Weekly Bulletin Articles
Most of us have likely heard one or more of the following statements: “I don’t believe in arguing the Bible;” “The truth doesn’t need defending;” “Debating is unchristian.” The devil couldn’t be more pleased with such statements —they contradict God and the Bible! Contrary to such thinking, Christians are obligated to think logically, to reason soundly, and to use logic and reasoning in defending the faith (Jude 3).
Paul states, “Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). To prove is to try, discern (Phil. 1:10), examine (Gal. 6:4), and put to the test (1 Cor. 11:28). The conclusion being that Christians are to prove, try and test what is heard regardless who the speaker might be. The Bereans were of this disposition, “searching the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11). For this reason, “they were more noble than those in Thessalonica.”
Those who mix truth and error are consistently before us and we must ever be on guard. Subsequently, we must not only be studious, but questioning and testing what is said. Jesus warned, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24). Our testing equipment in testing what we hear is the Bible. It is our measuring rod, our “yardstick” to determine correctness.
Peter exhorts, “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and [be] ready always to [give] an answer...” (1 Peter 3:15). The Greek word translated “give an answer” is a legal term used in court wherein the attorney talks his client off a charge levied against him [Wuest’s Word Studies, First Peter, p.89]. Since the Bible has no verbal defense except its believers, persons of faith must be its defenders. Therefore, Peter enjoins upon Christians the obligation to defend the faith in a verbal way —“give an answer.” The only restriction given is that it must be done with an attitude of “meekness” and “fear” in trusting God and His word rather than self.
God called upon Israel to “reason” (Isa. 1:18) and so Elijah debated the false prophets of Baal (1 Kings 18:21). Religion needs to be constantly tested and tried as to its quality. In the cases of God and Israel, and Elijah and the false prophets of Baal, the genuineness of the two religions was tested and that which was not of God was shown to be vain and wanting.
One’s “Christianity” stands in its right to exist as the religion from God when it can be substantiated in faith and practice in light of Scripture. Children and servants of God are: 1) To not believe every speaker (1 John 4:1); 2) Not to succumb to a perverted Gospel (Gal. 1:6-9); 3) Beware of those who go onward and abide not in the Doctrine/Gospel of Christ (2 John 9- 11); 4) Mark them that cause divisions and occasions contrary to the doctrine of Christ (Rom. 16:17-18); 5) Contend (go to battle) for the faith once delivered (Jude 3); 6) Reason out of the Scriptures as Paul did at Athens and Ephesus (Acts 17:17; 19:8); 7) Expound more accurately to others the way of God as did Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18:26); and 8) like Paul, be “set for the defense of the Gospel” (Phil. 1:17).
Valid and sound argument is not wrangling or contentious dispute, but is the method of giving proof and evidence. By reasoning truth, we confirm Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of God; the New Testament plan of salvation and worship; church polity, etc. We are confident in what we believe and practice because we have Scripture to witness to our intellectual hearts in the matter. Consequently, such confidence allows us to teach and preach with all boldness (Acts 4:29).
The Bible is God’s message of love and concern for mankind. It is also a story of mankind’s need of redemption. God created man in a state of purity, innocence and sinlessness. Adam and Eve were blessed to begin life in a perfect world —a veritable Paradise (cf. Rev. 2:7). The Creator wanted them to enjoy life as His special creatures made in His image (Gen. 1:26-27). Genesis 1:31 reveals that at the end of the Creation, “God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.” This statement certainly included the first two human beings. They were “very good” because they were not yet marred by sin. As such, they were initially able to have unimpeded fellowship with God who made them. God created man to have fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3-7).
Colossians 1:16 says of Jesus, “All things were created by Him and for Him” (cf. Rev. 4:11). We were given life to please God! This only happens when we obey His will. Sadly, man’s earthly paradise was lost when sin entered the world (Gen. 3:6-19). Significant changes occurred as a result. Adam and Eve lost their innocence, sinlessness and close fellowship with God (Gen. 3:21-24). Death entered the world for the first time (Rom. 5:12). Though their disobedience in eating the forbidden fruit may seem trivial to many, God viewed their sin as a heinous crime. Before their transgression, the Lord had warned the first couple that the penalty for disobedience would be death (Gen. 2:17; 3:3). Did they die the day they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? Yes, they did! They did not die physically — that would occur 930 years in the future (Gen. 5:5). But, Adam and his wife died spiritually that awful day when they broke God’s simple law.
