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Uncommon Things We Believe Series #6 We Believe We Should Partake Of Lord’s Supper Each 1st Day of the Week: Sunday I Corinthians 11:23-26


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Communion is monthly, quarterly, and annually practiced as a memorial celebration in our religious world.  Even the day of the week has become optional to many. We Believe We Should Take Communion every Week on First Day of the Week

Wouldn’t Communion be more special if we only observed it occasionally?  It has always surprised me when the idea is presented that doing something weekly makes it less important or makes it a ritual.

Imagine that we are walking along a busy street when suddenly we realize a family member has walked into the way of an approaching car. We are in shock and find that we have difficulty in literally ‘moving,’ to be able to do something about what is about to happen.

But someone else who is walking with us sees the identical thing and rushes into the street, grabs hold of the person and pushes them to safety…but stumbles in their ability to get away from the car and are hit and killed on contact.

Do any of us think there is a single moment, much less a day, when we do not think of that person’s heroic effort and the realization that their life was given for the one of our loved one! Does thinking of it often diminish the gratitude and take away the act of that occasion?

But that is not a real issue, the real question is what does God want us to do? What about worship in general: giving, praying, singing, hearing the Word, should we only do them infrequently?

It is wrong to do something at one time if God reveals another time. Could the Jews have observed Passover at any time?

There is no express statement in the Bible commanding that the only time to take of the Lord’s Supper is on the first day of the week or that we should partake every first day. However, the evidence of example is strong and complete that this is the time God intended for us to partake and that His intent is for us to partake every first day.

When we remember the things which are to happen in the communion, the reasons become all the more obvious that we should commune on a regular basis.

God has always given people memorials to remind them of important events regarding their relationship with Him. He put a rainbow in the sky to remind Noah, those who were saved in the ark with him, and the generations to come of His promise not to destroy the world again by water (Genesis 9:11–15).

He instructed Israel to set up stones beside the Jordan River when they passed through to the Promised Land. These stones were to remind the generations that followed of His care and keeping of His people (Joshua 4:1–7).

WHAT IS IT?  One of the words used about this memorial is “communion,” which means “fellowship” or “sharing”: “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16; KJV).

When we take of the bread and the fruit of the vine in memory of Christ’s death for us, we are in fellowship, or communion, with the Lord and with each other. The bond of fellowship tied to taking the communion together should keep Christians close together in unity.

The many are to be one because of the bond of communion. When we come together to worship God and take the Lord’s Supper together, our minds and hearts should go back to the cross where Jesus died for us.

As we share this experience, it ought to do away with petty differences and draw us close together as a body of people. When people commune together one moment and fuss and fight with each other the next, something is wrong with their worship. In

1 Corinthians 11:17–22, Paul told this same group that their coming together as a church was not for the better, but for the worse. He gave these reasons:
(1) Divisions were prevalent among them;
(2) factions existed among them;
(3) when they came together, it was not to take of the Lord’s Supper.

They had changed the worship into a time of feasting. The purpose of their gathering had evolved from communing with God and worshiping Him to reveling in their own pleasure. Remember, when worship becomes people-centered rather than God-centered, it has ceased to be what God intended.

When we focus mostly on what we like and what makes us feel good, it will not be long before factions and divisions arise all about us.

WHY IS IT DONE?
The Lord’s Supper is about remembering. When the church comes together on the first day of the week to take of the Lord’s Supper, we are to remember personally and individually what Jesus did for us on the cross. Our thoughts are to be of Him. In truth, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes” ( 1 Corinthians 11:26).

We are preaching to all who look on as we take of the simple elements of bread and fruit of the vine, “We believe that Jesus died for us.” Also, we proclaim, “We believe that He is coming again.” This is a sermon all Christians can preach every Lord’s Day as they worship with the body of Christ.

When we take of the bread and the fruit of the vine, it is vital for us to give concern to what we are doing.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself, if he does not judge the body rightly ( 1 Corinthians 11:27–29).

Please understand, Paul did not say that we must be worthy to take of the communion. None are worthy! We are all guilty of sin, and our hearts are stained.

It is the manner which must be worthy. We are to partake of the communion with our minds focused on the dying Lord. We are to examine ourselves to see if we are following Him as we should.

Some Clarification.
Down through the centuries since the establishment of the church, the Lord’s Supper has been a most controversial issue. During the Middle Ages, the Roman Catholic church had already come to dominate the entire religious scene.

By that time, the doctrine of transubstantiation had evolved. Also, the Lord’s Supper had come to be referred to as a sacrament.

A sacrament was an avenue through which God channeled His grace into the world, and man could not partake of the blessings of God unless he had the Lord’s Supper.

The doctrine of transubstantiation taught that a miracle automatically took place at the time of the blessing of the communion by the priest of a Catholic church. That miracle caused the bread to become the literal body of Jesus, and the fruit of the vine miraculously became the actual blood of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Because the fruit of the vine supposedly became Jesus’ blood, it was taken only by the priests. The doctrine of transubstantiation dominated the church until the time of Martin Luther.

During the Protestant Reformation, Luther taught a different concept of the Lord’s Supper known as consubstantiation. This doctrine was very similar to that of transubstantiation, but it taught that in a mysterious way, the blood and body of Christ were to be found in the elements.

However, one would discover that the elements would actually taste like the fruit of the vine and the bread.

Later, during the Protestant Reformation, Ulrich Zwingli of Switzerland promoted the idea that the Lord’s Supper was intended primarily to be a memorial. The Supper was a matter of remembering the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross.

When Zwingli and Luther met in the Marburg colloquy, in which each of them vehemently discussed their different points of view, Luther took off the table a sword that was in a sheath. Taking the sword out of the sheath, and putting it back in a rather vehement manner, he would say, This is my body, as a quotation of the words of Christ.

Both Zwingli’s and Luther’s ideas are predominant in the religious world today. We need to understand what the Lord’s Supper really is and what God intended the elements to be.

We do not consider the Lord’s Supper in a sacramental way. A sacramental view would mean that the ceremony itself has a certain power to impart a blessing apart from the heart of a participant. In this view, the emblems of Communion are felt to have intrinsic power.

However, the Bible teaches that the emblems offer no blessing unless the heart of a participant is right with God

We simply eat bread and drink grape juice when we do not partake biblically: (1 Corinthians 11:20 (ESV) When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat.

Therefore, we do not believe that the Lord’s Supper actually becomes the body and blood of Christ.

Toward the close of the ministry of Jesus, as the feast of the Passover drew near, Jesus’ disciples came to Him and said, Wilt thou that we prepare for the observance of the Passover?

Our Lord told them yes, and that they were to go to a certain man and tell him that they would meet in his house that evening for the Passover.

The Passover was a time when the children of Israel recalled the day that God passed over and spared the firstborn in Egypt because blood had been placed on their doorposts. Because the Egyptians did not believe in God and would not carry out His instructions, they did not put blood on their doorposts, and the firstborn died in each of their households.

This was a grim reminder that the God of the Jews was the one true God.

During the period of the New Testament, as the time approached for the observance of the Passover, the Jews began methodically to prepare for the Passover. They made sure that all leaven was taken out of their homes and nothing suggesting the idea of corruption was allowed anywhere in their family residence.

According to Edersheim, a town-crier would go down the streets of every village in Palestine to remind the people that the time was drawing nigh for the Passover to come. The Jews were admonished to get ready for the Passover by eliminating all corrupting elements from their homes.

When they participated in the feast, they partook of the meal with only unleavened bread, and the fruit of the vine was to be uncorrupted. The Jews partook of the Passover together with their families.

Solemnly, they would kill the Passover lamb and observe this great memorial. It was on such an occasion as this that our Lord met with His own disciples.

As they were eating the Passover, Jesus took the bread and gave thanks. He gave it to His disciples, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. He took the fruit of the vine saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood even that which is poured out for you (Luke 22:19, 20).

He gave His disciples the grim reminder that He would not participate again with them until He did so in His coming kingdom.

At least four different religious ideas are connected with our observance of the Lord’s Supper. All of these have a very deep significance.

First of all, the communion service is always associated with prayer. Our Lord set the example. Jesus gave thanks for each of the elements of the communion service. Prayer involves both thanksgiving and petition. God wants our prayers to be serious.

When we break bread, the most important aspect of prayer is thanksgiving. It is good for Christians to be thankful so that they can forget all of the problems they face in their lives.

It is good to be thankful because we tend to focus our attention on all the bad things that go on, failing to think about the good things that God has done for us.

We should be thankful for the love of God which He so dramatically displayed when He gave Jesus to die on the cross for us. We should be thankful that we have an opportunity to come together in worship.

We should be thankful for all that God has done for us, but more particularly for what Jesus did when He died on the cross for us.

The second important element to remember in the communion service is the element of fellowship.

The third element of the communion service is that it is a memorial.

The final element of the communion service is that it is a declaration. When we partake of the communion service, as Paul states in 1 Corinthians 11, we declare our faith that Jesus will come again. The communion service was observed in the early times with a spirit of hope. It was observed with an attitude of optimism, although there was persecution and opposition to the cause of Christ.

In the hearts of all of these early Christians, a flame of hope burned fiercely and grew with the passing of time. We find ourselves remembering what God did for us, and we are proclaiming so vividly our confidence in the future that the Lord is still at the helm of things, and that someday we shall all join Him when He comes the second time.

 
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Posted by on May 6, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Uncommon Things We Believe Series #5 Miraculous Gifts Have Ceased


 

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One of the most emotionally charged issues in contemporary expressions of religion has to do with the subject of miracles. Most every television or radio program that has a religious emphasis will teach that miracles are an active part of today’s Christianity.

When something amazing happens, we often say, “It’s a miracle!” But more than likely that is not technically correct. It was not a true miracle. It was amazing, it was abnormal, etc., but was it a miracle?

The Jews of our Lord’s day did not challenge the actual events, but rather the power by which these miracles were performed (cf. Mark 3:22ff.). They associated his power to Beelzebub…evil….and Jesus clearly taught them (to their shame) that a “kingdom divided against itself will not stand.”

Nicodemus stated the belief that most of us here today would understand:

(John 3:1-5)  Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a member of the Jewish ruling council. {2} He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”

(Luke 7:18-23)  John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, {19} he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” {20} When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?'” {21} At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. {22} So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. {23} Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me.”

