out in the discussion germane to the article was that he does not believe a person must say the “sinner’s prayer” in order to be saved. I find that interesting since the practice is universal among Baptists today. It is true that in the eighteen articles upon which the Baptist Church depends for its identity today (www.sbc.net/bfn2000) the “sinner’s prayer” is not found. Since the “sinner’s prayer” is admittedly not in the Bible nor is it in the creed of the Baptist Church, then why do Baptists urge people to pray it? Why point people away from the Bible and their own creed?
Mark Brandon’s tract containing the “sinner’s prayer” and his admission that it is not in the Bible stand in conflict with each other. The two statements contradict each other. His tract says, “…I know I am a sinner…I now receive Him as my Savior…I thank you for the forgiveness of my sins….” The impression firmly is left that a person praying this prayer starts out a sinner and winds up in a saved state. But, the Baptist preacher says praying this prayer is not necessary to become a Christian.
Some questions: (1) Why pray it at all if it is not necessary and does not bring a sinner into a saved state? (2) Why take the position that a sinner must believe then tell him to believe in a prayer and pray it when it is not even in the Bible? (3) Doesn’t “faith come by hearing and hearing by the word of God”? (Romans 10:17). How can this be a prayer of faith if the Bible nowhere contains such a prayer? (4) Why doesn’t the “sinner’s prayer” conform to the teaching of Jesus on prayer? He taught, “Ask in my name” (John 16:23), but none of the models of the “sinner’s prayer” conclude that way. They teach a person to end the prayer with just the word “amen.” Is it because the petitioner is not a Christian yet? Is it because since the prayer is not in the Bible it doesn’t harmonize with the will of God and, therefore, cannot be prayed in Jesus name? (5) Why would someone say as does Mark Brandon, “Salvation is Christ plus nothing,” and then add a prayer never once mentioned in the Bible?
THE “SINNER’S PRAYER” IS NOT IN THE BIBLE
The Tiftonia Baptist Church is distributing a tract that teaches the so-called “sinner’s prayer.” Mark Brandon, the “pastor,” there teaches in the tract that a sinner “gets saved” when he prays the following prayer: “Oh, God, I know I am a sinner. I believe Jesus was my substitute when He died on the Cross. I believe His shed blood, death, burial, and resurrection were for me. I now receive Him as my Savior. I thank You for the forgiveness of my sins, the gift of salvation and everlasting life, because of Your merciful grace. Amen.” Several of those words are in the Bible—God, sinner, believe, Jesus, cross, blood, death, burial, resurrection Savior, forgiveness, salvation, everlasting life, merciful, and grace—in order to make it look like the “sinner’s prayer” is in the Bible. But, it is not and here is how you know it is not in the Bible.
“Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth.”
Baptist Church Teaching
God hears sinners.
“God heareth not sinners.”
Which For You?
The teaching of the Baptist Church contradicts the teaching of the Bible. Each person must decide which it will be for him or her. The Baptists know the “sinner’s prayer” is not in the Bible. They all admit that not only is there no definite form of it but also there is no verse in the Bible containing it. They have taught it this wrong way for generations so that now if you point out the error of it they are offended because so many they know have believed it. As Jesus said this makes “the commandment of God of none effect by your tradition” (Matthew 15:6). It makes a person’s worship vain to be “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).
If the prayer of a sinner would bring salvation, Saul of Tarsus would have been saved before the preacher Ananias came to him as directed by the Lord and said, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Prayer could not wash away his sins, for he had been praying for three days; only baptism could do that. Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). Baptism is how a sinner calls on the name of the Lord, not by praying the “sinner’s prayer” which is not found anywhere in the Bible.
Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16a, NKJV). If a new car dealer published a notice in the newspaper that said, “He who believes and is baptized will receive a new car,” would anyone show up at the dealership and say, “I believe, therefore I am here to get my new car, and I will be baptized later as a sign to show that I received the new car”? Isn’t it funny how easily we can understand something that involves a material prize, but then deny the plain words of Christ when it comes to the heavenly prize, the salvation of our soul?
|The thinking of some brethren who make fun of doing exactly what the Lord says with reference to salvation from sin seems to run something like this: He who believes (more or less), repents (after a fashion), and is baptized (by some “mode”) shall be saved (to a certain extent). I marvel at how some can mock doing exactly what the Lord said, in the way He said to do it, and for the reason He said to do it.
“Grace makes salvation possible; obedient faith makes salvation actual” (Batsell Barrett Baxter, “The Family of God,” p. 39, italics his).
“I love to think that my life should spring from his death; my healing from his wounds; my glory from his shame. If God forsake him not, I cannot be accepted. If thorns press not his temples, I can never wear a crown of glory. Now, in the grave he lies; he must conquer death, or I must sleep forever. If there ever was a time when all the harps of heaven were still, and not one note of angelic music sounded through the skies, ’twas when that lifeless, mangled form was lying in the rich man’s tomb! But the voice of God pierces the gloom and silence of the grave; angels attend upon his second birth (a reference to Christ’s resurrection, His birth from the grave, hf); with a glorious escort he passes upward in his chariot of clouds, and enters in through the everlasting gates. Those doors were closed when Adam fell; they now receive the conqueror of sin and death. And, glorious thought! They are still unbarred; and I and you, and all that follow him in life, shall one day enter through the gates into the everlasting city of our God” (“Raccoon” John Smith, The Life of Elder John Smith, John Augustus Williams, p. 565).
The church of Christ is not only undenominational, but it is pre-denominational! It existed before any denomination—either Catholic or Protestant—was ever established. The Lord’s church (and that is the sole significance of the descriptor “church of Christ,” i.e., the church that belongs to Christ) was established in the city of Jerusalem in c. A.D. 30 as we read in Acts 2. The gates of Hades have not prevailed against that church (Matthew 16:18), and it still exists today. One can become a member of it by obeying the gospel, being saved from sins, and being added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47). That is what happened on the day the church began, and that is what still happens today when people do what the people did on that occasion. If when people read the New Testament they would remove their denominational spectacles and lay aside their religious traditions, the beauty of undenominational, New Testament Christianity would shine through in all its radiant splendor and divine power.
It takes great courage as well as great humility for one to admit that he or she has been wrong religiously and to leave a family religious tradition for the truth of God’s word, but our destination in eternity hangs in the balance. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).
“The young can run faster, but the old know the shortcuts”(Jens Weidmann), i.e., they know how to run “smart.”
“The young can run faster but sometimes take off in the wrong direction” (Anonymous).
As we prepare to enter a new year, let us take to heart the wisdom of Solomon who said, “The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Life is not a matter of speed, but of direction.
December 27, 2016
An individual surely has “I” trouble when he sees life through the material possessions that may be gained instead of seeing the array of good uses to which those riches may be put. A man known only to us as “the rich fool” illustrates the trait. Jesus said, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:16-21, emphasis added). Even those seemingly unsuccessful in gathering material goods and possessions may exhaust all their efforts to financially prosper at the expense of their soul by forsaking the assembly of the saints (Hebrews 10:25), failing to study the Bible (2 Timothy 2:15), and leading worldly lives (James 4:4).