In the Scriptures, death is a word that has the root meaning of separation —either of the spirit from the body (James 2:26) or of the soul from the presence of God which is also called the second death (2 Thess. 1:7-9; cf. Rev. 21:8). Sin transformed the first two souls who had been created as “very good,” into people who were now outcasts! They were no longer good people in God’s eyes. It was fitting they should be driven from the presence of the Lord (Gen. 3:24). God did not want them to remain in the Garden of Eden because they would have access to the tree of life and could eat of it and live (physically) forever. However, God, in His great love for man, was not willing for that to happen. He had much better plans in mind but this required a restoration of fellowship. He was willing to save man from his ruined condition.
Adam and Eve were originally good people for they were created that way. Almost 3,000 years ago Solomon observed: “God made man upright, but they have sought out many inventions” (Eccl. 7:29, schemes). The same sad story is repeated whenever sinless young souls make their first accountable decision to sin (cf. John 4:11; Heb. 5:13-14; Matt. 18:3). Sadly, when sin first touches a soul, that person ceases to be inherently good. This is not to say that the person cannot never do good again. However, just as with Adam and Eve, there is a need for sin to be forgiven in order for fellowship with God to be restored. As long as sin remains unforgiven, the guilt and potential for eternal punishment remains. Sadly, this fact is rarely appreciated by most people. During the Lord’s earthly ministry, Jesus taught that many will be lost when the Day of Judgment arrives (Luke 13:23-27; cf. Matt 7:21-23). Few will enter by the narrow gate that leads to life because few are seeking it (Matt. 7:13-14). Jesus promised that if a person seeks, he will find (Matt. 7:7-8). The reasonable conclusion from this teaching is that most people are lost, and will continue to be lost, and will ultimately perish as the ungodly and unrighteous souls they truly were. They will forever be known as sinners and enemies of our Lord (Rom. 5:6-10). Such are not “good people” in God’s sight regardless of how “good” man considers them to be.
Man and God often see the same thing in two very different ways. This is a very old problem. Samuel, the prophet and judge, declared concerning God, “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7; cf. Acts 13:20).
Have you ever heard a person speak of another and say something like, “She was such a GOOD person!” Most of us probably have. Comments like this are often heard in eulogies at funerals. We need to remember that few people are truly “good” as God sees it because few people are right with God! You can be right with God by obeying the Gospel and living faithful the rest of your life (Acts 2:38).
Christians are named after Christ who is their leader. This name brings honor and glory to Christ and denotes one as a follower of Christ by adhering and conforming to His doctrine.
God foretells that He will "Call his servants by another name" (Isaiah 65:15). And, "The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord will name" (Isaiah 62:2). Here God foretells that He will give His people a new name after both Jews and Gentiles are involved. Also notice the Lord would give the name. By Acts chapter eleven the gospel had been preached to both Jew and Gentile and the church in Antioch was composed of both. In fulfillment of this prophesy we read "And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch" (Acts 11:26). "And in His name shall the Gentiles trust" (Matthew 12:21). It was the Lord who gave the name after the Gentiles began obeying the gospel.
After the apostle Paul had preached the gospel to King Agrippa , "Then Agrippa said to Paul, ‘You almost persuade me to become a Christian’" (Acts 26:28). Almost is not good enough. When we wear the name Christian, we give glory and honor to our Lord. "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this manner"(1 Peter 4:16). We should never be ashamed to wear the
name Christian. Jesus says, "For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory" (Luke 9:26).
But there are those who must be ashamed of Christ since they will not wear His name, the name Christian. They wear the names that glorify other men or things such as John the Baptist, Martin Luther, the apostles, the methodical way of doing things, the community, Rome, the Day of Pentecost, etc. Even by their names they don't even claim to belong to Christ. Why would anyone want to wear a name that does not have God’s authority and approval? Denominations do not exist by the authority of God and are contrary to the doctrine of Christ (John 17:21).
The term Christian is used very loosely today. One is not a Christian just because he says he believes in Christ. "Even the devils believe and tremble" (James 2:19). Today every kind of church doctrine, tradition, and practice is labeled as "Christian". Even the United States is called a Christian Nation. This is a misnomer.
Christians are only those who have been baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38) so they can be saved (Mark 16:16). Then "The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved" (Acts 2:47). Only Christians are in the Lord’s church and have the promise of Heaven when this life is over (Ephesians 5:23). We should give glory and honor to Christ by wearing only the name Christian, which the Lord Himself gave for us to wear.
