Weekly Bulletin Articles
“And the Lord said to Moses, ‘Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not’” (Numbers 11:25 NKJV).
About a year after their deliverance from Egypt, after celebrating Passover for the second time, Israel departed from Mount Sinai to journey to Canaan. Shortly after beginning that trip they began to complain about their diet of only manna (Numbers 11:4-6). Remembering the varied diet of Egypt, they demanded meat. Moses cried out to God, who promised to feed them meet for a complete month (verses 19-20). At that incredible statement Moses asked how it could be possible. That brought about the Lord’s response, essentially, “Is my arm too short?”
The idea of a shortened arm suggests a deformity or disease. In 1 Kings 13:4 King Jeroboam’s arm “withered, so that he could not pull it back to himself.” In his conversation with Moses the Lord speaks of his arm “being shortened,” rather than having always been that way. The image projected is that of someone who is handicapped.
Such deformities are common in poorer, less developed parts of the world. It is common to see many who are crippled, blind or otherwise handicapped on the streets of Asia, Africa, or South America. When we pass them, often begging in order to provide food for themselves, we are moved with emotions ranging from pity to disdain or even contempt.
When we doubt God’s ability to solve our problems or provide for our needs we are in danger not only of doubt, but of disrespect. Has his arm become shortened so that he cannot answer prayer or fulfill promises? Is he in fact handicapped?
His answer to Moses was emphatic and specific: “Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” In other words, “I am fully capable of doing whatever I choose or need to do.”
God’s arm is long enough for him to do whatever he says he will do. He “cannot lie” (Titus 1:2) and therefore cannot and will not fail to do what he promises. He is “not a man, that he should relent” (1 Samuel 15:29).
Throughout the Bible God’s relationship with mankind is based on “covenant,” which may be defined as “a mutual agreement between two parties which contains obligations and benefits on both sides.” Those are described on God’s part as “promises” (Romans 9:4). Just as his promise to feed meat to the Israelites in the wilderness was certain of fulfillment, so his promises of forgiveness from sin and eternal life are also certain. We can trust him implicitly, without reservation or doubt (James 1:5-6).
God is known in the Old Testament by many names or titles. One of the most frequently used is “The Almighty.” He is “all powerful” (omnipotent), with no weakness or inabilities.
The Hebrew writer defines faith, in part, as the conviction that God “is, and that he is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.” That is, we believe that God will do what he says and fulfill all that he has promised.
That included feeding more than six hundred thousand men, plus their families, in the wilderness. It also includes giving us “every spiritual blessing in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:3), and “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). God is not deformed or handicapped. He is all powerful, all wise and all loving – fully capable of ruling over all creation until it has fulfilled its purpose. Let us trust in him.
How important it is that we emphasize the fact that the church of the Bible is not simply an organization wearing a certain name and tracing its “historical roots” to some doctrine and practice of the “Restoration Movement”! The church is a group of persons who have intellectually, spiritually and practically accepted the authority of Christ in ALL things that pertain to life and godliness. This includes how to be saved from sins, worship acceptably, and live for Him daily. In no case was a man made a Christian by submitting to a man-made set of rules, even if those rules were: “In order to come into our church, you must be immersed in water.” Although it would be easier for a person to deceive himself and/or be deceived, it would not change that basic truth even if those man-made set of rules were: “In order to come into our church, one of our preachers must immerse you in water as he says, “I now, by the authority of Christ, baptize you into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
for the remission of your sins.’”
Unless a person has “obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine” which Peter and Paul preached (Acts 2:38, Romans 6:17-18), and knowingly and willingly submitted to the authority of CHRIST, he was NOT made free from sin and added to the Lord’s church. And this is true no matter whether he thinks he joined the “Church of Christ Church” because he was baptized by a “Church of Christ preacher” or whether he thus joined the Christian Church or some other denomination with their “Historical roots” in the Restoration Movement! It is simply Bible truth that when a penitent believer (no babies!) is baptized in the name of Christ (Acts 2:38), he is saved (becomes a member of the church for which Jesus died, Acts 20:28; cf. Mk. 16:16; Acts 22:16).
The desire for fellowship and unity is commendable, but any unity on the basis of allegiance to ANY human being-even Peter and Paul-is unscriptural. The “unity of the Spirit” is not the unity of two human spirits who are tired of fussing, but a unity produced by both parties following the direction of the Spirit.
The bottom line is: Whatever a man’s “historical roots” may be, if he is not what he is because he submitted and still submits to the authority of Christ, his religious roots are worth nothing. He will be cut off as a branch even if he had the right roots and does not continue to follow the authority of Christ!
