Hugh Fulford Humble Beginnings 092517

Hugh Fulford Basic Studies #28-30

BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
# 028
HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

In the Millennial Harbinger of January 1842 (Volume VI, Number I), Alexander Campbell, one of the leading voices in pleading for a restoration of original New Testament Christianity, looked back to the earliest days of the movement and gave a recap of a sermon he preached “under an oak” some eight miles from Bethany, Virginia (now West Virginia) in June of 1811 when he was 22 years old. Below are excerpts from the article by Campbell in which he gives the background to his sermon titled “Humble Beginnings.” Following that are excerpts from the sermon itself in which Campbell set forth some of the principles upon which he and others were launching out in the establishment of an independent congregation based on the New Testament alone. This was before any of the group had come to be immersed. (“We were all then Pedobaptists,” Campbell acknowledges, meaning they had been sprinkled as infants or very young children), thus indicating the infancy of the movement. Excerpts are in Campbell’s own words (as well as his spelling and punctuation), not the words of some Restoration Movement historian giving his spin, twist, or “interpretation” of what Campbell wrote and said about the event.

“IN retrospecting our course, and in collecting documents connected with the history of reformation principles, amongst the few memorabilia of early beginnings I have yet extant the exordium, or a part of the exordium and some of the details of a discourse pronounced under an oak, eight miles from our present residence, in the month of June, 1811, (2d Lord’s day, I think,) with a special reference to the organization of a new church (i.e., local congregation, hf), founded on the New Testament alone, and meeting for the first time to commemorate the Lord’s death statedly on every Lord’s day. The table was spread in the woods, and some sixty or seventy disciples, gathered out of various denominations, had assembled to show forth the Lord’s death, covenanting with each other to follow the truth, the whole truth of Christianity, whithersoever it might lead us, without regard to former prepossessions, manners, or customs. We were all then Pedobaptists….”

Following are excerpts from the sermon itself in which Campbell begins to articulate the principles upon which he and those gathered with him set forth to restore what he would later call “the ancient order of things.” Read these remarks and reflect soberly on their significance. Remember, too, that Campbell was only twenty-two years old, yet what a grasp of things he already possessed!

“The present partyism is a disgrace to our profession. It is fatal to the progress of piety and truth. Ignorance and superstition, enthusiasm and fanaticism, are the fruits of these human institutions, which have displaced the Bible or refused to admit it as its own interpreter. The key of knowledge is virtually taken away, and ages of darkness are again spreading their sable wings over a slumbering world. We must awaken from this sleep of death—this fatal lethargy that has seised the body ecclesiastic. Men are fighting about chimeras, loving and hating, approbating and disapprobating one another for reasons they do not comprehend, and, if comprehended, they would blush to see the illusions and phantoms that have bewildered them.

“We believe the Bible to be God’s own book, and well adapted to the ends of its existence. It is a lamp, and gives light. It makes the simple wise. ‘The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. The testimony of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.’ ‘All scripture given by inspiration of God, is profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished for all good works’—’able to make one wise to salvation.’ It is a perfect book.

“We commence our career as a church under the banner of ‘The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible,’ as the standard of our religious faith and practice. We have our own opinions; but these we shall hold as private property. The faith is common. Our inferences and opinions are our own. If our brother asks for them, we may tender them; but must not force him to accept them. This is the very essence of Popery….

“For what are we here convened? To worship God, to commemorate the Lord’s death and rising again, and to grow in grace, in favor with God and men, by growing in Christian knowledge and in the practice of the Christian duties—to follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord—to bear with one another’s weaknesses, and to maintain unity of spirit in the bonds of peace….

“We shall begin with the Acts of the Apostles, and as they intimate the apostolic doctrine and practice we shall follow these. In Jerusalem the church began. To Jerusalem we must then look for a fair beginning. Whatever we have got in our faith and practice which they had not, we shall return to the rightful owners. What they had and we have not, we shall append to our inventory of Christian duties and Christian excellencies. Meanwhile, we shall assist each other in getting rid of our prejudices and errors as soon as we can, and ‘whereunto we have already attained, we shall walk by the same rule and mind the same thing ;’ and if we live in peace, the God of love and peace shall be with us: for he has promised it….”

Words deserving of serious and sober reflection yet today

THE RESTORATION PLEA: IS IT VALID?

The restoration plea is a plea to go back to the Bible for all that we preach, teach, believe, and practice in the realm of religion. As we noted in our essay last week, it is a plea to take the Bible as our only guide in religious matters and use it as the divine pattern by which to reproduce in the present day the church as it existed in the first century—in faith, doctrine, and practice. It is a humble plea to speak where the Bible speaks and to remain silent where the Bible is silent, to call Bible things by Bible names and to do Bible things in the Bible way.

Is the restoration plea valid? Is it a sound, reasonable, logical, and defensible plea? Should people today be concerned about discovering what God has authorized in the Scriptures in the way of religious belief and practice and hold to those same beliefs and practices today?