What is a miracle?

If we look at the words the New Testament uses for miracles we see the following:

(1) It is an act of a supernatural being. The word dunamis has the idea of a supernatural power. It speaks primarily of the agent of the act. That power may be delegated to a human agent.The question is where did Jesus’ power to do the miracle come from. There are two options – either from God or from Satan. Obviously, Jesus’ power came from God.

(2) A miracle is an unusual event. Another word – terasa – speaks of the effect.  Terasa speaks of the wonderment of the event – as in signs and wonders. As a matter of fact, terasa is always used with semeion.

(3) A miracle is a significant event. The Greek word semeion means sign. It has purpose. Matthew, Mark and Luke uses the first two more. John uses the word semion, because he is focused on the purpose of Jesus in performing the miracles.  The concept of semeion is to point to something greater…such as a miracle in John points the participants or viewer to God.

Definition: A miracle is an unusual and significant event (terasa) which requires the working of a supernatural agent (dunamis) and is performed for the purpose of authenticating the message or the messenger (semeion).

I don’t want to imply that God can’t do a miracle without a miracle worker or that He can only do miracles when He needs to authenticate His message. But, examination of Old Testament and New Testament miracles shows that when a human is the agent performing a miracle, the purpose is authentication of the person and his message.

For example: Moses, Elijah, Jesus, Apostles… That is the norm. It is a little oxymoronic to use the words norm and miracles in the same sentence, but I think it is important to establish what the norm is if possible because of what various people teach concerning miracles.

We commonly call God’s work that stays within the recognized laws of nature, “providence.” Consequently we do pray, believing that God hears and will answer providentially.

Therefore, when someone calls something a “miracle,” we should understand that they may simply mean what we mean by the word “providence.” We need to not debate with those with whom we merely differ semantically.

Nevertheless, in a theological manner, we do believe that there is a work of God that is above our common understanding of how nature functions, and we call this kind of work a “miracle.” We commonly believe in this sense of the word that miracles have ceased.

Our basis for this belief is rooted in the Holy Spirit’s teaching in the Scriptures relative to a special kind of work that would cease at the close of the Apostolic Age of the first century. We do not believe that God is incapable of working miracles, but that He has revealed that He would not do so in Post Apostolic times.

Miraculous Gifts: their purpose and method of reception

What was the purpose of miracles in the ministry of Christ, or in the apostolic age? As noted above, their design must be consistent with the lofty theme of redemption.

Of the early disciples who were endowed with spiritual gifts, Mark declares:

“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word by the signs that followed” (Mk. 16:20).

The function of the signs was to confirm the revelatory process, i.e., the word of truth being communicated from God to man.

The writer of Hebrews argues similarly. He declares that the message regarding the “great salvation,” which at the first had been  “spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard; God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by manifold powers, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will” (Heb. 2:3-4).

Of special interest in these passages is the term “confirm” (Grk. bebaioo). The word denotes evidence that establishes the validity of the divinely-given word (Brown, I.658). The supernatural gifts of the primitive age, therefore, had as their design the establishment of the credibility of Christ and His spokesmen, and so ultimately, the validation of their message, namely, that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Savior of the world!

Now observe this very important point. If it can be established that those early miracles do corroborate the testimony of Christ, and those commissioned by Him; and further, that the recording of these events in the New Testament was designed to perpetually accomplish that function, then it stands as demonstrated that the repetition of such signs is not needed today.

The fact is, that is exactly what is affirmed by the apostle John. He declares that the “signs” of Christ, which he records in his gospel account, “are written [gegraptai – perfect tense, abiding effect] that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God . . .” (Jn. 20:31).

It ought to be abundantly clear, therefore, that since the miracles of the Bible continue to accomplish their original purpose, there is no need for a repetition of them today. They are not being replicated in this age!

Next, we should explore the method of gift reception, as that concept is set forth in the New Testament. Christ, of course, was empowered directly by God to work miracles. Such signs demonstrated that He was a “man approved of God” (Acts 2:22).

So far as New Testament information goes, there were only two ways by which others received spiritual gifts in the apostolic era. The first was by means of Holy Spirit baptism, i.e., an overwhelming direct endowment of the Spirit’s power. Second, miraculous gifts were bestowed by the imposition of the apostles’ hands. Let us consider the biblical facts regarding these two matters.

Holy Spirit baptism was demonstrated in only two New Testament situations. It was given to the apostles of Christ (Acts 1:5; 2:4), and then, as a very special case, it was received by the household of Cornelius (Acts 10:44-47; 11:15-17). Is Holy Spirit baptism available today? We can show that it is not by the following logical arguement.

First, when Paul wrote to the Ephesians (c. A.D. 62), he affirmed that there was but “one baptism” at that time (Eph. 4:5). It is generally conceded that this baptism must be either Holy Spirit baptism, or water baptism. If it can be established that the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 is water baptism, then it is obvious that “Spirit baptism” was no longer available.

That water baptism is age-lasting is demonstrated by the fact that it is the baptism of the great commission (cf. Mt. 28:19-20; Mk. 16:16). In Matthew’s account, the Lord promised that as long as his people were making disciples, baptizing, teaching, etc., He would accompany them always, even to the end of the age. Whatever the baptism of this passage is, therefore, it continues in force until the end.

This baptism, however, must be water baptism, as evidenced by the fact that it is administered by human beings: “Go . . . make disciples . . . baptizing . . . .” On the other hand, Holy Spirit baptism had no human administrator; it was bestowed directly by Christ (Mt. 3:11).

It must be concluded, therefore, that the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5 was water baptism; consequently, Holy Spirit baptism had become obsolete. Such being the case, spiritual gifts are not received via Holy Spirit baptism today.

The Evidence For Our “Uncommon” Belief.

Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would lead the Apostles into “all things,” and “all truth” (Jn.14:16-18, 26; 16:13).

(John 14:16-18)  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever– {17} the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. {18} I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

(John 14:26)  But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

(John 16:13)  But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.

It is important that we understand to whom Jesus intended the words of the Scriptures just cited. We must “rightly divide” or “accurately handle” the Bible to determine to whom words are spoken (2 Tim. 2:15).

The words of John 14:16-18, 26; 16:13 were for the Apostles.

The promise included that the Apostles would not forget what Jesus had said to them—we were not alive during Jesus’ ministry and thus He said nothing to us directly. Therefore “all things” and “all truth” came in the lifetime of the Apostles.

The Apostles’ ministry contributed to the “foundation” or initial work of the Church Age (Eph. 2:20).

(Ephesians 2:20)  built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

They were told to wait for the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem and then preach the gospel throughout the world—they received the Spirit and then began to preach (Lk. 24:49; Acts 1:5, 8; 2:1-4).

(Luke 24:49)  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”

(Acts 1:5)  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

(Acts 1:8)  But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

(Acts 2:1-4)  When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. {2} Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. {3} They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. {4} All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Through them “the faith” was “once for all delivered” (Jude 3). Miracles were a special sign to confirm the work of the Apostolic Age.

The miracles confirmed the commission of the Apostles and were given through their hands (2 Cor. 12:12; cf. Rom. 15:18-19; Mk. 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4).  Only the Apostles could impart miraculous gifts.

(Mark 16:20)  Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

(Romans 15:18-19)  I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done– {19} by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.

(2 Corinthians 12:12)  The things that mark an apostle–signs, wonders and miracles–were done among you with great perseverance.

(Hebrews 2:3-4)  how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. {4} God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

For a time they were the only ones performing miracles (Acts 2:43; 3:1-10; 5:33).

(Acts 2:43)  Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.

(Acts 3:1-10)  One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer–at three in the afternoon. {2} Now a man crippled from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. {3} When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. {4} Peter looked straight at him, as did John. Then Peter said, “Look at us!” {5} So the man gave them his attention, expecting to get something from them. {6} Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” {7} Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. {8} He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. {9} When all the people saw him walking and praising God, {10} they recognized him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

(Acts 5:33)  When they heard this, they were furious and wanted to put them to death.

Other than by Holy Spirit baptism, miraculous gifts could be conveyed only by an apostle of Christ. Note the evidence:

  1. Philip, the evangelist (not an apostle), could perform miracles, but he could not pass that gift along to others. Accordingly, apostles, namely Peter and John, were sent to Samaria, where Philip had been preaching, so that the church there might be furnished with certain divine gifts (cf. Acts 8:5-6; 14-17).
  2. In connection with the foregoing circumstances, Simon the sorcerer “saw that through the laying on of the apostles’ hands the Holy Spirit was given” (8:18). He wanted to purchase that privilege for himself, but he was informed that he had neither part nor lot in that matter, i.e., the impartation of spiritual gifts.
  3. At Ephesus, Paul laid his hands on twelve converts and “they spake with tongues and prophesied” (Acts 19:6).
  4. There was an unruly element within the church at Corinth that denied Paul’s apostleship. Such, however, was a very illogical position, for that church possessed spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12-14), and they had received them from none other than Paul. The “signs of an apostle” had been wrought among them (2 Cor. 12:12), so Paul forcefully could say:

“If to others I am not an apostle, yet at least I am to you; for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord” (1 Cor. 9:2).

The Corinthian church (with its spiritual gifts) was, therefore a “seal” (divine documentation of Paul’s apostleship), and accordingly, indirect evidence that such gifts were received only from an apostle!

  1. Paul urged Timothy to “stir up the gift of God,” which, says he, “is in you through [dia – denoting the instrument or agency by means of which the gift was imparted (Arndt, 179)] the laying on of my hands” (2 Tim. 1:6).

Since, therefore, there is no Holy Spirit baptism today; and further, since there are no apostles (or successors to them) in this age, it should be quite clear that men are not in possession of supernatural gifts of the Spirit in this post-apostolic era of the Christian dispensation.

The miraculous gifts were to cease when their purpose was complete (I Cor. 13:8-13; Eph. 4:11-16).

(1 Corinthians 13:8-13)  Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. {9} For we know in part and we prophesy in part, {10} but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. {11} When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. {12} Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. {13} And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

(Ephesians 4:11-16)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up {13} until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. {14} Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. {15} Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. {16} From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Prophecy (miraculous pronouncements, Acts 2:17), tongues (languages given miraculously, Acts 2:5-12), knowledge (miraculous knowledge, I Cor. 12:8), would all cease when they completed their work (I Cor. 13:9-10).