Change, any change, all change from the divine pattern is error. Error causes both its teacher and doer to be lost, no matter how sincere they may be. Jesus wants us to know the truth which makes us free from error (John 8:32). We must love the truth or suffer the consequences of believing a lie. Those who believe a lie will be damned (2 Thess. 2:10-12).
The Bible always answers error because it is the all-inspired and all-sufficient Word of God. "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" (2 Tim 3:16-17). Notice how verse 16 says that all Scripture is profitable for "doctrine" (teaching, showing what is wrong), for "reproof" (exposing, rebuking and convicting one for doing wrong), for "correction" (showing how to correct the wrong and reform one's ways) and "instruction" (showing how to continue in that which is right and training in the right way). The apostle Paul did not just write his own words. He said to the church at Corinth, "...the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord" (1 Cor. 14:37). We read in 2 Peter 1:3, "According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue." Everything we need to know how to live in this life and please God can be found in the New Testament. Jesus said, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 8:32).
The Bible tells us to test those who are supposed to be teachers of the Gospel. The apostle John writes, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). A "Gospel preacher" is not offended when questioned about his belief, teaching and practice. He welcomes it. On the other hand, those who teach error are usually insulted and angered when questioned. This serves as a warning sign of those who are not sound in the faith. When you find one like this, beware!
The Bible tells us what to do with those who teach error. "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds" (2 John 1:9-11). Faithful Christians cannot help or assist those who teach error. We must not do anything that could be interpreted as supporting them in their error. When we do so, God counts us as guilty as if we were teaching that error ourselves. This is "guilt by association" i.e., we are counted guilty because we fellowship them. Too many refuse to see that their fellowship of those in error makes them guilty of error. The old addage that says "birds of a feather flock together" is certainly true.
Paul writes, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple" (Rom. 16:17-18). To "mark" means to observe -- turn attention toward. Brethren everywhere need to be made aware of those who are teaching error so they will not be "taken in" by their false doctrine. This, of necessity, involves "calling names." Those who teach contrary to the doctrine of Christ must be identified. It is impossible to do that without knowing who they are, that demands knowing their name. There are even occasions when we are to "mark" those who faithfully follow the Lord so we may imitate them (Phil. 3:17). However, that cannot be done without knowing who they are. Therefore, they must be identified by name. To not do so is a violation of Romans 16:17 and Philippians 3:17.
The Bible tells us the end result of those who teach error. They "...shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (2 Thess 1:9). In Old Testament days, "...there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Peter 2:1). All false teachers, along with "...the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night for ever and ever" (Rev. 20:10). Those who follow them will suffer the same destiny.
No one can change God's way and escape the consequences.
“And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:18-19; Emp.JS)
There is much that could be discussed from the text above, such as the sinfulness of drinking alcoholic beverages, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, singing without the mechanical instrument, and unity among the brethren. However, the subject that encompasses the entirety of the text is thanksgiving. For we cannot keep ourselves from worldly desires in allowing the word of God dwell in our hearts and give praise to the Lord in song (Colossians 3:16) while dwelling together in unity without being thankful to God. We could not do anything that the Lord commands us to do without giving thanks to God (Colossians 3:17). “In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (I Thessalonians 5:18). We will now notice three things for which we should be giving thanks always to God.
Giving Thanks Always For What God Has Done For Us
We should give thanks always to God for giving us life (Genesis 2:7; Acts 17:29; Hebrews 12:9), and for giving us the things that sustain our lives (Matthew 5:45; 6:25-26; Acts 17:25-26). Most of all we should give thanks always to God for giving us what we must have to have the hope of eternal life (John 3:16;Titus 3:7; 2 Peter 1:3). “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)
Giving Thanks Always For What God Is Doing For Us
We should give thanks always to God for His plan of Salvation and His providential care for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Acts 8:28). “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil” (I Peter 3:12).
We should give thanks always to God for His promises. We should be thankful to God for His being longsuffering toward us (2 Peter 3:9). We should be thankful to God for allowing us to enjoy our fellowship with Him and for all spiritual blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7). We should be thankful to God for never forsaking us (Hebrews 13:5-6). We should be thankful to God for allowing us to enjoy our fellowship with Him and for all spiritual blessings He gives us in Christ (Ephesians 1:3-7). We should be thankful to God for never forsaking us (Hebrews 13:5-6). We should be thankful to God for the blessed assurance we have of His Promise of eternal life. “In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2).