Some 700 to 800 years after God had given the Law of Moses to the Israelites on Mount Sinai the people had departed far from the Lord and His law. A good king by the name of Hezekiah saw the apostasy of the nation of Judah and led it in a restoration movement. “He removed the high places and broke the sacred pillars, cut down the wooden images and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made; for unto those days the children of Israel burned incense to it, and called it Nehushtan” (II Kings 18:4). All of these were symbols of the idolatry into which the people of God had sunk. Of Hezekiah the Bible says, “For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (II Kings 18:6). Hezekiah viewed the Law of Moses as a pattern for the service of God, and wherein the people had departed from that pattern, he led them to return to it. God was pleased with the restoration efforts of Hezekiah to bring the people back to the standard God had set for them centuries before in the Law of Moses!

Several years pass and God’s people again enter a state of apostasy. (How true it is that God’s people never remain entirely faithful to Him for very long!) A king by the name of Josiah came to the throne of Judah, and Hilkiah, the high priest, found a copy of “the Book of the Law in the house of the Lord” (II Kings 22:8). (How ironic that the book of God had been lost in the house of God! Sadly, however, that was not the last time for such a thing to happen! It continues to happen in our own day.) Hilkiah gave the book to Shaphan the scribe who, in turn, read the book to Josiah the king. When Josiah heard the words of the book, he commissioned the priests and scribes to “Go, inquire of the Lord for me, for the people and for all Judah, concerning the words of this book that has been found; for great is the wrath of the Lord that is aroused against us, because our fathers have not obeyed the words of this book, to do according to all that is written concerning us” (II Kings 22:13).

The following chapter of II Kings relates the great restoration movement enacted by Josiah and how God was pleased with what he did. “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him” (II Kings 23:25). Jeremiah, who lived during the reign of Josiah, urged God’s people to “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls.” (Jeremiah 6:16).

These two pieces of Old Testament history show that the restoration plea—the plea to call people back to God’s authoritative standard of religion—is valid, reasonable, and right. In the New Testament we are reminded that “whatever things were written before were written for our learning” (Romans 15:4). Let us learn from Hezekiah and Josiah!

Jesus believed in the validity of the restoration principle and the restoration plea. When the Pharisees tried to trap Him concerning divorce and remarriage He called them back to God’s original law concerning this sacred relationship (Matthew 19:1-9). When the rich young ruler questioned Jesus about what to do to have eternal life, Christ told him to keep the commandments found in the Law of Moses (Matthew 19:16-22). When a certain lawyer asked Him what to do to inherit eternal life, Jesus said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read” (Luke 10:26)? These texts all emphasize that Christ regarded the Law of Moses as the authoritative pattern of conduct for people of that time, and wherein they had departed from that standard they had to go back to it to be pleasing to the Lord. Christ Himself therefore placed great emphasis on the restoration principle and the restoration plea!

“When anyone accepts any part of the Scriptures as an authoritative rule of faith and practice, he has, regardless of how limited his concept might be, accepted the restoration principle, at least to some degree. When one appeals to the Scriptures on grace, faith, blood, mercy, etc., he is essentially saying, ‘Let us return to the Bible on grace, faith, blood, mercy, etc.’ Thus it is no man can appeal to the Scriptures as authority without embracing the restoration plea” (Howard Winters, Up To Bethany: Another Look At The Restoration Plea, p. 15). Sadly, however, many do not want to return to what the Bible says about baptism, the nature of the church, the organization of the church, how we are to worship, or how we are to live! As a “left leaning” preacher in Dallas, Texas said to me many years ago, “We all believe the Bible is a pattern to some extent, but many of us do not believe it is a pattern to the extent that some of the rest of you believe that it is!”

The New Testament is the standard by which people are to live and serve the Lord today (Matthew 5:17; 17:5; 28:18; John 12:48; Hebrews 1:1-2; 12:25). All that we teach, believe, and practice in religion is to be by the authority of Christ and the inspired apostles and prophets of the New Testament. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name (by the authority, hf) of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17). “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (I Peter 4:11). And wherein people have departed from that divine standard, it is rational, reasonable, and right to call them back to it!

This is the restoration plea! It is a valid and biblical plea!

Hugh Fulford

September 19, 2017

THE RESTORATION PLEA: WHAT IS IT?

There are three inseparably connected and interrelated concepts with reference to the way God’s people approach scripture and their service to the Lord. First, there is the restoration principle, the principle that says we need to go back to the Bible for authority for all that we believe, preach, and practice in the realm of religion. Second, for those who take this principle to heart and believe that others should take it to heart as well, a clear and compelling proclamation is made of it. This is known as the restoration plea, a plea to actually go back to the Bible for one’s religious faith and practice. Third, as the principle and plea are advanced and people see that they are both right and necessary, a restoration movement begins to unfold, a movement that takes people back to the Bible for all that they preach, teach, believe, and practice in religion.

In America, in the late 1700s and early 1800s, conscientious and devout people in various religious denominations began to take stock of the religious situation of their day with the many religious creeds and the many different kinds of churches. Those who were reading their Bibles knew that religious division was wrong (John 17:20-21; I Corinthians 1:10), that Christ had established only one church (Matthew 16:18), that the New Testament authorized the existence of but one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that this one body was the church (Ephesians 1:22-23). Thus, men began to see the need to go back to the New Testament alone as their guide in religion—to cast aside human creeds and catechisms, human names in religion, man-made churches, and unscriptural doctrines and practices. They were not the first, however, to do so. Down through the centuries the restoration principle had been recognized and the restoration plea had been made by various individuals and groups.