These gifts would cease, but faith hope and love would abide (I Cor. 13:13). The gifts, therefore, were designed to cease before Jesus returned, since faith and hope would end at Jesus’ Second Coming.

The “perfect” was simply the completion of Jesus’ promise to His disciples in John 14:26; 16:13. The gifts were part of a process that went from a partial knowledge to the faith “once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

When the “unity of the faith” (the faith as a unit) was realized, the miraculous work of the Apostolic Age would cease (Eph. 4:13). This must be referring to a first century event since the church was to be given no additional instruction beyond the “all things” and “all truth” given the Apostles.

To go beyond Apostolic teaching was to be “accursed” (Gal. 1:8-9).

(Galatians 1:8-9)  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! {9} As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!

The Scriptures supply everything we need to do every good work (II Tim. 3:16-17). The Bible has long since been complete—since the first century.

The miracles of the Apostolic Age both revealed and confirmed the truth God had promised to give (Heb. 2:3-4).

Cessation of miracles: two contexts considered

Were miraculous gifts to abide with the church until the end of time, or, due to their specific design, were they only a temporary phenomena? This matter is discussed rather comprehensively in two New Testament contexts. We will consider each of these.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the inspired apostle addresses the duration of spiritual gifts in the Lord’s church. He commences by showing that these gifts must be exercised in love, for miraculous powers, void of love, were worthless. This theme was quite appropriate in view of the disposition of rivalry which threatened the unity of the Corinthian congregation (some exalting certain gifts above others, etc.).

From this initial instruction there is a very natural transition into the character and permanence of love, in contrast to the transitory function of spiritual gifts.

Of the nine gifts mentioned in chapter 12:8-10, Paul selects three to illustrate his argument. Significantly, all three were related directly to the revealing of God’s will to man. The apostle affirms that prophecies shall be done away; tongues shall cease; knowledge, i.e., supernatural knowledge, shall be done away. It is wonderfully clear, therefore, that these three gifts (and by implication all miraculous gifts) were not designed to be a permanent fixture within the church.

In 1 Corinthians 13:9, Paul contends that God’s will, by means of these spiritual gifts (knowledge, prophecy, etc.) was made known gradually, i.e., “in part.” The expression “in part” translates the Greek to ek merous, literally, “the things in part.” It denotes “a part as opposed to the whole” (Abbott-Smith, 284).

And so, we make the following argument;

  1. The “in part” things shall be done away.
  2. But, the “in part” things are the supernatural gifts by which the will of God was revealed.
  3. Thus, the supernatural gifts, by which the will of God was made known, were to be terminated.

But the question is: when were these gifts to pass away?

The answer is: “when that which is perfect is come.” In the Greek Testament, the expression literally reads, to teleion, “the complete thing.” The term “perfect,” when used of quantity, is better rendered “complete” or “whole.”

So, we may reason as follows:

  1. Whatever the “in part” things are partially, the “whole” is, in completed form.
  2. But, the “in part” things were the spiritual gifts employed in the revealing of God’s will (word).
  3. Therefore, the “whole” was God’s will (word) – as conveyed through the gifts – completely revealed.

Within this context, therefore, the apostle actually is saying this:

God’s revelation is being made known part-by-part, through the use of spiritual gifts; when that revelation is completed, these gifts will be needed no longer, hence, will pass away from the church’s possession.

As noted scholar W. E. Vine observed: “With the completion of Apostolic testimony and the completion of the Scriptures of truth (‘the faith once for all delivered to the saints’, Jude 3. R.V.), ‘that which is perfect’ had come, and the temporary gifts were done away” (184).

Remember this vital point. Spiritual gifts and the revelatory process were to be co-extensive. If men are performing miracles today, their messages are as binding as the New Testament record! If such is the case, the New Testament is not the final word.

This theme is similarly dealt with in Ephesians 4, where it is affirmed that when Christ “ascended on High” He “gave gifts unto men” (8ff). The gifts were miraculously endowed functions in the church (e.g., apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers). The design of these capacities was “for the perfecting [katartismos] of the saints.”

The original word denotes “complete qualification for a specific purpose” (Analytical Greek Lexicon, 220). Or, as Arndt & Gingrich render it, “to equip the saints for service” (419).

Moreover, the duration of these supernatural governments was specified. They were to continue “till we all attain unto the unity of the faith” (4:13). “Till” is from mechri, and it suggests a “specification of time up to which this spiritual constitution was designed to last” (Ellicott, 95).

The word “unity” (henotes) basically means “oneness” (Analytical, 119). It derives from the term hen, the neuter of heis, and it emphasizes oneness “in contrast to the parts, of which a whole is made up” (Arndt, 230).

Finally, the expression “the faith” refers to the revealed gospel system (cf. Gal. 1:23; 1 Tim. 5:8).

And so, to sum up: the apostle contends that spiritual gifts would continue until the gospel system, in its individual parts (as portrayed in 1st Corinthians 13) came together in oneness, i.e., the completed or whole revelation (New Testament record) (see MacKnight, 335). Ephesians 4 and 1st Corinthians 13 are wonderfully complimentary.

Two common objections considered

We will now consider a couple of arguments that frequently are employed in an attempt to prove that miracles did not cease with the apostolic age.

First, some contend Paul taught that spiritual gifts would continue to the very end, i.e., unto the coming of Christ. 1st Corinthians 1:6-8 is cited to establish this. We offer the following points:

  1. It is not certain that miraculous gifts are even in view within this context. Meyer argues that spiritual blessings in general are under consideration, not miraculous gifts (I.19).
  2. Even if miraculous gifts are in view, the text no more asserts that they will be operative until the Lord’s return, than it does that the Corinthians themselves would remain alive until that event.
  3. The word “end” can mean “to the uttermost” (cf. Jn. 13:1), and thus the reference may not be to the end of “time.”
  4. One may be confirmed (sustained) through the message of the inspired Word (2 Tim. 3:16,17), hence, be unreprovable in the day of Christ, without needing to possess supernatural gifts.

Second, it is claimed that the Lord is as powerful today as He was in the first century; and so, He can perform signs today.

But the question is not one of God’s power; it is a matter of His will. Does He will to perform miracles today? He does not will to create men directly from the dust of the earth. He does not will to feed us with manna from heaven, etc., though He is powerful enough to do such feats. The “He-has-the-power” quibble proves nothing.

The scholarly T. H. Horne presented a remarkable summary statement of this matter that is worthy of consideration.

“Why are not miracles now wrought? – we remark that, the design of miracles being to confirm and authorize the Christian religion, there is no longer any occasion for them, now that it is established in the world, and is daily extending its triumphs in the heathen lands by the divine blessing of the preached gospel. Besides, if they were continued, they would be of no use, because their force and influence would be lost by the frequency of them; for, miracles being a sensible suspension or controlment of – or deviation from – the established course or laws of nature, if they were repeated on every occasion, all distinctions of natural and supernatural would vanish, and we should be at a loss to say, which were the ordinary and which the extraordinary works of Providence. Moreover, it is probable that, if they were continued, they would be of no use, because those persons who refuse to be convinced by the miracles recorded in the New Testament, would not be convinced by any new ones: for it is not from want of evidence, but from want of sincerity, and out of passion and prejudice, that any man rejects the miracles related in the Scriptures; and the same want of sincerity, the same passions and prejudices, would make him resist any proof, any miracle whatever. Lastly, a perpetual power of working of miracles would in all ages give occasion to continual impostures, while it would rescind and reverse all the settled laws and constitutions of Providence. Frequent miracles would be taught to proceed more from some defect in nature than from the particular interposition of the Deity; and men would become atheists by means of them, rather than Christians” (I.117).

What about modern “miracles”?

How does one deal with the alleged “miracles” of this modern age? In the first place, we really are not obligated to defend, as divine, a modern event simply because it may have certain elements that are difficult to explain.

There are many illusions that modern magicians perform which the average person cannot explain; they do have natural explanations though. They are not miracles.

That aside, there are several possible bases for so-called modern miracles. As an example, let us focus upon alleged “faith healings.”

  1. Some instances of “faith healings” are pure fakery. Consider the case of Peter Popoff, miracle-working cleric of Upland, California. Popoff, who claimed the supernatural ability to provide secret information about people in his audiences (in conjunction with “healing” them), was receiving such data through a tiny hearing aid, the messages being transmitted by his wife from backstage.

Prominent magician James Randi exposed the entire affair on nation-wide television (139-181). Randi also demonstrated that Popoff was providing rented wheelchairs for people who could actually walk; then, at his services, he was pronouncing them healed.

  1. Some “miracle cures” are claimed by people who honestly believe that God has healed them. The fact is, however, they had nothing organically wrong with them. Their ailment was psychosomatic. This means that though some bodily feature was actually affected, the real root of the problem was mental or emotional; hence, by suggestion a cure might be effected.

It has been estimated that some 55% (or more) of the patients applying for medical treatment in the United States suffer from psychosomatic illnesses. In fact, Dr. William S. Sadler has written:

“It is generally believed by experienced physicians that at least two-thirds of the ordinary cases of sickness which doctors are called upon to treat would, if left entirely alone, recover without the aid of the doctor or his medicine” (15).

Taking advantage of this type of sickness, the faith-healer, in an atmosphere of hysteria and feverish emotionalism, produces some phenomenal “cures.” But there is nothing miraculous about such cases.

A physician in Toronto, Canada investigated thirty cases in which Oral Roberts claimed miraculous healing was effected; he “found not one case that could not be attributed to psychological shock or hysteria” (Randi, 288). Dr. William S. Sadler affirmed that after twenty-five years of sympathetic research into faith-healing, he had not observed a solitary case of an organic disease being healed.

It is commonly known that an African witch-doctor can literally command a believer in voodoo to die, and within the prescribed time, the victim will expire. This evidences the powerful control of the mind over the body. Surely no one will claim, though, that a witch-doctor has “the Spirit of God.”

  1. Another explanation for some so-called faith cures is a phenomenon known as spontaneous remission. Spontaneous remission is an unexpected withdrawal of disease symptoms, and an inexplicable disappearance of the ailment. It occurs in about one out of every 80,000 cancer patients.