The cure for “I” trouble was addressed by the Savior when He taught, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it. For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works” (Matthew 16:24-27). Jesus Christ invited all men and women everywhere to place him in first place in their lives. His first recorded sermon contained the plea, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33).
Serious spiritual sicknesses or sins may be cured by the cross and will not be cured without the patient reaching an understanding of it and identifying with the sacrifice it represents. The apostle Paul informed, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20, emphasis added).
EQUIPPING THE SAINTS
The biblical organization of the church of Christ today with evangelists, elders, and teachers has this intended design: “for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, NKJV). The following listing of Scriptures should help “equip the saints” who must “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
WHY DO YOU TALK SO MUCH ABOUT BAPTISM? “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15-16).
WHY DO YOU NOT USE INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC IN YOUR WORSHIP? “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:19). “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deuteronomy 4:2).
WHY ARE YOU CRITICAL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S RELIGION? “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven”(Matthew 7:21).
WHY DO YOU TALK SO MUCH ABOUT “GOING TO CHURCH”? “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, But a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries”( Hebrews 10:25-27).
WHY DO YOU TALK ABOUT “OBEYING THE GOSPEL” INSTEAD OF “GETTING SAVED”? “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him”(Hebrews 5:8-9). “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
OUR FRIENDS ARE THE MAP TO OUR DESTINY
The Bible is the only reliable map to our destiny. Long ago the Psalmist said, “Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory” (Psalm 73:24). Our friends are a great blessing. We depend on our friends. Luke wrote that Jesus spoke to this point, “And he said unto them, Which of you shall have a friend, and shall go unto him at midnight, and say unto him, Friend, lend me three loaves; For a friend of mine in his journey is come to me, and I have nothing to set before him? And he from within shall answer and say, Trouble me not: the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot rise and give thee. I say unto you, Though he will not rise and give him, because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him as many as he needeth” (Luke 11:5-8). The wise man said, “A friend loveth at all times, and a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).
Everyone wants to have friends. Again, the wise man said, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). There is reciprocity in friendship. Marshall Keeble said, “I’d rather have friends than money, especially if my friends have money!”
The friends we choose mirror the values that make up our character, who we really are. And, in this sense “our friends are the map to our destiny.” Did you know that under the Old Testament no one, no false teacher or wicked person or even a family member or a friend, was to be tolerated if by his influence he tried to lead you away from God? That’s easy to see in connection with the false teacher or wicked person, but it is very, very hard to see in reference to a friend. The whole 13th chapter of Deuteronomy is about this subject. Moses wrote more severely than to say we should not tolerate a family member or friend who is trying to lead us away from God; God commanded such a person was to be stoned! Here are the verses:
If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you, nigh unto thee, or far off from thee, from the one end of the earth even unto the other end of the earth; Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die; because he hath sought to thrust thee away from the Lord thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. And all Israel shall hear, and fear, and shall do no more any such wickedness as this is among you. (Deuteronomy 13:6-11).
Therefore, how vital to our destiny is the selection of those with whom we entrust our friendship.
The church of Christ is different because unlike the many denominations dotting the religious landscape it is divine in its origin, design, work, and destiny. One way to show this distinction is to contrast the belief in the Bible held as sacred by members of the church of Christ with the belief in the Bible plus the various creed books upon which the denominations depend.
The All-Sufficiency of the Bible
The church of Christ literally believes in the statement found in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which reads: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Disbelief in the All-Sufficiency of the Bible
Creed books contain distinctive teaching representing the major beliefs of the denomination that created them. These distinctions serve as barriers to fellowship with others who claim to believe the Bible. These creed books are a formal statement of the leadership and membership of the various denominations that they do not believe in the all-sufficiency of the Bible. If they did not believe this, then they would do away with their creed books.
A Few Examples
Southern Baptist Church The Baptist Faith and Message
On June 14th, 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention adopted a revised summary of our faith.—sbc.net
Methodist Church The Methodist Discipline
Just as creeds such as the Apostles’ Creed summarize the belief of all Christians, the Articles of Religion of The Methodist Church and the Confessions of Faith of The Evangelical United Brethren Church form a foundation of doctrine for United Methodists. They, along with Wesley’s Sermons on Several Occasions and Explanatory Notes Upon the New Testament, are “standards” of doctrine for United Methodists.—umc.org
Presbyterian Church The Westminster Confession of Faith
When the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America was formed in 1788, it adopted (with minor revisions) the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms (1647), as its secondary standards (the Bible itself being the only infallible rule of faith and practice). Officers in the Presbyterian Church in America take a vow to “sincerely receive and adopt” these confessional documents “as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures.”—www.pcaac.org
The Church of Christ Is Different
Not only do members of the church of Christ say they believe the Bible is the only infallible rule of faith and practice, they practice it by not having any other sources of religious authority other than the Bible. This belief and practice keeps the church of Christ as it exists in the world today divine in its origin, design, work, and destiny
The Time Is Near
The bible says, “Blessed is he who reads… for the time is near.” (Revelation 1:3). The book of Revelation is probably the most misunderstood and abused books of the Bible. It is used to teach all kinds of speculative doctrines God never intended, The book begins and ends with a clearly stated time frame (Rev.1:1,3; 22:6, 10) The things revealed in the book were shortly to come to pass…in the 1st century. Therefore any far-fetched interpretation today, that has the book still mostly unfulfilled, ignores the book’s own instructed time-frame. Remember: Do not add to God’s book (Rev. 22:18).
LET’S KEEP PREACHING THE GOSPEL
“Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). Within this simple sentence is the great commission the Savior enjoined upon the church of Christ. A million things distract the people of God away from this clearly stated command of the risen Lord. Never loosing focus on the great commission “let’s keep preaching the gospel.” Four reasons to reiterate the gospel plan of salvation are offered for study and meditation.
…to reach the lost
“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost” (Matthew 18:11). “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).
…to respect the great commission
“And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen” (Matthew 28:18-20).
…to be ready to give an answer
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
…to remind the saved
A reminder of righteousness: “That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:21).
A reminder of responsibility: “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:16-18).
A reminder of reward: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is the foundation upon which entirety of Christianity rests. To the Corinthians, who apparently were struggling with the concept, Paul wrote, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain” (1 Corinthians 15:17a). A reading of 1 Corinthians 15—sometimes called “the resurrection chapter of the Bible”—will alieve concerns about the truthfulness of the resurrection; a study of it will strengthen the faith of the earnest seeker of salvation.
Paul made no less than 11 arguments in support of the resurrection of Christ.
The Argument from the Witnesses, vv. 1-11
“Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. Therefore whether it were I or they, so we preach, and so ye believed.”
The Argument from the Preaching, vv. 12-13
“Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen.”
The Argument from the Apostles’ Authority, v. 14a
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain.”
The Argument from the Faith, v. 14b
“… and your faith is also vain.”
The Argument from the Genuineness of the Apostles, v. 15
“Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.”
The Argument from the Power of God, v. 16
“For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised.”
The Argument from the Hope of Salvation, v. 17
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.”
The Argument from the Sainted Dead, v. 18
“Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.”