Giving Thanks Always For What God Will Do For Us
We should give thanks always to God for allowing us to live one day in heaven for eternity. What a joyous day that will be for us when we will be able to show forth our gratitude to God forever when we heart: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Let us be giving thanks always.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:17-19).
Each of us has a soul or inward man which is to grow and develop into maturity—into manhood and womanhood. The fact of the reality of the soul is mentioned numerous times in the Bible. In speaking to his disciples, Jesus taught to “...fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matt. 10:28). The Son of God also stressed the value of the soul and compared its worth to the physical things of this world. “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” (Matt. 16:26)? Furthermore, by inspiration the apostle Peter, concerning the importance of man’s soul growing into maturity, exclaimed that we should “as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” and exalted Christians to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).
As we consider God’s teaching in regard to the soul, we might find it good to ask, “What size is our inward man?” Are we growing spiritually as we ought, or are we still mere babes in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1; 14:20)? It would be well for each of us to consider and discern the progress of our inner growth. It is something that can be measured...not as a box might be measured with a ruler or tape. We cannot see the soul, except in the mirror of God’s word. But we can determine the size of the inner man by the measure of its manifestation.
The size of the soul may be measured by determining the height of its ambitions. Big souls are always ambitious souls of high ideals and worthy goals. We must never be found guilty of becoming the “one talent man” of Matthew 25. Because he felt he could not do big things in the sight of the Lord, he did nothing.
Christians should continually strive onward with their eyes focused upward. “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...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” (Matt. 28:19,20; Mark 16:15,16). Christ came to do big things and gave us a big job.
The size of the soul may be measured by the depth of its convictions. Hebrews 11:1 speaks of a “conviction of things not seen” (ASV). This has always been a characteristic of God’s great people, with his honor roll of faithful followers forever recorded for our learning. Daniel was another example of our Father’s expectations, proving himself to be a man of deep convictions and faithful to the will of Jehovah. “But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank” (Daniel 1:8). Big souls have convictions concerning right and wrong, truth and error, and matters of duty.
The soul may be measured by the length of its love. Consider the measurement of God recorded in John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” God so loved the world. “So” is an adverb of degree. It tells how much God loved the world. He went so far as to give his only begotten Son. And when we read this, it should bring to our minds a much-needed question: How does our love measure up in regards to God, the church, and the lost? 1 John 4:19 should be emblazoned within our hearts and thoughts. “We love him, because he first loved us.”
The size of the soul may be determined by the weight of its influences. Matthew 5:14-16 relays a command to be carried out by every Christian. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” How much light do we radiate? One of the Lord’s parables brings forth a closely related reminder. “The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till the whole was leavened” (Matt. 13:33). Are we leavening for others through our actions and our words? What is the weight of our influence for those around us?
May we each ask ourselves the soul-searching question: “How big is my inward man?”
In the beginning of time, everything God created was perfect. After each division of His creation, God “...saw that it was good” (cf. Gen. 1). Adam and Eve formed the first home, the oldest of God’s divine institutions (Gen. 2:21-25). It wasn’t long before there was trouble in paradise; sin entered into this world (Gen. 3:1-6). Mankind has suffered the consequences of sin ever since that tragic day in Eden. Solomon wrote, “There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not” (Eccl. 7:20).
In the New Testament, Christ created another divine institution, His church (Acts 2:1-47). The book of Acts is a history of the establishment and growth (about 30 years) of the church of Christ. The church, as Christ planned it, is like “heaven on earth.” She truly was a spiritual paradise until sin raised its ugly head, and the church became corrupted; consequently, again, there was trouble in paradise.
Many years ago, I was privileged to be a student in one of the late brother G. K. Wallace’s Bible classes. In one class session, a student asked brother Wallace, “What does the church of Christ teach...,” and before he could complete his question, brother Wallace replied, “Just about anything!” We all laughed! But, now, it’s no laughing matter. The church, God’s spiritual paradise is in deep trouble.
In the late 40s and throughout the 50s, the church faced the problem of brethren denying the right of the church to financially support, from her treasury, a home for orphans operated by brethren; along with congregations cooperating with each other in the field of evangelism. Our great brotherhood was torn asunder. Indeed, there was trouble in paradise.
In the 60s and 70s the church faced the problem of Pentecostalism. During the early 80s until now, there has been a steady drift into liberalism. The ultra-conservative brethren sought to bind upon the brotherhood what God had not bound. Now, our liberal brethren are seeking to loose what God has bound. To do this, they have come up with a cry for a new hermeneutic in Biblical interpretation and a denial of any New Testament pattern for the church to follow. Who among us would have ever dreamed the beautiful bride of Christ would experience so many departures from the faith? The apostle Paul wrote of those who would give “...heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils”
(I Tim. 4:1). These “seducing spirits and doctrines of devils” are running rampant in the church, and it’s later than most seem to think. What, then, has destroyed this paradise?