Joseph Mayerle of Bremerton, Washington had exploratory surgery; it was discovered that he was consumed with cancer. His physicians gave him only a few months to live. Months sped by and his disease utterly vanished. There was nothing miraculous about it. According to newspaper accounts, Mr. Mayerle, a bartender, made no claim to faith, prayer, or a miracle-cure. Wouldn’t a faith-healer have delighted in taking credit for that case?

Conclusion

There is one final point of this presentation that needs to be pressed with great vigor. There is no alleged miracle being performed today by Pentecostals, or those of a similar “Christian” persuasion, that cannot be duplicated by various cults and “non-Christian” sects.

Those who practice Christian Science, Mormonism, Catholicism, Transcendental Meditation, Yoga, Psychic Healing, Scientology, New Age Crystal Healing, etc., claim the same type of “signs” as the Pentecostals. In fact, more than 20 million Americans annually report mystic experiences (including healing) in their lives (Psychology Today, 64).

Since the Scriptures clearly teach that the purpose of miracles, as evidenced in biblical days, was to confirm the message proclaimed, hence, to validate the Christian system, do the multiple alleged examples of miracle-workings indicate that the Lord has authenticated all of these woefully contradictory systems? Think of the implications of that – especially in light of Paul’s affirmation that God is not the author of confusion (1 Cor. 14:33).

There is abundant evidence that genuine miracles were performed by divinely appointed persons in the first century, but there is no proof whatever that such wonders are being replicated in this modern age.

Practical considerations.

The miracles of Jesus and the Apostles would fully heal large crowds instantly (Matt. 4:23-24; 8:16; 14:14; Acts 5:16; 8:7). Do people go into hospitals today and heal everyone?

Even Jesus’ strongest critics could not dispute His healings—where is the indisputable evidence today?

Additionally,…Where are the dead being raised? Where are thousands being fed from a few scraps of food.  Who is walking on water?

Can God heal us? Certainly, and we should pray for that if it is His will, but we must also seek His wisdom in finding other solutions (diet, medical help, etc.) and have the faith to rest in what He wants to do in and through us in the process.

Above all, we know He wants to mature us spiritually regardless of whether He suddenly or gradually heals us or not. Our need is to seek help, pray for wisdom, removal if it’s His will, but above all to rest in His fatherly grace and plan.

God is still at work on earth and in the church, but we are convinced that what we have defined as miracle is no longer a part of the Father’s plan.

 

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Uncommon Things We Believe #4 Autonomous Church Government Acts 14:19-23


Uncommon Things We Believe Series #3aThe church of our Lord is a wonderful institution, built according to a Divine pattern and purpose.

(Ephesians 3:10-11)  His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, {11} according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 As we look around the religious world, we find that there are a number of  kinds of church government.  One question that comes to mind in seeing this considerable diversity is, “Does the Bible have anything to say on the subject?”

In churches of Christ, we commonly believe that the Scriptures supply us with the form of church government that God desires. We believe that this biblical pattern includes: local autonomy, heavenly rather than earthly headquarters, qualifications and responsibilities for elders and deacons, and a style of leadership that is very different from that of the world.

The Local Autonomy Of The Church

(Acts 14:23)  Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.

 (Titus 1:5)  The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.

The New Testament shows no government beyond that of the local congregation. Each congregation was to develop its own autonomous government overseen by a plurality of elders.

(Ephesians 4:11-12)  It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, {12} to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up

The church of the New Testament is an absolute Monarchy (with Christ as the head) but is granted democratic self-government power, exercised indirectly through the elders who are the official representatives, rulers, and overseers of the people. It is limited to matters of opinion and expediency.

The wrong kind of leadership: (Luke 22:25)  Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.

THE MEANING OF CONGREGATIONAL AUTONOMY

1. Congregational autonomy means equality before God. Each congregation stands before God on equal ground. No church can exercise authority over another church “in the name of” Christ or “ by faith.”

2. It means to be self-governing. Each congregation has equal authority to plan, manage and do its own work, to discipline its own members, within its divinely ordained framework, without interference, coercion, or dictation from regional presbyters, district superintendent, general overseer, pope, or any human authority.

3. It means proper respect for the jurisdiction of elders. The Bible teaching concerning the jurisdiction of elders helps to clarify how congregations are to function under their leadership.

(1 Thessalonians 5:1-28 (ESV) We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you…

“Over you in the Lord” (defines the realm and nature of their leadership) and admonish you,

It is spiritual (“in the Lord), not political or worldly.

Elders are over (not under) the entire congregation in which the Holy Spirit made them bishops.

Acts 20:28 (ESV)  Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood..)

The nature of their authority is not legislative, but administrative. They cannot authorize what God has not, or forbid what he commands and allows.

It is not arbitrary authority, but loving leadership motivated, tempered and governed by the will and purpose of God.

It is not individual or a pyramid-like authority, but a collective, group, shared authority of equals who stand on the same ground.

It is not the absolute, high-handed rule of domineering commanders, but the work of loving pastors who follow the meek and lowly Son of Man in feeding, leading and living among the flock of God-men who rule well by example in a faithful and humble way that inspires imitation.

1 Peter 5:1-4 (ESV)

1  So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:
2  shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;
3  not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.
4  And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

Hebrews 13:7 (ESV)

7  Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.

It means to be independent but not isolationist. Each congregation is truly independent, without being isolationist. When a congregation adopts an unfeeling, unconcerned, isolationist attitude, it departs from the Lord’s teaching.

It means to be mutually free and mutually helpful. Each congregation is obligated to assist sister congregations. They must share the material and spiritual blessings of life with the needy. (Acts 11: 22-24; 11:27-30; Phil. 4: 15-17)

Leo Boles wrote in Feb., 1940: “The wisdom of God is seen in such an arrangement for His church. If one became corrupted in doctrine or affected by evil practices, the other churches would not be so affected. If dissension arose in one, it would not spread to the others; if one perished, the others would not be dragged down. If a window is made of one large pane, a break injures the entire pane; but if it can be made of several panes, it is not so bad to break one. The independence of the churches is a protection for each other.”

Even the Apostles worked within the context of local congregations (Acts 13:1-3).

(Acts 13:1-3)  In the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. {2} While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” {3} So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.

The Apostles gave doctrine to the churches and settled matters of dispute:

(1 Corinthians 11:1.)  In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good.

 The Jerusalem Council of Acts 15 does not violate this principle of local independence. This was a miraculously endowed gathering (15:28), and thus the resolution adopted was clearly with the help of a direct revelation from the Holy Spirit. No such revelation is available today.

The New Testament in its complete form is the standard that thoroughly furnishes us today. No council of men has any authority over groups of churches.

The Heavenly Headquarters Of The Church (Eph. 1:19-23).

(Ephesians 1:19-23)  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, {20} which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, {21} far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. {22} And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, {23} which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

The church Jesus built has no earthly headquarters, simply because the Head of the church is quartered in Heaven (Acts 2:33; Col. 3:1-3). Even Jerusalem in the early days of the church was not the headquarters for the church (Gal. 2:1-10).

Paul took his orders from Christ, not from Jerusalem (vv. 7-10).  Those in Jerusalem were not above others in the church (v. 6).  Again, we are reminded that the local congregation was the highest expression of earthly church government.

Extra Material–The Qualifications And Work Of Elders And Deacons (I Tim. 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9).

As we might expect, if God gave offices for the local church (Phil. 1:1), then He gave qualifications for the offices. Elders or presbyters, overseers or bishops, pastors or shepherds (the KJV uses six English words to translate three Greek words) are designations all referring to the same office (Acts 20:17, 28; I Pet. 5:1-4).

Today, contrary to New Testament revelation, a “pastor” is commonly seen to be a preacher with nothing to do with work within an eldership. It is very uncommon to find the common New Testament pattern of local church government present today.

The work of elders was primarily that of shepherding and overseeing the local church in a mature manner—as the biblical designations for the work imply.

Deacons served under elders in the church of the New Testament (Phil. 1:1). The name “deacon” is but the common term for a servant or minister.  In the special work that also used this name, there were qualification relating both to character and life situation.

Unlike today, when the place of deacons often replaces that of elders, in New Testament times deacons were not congregational decision makers. Acts 6:1-6 demonstrates the role of deacons in relationship to church leadership (as the church was developing toward maturity, Apostles, at first, functioned somewhat as elders in a local congregation).

The leadership of the local congregation, though authoritative (Heb. 13:17), is not exercised as in secular institutions (Matt. 20:20-28). Serving, not lording over, is a distinctive feature of biblical leadership.

In fact, no one elder has any more authority than any other member of the church, that is why “elder(s)” were appointed in all the churches.  An elder’s authority is exercised in pursuing the decisions of an eldership, as these decisions reflect the will of Christ (Eph. 2:20).

There is no “one man” rule in the church, except as it is in the Man Jesus Christ. Elders, therefore, must be careful not to speak unilaterally for the eldership.

Shepherds are to know the congregation and be willing to serve the best interests of the brethren with their very lives (cf. Jn. 10:11-15). It might well be said of shepherds that they should “smell like sheep.”

Though “uncommon” in this world, the pattern for the church’s government is nevertheless easy to see. If God had wanted it another way, He would have given it another way.       We were promised all things in Christ (Jn. 14:26; 16:13; II Pet. 1:2-3).  Let us “contend earnestly” for what we were “once for all given” (Jude 3).

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Uncommon Things We Believe Series #2 A Christian Can Fall From Grace 2 Peter 2:18-22


A great many people within the religious world believe that a child of God cannot fall from grace.

This view is summed up by the words of Sam Morris, in a booklet published at the beginning of this century, “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.”

This is why those who follow the New Testament pattern for their work, worship, and doctrine must look at scripture. Why have we chosen to be so uncommon by rejecting this teaching?

Where Did It All Come From?

  • Plato had a view of God and His sovereignty that was taken to develop a philosophy holding matter to be evil and spirit to be good.
  • The epistles of John were written against the teachings of the Gnostics, who came to practice this entirely
  • Augustine, much influenced by Plato, disassociated works done in the flesh from having anything to do with salvation—how could that which was thought to be evil do any useful thing?
  • Calvin further developed Augustine’s theology to come up with a concept of God’s sovereignty that left no place for humanity to contribute anything, even secondary contributions—he believed any contribution man might make would compromise God’s exalted place over the creation.
  • Though not believing there were any conditions to salvation, he avoided universalism by having God simply pick some (1,400) to be saved and some to be lost.
  • Since man had nothing to do with the process, there were no conditions, the gift was only offered to those God willed to have it, it could not be rejected by the elect or embraced by the non-elect, and you could not lose it after you got it.