The Argument from the Christian’s Hope, v. 19
“If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”
The Argument from the Example Set by Others, v. 29
“Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?”
The Argument from the Jeopardy of the Apostles, vv. 30-32
“And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.”
Any one of these arguments is sufficient to sustain the claim of the resurrection of the dead, but together they constitute an impenetrable fortress no unbeliever or skeptic will ever violate. At the beginning of the chapter Paul spoke of the need to keep these things in memory; at the end of the chapter Paul reassured Christians that their precious time and effort for Christ here is being effectively and efficiently spent. He said, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord,” v. 58.
Salvation from sin indisputably is the greatest need our world has ever known. The entirety of the Bible has this need as its centerpiece. Jesus Christ is the central character in the Bible, and His purpose in coming into the world is inextricably linked to salvation from sin as is seen in Luke 19:10, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” “In the volume of the book it is written of me” is a parenthetical statement in Hebrews 10:7 showing that the Bible is the book about Jesus Christ and His eternal interest in the salvation of the world from sin.
The words “unto salvation” appear five times in the King James Version of the Bible, all of which are in the New Testament. The word “unto” is a preposition “used as a function word to indicate reference or concern” (Webster’s ninth, p. 1295). Studying these five occurrences of “unto salvation” will highlight valuable viewpoints of salvation.
A knowledge of the Scriptures is vital to salvation. Paul wrote to Timothy, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
A knowledge of the gospel is vital to salvation. Paul wrote to the Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).
The Confession of Christ
A knowledge of the confession of Christ is vital to salvation. Again to the Romans Paul wrote, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).
The Power of God
A knowledge of the power of God is vital to salvation. Peter wrote to those “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Peter 1:5).
The Appearing of Christ
A knowledge of the appearing of Christ is vital to salvation. Clearly, no one could be looking for Christ to return who is without knowledge of what the Bible teaches on the subject. Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (Hebrews 9:28).
An enticing look into “the salvation which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 2:10) has been gained by surveying the five appearances of the phrase “unto salvation” in the Bible.
MAKING IT WORK BETTER
Alcoholism is a grave problem in the United States. While many programs exist to help a person recover perhaps Alcoholics Anonymous is among the best known. An obvious barrier to discussing the success of AA is the second “A” in AA—“Anonymous.” Participants’ privacy is crucial to the program. With this limitation in mind, here is information published by AA on the subject.
Long-Term AA Success Statistics
AA success statistics are often hard to gauge because of different variables, but statistics released in 2007 by AA reported on the success of AA members and the length of sobriety.
These statistics do not show a failure rate, but they indicate how AA members do succeed in long-term sobriety. The average sobriety time of members that were surveyed was eight years. (www.rehabs.com).
Looking at the 12 Steps upon which a recovery is based, a fundamental key is the awareness and acknowledgement of God and, further, a desire to know and do His will. One reaches Step 3 when he or she has “Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.” It is precisely here that membership and faithful attendance in all the services of the church of Christ can “make it work better” by authentic study of the Word of God, the Bible, and only by such a study may the one true God be known. The reality is that if an equal amount of time and effort were spent studying and memorizing the beautiful 19th Psalm with the same submissive attitude given the 12 Step program of AA the success rate of recovery would surpass it and any program, however highly regarded, that is designed by mere mortals. Our hearts go out to those struggling with the addiction of alcohol. Our considered and prayerful plea to each one affected is to avoid developing a flawed, skewed, or false understanding of the God of the universe by reading, studying, and meditating on the powerful Word of God, the Bible for it is “alive, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). And, it is an infallible guide for correcting even the most serious problems encountered in life (Psalm 19:7).
THE KINGDOM OF GOD
There is certainly a sense in which the omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent Creator-God of heaven and earth rules over the entire universe. In his benediction, Jude wrote: “To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 25). On the other hand, nothing is more obvious than the fact that since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden (Genesis 3), the majority of God’s creation has been in rebellion to Him. The apostle John, writing to Christians near the end of the first century A.D., said, “We know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in the power of the wicked one” (I John 5:19). The apostle Paul showed that there are two spiritual realms when he affirmed that Christians have been delivered “from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13). Everybody is in one or the other of these domains—the power of darkness (the kingdom of Satan) or the realm of spiritual light (the kingdom of God’s dear Son) (Cf. Ephesians 5:8).
In the Old Testament God had a theocratic earthly kingdom composed of fleshly Israelites, the descendants of Abraham through Isaac and Jacob. But this was not the ultimate kingdom that God had in mind for His people. The prophet Daniel spoke of a kingdom that the God of heaven would set up during the fourth empire of the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (the days of the Roman emperors)—a spiritual kingdom “which shall never be destroyed . . . and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44).
In keeping with this prophecy, both Christ and His forerunner, John the Baptist, were born and carried out their earthly ministries during the world-wide rule of Rome (Luke 2:1-7; Luke 3:1-6). John’s message was: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). Shortly thereafter, Christ appeared on the scene and proclaimed the same message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Mark tells us, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel’ ” (Mark1:14-15). To say that the kingdom of God was “at hand” was to say that it was near to being established. Just as Paul spoke of his departure (death) being “at hand” (not meaning that he had already died, but was approaching death—II Timothy 4:6), so both John and Jesus proclaimed that the long awaited kingdom of God was “at hand” (not meaning that it had already been set up, but that the time for its establishment was quickly approaching).
Throughout His ministry, Jesus spoke many parables that emphasized various features of His soon-to-be-established kingdom (see Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8; et al). He instructed His disciples to pray for the kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10). And while the disciples persistently misunderstood the nature of the kingdom (Matthew 18:1; Acts 1:6), Jesus emphatically stated: “My kingdom is not of this world . . . My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). Rather than earthly in nature, Christ’s kingdom is heavenly in nature.
Christ said that the kingdom would come “with power” during the lifetime of some of His contemporaries (Mark 9:1). Just before His ascension back to heaven, He told the apostles that they would receive power “when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:8). Thus, when the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles the power came, and when the power came the kingdom came! The second chapter of Acts tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost (verses 1-4). On that occasion they preached the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ (Acts 2:22-36). Daniel had prophesied: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven (the ascension of Christ, Acts 1:9-11, hf)! He came TO (not FROM, emphasis mine, hf) the Ancient of Days (a description of the eternal God, hf), and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall never pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (previously spoken of in 2:44) (Daniel7:13-14).
Simply defined, the kingdom of God is the rule of God. God’s kingdom is composed of innocent children who have not reached the age of accountability for “of such is the kingdom of heaven” (Luke 18:16). As ministering spirits, obedient angels are part of God’s kingdom (Hebrews 1:7, 14). (It is worthy of note that some angels sinned, did not keep their proper domain, were cast down to hell [tartarus], and delivered into chains of darkness for the judgment of the great day [II Peter 2:4; Jude 6]. Clearly, they are not a part of God’s spiritual kingdom)!