Advocates of the restoration plea said: “Let us take the Bible as our only guide in religious matters, let us use it as the pattern by which to produce in the present day the church as it existed in the first century—in faith, doctrine, and practice. Let us speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent. Let us call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in the Bible way.”

It was a great idea, it met with more than average success, and today there are thousands of churches of Christ across America and around the world that are committed to the restoration principle and the restoration plea. These churches have no denominational hierarchy, wear no denominational name, advocate no denominational creed, advance no denominational doctrine or practice, and do not aspire to or seek denominational status. They are simply autonomous congregations of Christ committed to being what the church was in New Testament times.

Howard Winters has observed: “In New Testament times, the followers of Christ were simply Christians, nothing more and nothing less. As Christians they were members of the church to which the Lord added them (Acts 2:47), the one built by Christ (Matt. 16:18) and purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28). This should be enough to show that to restore the primitive order of things necessitates coming out of denominationalism and being nothing but Christians. Not Baptist Christians, nor Methodist Christians, nor Presbyterian Christians, nor Catholic Christians, but simply Christians, Christians only, Christians apart from sectarian parties and denominational churches” (Up to Bethany: Another Look at the Restoration Plea, p. 15).

Dr. Cecil May, Jr. recently wrote: “The Lord’s church began on the Day of Pentecost following His resurrection and ascension into heaven. Peter preached the gospel of forgiveness of sins through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. People were convicted of sin, ‘cut to the heart,’ and asked, ‘What shall we do?’ 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’ (Acts 2:37-38). Three thousand responded favorably, were baptized, forgiven and added by the Lord to His church.

“The essence of the restoration plea is, ‘If we hear what they heard, believe what they believed, do from the heart what they did, we will receive what they received—forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit—and become what they became—Christians, added to His church.’ People today can respond in the same way and receive the same blessings. When several do and band together to ‘do Bible things in Bible ways,’ they are a church, a congregation, of Christ….

“The nineteenth century restorers did not begin the church of Christ. We are grateful to them because they reminded people that they should come back to just the Bible, laying aside human creeds, sectarian names and anything nonbiblical that divides. We should continue that today” (“Response to a Sermon ‘For’ Instrumental Music,” Dr. May’s answer to a sermon preached in a church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, Summer 2017, advocating instrumental music in the worship of the church).

This is a brief look at what the restoration plea is—a plea to go back to the Bible, back to the God of the Bible, back to the Christ of the Bible, back to the church of the Bible, back to the moral standard of the Bible! Next week, D.V., we will show that the restoration plea is valid.

Hugh Fulford

September 12, 2017

FORTY THINGS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE HOLY SPIRIT

1. The Holy Spirit (referred to as the Holy Ghost in the King James Version of the Bible) is a member of the Godhead (the Divine Nature) (Matthew 28:18-20; II Corinthians 13:14; Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20). As such, the nature of the Holy Spirit is compatible with the nature of the other two members of the Godhead, the Father and the Son.

2. As the Father and the Son are divine persons, so the Holy Spirit is a divine person. Six times in John 16:13 the Holy Spirit is referred to as “He” and once as “Him.” Therefore, the Holy Spirit is not an “It” or simply the power or influence of God but a divine person.

3. The Holy Spirit is also known as the Spirit of God (Matthew 3:16), the Spirit of Christ (Romans 8:9), the Spirit of the Lord (II Corinthians 3:17-18), the Spirit of truth (John 14:26), and simply the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26). It is important to note that these are not different divine entities, but different ways of referring to one divine entity, the Holy Spirit.

4. There is only one Spirit (Ephesians 4:4)

5. The Holy Spirit is an eternal being (Hebrews 9:13-14).

6. The Spirit of God is omnipresent (Psalm 139:7).

7. The Spirit is all-knowing (I Corinthians 2:10-11).

8. The Spirit was present in the creation of all things and exercised a role in the creation (Genesis 1:1-2; 26-27 [Note the plural pronoun]).

9. The Spirit of God enabled Joseph to interpret Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis 41:38).

10. The Holy Spirit equipped men for the building of the Old Testament tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-5).

11. The Spirit spoke through the prophets of the Old Testament (II Samuel 23:2; Ezekiel 11:5; et al).

12. By the prophets, the Spirit of God warned and testified against the Lord’s people in Old Testament times (Nehemiah 9:30).

13. The Spirit of Christ led the Old Testament prophets to testify beforehand of the coming of Christ, His sufferings, and the glories that would follow (I Peter 1:10-11; II Peter 1:21).

14. Christ was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35).

15. Following His baptism, the Holy Spirit descended on Christ in the form of a dove (Matthew 3:16).

16. The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1).

17. The Spirit of the Lord empowered the teaching of Christ (Luke 4:18-21).

18. All of Christ’s miracles were performed by the power of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38).

19. Christ warned of the sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit (Matthew 12:31-32; Mark 3:28-30). (Note: Study these texts in their context to see what it meant to blaspheme the Holy Spirit).