Salvation is a gift from God offered to all mankind. We are free to accept or reject salvation. Once we accept salvation, we are still free to make choices. We can become unfaithful and lose our salvation or we can remain faithful until death and receive a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Most of the New Testament was written to Christians encouraging them to remain faithful and receive eternal life. If a man could not lose his salvation, why write all these letters encouraging him not to lose it?

It has long been my personal view that no one who has put their faith in Christ should fall from grace…they almost have to ‘want’ to be lost (based on their habitual choices) since God is so willing to forgive us!

In short, a view of man’s nature from Greek philosophy, rather than from the Bible, came to influence the way people viewed Christianity.

First, Some Clarification.

We do not mean that a Christian has no security. Faithful Christians do have security.

 

(1 John 5:13)  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

(John 10:27-28)  My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. {28} I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.

(1 Corinthians 10:13)  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

(1 John 1:7)  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

However, we believe the Bible teaches that a faithful Christian can become habitually (it become the pattern of their life) unfaithful: (Hebrews 10:26-31)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. {28} Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. {29} How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? {30} For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” {31} It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Those verses explain themselves but they have a special significance due to the verses which preceded them: Hebrews 10:19-25 (ESV)
19  Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
21  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
24  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,
25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We do not mean that the works of a Christian are the basis of his/her salvation. Works cannot save in the primary sense, only in the secondary sense.

In the primary sense, the sense that accounts for salvation and pays the price for it, we cannot be saved by works (Rom. 4:1-8). Only through Christ can we who are sinners be saved (Rom. 3:21-27).

Works relate to our salvation in the secondary sense, the accessing of the gift of salvation. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26).

  • In the sense of merit, our works have nothing to do with our initial or continued salvation. 
  • In the sense of faith in God, our works are a necessary expression of true faith.

We do what we do as Christians out of appreciation and due to maturity…not in order to earn salvation. It’s the idea of “bringing our salvation to maturity.”

The Bible Clearly Teaches That A Child Of God Can Fall From Grace.

Those who trust in law keeping can fall from grace.

(Galatians 5:4)  You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Those who become partakers of the Holy Spirit can fall from grace.

(Hebrews 6:4-6)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, {5} and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, {6} if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Those who escape the defilement’s of the world can fall from grace.

(2 Peter 2:18-22)  For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. {19} They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. {20} If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

But What About Ephesians 2:8-9?

(Ephesians 2:8-9)  For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast.

We are saved through faith, but not a dead, inactive faith. We are not saved by works that attempt to earn our salvation. Thus, salvation is of grace, even though we must respond to grace.

Conditional Grace.

The Bible teaches that grace is unearned, yet conditioned on responsive faith. Acts 2:36-38 shows there are conditions to be met before salvation can be received.

Acts 2:36-38 (ESV)
36  Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37  Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38  And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Colossians 1:22-23 demonstrates that there are conditions to be met to remain in salvation. Colossians 1:22-23 (ESV)
22  he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23  if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.

If there were no conditions to grace, everyone would be saved, yet conditions are not necessarily associated with earning salvation.

  • If I offered ten dollars to everyone here unconditionally, would you think you should get ten dollars?
  • If I conditioned the ten dollars on you coming up and getting it, do you think you would accept a “gift” by coming forward?

If I agree to pay you five dollars an hour to stripe the parking lot and you worked two hours, would you think you had earned your ten dollars?

When we look at all of what the Bible has to say—The Big Picture—we see that a Christian can fall from grace, but not a faithful Christian. What we have commonly believed, though uncommon in the religious world, is in complete harmony with the Scriptures.

Our response?

Realize the worst situation a person can place their soul’s condition in—is to be an unfaithful Christian. There is no hope at all because they have rejected the one hope that is offered to the sinner!

(Galatians 6:1-2)  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. {2} Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The Greek word is “kartartizo” and is the same word used in:

(Matthew 4:21)  Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them,

(Hebrews 11:3)  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Imagine the picture of mature Christians working diligently to mend or form or restore the lives of individual brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling and “drifting” away.

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

Uncommon Things We Believe Series #1 A Proper View of Scripture 2 Peter 1:19-21  


Most people know they need guidance for their lives. Just over a thousand randomly selected persons were surveyed recently on behalf of a life insurance/financial services company. 75% said they believed they were created by God for a purpose, but only 45% of those said they understood what that purpose was.

The questions more people in that survey said they would like to ask God than any other?

  1. “What is my purpose on Earth?”
  2. “Will I have life after death?”
  3. “Why do bad things happen?”

To some of us, it would seem strange that anybody would want to ask such things of God. We’d likely reply that He has already answered them.

Christians believe that God does communicate with the men and women He has created in His image and that the primary vehicle through which He does so is the Bible.

The Barna Research Group discovered a few years back that 10 % of the 1,000 people in one of its polls thought Joan of Arc was Noah’s wife, 16% were sure the New Testament contained a book written by Thomas the apostle, and 38% thought the Old and New Testaments were written a few years after the death of Jesus.

While it may be impractical and impossible for every Christian to be a genuine biblical scholar. It’s not unreasonable to expect that every Christian should be a regular reader and prayerful student of Scripture.

  • A goal for this  congregation in 2015 is to create an attitude toward the Word of God that will carry outside the walls of our classrooms and beyond the experience of a given worship assembly.
  • We want people to revere Scripture.
  • I will want to challenge us to dedicate more time to our 9:30 a.m. Bible classes here
  • We want to communicate both the importance, fun, and reward of Bible study.

Important Truth Concerning the Bible
Origin — The Bible is ultimately from God.

The psalmist declared, Psalm 119:11 (ESV) I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.

Our Lord himself announced that “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4: 4).

Paul had words of praise for the Christians at Thessalonica in that they received the gospel message, not as the word of men, “but, as it is in truth, the word of God” (I Thess. 2: 13).

There is surely a sense in which we may say God speaks to us through both nature and persons or events in our lives. But ultimately he has communicated with us through select persons called “prophets” and through the written accounts of their God-supplied messages.

(2 Peter 1:19-21)  And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. {20} Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. {21} For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

In this text, Peter affirms the value and trustworthiness of the early church’s Bible — the writings of the Old Testament prophets. He was emphatic in urging his own readers to “pay attention” to the words of Scripture for themselves.

This parallels Paul’s text about the Word of God: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Inspiration

Can we be sure that the writers who penned the original manuscripts did so infallibly?

Yes we can, and the process by which God protected the integrity of his word is called “inspiration.”

The expression “inspired of God” (literally in the Greek Testament, “God-breathed”) suggests that the divine Author of the sacred writings breathed into the minds of his select writers the exact message he wanted conveyed to mankind. And the biblical writers happily acknowledged this; they did not claim originality for their productions.

It is true, of course, that God utilized the talents, backgrounds, personalities, etc. of the inspired writers to convey His divine message. Nonetheless, it is an indisputable fact that the Lord so guided the sacred writers that they expressed Heaven’s will with absolute precision.

God enabled certain specially chosen individuals to know the otherwise unknowable or interpret the otherwise merely puzzling and communicate those insights correctly.  We believe the Bible in inerrant (without error) and authoritative.

Transmission

The original writings, which collectively came to be called the “Bible,” have faded into oblivion. Not a single one of those original autographs remains – and doubtless for good reason. Men, had they access to those ancient scrolls, would likely worship them rather than their Author. And so, in the providence of God, they have long since vanished.

Does that suggest, though, that the copies we now possess are not reliable as depositories of divine truth? Not in the least. Sacred oversight has seen to it that the Scriptures have been remarkably and accurately preserved – and the biblical record bears testimony to this.

For instance, Paul states that Timothy, from his earliest years, had known the sacred writings which were able to make the young man wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). The “sacred writings” here referred to are the books of the Old Testament.

Timothy had perhaps been guided by his godly mother and grandmother (2 Tim. 1:5) who doubtless took him to synagogue services whenever opportunity presented itself.

In the synagogue, the sacred text would be read. Obviously, however, those ancient synagogues possessed only copies of the original Old Testament autographs. The integrity of those narratives was so preserved, though, that Paul could affirm that their original design remained intact, that is, making men wise unto salvation.

Translation

The original text of the Bible was in three languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew (with some minor portions in Aramaic) and the New Testament was penned in Greek. Since most people do not read their Bibles in the original languages, they are dependent upon a translation.

The question is therefore appropriate: can one know that he is reading the genuine word of God even though he is employing a translation? Of course he can, and we need only to appeal to the New Testament itself to prove the point.

The most important version of the Old Testament was the Septuagint. In about 250 B.C., down in Alexandria, Egypt, the Hebrew Pentateuch was translated into Greek. The remainder of the Old Testament was done in piecemeal fashion, being completed by at least 117 B.C.

At the time Christ came to earth, this Greek translation had become the Bible of the Jewish people. This is doubtless why the writers of the New Testament, when appealing to the Old Testament, most often quoted from the Septuagint. In fact, of the three hundred or more quotations in the New Testament, the vast majority agree with the Septuagint.

The Lord Jesus himself frequently quoted from this version. Christ could even quote from the Greek translation and say:

(Matthew 22:31-32)  But about the resurrection of the dead–have you not read what God said to you, {32} ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”…demonstrating that the translation process did not destroy sacred truth.

Comprehension

But here is another question of great importance. What if one grants that the Scriptures have been faithfully transmitted and translated: is it not a fact that man’s mind is so hopelessly corrupt, and the Bible is a book so shrouded in mystery, that one cannot understand it without supernatural guidance?

No, that is not the truth (though it is commonly taught by both Catholic and Protestant theologians). Romanism alleges that the Bible “is but a dead letter calling for a divine interpreter” [Conway, The Question Box, 76], which is supposed to be the clergy of the Catholic Church.

And many sectarian groups contend that man is so depraved by sin that he cannot comprehend the teaching of the Bible; he is thus in “need of an inward supernatural teaching of the Spirit” [Hodge, Systematic Theology, 1, 671. Both of these views are quite erroneous.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus said that the good soil is “he that hears the word, and understands it” (Mt. 13:23).