(The Spiritual Sword VOL. 16 NUMBER 4)
I confess that I have been slightly disturbed over the years when I have heard those whom I considered great and good gospel preachers refer to “our historical roots” with the seeming implication that “we would not know what “we” really are or believe if we did not study and know about “our historical roots.”
In no way do I mean to disparage the giants of the “Restoration Movement.” I confess that I have read most everything I can find written or published by Alexander Campbell and others of that era. I am ready to confess also that I have read everything I can find by Guy Woods, Gus Nichols, Roy Deaver, Tom Warren and Garland Elkins. I owe a great deal to all of those, and many more. But the truth of the matter is that I was a Christian before I ever heart of ANY of them, and expect to remain such if they all turn out to be apostates.
I started reading the New Testament at the age of 7 and became a Christian after reading it carefully for about 4 years. I do not remember reading anything about Alexander Campbell for MANY years after that. This is simply to emphasize the fact that we in no
sense need to deny or disparage the greatness and worth of men who have gone before or are contemporaneous with us, nor to pretend that all our insights were gleaned ONLY from the study of the Bible. At the same time, we need to realize and emphasize that if Alexander Campbell, Guy Woods and Tom Warren had never lived, although the world would be a much poorer place, I would have been a Christian anyway by following the word of God.
The seed of the kingdom was and is the Word of God (Luke 8:11). If we are not rooted and grounded in love (Eph. 3:17) of that Word, it just does not matter what we or anyone else calls “our historical roots” or how similar those roots may be to some other persons “roots”.
A great and good man, now deceased wrote some tracts on “What the Church of Christ Believes.” In my judgment, all such does disservice to the Cause of Christ. Many times I have heard or used such expressions as: “The Churches of Christ have historically taught—.” The proper answer might be, “So what?” When we imply that the “Church of Christ Church” and the “Christian Church” are TWO churches with some common “historical roots,” and thus the doctrines and practices are equally relevant and valid because they have some common roots in “the Restoration Movement,” great damage is done.
The truth is that the very concept of a Christian Church and a “Christian Church preacher” teaching a “Christian Church doctrine” is unscriptural, sectarian and sinful. But it is no less true that the concept of a “Church of Christ Church” with a “ Church of Christ preacher” teaching “Church of Christ doctrines” is equally so. (To be continued next week)
What is carnality? Our English word carnal comes from a Greek work that means having the nature of the flesh. Another definition is, “controlled by the senses or governed by human nature.” Perhaps the easiest definition is this, “worldly thinking and living as opposed to spiritual thinking and living.” In Romans 8:6, Paul wrote, “For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” From James 4:1-10, let us examine carnality and its cure.
In James 4:1-4, James points out the products of carnality. Fights and wars have their roots in the carnal mind. Lusts, murders, and covetousness also have their beginnings in carnality. Adultery comes from a desire to please the flesh. All these things lead to enmity with God. Enmity with God will lead to mourning and gloom (James 4:9). Considering the aforementioned products of carnality, do we really want to be carnal?
While the spirit is willing to overcome carnality, the flesh is weak at times. How then can we cure carnality? In James 4:6-10, we see five ingredients needed to remove carnal thinking from our lives. The key ingredient is humility. “God resists the proud and gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he will lift you up” (James 4:10). Christ defeated carnal thinking with a humble heart (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus taught that the greatest in the kingdom would be servants (Matthew 23:11).
The second ingredient is submission to God. Words that describe submission include meekness, obedience, humility, and selflessness. When we submit to God, we die to self (Galatians 2:20). We must submit to God’s will and not our own (John 6:38). Submission to God gives us the freedom to please him.
Nest, we must resist the devil. Peter warns us about our adversary in 1 Peter 5:8-9. John describes Satan as the “father of all lies” (John 8:44). It is interesting to note that resisting Satan will cause him to flee from us.
Fourth, we need to draw near to God. This implies action on our part. We draw near to God through prayer, through studying God’s word, through worshipping God in spirit and truth, through the fellowship of the saints, and by living the Christian life. If we draw near to God, He draws near to us.
Fifth, we must repent. Repentance is defined as a change of heart that leads to a change in life. In Luke 13:3-5, Jesus said unless we repent, we would all perish. In Paul’s great sermon on Mars Hill, we learn that God requires all people to repent (Acts 17:31). Carnality cannot be overcome without godly repentance.
In Titus 2:12, we are admonished to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously, and godly. John commands us to love not the world and the things of the world (1 John 2:15-17). In Galatians 5:16-26, we are taught to walk according to the Spirit not the flesh.
What drives us—the desire to please self through the flesh or the desire to please God through the Spirit?