20. It was through the eternal Spirit that Christ offered Himself to God to purge us from our sins (Hebrews 9:14).

21. John the Baptist promised that Christ would baptize with the Holy Spirit (Matthew 3:11; cf. Acts 1:4-5, 8; 10:44-48; 11:15-16).

22. Following Christ’s ascension back to heaven, the apostles were filled with (baptized with) the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4; 11:15-16).

23. The Holy Spirit is the Comforter/Helper whom Christ promised to send to the apostles (John 14:26; 15:26)

24. The Holy Spirit brought to the apostles’ remembrance all that Christ had said to them (John 14:26).

25. The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth (John 16:13). (Note: With the close of the first century and the apostolic age, no further truth or revelation from God has been dispensed. “The faith” has been “once for all [a note of finality, hf] delivered to the saints” [Jude 3; cf. Ephesians 4:5]).

26. The Holy Spirit revealed to the holy apostles and prophets of the New Testament God’s eternal purpose to save man by the gospel (Ephesians 3:1-13; Galatians 1:11-12; I Peter 1:12).

27. One must be born of water and the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3-5; cf. I Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 5:25-26; Titus 3:4-5). (Note: This new birth is brought about by “the word which by the gospel [is] preached to [us]” [I Peter 1:22-25; James 1:18]).

28. All obedient believers in Christ receive the gift of the Holy Spirit as a seal that they are owned by God and as a deposit (earnest) on their eternal inheritance in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14; 4:30; II Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5).

29. The Holy Spirit dwells in Christians individually and in the church, the temple of God, collectively (I Corinthians 6:19-20; Ephesians 2:19-22).

30. There were various miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed on members of the first century church for the confirmation of the word of God and to aid the early church in its development until the revelation of the New Testament was complete (Mark 16:15-20; Hebrews 2:1-4; I Corinthians, chapters 12, 13, and 14; et al).

31. In New Testament times, the apostles of Christ (but apparently not others) could lay their hands on people and miraculously impart the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:14-23; 19:6).

32. Christians are to produce the fruit of the Spirit in their lives (Galatians 5:22-26).

33. Christians are to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirt in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3).

34. Christians are not to grieve the Holy Spirit by the way they live (Ephesians 4:30).

35. If anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he does not belong to Christ (Romans 8:9). (Note: This is a reference, not to the disposition of Christ, but to the Holy Spirit Himself).

36. Christians are sanctified (set apart and made holy) “by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (II Thessalonians 2:13). We are sanctified by the truth, God’s word (John 17:17).

37. The Spirit helps us in our weaknesses, especially when we are so overwhelmed that we do not know what we should pray for as we ought (Romans 8:26).

38. By His Spirit, God will give life to our mortal bodies at the resurrection of the dead (Romans 8:11).

39. The Spirit spoke through the letters that were sent to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). (Note: We “hear” the Spirit today when we read the twenty-seven divinely inspired documents making up the New Testament).

40. The Spirit joined in the final invitation of God to man (Revelation 22:17).

Hugh Fulford

September 5, 2017

A MEDLEY OF MATTERS AND “ISSUES”

“There is an abundance of New Testament evidence for vocal music (in the worship of the church, hf); none for instrumental music. Jesus and the eleven apostles (without Judas Iscariot) sang a hymn as they left the upper room where the Lord had instituted the Lord’s Supper (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). James encourages singing as a means of expressing joy, and prayer as an appropriate reaction to suffering (James 5:13). Paul exhorts Christians to sing with grace in their hearts to the Lord (Colossians 3:16), and to sing and make melody in their hearts to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).

“Some references to singing place it specifically in the Christian assembly. A prophecy in Psalm 22:22, cited in Hebrews 2:12, pictures Christ in the assembly of His people singing praises to God with them. The Corinthians sang in the assembly, and Paul reminded them that the assembly is for the edification of the saints and urged them therefore to sing with intelligible words (1 Corinthians 14:15)….

“Throughout the New Testament, ‘singing” is given apostolic approval, and consequently God’s approval. Sometimes reference is to individual Christians singing praises, as Paul and Silas in a Philippian prison (Acts 16:25). Sometimes it is speaking of Christians edifying one another in corporate assembly (1 Corinthians 14:15). Every reference to Christians worshipping and praising God musically specifies they were singing. In no instance were musical instruments mentioned as being present or used” (Dr. Cecil May, Jr.’s “Response to a Sermon ‘For’ Instrumental Music,” a sermon preached in a church of Christ in Montgomery, Alabama, Summer 2017, defending instrumental music in worship).

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I was recently told by a Facebook friend that a very fine religious publication for which I regularly write was “issue centered and issue driven rather than Christ centered and text driven.” The amusing thing about his observation is the fact that in his blog and FB postings he is constantly harping on two “issues”: 1) the value of the Old Testament and its connectedness with the New Testament (which all informed students of the Scriptures recognize and affirm, though no informed student believes the Old Testament is what governs God’s people in the Christian era), and 2) women preachers (which he believes to be scriptural in spite of what Paul writes in I Corinthians 14:34 and I Timothy 2:11-15). Were it not for these two “issues” he apparently would have little about which to write, other than from time to time to speak in favor of instrumental music in the worship of the church, to belittle the necessity of a baptismal candidate understanding that baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38) or some equally valid Bible reason, or to promote his “heaven here on earth” theory. But he apparently does not recognize his own “issues centered and issues driven” concerns! If consistency is a jewel, then some folks have lost all their jewels!