(Ephesians 3:4)  In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,

(Ephesians 5:17)  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.

It has never ceased to amaze me that a host of demoninational teachers can all claim to have a supernatural, illuminating guidance of the Holy Spirit, and yet teach a hundred contradictory doctrines.

Any person who has an honest heart and strong desire to understand the will of God, if he will but exercise enough discipline to study hard, applying sound principles of interpretation, can comprehend the plain and essential elements of the Scriptures.

Demonstration

A mere theoretical knowledge of the Bible is worthless. Christ declared: Luke 11:28 (ESV)  But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

We must allow the word of God to work in us: James 1:22 (ESV) But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

The Low View of Scripture Shared By Many

In general, the ungodly have a dangerously low view of Scripture. It is often so low that they reject it, hate it and in some cases try to destroy it and the person speaking it out. It can be like that even for the religiously ungodly:

I know you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are ready to kill me, because you have no room for my word. (John 8:37)

Therefore, as tongues of fire lick up straw and as dry grass sinks down in the flames, so their roots will decay and their flowers blow away like dust; for they have rejected the law of the LORD Almighty and spurned the word of the Holy One of Israel. (Isa 5:24)

But to the wicked, God says: “What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips? You hate my instruction and cast my words behind you.” (Psa 50:16,17)

For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king. (1 Sam 15:23)

But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. (Rom 2:8)

Propositions to govern our thinking as we approach the subject of the authority of the Scriptures

  1. We have no right to hold a different view of Scripture than that held by Jesus himself.

There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. (John 12:48)

That is the first fact we must hold in mind as we come to this subject of the authority of the Word. To put it another way, the authority of the Bible rests squarely upon the authority of Jesus Christ himself.

To be a Christian at all means that we have fully accepted the authority of Jesus. It is an utter inconsistency to say that we accept what the Bible says about Christ and reject what He says about Scripture.

You see the utter inconsistency of that position? We cannot call him Lord, and say he has the right to choose our mates, and to pick our line of work, and to govern our life in all its attitudes and ways — even to trust our eternal destiny into his hands — but we cannot believe him when he speaks of the creation of man, or the sanctity of marriage, or the sinfulness of certain sexual acts.

  1. We have no right to views of Scripture which are different from the apostles’ view of Scripture.

The apostles, like our Lord, are our teachers. We are not theirs. It is Karl Barth who says, “We cannot stand and look over the apostles’ shoulders, correcting their work. It is they who stand looking over our shoulders, correcting our work.”

The apostles, in writing the New Testament, everywhere declare that their authority is simply the Lord’s authority. They, too, rest the authority of their words squarely upon the authority of the Lord Jesus.

These men who lived in the 1st century and associated with the Lord Jesus, who heard his words, and who so ministered in power throughout the world of their day as to transform the generation in which they lived, knew far more about what God thought and said than any man studying theology today.

  1. We can never discover the depths of Scripture’s insights into life without first accepting it as true and authoritative.

What I am saying is that we must first believe Scripture before we can understand it. As long as we keep asking, “Should this passage be here? Is it genuine, is it real? Has it been inserted? Is it a legend? Is it a fairy tale? Is it something that is merely the thinking of the apostles and was never in the mind of Christ?”

— if this is our constant approach then we can never get around to asking, “What does this say to me? What does it mean? Where is the wisdom hidden in this that I need so desperately in my life?”

Those students and pseudo-scholars who feel they are a final authority on what ought to be here, and what ought not to be here, never seem to be able to understand what is written. They never seem able to say anything about the depths of Scripture or the teaching of it, for they exclude themselves from understanding by their attitude of judgment over it.

  1. Scripture does not need to be defended, but simply declared.

No one today has access to divine truth by means of any personal interview with deity. God does not speak in dreams, visions, or by a supernatural illumination of the Holy Spirit.

Objective revelation has been made known through the completed Bible, and men will only be exposed to the message of the Scriptures as we distribute the sacred volume and proclaim its saving message.

Every single Christian must take seriously his obligation to teach the Bible consistent with his divinely appointed role, ability, and opportunity.

The whole testimony of this church is to the fact that it is the preaching and the exposition of the Bible that establishes its authority. We do not need to defend it, just declare it, proclaim it.

 
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Posted by on March 25, 2021 in Church, Doctrine

 

“Does It Really Matter What One Believes” Ephesians 4:1-6


*Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many great thoughts…

A few years ago a man and woman in Long Beach, California stopped and bought some fried chicken for a picnic. When the clerk took their money she somehow, mindlessly, enclosed a large stack of the cash register’s money in with their food. When they arrived at the picnic spot and found the money, the man instantly said they had to return it, which they did.

The frantic manager was thrilled to meet someone of such honesty. He wanted to call the newspaper and have the man’s picture and story printed. The man refused, which is even more impressive as long as you think it was due to his humility. But the story turns sour when you find out the reason he didn’t want to call the newspaper is that the woman he was picnicking with wasn’t his wife but was in fact someone else’s.

That sick feeling you have right now is why we need to be genuine as God’s people…this “thing” we’re doing here is not about ritual or numbers, but we’re seeking to be a church that belongs to Christ…individuals who want a high moral standard that includes lifestyle, attitudes & beliefs.

From the front page of some website:

“…is part of a fellowship of independent congregations known as the churches of Christ, with roots in the Restoration Movement. We seek to shed our individual differences and unite on the simple truths of the New Testament. We are far from accomplishing this ideal, but we do seek to follow God’s word in an open and authentic way.
   “We are not a perfect church. We are a church where imperfect people can connect with a perfect God, where people can grow together, learn together, and serve together. We are each unique members of Christ’s body, using the gifts His Spirit provides to build each other up, lift up Jesus Christ in this community, and reach the world with the Good News! We’d love for you to join with us on this journey. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.”

 Beliefs matter.  Jesus confronted the Sadducees regarding their disbelief on the subject of the resurrection in  Matthew 22. He stopped their ‘trap’ but he also exposed the error of their belief.

When Apollos began to preach the word of God in Acts 18-19, he was “off” on the subject of baptism and it was corrected.

We are to use wisdom and grace in building people up and bringing people into the “way of the Lord more perfectly” (Acts 18:24-28; Col. 4:5-6; Eph. 4:29).

(Acts 18:24-28)  Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. {25} He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. {26} He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately. {27} When Apollos wanted to go to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples there to welcome him. On arriving, he was a great help to those who by grace had believed. {28} For he vigorously refuted the Jews in public debate, proving from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.

Colossians 4:5-6 (NIV) 5  Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.
6  Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Ephesians 4:29 (NIV) 29  Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

Which beliefs matter? Is it what the elders offer as “official church policy?” Do you have to follow lock-step with everything the preacher or favorite Bible class teacher presents? Of course not!

We will have our own ideas about many subjects, but on some subjects there can be no real discussion, if it fits in the area of God’s Word and it is clearly given by direct command, necessary inference, or is based upon the teaching in the 1st century of the apostles of Christ.

Right doctrine is essential to right living. It is impossible to live a faithful Christian life without knowing biblical doctrine. Doctrine simply means teaching, and there is no way that even the most sincere believer can live a life pleasing to God without knowing what God Himself is like and knowing the sort of life God wants him to live.

When people say, “Don’t talk to me about doctrine—just let me live my Christian life!” they are revealing their ignorance of the way the Holy Spirit works in the life of the believer.

“It makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you live right” is a similar confession of ignorance. It does make a difference what you believe, because what you believe determines how you behave!

The main idea in these first sixteen verses is the unity of believers in Christ. This is simply the practical application of the doctrine taught in the first half of the letter: God is building a body, a temple. He has reconciled Jews and Gentiles to Himself in Christ. The oneness of believers in Christ is already a spiritual reality. Our responsibility is to guard, protect, and preserve that unity.

Most denominational members would be surprised to discover that their chosen religious affiliation is less than 500 years old. Many people assume that the church of which they are members is ancient in origin, divinely ordained, and a part of the church revealed in the New Testament.

It doesn’t always occur to them that there were no denominations in New Testament days. When the church was established in Acts 2 on the day of Pentecost, there was one church with Christ as the head and the apostles as pillars of faith as they did exactly what Jesus had trained them to do.

That church was planned (Eph. 3:10-11), prophesied (Isaiah 2:2-3), prepared (Matt. 3:1-2), and promised (Matt. 16:18) before it existence. The kingdom came with power (Mark 9:1) when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8).

The gospel was preached, sinners responded to that resurrected Savior, they repented, they were immersed in water for remission of sins, and they began the Christian walk.

How simple! And how tragic today that so many have changed that simple beginning with their own ideas and teachings. How thrilling it is to find people in the Ukraine (for instance) who were given Bibles in years past and began reading it and with little or no help from outside teachers, became New Testament Christian and began worshipping in ways God approved through the apostles and first century Christians.

 At Pentecost, every person obeyed the same gospel, became members of the same body, and ultimately wore the same name.

Jesus prayed that His followers would be united (Jn. 17:21-23).

(John 17:20-23)  “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, {21} that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. {22} I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: {23} I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.

 Those who cause factions are to be rejected

(Titus 3:10)  Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

Men who cause dissensions are to be avoided

(Romans 16:17)  I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them.

Tim Stafford (OCC professor) tells of a minister who used a jar full of beans in teaching. He asks his students to guess how many beans are in the jar, and on a big pad of paper writes down their estimates. Then, next to those estimates, he helps them make another list: their favorite songs. When the lists are complete, he reveals the actual number of beans in the jar. The whole class looks over their guesses, to see which estimate was closest to being right.

He then turns to the list of their favorite songs. “And which one of these is closest to being right?” he asks. The students protest that there is no “right answer”; a person’s favorite song is purely a matter of taste. And the teacher agrees.

But then he asks, “When you decide what to believe in terms of your faith, is that more like guessing the number of beans, or more like choosing your favorite song?” Always, and amazingly, he gets the same answer, from old as well as young: they say choosing one’s faith is more like choosing a favorite song than knowing the # of beans in the jar.

IF that is true, then what we believe has more to do with what we like or what we will not accept. The issue of God’s authority is taken out of the equation!