It is sometimes alleged that the kingdom of God is composed of all who believe in Christ. This view is advanced to downplay the necessity of actually obeying the gospel of Christ in order to be a citizen of the kingdom. It is an effort to enlarge the umbrella and to include under the rule of God more than His word would allow. The demons believe and also tremble (James 2:19), but it would be ludicrous to say that they are citizens of God’s spiritual kingdom. Some believed in Christ during His personal ministry, but they would not confess Him (John 12:42-43). Jesus said if we will not confess Him before men, He will not confess us before the Father (Matthew 10:32-33). A believer who will not confess Christ surely is not a part of God’s kingdom. Therefore, merely to believe in Christ is not sufficient for making one a citizen of God’s kingdom.
With reference to accountable humans, only those who have been “born again . . . of water and the Spirit” are citizens of the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5). In so doing, they have been saved from their sins and added to the church (Acts 2:47), which is the same as being delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom (Colossians 1:13). From the standpoint of accountable humanity, the kingdom of God and the church are co-extensive in that only those persons who have obeyed the gospel and been added to the church are citizens of the kingdom. If any accountable person since Acts 2 is in the kingdom of God but not a member of the body of Christ, the church, who is that person?!
At the end of time, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father “that God may be all in all” (I Corinthians 15:24-28). In the meantime, faithful preachers are to preach “the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ” (Acts 8:12), including how one enters the kingdom (John 3:3-5). They are to be busy “preaching the kingdom ofGod” (Acts 20:25), and diligent in “preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence” (Acts 26:31). As citizens of the kingdom, we are to make it our priority in life (Matthew 6:33). We are to live in such a way that we might be preserved for the heavenly kingdom (II Timothy 4:18), and experience an abundant entrance “into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:10-11)—heaven itself!
August 16, 2016
THE 400 SILENT YEARS
(Part 1 of 2)
The historical period from Malachi to Matthew contains no new revelation from God through prophet or priest and, while it commonly is referred to as the Intertestamental Period, because of this dearth of new divine revelation it is also known as “the 400 silent years.” In the land of the Bible, these years are rich in historical developments. The waning years of Alexander the Great’s Greek Empire (323-63 B.C.)1 saw political upheaval in Palestine with the exploits of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, Greek King of the Seleucid Empire (175-164 B.C.), capturing the Jewish Temple area in Jerusalem and desecrating the altar of burnt offering by sacrificing swine’s flesh thereupon. His name, Epiphanes, means “God manifest,” but in a fitting play on words his enemies called him Epimanes which means “madman.” Interestingly, the prophet Daniel prophesied of these events in Daniel 11:29-35, 350 years before they came about!
In response, a country priest names Mattathias led a revolt against the army of the madman and by his Jewish countrymen Mattathias’ family came to be known as “the hammer” or “the Maccabees” (1 Maccabees 2:27). Mattathias had five sons who would carry on the resistance after his death: John, Simon, Judah, Eleazer, and Johnathan. Just before his death in 166 B.C. Mattathias placed his son Judah in the leadership role of the Maccabean Revolt. Ultimately, the Maccabees defeated Lysias, the madman’s most glorified general, at Jerusalem and regained control of the Temple. After cleaning up the Temple area, Judas and his brethren and the congregation of Israel ordained an annual celebration lasting 8 days beginning on the 25th day of Chislev (December) 165 B.C. This celebration continues today by the Jews and is called Hanukah (1 Maccabees 4:59).
A continuing defense of the independence of Judea was led by Simon Maccabees’ son John Hyrcanus, who was the High Priest from 134 to 104 B.C. The grouping of the succession of 9 High Priests from 153 to 37 B.C. is known as the Hasmonean Dynasty and represent both a source for the defense of Judah from outsiders and a source of internal strife including a civil war during the reign of Alexander Jannaeus (103-76 B.C.). (See: The Complete Works of Josephus, The Wars of the Jews, pp. 427-605).
While the Bible is silent during these 400 years, historical sources like 1 Maccabees and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus yield fairly reliable information concerning what was going on historically, politically, and religiously during this period of world and Bible history. In the next article the rise of the Roman Empire in 63 B.C. and the birth of Jesus Christ in 4 B.C. in Matthew’s gospel will bring “the 400 silent years” to a close and introduce the Savior to the world.
1Upon Alexander’s death at the age of 33 his worldwide kingdom was divided into 4 parts: Egypt, the Seleucid Empire, the Kingdom of Pergamon, and Macedon (including Greece).
THE 400 SILENT YEARS
(Part 2 of 2)
The historical period from Malachi to Matthew comes to an end with the rise of the Roman Empire in 63 B.C. and the birth of Jesus Christ in 4 B.C. as recorded in Matthew 1 and 2. Some knowledge of these “400 silent years” where no message from God is revealed to prophet or priest is helpful in understanding from where so many developments not found in the Old Testament came.
New developments in the setting of the New Testament that emerged from this period include submission to Rome and the subdivision of Palestine into 5 parts: Judea, Samaria, Perea, Traconidus, and Galilee. Submission to Rome meant supervision politically, financially, and militarily by procurators like Archelaus (4 B.C.-A.D. 6) and Pontius Pilate (A.D. 26-36).
Synagogues where the Jews met for worship not only in Palestine but in many places throughout the Roman world indicate a scattering of the Jews by wars and uprisings during the period. These Jews come to be known as the Diaspora (“scattering, dispersion”) beginning with the Babylonian Captivity (606-536 B.C.) through the intertestamental period and especially following the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
The Sanhedrin high counsel of the Jews or council of the seventy (actually the number varied from 23 to 71) mentioned some 19 times in the New Testament and thought to descend from the 70 elders associated with Moses in, for example, Exodus 24:1, 9, is more prominent in the New Testament and is the body before whom Jesus and later the apostles were brought for judgment.
Finally, the sects of the Jews arise during the period between the Testaments. They are the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Zealots, and the Essenes. Each sect reflecting a different dimension of Jewish life in Palestine.
A study of this period of history helps provide the background for understanding the setting of the New Testament.
One recommended source for a study of this period is by Charles F. Pfeiffer called Between The Testaments (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1959).
A SAD NOTE
Perhaps you recall me mentioning Tim LaHaye as one of the leading proponents of premillennialism with its abstractions and denials of the Bible who is responsible for writing The Left Behind series of books and movies. Tim LaHaye died July 25, 2016, at the age of 90. As you may know, he was retired as the “senior pastor” of the Shadow Mountain Community Church near San Diego, CA. And, it has been reported that his books sold 90 million copies.
I mention this development to show that the emphasis placed by religious people today on what they call “the rapture,” WHICH IS NOT IN THE BIBLE, not only stands against our Lord’s teaching on His second coming (Revelation 1:7: “Every eye shall see Him”—not just a few) but also inappropriately diverts everyone’s attention away from preparing for death, which is certain for all (Hebrews 9:27). People shouldn’t waste their time and money on faithless, fantasy fables. They should be reading and studying their Bibles and developing true Christian character.
DENOMINATIONAL PREACHERS ARE BEING CONVERTED
Not here but in India. Ben Renegar of Fayetteville, Tennessee who works with Dave Nance, who visited with us recently to update us on the work in India, wrote in their current newsletter an article titled: “Winning Denominational Preachers.” As you know these brethren conduct many gospel meetings a year. They also conduct meetings called “Denominational Preachers Seminars” at which large numbers of denominational preachers attend. They have known for years that when you convert a denominational preacher you get not only him but his family and congregation. You may remember brother P.J. Joseph, who was with Dave on their recent visit with us, formerly was a Methodist preacher. Brother Renegar highlighted one line in his article that says, “Last year, a total of 4,995 denominational preachers were baptized through these programs.” Clearly, denominational preachers in India have more receptive and honest hearts than we see here in America.