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My same friend referenced in the preceding paragraph chides me when I say “grace, but,” indicating that indeed we are saved by grace, but not grace without faith in Christ and obedience to the gospel. At the same time, however, when I proclaim that baptism is “for the remission of sins,” he injects his own “but” into the equation by saying, “But baptism is not the only thing that is ‘for the remission of sins’ ” (Acts 2:38). Again, I marvel at such inconsistency and blindness.

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Speaking of “issues,” a cursory reading of the ministry of Christ in the four gospel records, the book of Acts, the letters of Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and John, and Christ’s letters to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 2 – 3), shows that the New Testament is greatly concerned about issues—both doctrinal and moral! And with the recent defection of a former gospel preacher to Unitarianism, and others through the years to the Disciples of Christ and other assorted denominations and Community churches, and with alleged gospel preachers now defending homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism, it is time—in fact, way past time—for some serious moral and doctrinal “issues” to be addressed from their biblical perspective. Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Matthew 12:30). That draws the “issue” pretty tightly, it seems to me.

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If homosexuality, same-sex marriage, and trangenderism are not wrong, pray tell me just exactly what such folks were washed from, sanctified for, and justified from in I Corinthians 6:9-11! The old apostle was clearly right when he said, “But evil men and impostors (seducers, KJV) will grow worse and worse (proceed from bad to worse, NASB), deceiving and being deceived” (II Timothy 3:13). These “filthy dreamers” are doing just exactly that today (Jude 8, KJV). Once the wall of the authority of the Scriptures is breached a gaping and ever widening hole develops allowing anything (and I do mean anything!) to be accepted as right.

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August 18-20, D.V., I will be in a weekend meeting with the church in Greenway, Arkansas. I have been going to Greenway for forty-four years. My first meeting there was in 1973 and this will be my 13th with them and my first week-end only meeting. In all, I have been going to Clay County, Arkansas for fifty years, preaching in four meetings with the Pleasant Valley church between 1967 and 1971. I love the folks at Greenway and look forward to being with them once again.

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Enjoy the eclipse on August 21 because it is a rare experience, but protect yourself against an eclipse of faith!

Hugh Fulford

August 15, 2017

Speaking Schedule:

August 18-20: Greenway Church of Christ, Greenway, AR

August 27-30: Belinda Parkway Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN

FORTY THINGS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHRIST

Note: A few weeks we named forty things we all need to know about the church. This essay sets forth forty things we all need to know about Christ. In the future we hope to have essays on things we need to know about God, about the Holy Spirit, and about the Bible.

1. Christ, as the pre-incarnate (pre-enfleshed) Word, existed from the beginning (John 1:1-2).

2. He was co-eternal with God and was God (deity, divine) (John 1:1-2; 10:30).

3. He was the divine agent by whom all things were created (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17 [Note the antecedent of the pronoun “Him”]; Hebrews 1:1-2).

4. He is a member of the Godhead (the Divine Nature, Acts 17:29; Romans 1:20) that created man in His image (Genesis 1:26-27; 3:22a; Matthew 28:19-20; II Corinthians 13:14; et al).

5. He was the spiritual Rock that followed Moses and the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings (I Corinthians 10:4).

6. By many able students Christ in His pre-fleshly state is believed to have been the Angel of the Lord who frequently appeared and intervened in the affairs of God’s people in Old Testament times (Exodus 23:23; 32:34; Numbers 22:22ff; Judges 2:1; 13:3ff; Zechariah 3:1; et al).

7. At a point in time, He became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

8. He was born of the virgin Mary, being conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-35 [note especially verse 35]; cf. Galatians 4:4-5).

9. His birth and mission to the world were prophesied in the Old Testament (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; 53:1-12; et al).

10. He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10; I Timothy 1:15).

11. He gave Himself a ransom for many (all) (Matthew 20:28; I Timothy 2:3-6).

12. He shed His blood for the remission of the sins of all mankind (Matthew 26:28).

13. He was made to be sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21), and bore our sins in His body on the tree of the cross (I Peter 2:24).

14. He is the propitiation (atonement) for our sins (I John 2:2; Romans 3:24-26).

15. He died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day (I Corinthians 15:2-3; Matthew 28:1-6; Luke 24:1-6; et al).

16. He established the church (Matthew 16:18).

17. He is the foundation of the church (Matthew 16:18; I Corinthians 3:11; I Peter 2:6).

18. He is the head over all things to the church which is His body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18, 24).

19. He is the One by whom we have been reconciled to God in the one body, the church (Ephesians 2:14-17).

20. He is the Savior of the body, the church (Ephesians 5:23).

21. He is the one Mediator between God and men (I Timothy 2:5).

22. He is our Advocate with the Father (I John 2:1).

23. He ever lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25).

24. He is the (spiritual) light of the world (John 8:12; cf. 1:4).

25. He is the good shepherd (John 10:11).

26. He is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

27. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and the only means of access to the Father (John 14:6; cf. 10:1-10; Acts 4:11-12).