We have allowed at least two generations to “come up in the church” who have little, if any, concept of what is meant when we speak of scriptural authority. We have far too many preachers who either: 1) do not believe in the necessity of having scriptural authority for our beliefs and practices, or 2) they are afraid to preach sermons that teach the necessity of having scriptural authority for all we do (cf. Col. 3:17). Our pulpits, in many cases, have become weak and inefficient in preaching the Gospel of Christ. When the sermons we hear Sunday after Sunday could be preached in most any denominational church, without any disapproval, it’s no wonder the church is in such serious trouble.
The old pioneer preachers often referred to the church as the “ship of Zion.” Brethren, we can turn this “ship” around. How? By getting back to the basics by teaching God’s word in its completeness. Let’s return to demanding a “thus saith the Lord” for what we preach and practice. Let’s let the denominational world know there is a vast difference between them and us. The true church of Christ is militant and distinctive in doctrine and practice. If we will “speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11), the true church will be restored in all its pristine glory. Then, like Joshua of old, we will have good success (Josh. 1:8). Think about it.
The Lord’s church is the one that was established in A.D. 33 in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The Lord’s church is the one that Jesus built (Matt. 16:18) and purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The Lord’s church is the one body the apostle Paul recognized as being valid (Eph. 4:4). There is only one body that the Savior has promised to save (Eph. 5:23). It is imperative to understand that we are not discussing what denominations were established to do. Denominations may do whatever their founder desires them to do and please men, but they will never please God. If the church of our Lord is to be faithful, it must only do the bidding of its founder, Jesus Christ, and such will never please most men.
The Lord’s church was not established to exist incognito! It makes one want to gag to hear those who profess to be members of the Lord’s church avoid telling people they are a member of the church of Christ. These modern day dreamers will tip-toe for miles on eggshells before they will admit they are a member of the church of Christ. Upon being forced to make the admission, they then apologize by saying, “But we don’t believe we are the only one’s going to heaven.”
What is wrong with the name church of Christ? Am I ashamed that Christ built His church? Am I embarrassed that the church wears His glorious name? Do I not want the church to be connected with the Savior? Brethren, these questions deserve an honest answer. Many members need to begin thinking for themselves and cease following the liberal change-agents who would place the church under a bushel (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). Faithful soldiers of the cross will boldly proclaim the essentiality and eternal destiny of the Lord’s church. We cannot keep the church a secret and save the souls of men!
The Lord’s church was not established to provide entertainment for its members! One can search the Bible from beginning to end and never find one incident where God has sought to entertain His people. It can be proved, however, that God “would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). It is also true that “the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We read that it was the Lord’s desire “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). When the early church was persecuted and scattered, they did not offer all types of entertainment to attract people. They did, however, go “about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5). The early church realized that the Gospel was the only “power of God unto salvation,” and they were not ashamed to proclaim it (Rom. 1:16).
The early church did not seek to attract people with eloquent dramatized skits laced with finger-nail biting excitement! Neither did the early church have “youth ministers” to entertain and baby-sit the young or a 㦓’ers minister” to transport the older saints to every play and flower garden within driving distance. Didn’t they know that because of severe persecution they would have to cater to the wants of both young and old in order to grow? The wisdom of man says that the early church is destined to fail. The result — the early Christians who feared God and unashamedly proclaimed the Gospel grew by leaps and bounds (cf. Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31).
The Lord’s church was not established to provide a soothing answer to man’s sins! The majority of men want to live in sin, enjoy the pleasures of the moment, and be told that all is well with their souls. Thus, alcoholics have a disease, homosexuals have a defective gene, fornication is simply an affair, lying is misinformation, and sin is tolerated as a mistake. Brethren, we can ill afford to pat members on the back, accept their contribution, and overlook sin! All sin is deadly (Rom. 6:23), and all must repent (give up) of their sins or lose their souls. Even though not “politically correct,” Christians will teach sinners that they must “repent or perish” (Luke 13:3).
May we keep in mind that the Lord’s church was established to do what no man-made institution can do. Let us therefore not lose sight of the glorious purpose and mission of the Lord’s church.