EXCELLENT REASONS TO BRING YOUR BIBLE TO CHURCH
Think of how edifying it would be to see more and more people coming into Bible study and worship carrying his and her Bible. Here are some excellent reasons to do so.
May we as Christians exclaim with the Psalmist, “O how love I thy law! It is my meditation all the day” (Psalm 119:97). And, “I was glad when they said unto me, let us go into the house of the Lord” (Psalm 122:1).
CHRIST FORMED IN YOU
A comforting commitment Christ communicated to Christians comes in John 14:19-21, “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.” The concept of having Christ in you as a Christian ultimately points to “the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27-28 reads, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s preaching, warning, and teaching was designed to produce spiritual growth and maturity among all the Christians with whom he came in contact. For example, the Galatians were impacted by Judaizing teachers (those who were holding onto the Law of Moses and urging its observance among New Testament Christians), but Paul patiently preached, warned, and taught the gospel among them in hope that they might grow and mature as Christians. He wrote to them, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you” (Galatians 4:19).
The figure of speech of “Christ being formed in you” emerges from the seed principle. In the physical realm every seed reproduces after its kind (Genesis 1:11-12). Just so in the spiritual realm, where “the seed is the Word of God” (Luke 8:11), it takes the Word of God planted in the heart of a person in order to produce a Christian.
Jesus mentioned two vital elements required for spiritual growth in Luke 8:15, “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” The two vital elements required for “Christ to be formed in you” are a heart that is (1) honest and (2) good. The heart that is lacking these two qualities will never beat in the chest of a Christian because the seed, which is the Word of God, will not grow within that “soil.”
Repentance from dishonesty and disinterest in that which is good cultivates the human heart to receive the good seed, the Word of God. The Bible teaches that people should “provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17). One fruit of the spirit stated in the list from Galatians 5:22 simply is “goodness.” May everyone who thinks on these things work to have “Christ formed in you.”
WHAT MAKES GOD LAUGH?
Angry, empty-headed people who disrespect and disobey God. The Psalmist paints the verbal picture in Psalm 2:1-4.
Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.
When those in authority, kings and rulers, conspire to free themselves from any attachment to God, “He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh.”
The Psalmist next explains exactly what he means by “the Lord shall have them in derision,” a word meaning they become “an object of ridicule or scorn.”
Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel (vv. 5-9).
Bible students recognize within these verses the Messianic prophecy of the coronation of Christ who is now seated at God’s right hand “angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him” (1 Peter 3:22; cf. Hebrews 1). When societies, from the ruler or king right on down to the most common citizen, fail to show honor and respect for Jesus Christ, they are held in derision by the God of heaven.
What should rulers do? Be wise and serve Christ and show Him the respect and veneration He rightly deserves. The Psalmist advises, “Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him” (vv. 10-12).
Our Daily Bible Reading schedule published weekly in The Tiftonia Weekly brings us to the book of Isaiah. A little background goes a long way in enhancing our understanding of a book of the Bible we may be reading or studying. Here’s the dossier on the prophet Isaiah for your edification.
The Man Isaiah
Isaiah most likely was from Jerusalem since he “spent his early years as an official of King Uzziah (Azariah) of Judah” according to 2 Chronicles 26:22.1 Isaiah was married (Isaiah 8:3), and they had two sons whose names reflect elements of their father’s prophetic work. Shearjashub’s name means “a remnant shall return” (Isaiah 7:3). And, Mahershalalhashbaz’s name means “hasten to the spoil” (Isaiah 8:3). The dates during which Isaiah prophesied in the Southern Kingdom were 740 B.C. to 701 B.C.
The Message of Isaiah
As the names he gave his sons suggests, two of the main points of Isaiah’s prophetic work were to call attention to the impending judgment of Israel by removing them from Palestine and to give hope for the righteous remnant, being a tenth of the nation, who would be brought back out of captivity. Isaiah 6:12 -13 serves as a preface to the book, “And the Lord have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land. But yet in it shall be a tenth, and it shall return, and shall be eaten: as a teil tree, and as an oak, whose substance is in them, when they cast their leaves: so the holy seed shall be the substance thereof.” In their prosperity they had taken their eyes off God and focused on idols and for this God would judge the nation (Isaiah 44-46).
The Messiah and Isaiah
Isaiah spoke to the setting of his time by discrediting any protective alliance for Israel with Assyria or Egypt urging the leadership to rather trust in God for deliverance. But, the deeper and more long-range dependency upon God would come not just from the return of a remnant of the nation from Babylonian Captivity but the arrival of the Savior of the world. Isaiah prophesied about the new law for all nations that would go forth from Jerusalem under the Messiah’s reign (2:1-5); the virgin birth of the Savior (7:14), the Messiah’s spiritual government (9:6-7), the Messiah’s lineage through David (11:1-5); the peaceable nature of His kingdom (11:6-9); the suffering He would endure to provide the forgiveness from sins essential for God to be merciful to sinners (53:1-12), and more details about the Messiah than can be included here. Isaiah’s prophecy is so filled with specific statements that predict the coming Messiah that is why he received the moniker of “the Messianic Prophet.”
1Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, pp. 512-517.
THE FIRST DAY OR THE SEVENTH DAY
We recently had the local Seventh Day Adventist preacher and a group of their young people in their Pathfinder group to visit with us at the Tiftonia Church of Christ for our morning worship service on first day of the week. We always appreciate our visitors and are honored to discuss spiritual matters.
The church of Christ had its beginning on the first Pentecost after the resurrection in accordance with biblical prophecy (Isaiah 2:1-5; Daniel 2:44) and its fulfillment as seen in Acts 1:6-8 and 2:1-47. The Seventh Day Adventists had their beginning “in the Millerite movement of the 1830s to the 1840s, during the period of the Second Great Awakening, and was officially founded in 1863. Prominent figures in the early church included Hiram Edson, James Springer White and his wife Ellen G. White, Joseph Bates, and J. N. Andrews” (History of the Seventh-day Adventist Church from Wikipedia).
After our services were over, as we visited in the foyer the SDA preacher asked us to do two things: Join with their mission of advancing their vegetarian dietary laws and cease worshipping on the first day of the week and meet on the seventh day of the week. He offered no discussion on their vegetarian dietary laws but focused on meeting on the seventh day of the week instead of the first day of the week. One of the reasons he offered for this practice was the assertion that from the beginning of the creation God’s faithful have always worshipped on the Sabbath. He based his argument on Genesis 2:1-3 where God rested after the six days of creation. His contention was that God’s people have always worshipped on the Sabbath day and have no biblical teaching or example for worshipping on the first day of the week.