28. He is the true vine and His individual followers are the branches (John 15:1-8).

29. He is the great and eternal I AM (John 8:58).

30. He is our example in all that is good and right (I Peter 2:21; I Corinthians 11:1).

31. He is the One through God speaks to man today (via the Scriptures) (Hebrews 1:1-2; Matthew 17:5; John 12:48).

32. He is the mediator of the new covenant/testament (Hebrews 9:15).

33. He fulfilled the Old Testament and took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross (Matthew 5:17; Colossians 2:13-14; Galatians 3:22-25; 4:4-5).

34. He ascended back to the Father in heaven and is seated at God’s right hand where He now reigns over His spiritual kingdom, the church (Acts 1:9-11[cf. Daniel 7:13-14]; Mark 16:19; Acts 2:33-36; I Peter 3:21-22; Ephesians 1:22-23).

35. All authority has been given to Him in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18).

36. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Revelation 1:8, 17).

38. He will come again and will be the One through God will judge the world in righteousness (John 14:3; Matthew 25:31-32; Acts 17:30-31; II Corinthians 5:10).

39. His word (not the creeds, catechisms, councils, and commandments of men) will be the standard of that judgment (John 12:48).

40. At the end of time Christ will relinquish all rule, authority, and power and deliver the kingdom (the redeemed) to God the Father that “God may be all in all” (I Corinthians 15:24-28).

MAKING SURE I AM RIGHT WITH GOD

An old gospel hymn reminds us that “We are going down the valley one by one, With our faces toward the setting of the sun; Down the valley where the mournful cypress grows, Where the stream of death in silence onward flows” (Jessie Brown Pounds). Scripture tells us that “it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). As people facing certain death and a final day of reckoning for our lives before the Lord, we all should be deeply concerned with making sure we are right with God. How do we do this?

To be right with God, every accountable human being must obey the gospel of Christ, be saved from his past sins, and become a child of God (a Christian) (I Corinthians 15:1-5; II Thessalonians 1:6-10). Our own goodness and morality (real or imaginary) cannot save us, no more than the rich young ruler’s goodness could save him (Mark 10:17-22), and no more than the devout Cornelius’ morality and charity toward others could save him (Acts 10:1-4, 45-48; cf. Acts 11:13-14).

To obey the gospel, one must hear it (Romans 10:17), believe it (Mark 16:15-16; John 8:24), repent of all sins (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 3:19), confess faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed in water) for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1-6). The person who has never done these things is not right with God, and can only be right with God by doing what these scriptures plainly require! For instance, the person who has only had water sprinkled or poured on him (either as an infant, as a child, or as an adult) has never been scripturally baptized, and to be right with God must submit to Bible baptism (Acts 8:35-39).

If one is an adherent of one of the so-called “World Religions” (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, etc.), one must leave that religion, come to faith in Christ, obey His gospel, and be added to His church! Christ alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Of Christ the Scriptures affirm, “Nor is their salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

One cannot be right with God while being a member of any church created by men rather than the church founded by the Lord. If one is a member of a denomination (whether Catholic or Protestant), a community church, or a so-called Bible church, that person needs to realize that these institutions are of human origin rather than divine origin. They are not the church that Christ established and of which we read in the New Testament. These churches should not be confused with the Lord’s church. All who are members of these humanly devised religious organizations must remove themselves from them, obey the gospel (see paragraph # 2), and be added to the church which the Lord Himself established (Acts 2:47; Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:23-27).

To be in a right relationship with God, one must be a part of a faithful congregation, one that adheres to God’s word in all things. One cannot be right with God while remaining in a church that teaches for doctrines the commandments of men, thus making worship vain and meaningless (Matthew 15:8-9). Being right with God involves worshiping and serving the Lord in keeping with His divinely inspired word (John 4:24; Colossians 3:17; I Peter 4:11).

If one has obeyed the gospel but left the church of our Lord for a denomination, community church, or so-called Bible church—any church not adhering to New Testament teaching—that person needs to leave the unscriptural church, repent of his/her sins, and return to a faithful church of Christ. If one has obeyed the gospel and become a Christian but is living an unfaithful life, that person must cease his or her sinful practices, repent, and be restored to the Lord (Acts 8:22; Galatians 6:1; James 5:19-20; I John 1:9). If one is living in sexual immorality, homosexuality, drunkenness, deceit, dishonesty, and vulgarity and profanity of speech that person needs to give serious consideration to Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:1-9; Romans 7:1-3; I Corinthians 6:9-11, Galatians 5:19-26, Ephesians 4:17-32, Ephesians 5:1-21, Revelation 21:8, and a host of other passages that speak of how a Christian is to live. To be right with God one must live as God’s grace instructs (Titus 2:11-14).

The person who is a member of Christ’s church but is lukewarm and spasmodic in his attendance at the services of the church and in the work of the kingdom needs to take a good look at himself and decide if he really is right with God. Allowing the attractions of the world or less important things to interfere with faithfully attending the services of the church and being involved in the work of the church makes the Lord nauseated, and will cause the lukewarm Christian to finally be rejected by the Lord (Revelation 3:14-16).