Many people’s concept of Christianity includes some mysterious work of the Holy Spirit to change one’s life. The Bible teaches the Spirit operates upon man to create faith, convict of sin and convert the soul. But the question is, does the Holy Spirit operate directly on man or does He work through the word of God?
The Bible states that the “sword of the Spirit” is the word of God (Eph. 6:17). This word is “quick, 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” (Heb. 4:12). These two verses show that the Spirit does not operate directly upon man, but through a means — the agency of the word of God. It is much like a man who went to cut down a tree. Did the man himself cut down the tree or did the saw he used cut down the tree? Obviously, the man did cut down the tree, but he used a tool to do so, a saw.
Suppose the Holy Spirit did operate directly upon mankind apart from the word of God. What would be the results? God does not want anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:9). He is also no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34). Therefore, the Spirit would act uniformly on everyone. Since the Holy Spirit is part of the Godhead, He is all powerful. So it should be the case that everyone would be saved. There can be no other outcome when an irresistible force operates directly upon a very moveable object such as man! But Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 7:21). This accounts for the fact that not everyone will be saved though God is no respecter of persons. Not everyone chooses to do the will of God.
If the Spirit operated directly on mankind apart from the word of God, the New Testament would not be needed to convert people from their sinful lives. Conversion would depend entirely on the work of the Holy Spirit. If someone was not converted, the blame would lie at the feet of God. Who would dare charge God with a failure to accomplish His will? The truth was stated long ago: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isa. 55:11). Preaching God’s word will harden some and soften others. The sun will melt wax but harden clay. Different effects are the result of the differing natures of the materials. So it is with mankind. Some will choose to believe and obey while others choose not to believe and thus disobey leading to their damnation.
If the Spirit operated directly, why even bother preaching? Here is a curious thing. Those who advocate a direct operation of the Holy Spirit preach it! Shouldn’t the Spirit have revealed his message directly to each person? Jesus told his apostles, “ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Without a knowledge of God’s word, one cannot have faith in Jesus Christ since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). The Bible nowhere states that faith comes by some mysterious operation of the Holy Spirit.
Be Wise —As Moses spoke about God’s statutes, he went on to tell the Israelites, “Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations...” (4:6). God’s word has the potential to make us wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). And, how do people show true wisdom? By doing what the Lord says! The fear/reverence of Jehovah is the beginning of wisdom (Prov. 9:10). Did not Jesus say that a person who hears His words and then goes and does them is like a wise man that built his house on the rock? He sure did (Matt. 7:24,25). When it comes to wisdom, never forget this truth: 1) Wise people get their main education from God’s word, and 2) Wise people carry out in their lives what they learned from that word. It is now fair to ask this personal question: Are you (and I) acting wisely or foolishly?
Diligently Keep Yourself —“Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thy heart all the days of thy life...” (4:9). At least twice more in this chapter we read that God exhorted His people to take heed unto themselves. “Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves. ... Take heed unto yourselves, lest ye forget the covenant of the LORD your God...” (4:15,23). When God tells His people to “take heed,” you know what that means, don’t you? It means to take heed!
The Israelites had seen and heard great things from Jehovah. God did not want them to forgot them or their significance. In fact, He said that He wanted the memory of those deeds and laws to be in their heart “all the days of thy life” (4:9). Brethren, with so much going on in our lives, it can be a real challenge to keep the great teachings and blessings of God stored up in our hearts. There is only one way for us to keep our focus on God and His Cause, and that is to be diligent as we take heed to ourselves.
Teach —This, too, is “a big one,” and it is just as important as the previous five principles we have observed. When it came to the ways of God, what else did He want the Israelites to do with them? Not just remember them, but teach them: “...teach them thy sons, and thy sons’ sons” (4:9). Parents instructing their children from God’s word and grandparents teaching their grandchildren God’s truth. What a precious thought! Supreme love for one’s offspring is not shown by material gifts, but by showing them the way of the Lord. That “showing” or “teaching” takes two forms: 1) Informing them what the Bible says and 2) Being a godly example for them. Parents and grandparents, are we really putting in a serious effort to get these matters right, or are we letting our offspring down by neglecting our duty to them?
You may not share my sentiments, but I love the message of Deuteronomy 4:1-9. I really am convinced that it gives us the formula for success in God’s sight in any generation. Again, what were those words of the Bible text on which we concentrated in this study? Hearken, leave, cleave, be wise, diligently keep yourself, and teach. These half-dozen principles provide a wonderful potential for a whole lot of learning for those who meditate upon and apply this truth. How about it?