The answer to this SDA error is two-fold. One, God did not make known the Sabbath day until the children of Israel escaped Egypt and were sojourning in the Sinai peninsula where at Mt. Sinai they receive the 10 commandments (Exodus 16:22-30; Nehemiah 9:13-14) and no ancient patriarch mentioned in the 2,500 year history covered in the book of Genesis is ever said to have worshipped on a specific day of the week. Moses wrote factually about their fathers not having received the covenant which informed and ordered them to “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11; Deuteronomy 5:3). Two, the church of Christ was established on the first day of the week, the day of the week on which the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead (Luke 24:1-7; Acts 2:1; Leviticus 23:15-16) and continued steadfastly to worship on the first day of the week (Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2). The Old Testament law, with its various Sabbaths including the seventh day observance has been “taken out of the way” and changed so the New Testament of Jesus Christ is the law Christians live and worship under now (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 7:12; 8:8-13; Romans 8:1-2).
DO WE HAVE IT TOO EASY?
I don’t want to minimize anyone’s suffering, but I do want to ask, “Do we have it too easy?” No doubt we live in the literal “lap of luxury” here in the United States. There’s something about having so much in the way of food, comforts, and entertainment that distracts from the things of God—you know, Bible reading and study, worship, and Christian service.
Let’s strike a contrast in hope of creating a refocusing on what’s more important. To do this, I invite your attention to an excerpt from an actual newsletter we received this week from the church of Christ in Haiti. (I posted it on the bulletin board in case you’d like to see all of it).
A Voodoo chief priest that lives in the bush invited us by way of email to visit him after he heard us over the radio. To get to him we traveled in a big truck, which is public transportation, for three hours, crossed over a river with water up to our shoulders because there were no banana boats in the area, rented a motorcycle and rode one hour, and then walked three hours. It was 4 p.m. before we arrived at the place where we were supposed to meet the chief priest, then we had to wait two hours for him and three of his assistants to come from the field where they had been working all day. We began studying with them, and by 11 p.m. they were convinced they needed to be baptized. We did not want to be responsible for them losing their souls, in case they died during the night, so we risked our lives to walk down a very high hill in the dark to reach water. We passed through areas on the way that are controlled by robbers; we were stopped by some, so we told them we did not have anything they would want. Praise God they did not harm us—we started praying and studying with them, then one of the robbers asked to be baptized! When we arrived at the water it was too shallow to immerse anyone, so we had to take shovels to dig a hole deep enough to baptize. We spent the rest of the night in a house made of cardboard and wood with a roof of palm tree leaves. We had so many mosquito bites, the next day we had to see a doctor.
See what I mean about asking, “Do we have it too easy?” What these men did to reach this Voodoo chief priest and these robbers with the soul saving gospel required worlds more effort than loading our family into an air conditioned car and bringing them to a comfortable air conditioned church building to save their souls. So, why don’t we?
The church of Christ today stands as God’s way of calling out a people from this wicked world (John 17:15, 25; Galatians 1:4; 1 John 5:19). Old Testament passages that establish the foundation for God’s desire to have a special people are Leviticus 26:12 and Zechariah 8:7-8. The former says, “And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and ye shall be my people.” The latter says, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.”
Three examples from the ninth and eighth centuries B.C. show God’s desire to have a loving, faithful people thwarted by those same people. The first example: In the ninth century B.C. the prophet Joel wrote, “And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed. And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, and that I am the Lord your God, and none else: and my people shall never be ashamed” (Joel 2:26-27). What a glorious promise because if they had remained faithful to God they never would have been ashamed, yet ultimately their sins would carry them into captivity. In time, God would retrieve a righteous remnant, a tenth of the original number (Isaiah 6:13). Joel wrote, “For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land. And they have cast lots for my people; and have given a boy for an harlot, and sold a girl for wine, that they might drink” (Joel 3:1-3).
The second example: In the mid-eighth century B.C. the prophet Amos wrote, “And the Lord said unto me, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A plumbline. Then said the Lord, Behold, I will set a plumbline in the midst of my people Israel: I will not again pass by them any more” (Amos 7:8). God further warned His people, “Thus hath the Lord God showed unto me: and behold a basket of summer fruit. And he said, Amos, what seest thou? And I said, A basket of summer fruit. Then said the Lord unto me, The end is come upon my people of Israel; I will not again pass by them any more” (Amos 8:1-2). The last warning from Amos to God’s people included a prophecy of the church of Christ, “For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the Lord that doeth this” (Amos 9:9-12, emphasis added, see Acts 15:15-18).
And, the third example: In the mid-eighth century B.C. the prophet Hosea wrote, “And I will sow her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God” (Hosea 2:23). What had happened to God’s people is detailed in Hosea 4:6 and 11:7, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children. …And my people are bent to backsliding from me: though they called them to the most High, none at all would exalt him.” (See also: Psalm 78:1; Isaiah 1:3, 5:13; Jeremiah 2:13; 5:31-32).
The New Testament draws all these prophecies together showing that the long desired people of God today are all the members of the church of Christ throughout the world. The church of Christ in Rome received a letter from the apostle Paul saying, “As he saith also in Osee [Hosea], I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God. Esaias [Isaiah] also crieth concerning Israel, Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved: For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:25-28). And, again Paul wrote to the church of Christ at Corinth, “And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:16-18).
SAFETY IN GOD
Safety is one of the basic human needs in which we all have an interest. “Safety in God” is the ultimate safety all should desire and seek. In a few short verses in Psalm 4, we benefit from seeing the Psalmist build the foundation upon which lasting safety rests. Let’s assign a key word or words to each verse to aid in ease of understanding the contents of this reassuring Psalm.
SUPPLICATION, v. 1.
“Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer.”
SHAME FROM GLORY, v. 2.
“O ye sons of men, how long will ye turn my glory into shame? how long will ye love vanity, and seek after leasing? Selah.”
SET APART, v. 3.
“But know that the Lord hath set apart him that is godly for himself: the Lord will hear when I call unto him.”
STAND IN AWE, v. 4a.
“Stand in awe….”
SIN NOT, v. 4b.
“…And sin not.”
STILLNESS, v. 4c.
“Commune with your own heart upon your bed, and be still. Selah.”
SACRIFICES OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, v. 5.
“Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord.”
SHINE ON US, v. 6.
“There be many that say, Who will shew us any good? Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.”
SMILE FROM US, v. 7.
“Thou hast put gladness in my heart, more than in the time that their corn and their wine increased.”
SAFETY IN GOD, v. 8.
“I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.”
The safety about which the Psalmist has written emerges from our being godly or righteous people who stand in awe of God and turn away from sin. We also continually “offer the sacrifices of righteousness” in denying selfish lusts and put our trust in the Lord. God shines on us and we smile receiving His favor. Only the Lord can make us dwell in safety.
“BRING THEM UP”
Fathers and mothers have a divine responsibility to raise their children in the teaching and discipline of the Lord. Paul wrote, “And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). A child is honored who devotes himself or herself to hearing and heeding the instruction and training from his or her father and mother. The Proverbs say, “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
Fathers and mothers are required concerning their children to “bring them up.” “Bring them up” in a Christian home. “Bring them up” hearing their parents pray to God. “Bring them up” seeing their parents read the Bible. “Bring them up” hearing the Bible read and explained to them. “Bring them up” taking advantage of those special “teachable moments” when questions are asked and loving parents take the time to give them Bible answers. “Bring them up” seeing a father who loves their mother and lives for her happiness. “Bring the up” seeing a mother who loves their father and ensures his happiness. “Bring them up” in a family circle of compassion and communication. “Bring them up” in a family circle where love is ever present. “Bring them up” in an environment where prayers are a real means of communication to God and not only a dinner formality.