One of the main reasons that cults in our day have had such an impact on the world is their unity. Disharmony is not tolerated. Though misguided, misused, and often totalitarian, such unity is attractive to many people who are tired of religious uncertainty, ambiguity, and confusion.

Few of us who have attended church for a number of years have not been in or known of a congregation where there was a split or at least serious quarreling. The problem has existed in the church from New Testament times. The Corinthian believers fell short of the Lord’s standards in many ways, and the first thing for which Paul called them to task was quarreling.

Quarrels are a part of life. We grow up in them and around them. Infants are quick to express displeasure when they are not given something they want or when something they like is taken away. Little children cry, fight, and throw tantrums because they cannot have their own ways.

(James 4:1-2)  What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? {2} You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.).

What the Lord laments and opposes, Satan applauds and fosters. Few things demoralize, discourage, and weaken a church as much as bickering, backbiting, and fighting among its members. And few things so effectively undermine its testimony before the world.

The church we see in the New Testament was planned (Eph. 3:10-11), prophesied (Isaiah 2:2-3), prepared (Matt. 3:1-2), and promised (Matt. 16:18) before it existence.

At Pentecost, every person obeyed the same gospel, became members of the same body, and ultimately wore the same name.

God is much more desirous of people being saved, than of their being condemned

(Ezekiel 18:23)  Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

 (John 3:17)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 (2 Peter 3:9) The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2020 in Church, Doctrine, ephesians

 

Are we living in the last days?


signs

Are we living in the last days? It’s a question often asked when difficult times arrive.

Yes, we are living in the ‘last days.’ It should not be a cause for alarm, however, because we have been living in the last days for more than two thousand years!

The ‘last days’ refer to the last great period of history, the Christian Age. There have been three great dispensations or ages of God dealing with mankind. The first was the Patriarchal Age, when God dealt directly with the heads of families (from Adam to Moses). This period ended with the beginning of the Mosaic Age, when God gave the Law of Moses to Israel. The Mosaic Age (the age under which Jesus lived) ended with the advent of the Christian Age, ushered in by the preaching of the Gospel and the establishment of the first century church.

On the Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ, Peter rose up with the rest of the apostles to speak and said, concerning the things that were happening, ‘This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; and it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams’ (Acts 2:16-17). Peter said that the events of that day were the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy concerning what would happen ‘in these last days.’

Succeeding verses describe dramatic events: ‘…wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood and fire and vapour of smoke: the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before that great and notable day of the Lord come’ (2:19-20). This ‘apocalyptic’ language describes cataclysmic events that man could hardly imagine. Some have suggested that these events refer to the crucifixion of Christ or the coming destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman armies.

The Spirit was poured out on ‘all flesh,’ as the Gospel message was to go from Jerusalem to all the nations of the world, a message of salvation: ‘And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved’ (Acts 2:21). To the Jews it was almost unbelievable that the Gospel could be for the whole world, including Gentiles, but Peter promised such: ‘For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call’ (2:39). He called all present to respond: ‘Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for (in order to have) the remission of sins’ (2:38).

Later Peter wrote that Christ ‘was manifest in these last times’ (1 Peter 1:20).

Time may be drawing to an end.  Today may be the last day. Or, the Lord may delay His coming for a thousand years so more can ‘come to repentance’ (1 Pet. 3:9).

Look for no special ‘last days’ signs in present events. Do not listen to false teachers who set dates for the second coming or the end of the world. Do not be lulled into thinking you have plenty of time to make your life right with God, either. We should prepare to meet Christ-the angel may be getting his trumpet ready (1 Thes. 4:13-18). Now is the time to obey Christ (2 Cor. 6:2).

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2019 in Doctrine

 

10 Reasons to Believe in a God who allows suffering


Suffering Comes With the Freedom to Choose.
Loving parents long to protect their children from unnecessary pain. But wise parents know the danger of over-protection. They know that the freedom to choose is at the heart of what it means to be human, and that a world without choice would be worse than a world without pain. Worse yet would be a world populated by people who could make wrong choices without feeling any pain. No one is more dangerous than the liar, thief or killer who doesn’t feel the harm he is doing to himself and to others (Genesis 2:15-17).

Pain Can Warn Us of Danger.
We hate pain, especially in those we love. Yet without discomfort, the sick wouldn’t go to a doctor. Worn-out bodies would get no rest. Criminals wouldn’t fear the law. Children would laugh at correction. Without pangs of conscience, the daily dissatisfaction of boredom or the empty longing for significance, people who are made to find satisfaction in an eternal Father would settle for far less. The example of Solomon, lured by pleasure and taught by his pain, shows us that even the wisest among us tend to drift from good and from God until arrested by the resulting pain of our own shortsighted choices (Ecclesiastes 1-12; Psalm 78:34-35; Romans 3:10-18).

Suffering Reveals What Is in Our Hearts.
Suffering often occurs at the hand of others. But it has a way of revealing what is in our own hearts. Capacities for love, mercy, anger, envy and pride can lie dormant until awakened by circumstances. Strength and weakness of heart are found not when everything is going our way but when flames of suffering and temptation test the mettle of our character. As gold and silver are refined by fire, and as coal needs time and pressure to become a diamond, the human heart is revealed and developed by enduring the pressure and heat of time and circumstance. Strength of character is shown not when all is well with our world but in the presence of human pain and suffering (Job 42:1-17; Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-5; 1 Peter 1:6-8).

Suffering Takes Us to the Edge of Eternity.
If death is the end of everything, then a life filled with suffering isn’t fair. But if the end of this life brings us to the threshold of eternity, then the most fortunate people in the universe are those who discover, through suffering, that this life is not all we have to live for. Those who find themselves and their eternal God through suffering have not wasted their pain. They have let their poverty, grief and hunger drive them to the Lord of eternity. They are the ones who will discover to their own unending joy why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3, NIV; see also Romans 8:18-19).

Pain Loosens Our Grip on This Life.
In time, our work and our opinions are sought less and less. Our bodies become increasingly worse for the wear. Gradually they succumb to inevitable obsolescence. Joints stiffen and ache. Eyes grow dim. Digestion slows. Sleep becomes difficult. Problems loom larger and larger while options narrow. Yet, if death is not the end but the threshold of a new day, then the curse of old age is also a blessing. Each new pain makes this world less inviting and the next life more appealing. In its own way, pain paves the way for a graceful departure (Ecclesiastes 12:1-14).

 Suffering Gives Opportunity to Trust God.
The most famous sufferer of all time was a man named Job. According to the Bible, Job lost his family to war, his wealth to wind and fire, and his health to painful boils. Through it all, God never told Job why it was happening. As Job endured the accusations of his friends, heaven remained silent. When God finally did speak, He did not reveal that His archenemy Satan had challenged Job’s motives for serving God. Neither did the Lord apologize for allowing Satan to test Job’s devotion to God. Instead, God talked about mountain goats giving birth, young lions on the hunt and ravens in the nest. He cited the behavior of the ostrich, the strength of the ox and the stride of the horse. He cited the wonders of the heavens, the marvels of the sea and the cycle of the seasons. Job was left to conclude that if God had the power and wisdom to create this physical universe, there was reason to trust that same God in times of suffering (Job 1-42).

 God Suffers With Us in Our Suffering.
No one has suffered more than our Father in heaven. No one has paid more dearly for the allowance of sin into the world. No one has so continuously grieved over the pain of a race gone bad. No one has suffered like the One who paid for our sin in the crucified body of His own Son. No one has suffered more than the One who, when He stretched out His arms and died, showed us how much He loved us. It is this God who, in drawing us to Himself, asks us to trust Him when we are suffering and when our own loved ones cry out in our presence (1 Peter 2:21; 3:18; 4:1).

 God’s Comfort Is Greater Than Our Suffering.
The apostle Paul pleaded with the Lord to take away an unidentified source of suffering. But the Lord declined, saying, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” “Therefore,” said Paul, “I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul learned that he would rather be with Christ in suffering than without Christ in good health and pleasant circumstances.

 In Times of Crisis, We Find One Another.
No one would choose pain and suffering. But when there is no choice, there remains some consolation. Natural disasters and times of crisis have a way of bringing us together. Hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, riots, illnesses and accidents all have a way of bringing us to our senses. Suddenly we remember our own mortality and that people are more important than things. We remember that we do need one another and that, above all, we need God.

Each time we discover God’s comfort in our own suffering, our capacity to help others is increased. This is what the apostle Paul had in mind when he wrote, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4).

 God Can Turn Suffering Around for Our Good.
This truth is best seen in the many examples of the Bible. Through Job’s suffering we see a man who not only came to a deeper understanding of God but who also became a source of encouragement for people in every generation to follow. Through the rejection, betrayal, enslavement and wrongful imprisonment of a man named Joseph, we see someone who eventually was able to say to those who had hurt him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good” (Genesis 50:20).

When everything in us screams at the heavens for allowing suffering, we have reason to look at the eternal outcome and joy of Jesus who in His own suffering on an executioner’s cross cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46).

You’re not alone if the unfairness and suffering of life leaves you unconvinced that a God in heaven cares for you. But consider again the suffering of the One called by the prophet Isaiah “a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering” (Isaiah 53:3). Think about His slashed back, His bloodied forehead, His nail-ripped hands and feet, His pierced side, His agony in the Garden and His pathetic cry of abandonment. Consider Christ’s claim that He was suffering not for His sins but for ours. To give us the freedom to choose, He lets us suffer. But He Himself bore the ultimate penalty and pain for all our sins (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24).

When you do see the reason for His suffering, keep in mind that the Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and that those who believe in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). The forgiveness and eternal life Christ offers is not a reward for effort but a gift to all who, in light of the evidence, put their trust in Him.

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2019 in Doctrine

 

10 Reasons to Believe in Life After Death


Resurrection

What happens when we die? Down through the millennia, the pious and the pagan have believed that death is but a doorway to a new journey.

The Injustices of Life.

It would be difficult to believe that life is good if we knew there was nothing beyond the grave to compensate for problems of inequality and unfairness. While some people seem destined for happiness, others are born into terrible relationships and circumstances. If we could be sure there was nothing to offset unequal distribution of suffering, many would have reason to curse the day of their birth for the way life has treated them (Job 3:1-3). We could agree with King Solomon who at a low point in his life said, 

I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed—and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors—and they have no comforter. And I declared that the dead, who had already died, are happier than the living, who are still alive. But better than both is he who has not yet been, who has not seen the evil that is done under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3, NIV).