None of the above is written in a harsh, judgmental spirit. The Scriptures “judge” our relationship with God, and I have cited book, chapter, and verse for every point I have made in this from-my-heart essay. I have written in a spirit of genuine love and deep concern for the souls of any of my readers who, according to biblical teaching, are not right with God. If you are serious about wanting to be right with God, I stand ready to assist you in learning and obeying the gospel of Christ and becoming a faithful member of the Lord’s church or in returning to His church. If you live outside of my geographical area, I will most gladly make every effort to put you in touch with someone in your area who can assist you in doing the will of the Father (Matthew 7:21). Death is too sure, judgment day is too certain, and eternity is too long for anyone to take a chance on not being right with God! Life has many choices, eternity only two!

FAITH

One of the most rewarding studies in which one can engage is of what the Bible teaches about “Faith.” The biblical definition of faith is found in Hebrews 11:1 where it is said, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” “Substance” is that which “stands under” and supports the spiritual realities we hope for. Faith gives substance to those invisible realities.

Faith also provides “evidence (testimony) of things not seen.” Real faith, Bible faith is not wishful thinking, nor is it a “blind leap into the dark,” but it is based on solid, substantive evidence. As the able Bible scholar Wayne Jackson has noted: “Faith is grounded in testimony—the abstract testimony of the creation (Psa. 19:1; Rom. 1:20; Heb. 11:1ff), and the concrete testimony of Scripture (Rom. 10:17) (Bible Words and Theological Terms Made Easy, p. 57). The Bible affirms, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17).

“Faith” and its companion “belief” are used in different ways in the Bible, and a study of these ways is highly instructive. Sometimes “faith” is used in a limited, restricted sense to refer to the mere act of believing or giving mental assent to certain truths or facts. King Agrippa believed in this sense but he was not saved (Acts 26:27). Certain Pharisees believed in this sense but they were not saved (John 12:42-43). In this sense “The demons also believe—and tremble” James 2:19), but no right thinking person believes they are (or will be) saved! James goes on to say, “You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Yet one must have faith in the sense of mental assent. It is a vital step in God’s plan of redemption. One who comes to God “must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6). One must believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 8:24). One must believe the facts of the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-4). But “faith only” in the sense of mere
mental assent will not save.

“Faith” also is used in a comprehensive sense to summarize all that one does to respond to the gospel and receive salvation. “For by grace you have been through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). “Grace” summarizes all that God has done to save us, including His love, mercy, kindness, the death of Christ, the blood of Christ, et al. “Faith” summarizes all that man must do to avail himself of God’s saving grace, including such acts of submissive obedience as repentance, confession, and baptism, none of which are works of meritorious righteous but works of faith done to receive the benefits of God’s grace. Even belief in Christ is said to be a “work” (John 6:29), but it is a work that God has made a condition of salvation, and without doing that “work” one cannot be saved (John 8:24). Further, Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16). Luke reported that “many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). (All emphasis mine, hf). In New Testament times, it was people who had complied with these divine conditions of salvation from sin who were identified as those who had “believed” (Acts 2:44; 4:32; 10:45; 16:34; I Timothy 4:12; et al).

Paul wrote, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Observe that Paul said “we have peace with God.” He included himself among those who had been justified by faith and obtained peace with God. But a study of the accounts of Paul’s conversion in the Book of Acts, chapters 9, 22, and 26, will reveal that he did not have peace with God until he arose from three days of fasting and prayer to be “baptized and wash away [his] sins” (Acts 9:9-11; 22:16)! Repentance and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) are involved in what it means biblically to believe or have faith.

Of “faith” in this comprehensive sense, Dr. Joseph Henry Thayer, Greek scholar and lexicographer, says: “A conviction, full of joyful trust, that Jesus is the Messiah—the divinely appointed author of eternal salvation in the kingdom of God, CONJOINED WITH OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST” (caps mine for emphasis, hf) (A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 511). In other words, saving faith is an obedient faith, submitting to whatever conditions/works Christ and/or His inspired apostles have set forth in order to be saved or to have the remission of sins. “Faith” in this comprehensive sense includes a life of continued faithfulness to the Lord in all things. “For we walk (live, hf) by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).

Faith also is used to refer to the object of belief, the body of truth (the gospel) revealed by the apostles and prophets of the New Testament (Ephesians 3:5), i.e., the entire Christian system as set forth in the New Testament. Following his conversion to Christ, Paul preached “the faith which he once tried to destroy” (Galatians 1:23). In this sense, there is but “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5). One can deny “the faith” and become worse than an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8). God’s faithful people are to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

Much more could be said about “faith.” We have barely “touched the hem of the garment” where this great subject is concerned. As my longtime friend and fellow preacher of the gospel, Jay Lockhart, said so many years ago in a lecture at Freed-Hardeman College (now University): “Faith is a subject of such depth that it thrills the soul as we try to fathom it, and of such breadth that it blesses the heart as we try to bridge it.”

Hugh Fulford

August 8, 2017

The Gift Of The Holy Spirit

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ ” (Acts 2:38).