“Bring them up” attending all the services of the church establishing in their hearts and minds what it really means to love God and serve him with their lives. “Bring them up” with the privilege of hearing their parents sing the great songs of the church and to be a recipient of the “teaching and admonishing” that goes with scriptural worship. “Bring them up” with an understanding of their place in the local congregation supporting its work as well as its worship of God. “Bring them up” learning the Bible in both Sunday school and Wednesday night Bible class. “Bring them up” knowing fellow Christians and their role in the church as elders, deacons, preachers, and teachers. “Bring them up” knowing the other members of the church so the subject of fellowship is not just an academic study with them. “Bring them up” with a broader understanding of the Lord’s church by taking them to gospel meetings at other faithful congregations of the Lord’s church. “Bring them up” introducing them to faithful gospel preachers who have dedicated their lives to the study and preaching of the word of God.
The Bible instructs parents concerning their children to “bring them up” and doing so effectively requires diligence and great love for God and His word. No work is more important for those who are blessed with children than to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.”
*Note: To see the Gospel Broadcasting Network (GBN) debate topic “Water Baptism vs Faith Alone” video with Jack Honeycutt of Willette church of Christ and Michael Brawner, A Missionary Baptist Preacher. Part I and Part II, click on “Links” in the above heading.
THE GOOD SAMARITAN
Life, v. 25; Law, v. 26; Love, v. 27; Live, v. 28.
The Lawyer’s desire to have eternal Life (v. 25) must be sought in harmony with the Law of Moses in his day (v. 26). The Law required everyone to Love both God and his neighbor (v. 27; Leviticus 19:18). This example narrative showed him who he needed to be in order to Live the Life that brings eternal Life (v. 28).
“Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” v. 25.
The question is similar in form and content to Acts 16:30, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” But, a clear distinction of disposition exists between the Lawyer and the Jailor. The Lawyer is tempting; the Jailor is terrified!
The Savior’s answer is straightforward and succinct, but the Lawyer’s reply seems subversive (“a cause of overthrow”).
“Who is my neighbor?” v. 29.
Luke even tells us the motive behind the Lawyer’s question: “But he, willing to justify himself, said” (v. 29). “Justify” is from dikaiosu,h “what is right, righteousness, uprightness, justice; righting wrong; …what God requires;… religious duties or acts of charity (Mt. 6:1)” (Barclay M. Newman, p. 46). The Lawyer may have had under consideration “religious duties or acts of charity” that Jesus might have investigated to verify his good standing before God. Jesus’ reply in the form of an example narrative (like the rich fool, the rich man and Lazarus, and the Pharisee and the tax collector) clearly raised the standard for the Lawyer, and, if we are paying attention, for us too!
The Setting, v. 30.
Jerusalem to Jericho was 17 miles dropping in elevation 3,400 feet. “Desolate and rocky” are descriptive terms for that way from Josephus (Jewish Wars, IV.8.3). Jerome in the late 4th century said in his time that way was still “infested with Bedouin robbers” (On Jeremiah, I. 50).
The Sojourners, vv. 31-32.
Sojourners in the sense of travelers is meant. Luke doesn’t say why the Priest and the Levite passed by on the other side, but he does tell who: a Priest and a Levite—men who should have exhibited compassion and mercy. Jesus will emphasize loving your neighbor as yourself, but these men don’t even love their neighbor!
The Samaritan, v. 33.
Jesus said, “The Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans” (John 4:9). (Cf. also the Syro-Phonecian woman of Canaan in Matthew 15:21-28).
The Standard, vv. 34-35.
The Samaritan’s compassion was manifested in the first aid he gave the victim, the transportation he provided him, and the housing and care he provided him—he loved him as himself.
The Selection, v. 36.
Jesus asked, “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbor unto him that fell among the thieves?” v. 36.
The Synopsis, v. 37.
The charge Jesus gave the Lawyer who should now recognize the value of mercy is “Go, and do thou likewise” v. 37.
LIFE, LAW, LOVE, LIVE
When we see others as we do ourselves, we’ve found our neighbor. When we incorporate the law of love into our interactions with others, we demonstrate compassion and mercy. When we love our neighbor as we do ourselves, we’re living the life that brings eternal life.
The Lawyer Was Tempting
The Jailor Was Terrified
Luke 10:35 Acts 16:30
A non-Christian who is delaying his obedience to the gospel is in a very similar frame of mind as the Lawyer when he really needs to be in the frame of mind of the Jailor. We encourage you to become a Christian today.
WHO’S IN FIRST PLACE
We’ve looked into “what’s in first place” in a previous article where we considered the question, “is it fame, fortune, fun, or family?” However, when you get right down to it the question that strikes closer to home is not “what’s in first place?” but, rather, “who’s in first place?”
The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is Lord “to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11). The word “Lord” insists His sovereignty over all by virtue of His being “Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15). Only right now and only during our lifetime do we have the opportunity to recognize and submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Too late for most, “every knee shall bow to me [Jesus Christ], and every tongue shall confess to God” (Romans 14:11; cf. also Philippians 2:10).
Christ is coming again to be glorified in His saints (2 Thessalonians 2:10), but others will display a reaction not unlike the apocalyptic language of Revelation 6:12-17 when the sixth seal was opened. The apostle John wrote:
And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places. And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?
The options really come down to just two. Either Christ is in first place or you are. Are your weeks spent in worship to God every time the doors of the church building are open, or are you doing what pleases you elsewhere? Blessed is the person whose thinking has been arranged according to the example Christ exhibited during His earthly ministry when He said, “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). When I should be doing something for the Lord and His cause but instead absent myself from worship and Bible study and service opportunities, the question “who’s in first place?” is painfully obvious.
Our television program, THE EVERLASTING GOSPEL, has been approved to appear on the Gospel Broadcasting Network airing to Chattanooga over EPB Cable Channel 152 at 3 p.m. every Saturday. This adds to our distribution of the 30-minute program which has been airing over KWNTV7 out of Trenton, GA for more than a year now.
“LOVE NOT THE WORLD”
The disciple whom Jesus loved urged Christians not to love the world. He said, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
Have you ever noticed how many lyrics within the songs we sing in worship echo this truth. Here are a few. See how many you recognize.
“This world is not my home. I just a passing through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.”
“To Canaan’s land I’m on my way where the soul of man never dies. My darkest night will turn to day where the soul never dies.”
“There’s a beautiful place called heaven. It is written above the bright blue where the good who from earth ties are riven live and love an eternity through.”
“Earth holds no treasures but perish with using however precious they be, yet there’s a country to which I am going. Heaven holds all to me.”
“Sing to me of heaven. Sing that song of peace. From the toils that bind me it will bring release. Burdens will be lifted that are pressing so. Showers of great blessings over my heart will flow.”