 Beauty and Balance.
There is much about life that doesn’t seem to correspond with personal problems of unfairness and hardship. But for all that is hurtful and unequal, there is beauty and balance. For moments of horror and violence, there are times of harmony and peace. As age-worn bodies succumb to pain and weakness, children and young animals play with carefree joy. Human art, in all of its glory, corresponds to birds in playful flight and morning song. Each sunset and dawn provides an answer to nature’s need for rest and renewal. Dark nights and cold winters come with the awareness that “this too shall pass.” If there is nothing beyond the grave, the pattern of nature is stunningly incomplete.

 Near-Death Experiences.
The clinical evidence for life after death is subjective and arguable. It’s often hard to assess the significance of “out of body experiences,” encounters with bright lights, long tunnels or angelic guides. It’s difficult to know how to respond to those who speak of temporary near-death visions into heaven or hell. What we do know is that there are enough of these kinds of experiences to create a sizable library on the subject. Taken as a whole, this body of evidence shows that as people approach death, many sense they are coming not to the end of existence but to the beginning of another journey.

 A Place in the Heart.
The human heart hungers for more than this life offers. Each of us experiences what King Solomon called “eternity in [our] hearts” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). While it is difficult to know what Solomon meant, it is apparent that he was referring to an inescapable longing for something this world cannot satisfy. It was an emptiness of soul that Solomon could not escape. For a while, he tried to fill this inner void with work, alcohol and laughter. He tried to satisfy his longings with philosophy, music and sexual relationships. But his disillusionment grew. Only when he returned to his confidence in a final judgment and afterlife could he find something large enough to satisfy his longing for significance (Ecclesiastes 12:14).

 Universal Beliefs.
While some believe it’s impossible to know whether there is life after death, belief in immortality is a timeless phenomenon. From the pyramids of the Egyptians to the reincarnation of New Age thinking, people of all times and places in history have believed that the human soul survives death. If there is no consciousness or laughter or regret beyond the grave, then life has fooled almost everyone from the Pharaohs of Egypt to Jesus of Nazareth.

 An Eternal God.
The Bible names God as the source of immortality. It describes His nature as eternal. The same Scriptures tell us that God created us in His likeness, and that His plan is to welcome His children eventually into His eternal home. The Scriptures also teach that God introduced death into human experience when our first ancestors trespassed into the darkness of forbidden territory (Genesis 3:1-19). The implication is that if God allowed the human race to live forever in a rebellious condition, we would have unending opportunity to develop into proud, self-centered creatures. Instead, God began to unfold a plan that would ultimately result in the eternal homecoming of all who chose to be at peace with Him (Psalm 90:1; John 14:1-3).

 Old Testament Predictions.
Some have argued that immortality is a New Testament idea. But the Old Testament prophet Daniel spoke of a day when those who sleep in the dust of the earth will be resurrected, some to life and some to everlasting shame (Daniel 12:1-3). An author of the Psalms also spoke of the afterlife. In Psalm 73 a man named Asaph described how he almost lost his faith in God when he considered how evil people prospered and the godly suffered. But then he said he went into the sanctuary of God. From the perspective of worship, he suddenly saw evil men standing on the slippery ground of their mortality. With new insight he confessed, “You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (Psalm 73:24-26).

 Quotes of Christ.
Few would accuse Jesus of being an evil man or a false teacher. Even atheists and people belonging to non-Christian religions usually refer to Jesus with deference and respect. But Jesus wasn’t vague or indefinite about the reality of a continuing personal existence after death. He said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28). Jesus promised Paradise to the repentant thief who was dying at His side, but He also used the Valley of Hinnom-a foul garbage dump outside of Jerusalem—as a symbol of what awaits those who insist on risking the judgment of God. According to Jesus, facing the reality of life after death is the most significant issue of life. He said, for example, that if an eye keeps you from God, you have reason to get rid of that eye. “It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell” (Mark 9:47).

 The Resurrection of Christ.
There is no greater evidence for the existence of life after death than the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The Old Testament predicted a Messiah who would overcome sin and death for His people (Isaiah 53; Daniel 9:26). The testimony of Jesus’ followers is that He did just that. He voluntarily died at the hands of executioners, was buried in a borrowed tomb and then three days later left that tomb empty. Witnesses said that they had seen not only an empty tomb but a resurrected Christ who appeared to hundreds of people over a period of 40 days before ascending to heaven (Acts 1:1-11; 1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

Practical Effects.
Belief in life after death is a source of personal security, optimism and spiritual betterment (1 John 3:2). Nothing offers more courage than the confidence that there is a better life for those who use the present to prepare for eternity. Belief in the unlimited opportunities of eternity has enabled many to make the ultimate sacrifice of their own life in behalf of those they love. It was His belief in life after death that enabled Jesus to say, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). It is the same truth that prompted Christian martyr Jim Elliot, who was killed in 1956 by the Auca Indians, to say, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

You’re not alone if you find yourself honestly unconvinced about life after death. But keep in mind that Jesus promised to give divine help to those who want to know the truth so as to surrender to it. He said, “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own” (John 7:17).

If you see the evidence for life after death, remember that the Bible says Christ died to pay the price for our sins, and that all who believe in Him will receive the gifts of forgiveness and everlasting life. The salvation Christ offers is not a reward for effort but a gift to all who in light of the evidence put their trust in Him.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2019 in Doctrine, Evidence

 

What Every Christian Should Know About Grace – Titus 2:11-14


Titus 2:11-14: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. {12} It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, {13} while we wait for the blessed hope–the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, {14} who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.”

As a Christian husband/father, I appreciate so much what’s occurring in the United States:
· advertising groups are producing catchy, appealing presentations teaching our children to ‘say no’ to drugs
· there are now bans on public smoking in most places because we’re finally admitting the harm done by secondary smoke
· there’s a constant public outcry against drunk driving and many groups are trying to enact stricter laws and pressure is being put upon the court system to see that the penalties are carried out

I thank God for the progress!…though it’s only treating the symptoms of the real problem: the worship of self.

But I’ve said that to make this statement to us today: we can’t expect society “to clean itself up.”

It is, however, a role the church ought to assume, though the method might be surprising:
· we’re to spread the good news of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world
· and those who become Christians must bring about dramatic lifestyle changes in their lives!

A simple question: is Christianity a “yes” religion or a “no” religion? What do I mean? Do you see the requirements put upon us by Christ as mainly negative or positive?

We say “YES:”
· to God and His authority
· to Jesus Christ, as Savior and Lord of our life
· to the Bible as our only map to eternal life
· to the purpose of the church and the need to make it important in our families’ life
· to the responsibility we have as parents “to give our children back to God”

I hope we also realize that pleasing God involves both “yes” and “no.”

Matthew 12:43-45: “”When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. {44} Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. {45} Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and
live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.””

This side of grace is powerful beyond words:
· It appears to all men
· It brought the death of Christ 
· It makes those dead in sin alive in Christ.
· leads and guides us…it doesn’t throw us into confusion
· redeemed us from all wickedness
· purifies us as His people
· inspires us to the extent that we’re eager to do what’s good and right!

It teaches us what to avoid and what to follow! 

There is another side of grace, grace as it relates to the Christian, the “us” side of grace…it teaches us some truths we all need to learn:

1. GRACE TEACHES US TO LEAVE 
Jesus said, “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

This is not some initial act once performed that should never be considered again. It is an ongoing act! 

We must constantly deny (say NO!) to “ungodliness and worldly lust” 
· Ungodliness is a lack of reverence for the spiritual and a lack of worship and devotion that results from not living like the Lord. 
· To deny ungodliness is to strive always to avoid that which pulls you away from God. 
· This demands ongoing evaluation. Worldly lusts are those desires which lead one further from the kingdom of God.

Salvation is not only a change of position as we’re set free from the slavery of sin…it’s also a change of attitude, ambition, and action.

And if God’s gift of grace doesn’t change us, and give us a different lifestyle, then something is eternally wrong!

Anything I do that Christ wouldn’t do…or anything I do which would bring reproach upon God and the church, I must say “NO!” to it!

1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. {16} For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. {17} And the world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the
one who does the will of God abides forever.”

2. GRACE TEACHES US TO LIVE
We must live “under control”…..it’s a way of life. This isn’t the idea of being “in control” but being “under control.” They key is a surrender or yielding to God in a dignified, reasonable way:

· God tell us that man cannot direct his own steps
· the key to winning is losing
· to way to be first is to be last
· the way to be great is to be least
· and if we think we can control our lives, the devil smiles in hell and God weeps in heaven!

Second, we must live righteously. This is a matter of our relationship with the Lord. It’s the concept of “clothing ourselves with Christ” We’re made righteous because of the constant cleansing in the blood of Christ.

We live according to a standard…and first and foremost, God wants us to know that that He sent us a man to follow.

Third, we are to be godly. 
The idea here is to include God in all our plans…God must not be the “third man out” with the Christian. We should have a reverence, respect, worship, and devotion that moves into daily life and causes us to live as the Lord wants us to live.

When we yield, study and follow God’s Word and God’s will, we become people-centered…which leads us to ask “what does God like?” (we answer that by looking at God incarnate):
· Jesus liked little children
· Jesus liked people who innocently and completely trusted in Him
· Jesus liked to forgive prostitutes and “sinners”
· JJesusIsLordofthisWebSiteesus liked to spend much time in small groups teaching and training people
· He loved His mother
· He was willing to die for His friends but also His enemies
· He was comfortable with His friends (He could tell Martha to get out of the kitchen and spend more time with people)
· He was involved and interested in people and spent little time worrying for material things or things which would bring Him comfort

Notice the text: we’re eager to do good!

  1. GRACE TEACHES US TO LOOK
    We look for Jesus’ return. This is our blessed hope, our fulfillment. It will be a glorious appearing. We will get to see Jesus, our great God and Savior. It is a shame that we have so preached on the second coming that even Christians do not look forward to it. We must remember who is coming. He is the One who redeemed us from the lawlessness of sin and purified us as
    His own special people. Our specialty is good works. When we live by grace, the world can see our specialty.
 
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Posted by on September 19, 2019 in Doctrine

 
 
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