“No tears in heaven. No sorrows given. All will be glory in that land. There’ll be no sadness; all will be gladness when we shall reach that happy land.”
“Some glad morning when this life if over I’ll fly away to a home on God’s celestial shore. I’ll fly away.”
“I am a poor wayfaring stranger. While traveling through this world of woe. Yet, there’s no sickness toil or danger to that bright world to which I go.”
All these thoughts and more help us not to love the world. May it be now and ever that our lives reflect these sentiments in the priorities with which we order our daily and weekly activities. “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
WORK OUT YOUR OWN SALVATION
Are you saying we can just do whatever we want to do and we’ll be saved? No. The title comes from a verse in the Bible which says, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
In the sermon this past Lord’s day evening, I was pleading for more “fear and trembling” in the church today because there is an observable void of it. We studied the word “trembling” from the Blue Letter Bible. It says,
tro,moj—“A trembling or quaking with fear. ‘With fear and trembling,’ used to describe the anxiety of one who distrusts his ability completely to meet all requirements, but religiously does his utmost to fulfill his duty.”
Points with power from the definition include: One, we’re to be confident in living the Christian life without becoming over confident to the diminishing of our duty to God. Two, “fear and trembling” is an appropriate motivation for our obedience, and we make no apology for urging men and women to have this frame of mind about it in serving the Lord today. Three, an abiding concern that we are doing all the Lord has called upon us to do is woven into the fabric of Christianity, but believing false teaching has caused many to be wearing a frayed spiritual garment. Four, a capable Christian man responding to an assignment to lead a prayer, wait on the Lord’s table, or read the Scripture in worship should be more responsive to serve doing his “utmost to fulfill his duty” than is common today. Five, the need for the attitude of “fear and trembling” as a motivation to attend the services of the church is being callously trodden under foot by many. Comparatively, if many Christians applied the same habit they have established in their sporadic attendance to their employment they would be summarily fired; if they were in the military service they would be court martialed; and if they treated their spouse in that way they would be divorced.
God told the world long ago about the person who may gain His favor. God has said, “Thus saith the Lord, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? For all those things hath mine hand made, and those things have been, saith the Lord: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word” (Isaiah 66:1-2). “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”
ON LOVE IN THE FAMILY
You may have read about this subject in the Times Free Press a couple of weeks ago. Terry Mattingly wrote an article about “Dealing with messiness of modern marriage.”1 In it he told us about “a 60,000-word apostolic exhortation from Pope Francis” on marriage. We should never expect a person, who has taken a vow of celibacy himself and is responsible for ensuring that millions of other adherents of his church do likewise, to speak the truth especially on the subject of marriage and the family. We must bear in mind that a true apostle—not one with a self-imposed air of authority like himself—wrote definitively in opposition to celibacy as a religious trait or “holy order.” The apostle Paul wrote,
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth (1 Timothy 4:1-3).
You know the Catholics are all about Latin, so the Pope’s lengthy discussion of marriage is called Amoris Laetitia meaning “on love in the family.” Instead of strengthening or even reflecting what the Bible teaches “on love in the family,” this communication bows to the sin-sickness of humanity on the subject like the Israelites bowed before the golden calf. Here’s an excerpt,
I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium [i.e., the Catholic Church]. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church [i.e., the Catholic Church], but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it. …Each country or region, moreover, can seek solutions better suited to its culture and sensitive to its traditions and local needs.2
This religious celibate, “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God,” just voiced the Catholic Church’s acceptance of the LGBT agenda here in the United States of America (2 Thessalonians 2:4). The sickening lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, and transgender element in the USA, now strongly supported by our government in all three branches, legislative, judicial, and executive, has the backing of the Catholic Church. Instead of this billion member church upholding the biblical teaching on marriage found in such verses as Genesis 2:23-24; Matthew 19:1-12; Ephesians 5:21-33, and Hebrews 13:4, it’s corrupt head has embraced the wrath of God detailed in Romans 1:18-32. Pope Francis seeks worldly popularity and power at the expense of Bible teaching “on love in the family.”
1Terry Mattingly, Times Free Press, Saturday, April 16, 2016, E1.
2Ibid., p. E4.
Archaeology Proves Liberal Theologians Wrong Again
Discovery News reporting on biblical archaeology carried an article April 11, 2016, confirming the Old Testament was written earlier than the 2nd Century B.C. The title of the article written by Jennifer Viegas is “Bible Was Written Earlier, Ancient Notes Suggest.” While the article does not support the correct biblical truth that Moses wrote the Law (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) in 1500 B.C., it does prove liberal theologians wrong who promote the view that books like Daniel were written in the 2nd Century B. C. instead of the 6th Century B.C. as must be true for Daniel to be an historical character and the content of his book to be inspired of God.
Here’s why this is important to us. In their book, God’s Holy Fire, authored by Abilene Christian University professors from their so-called College of Biblical Studies, the authors rip the prophet Daniel from his 6th Century B.C. setting and plop him into the 2nd Century B.C. even though the prophet Ezekiel specifically affirmed his contemporary place along with him in the 6th Century B.C. (See: Ezekiel 14:14, 20). Kenneth L. Cukrowski, Mark W. Hamilton, and James W. Thompson wrote, “Daniel was primarily concerned to show that God had acted in the past and would act again among Jews groaning under the misrule of the Greek-speaking Seleucid kings of the second century B.C.” (Cukrowski, pages 143-144, emphasis added). Search in vain if you will to find where these “scholars” believe Daniel actually lived in the 6th Century B.C. They have taken the position the material known as the book of Daniel was handed down through oral tradition and codified in the 2nd Century B.C.
Viegas gives us more information on this particular archaeological find, “Finkelstein, lead author Shira Faigenbaum-Golovin and their team used novel image processing and computer analysis to investigate 16 inscriptions from the desert fortress of Arad, located west of the Dead Sea. The inscriptions, which are correspondence concerning military matters, date to 600 B.C. and were made by putting ink script on ceramic shards [known as ostraca].”3 These “contain military commands regarding the movement of troops and provision of wine, oil and flour among the men. One mentions ‘the king of Judah’ and another ‘the house of YHWH,’ in reference to the Temple in Jerusalem.”4
Christopher Rollston, an associate professor of Northwest Semitic languages and literatures at George Washington University, “believes other inscriptional evidence from the region dates to the late 9th and 8th centuries B.C., and therefore thinks ‘that some portions of the Bible could have been written even earlier than the Tel Aviv study suggests.’” Viegas also said, “As Thomas Römer, a professor at the University of Lausanne and the Collège de France, Paris, told Discovery News, the study ‘shows that there was an important degree of literacy already in the 7th century B.C., and that we should not postulate a first edition of the biblical text in the exilic or postexilic periods.’”
We have believed this all along, and this discovery makes it more difficult for opponents of the Bible to retain any credibility with informed people.
2Cukrowski, Kenneth L.; Mark W. Hamilton; and James W. Thompson (2002) God’s Holy Fire the nature and function of Scripture (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
". . and upon this rock I will build my church . ." -- Matthew 16:18.
Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.