When a person hears the gospel of Christ (the good news of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection) with an open heart, sincerely believes that message of God’s redeeming grace, genuinely repents of his sins, confesses faith in Christ as the Son of God, and is baptized (immersed) in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19) for the remission of sin (Acts 2:38), that person has properly appropriated the saving grace of God to his life. His sins have been remitted, he has “been justified (brought into a right standing, hf) by faith,” and has made “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). He has moved into the realm of God’s grace in which he now can stand with confidence and “rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1-2). Of the many spiritual blessings available to the person who has been baptized into Christ (Romans 6:3; Ephesians 1:3) is the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).

There is a wealth of information in the New Testament regarding the Holy Spirit and His work. In the apostolic days of the church (the first century), there were people who exhibited various miraculous manifestations of the Spirit, either as a result of having been baptized in the Holy Spirit (as were the apostles on the Day of Pentecost [Acts 2:1-4] and as were Cornelius and his household [Acts 10:44-48; Acts 11:15]), or as a result of having the hands of an apostle laid on them (as in the case of the Samaritans [Acts 8:14-17] and as in the case of 12 disciples in Ephesus [Acts 19:1-7]). A careful and thorough study of the New Testament reveals that these miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased once their purpose had been achieved (see Mark 16:17-20; Hebrews 2:1-4; I Corinthians 13:8-10). But the cessation of the miraculous manifestations of the Holy Spirit in no way denies the reality of God’s redeemed people possessing the Spirit as His gift to us.

The apostle Paul affirms: “And because you are sons (because we have become children of God, hf), God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ ” (Galatians 4:6). It is important to note that God does not send the Spirit of Christ into our hearts to make us His children; rather, we receive the Spirit of Christ because we have become God’s children.

Ephesians 1:3-14 is a magnificent section of Holy Scripture, providing the reader with a vast “sweep” of the magnitude and scope of God’s eternal purpose for mankind’s redemption. In the original Greek language of the New Testament, these 12 verses constitute one long sentence, a construction that is honored by the translators of the American Standard Version of 1801. But in order to make the passage more “manageable” to study and digest, other English translations–including the King James Version, the New King James Version, the New American Standard Version, and the New International Version–break the sentence down into paragraphs. Verses 3-6 summarize what God the Father has done for us, verses 7-12 show what we have in Christ the Son, and verses 13-14 tell what the indwelling Holy Spirit does for us. Let us look at these last two verses.

First, Paul briefly reviews the conversion process: (1) In Him (Christ) you also trusted (put your faith), (2) after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. (Let it be recalled that faith comes by hearing the word of God, Romans 10:17). Next, the apostle speaks of the results that occurred as a result of believing in Christ: (1) in whom (Christ) also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, (2) who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (Christians are God’s purchased possession, Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9-10). Paul concludes by declaring that all of this is “to the praise of His (God’s) glory.”

Let us now look a little more carefully at the two purposes for which God’s “purchased possession” (Christians) receive the Holy Spirit. First, the Holy Spirit is a seal (an official mark of ownership) that we indeed belong to God. This seal/mark is not outward or fleshly, but is inward and spiritual. Later, Paul writes: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30). We grieve God’s Holy Spirit when we live in ways that dishonor the One who owns us! The evidence of the Spirit’s seal on us (His indwelling us) is not in miraculous manifestations such as were characteristic of some in the apostolic age (as noted in paragraph two above), but rather in the manifestation of the beautiful “fruit of the Spirit [which] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Second, the Holy Spirit serves as a guarantee of the faithful Christian’s inheritance. The King James Version uses the quaint term “earnest,” a term we still use today in certain business transactions (as in “earnest money”) to indicate our good intentions to “carry through” on our part of a deal. God gives the Holy Spirit to His redeemed children as an earnest or deposit of His final reward. Elsewhere, Paul wrote: “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a deposit” (II Corinthians 1:21-22). Again, he said: “Now He who has prepared us for this very thing (our eternal dwelling place in heaven, verses 1-4, hf) is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a deposit” (II Corinthians 5:5).

When in our earthly transactions we put down earnest money on an intended purchase, we commit ourselves to a process that we do not want to abort or on which we do not want to renege. By the same token, when we commit ourselves to the Lord and receive His earnest/deposit of the Spirit, we do not want to abort His eternal intentions for us by grieving the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:30), quenching the Spirit (I Thessalonians 5:19), or by conducting ourselves in such a way as to wind up “not having the Spirit” (Jude 19). The apostle Paul unequivocally affirmed: “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His (Christ’s)” (Romans 8:9).

May we as the redeemed people of God heed the exhortation: “And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God” (Ephesians 5:18-21). And let us be duly reminded of what one must do to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
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BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
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Membership In The Church

“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47b).

One of the attendant blessings of being saved and brought into a right standing with God is membership in the church. Just as surely as a person who repents of his sins and is baptized for the remission of his sins receives the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), just that surely that person also is added to/incorporated into the spiritual body of Christ, the church (Acts 2:47; I Corinthians 12:13). According to the New Testament, there is no such thing as a person being saved and not being a member of the church. Membership in the church automatically follows being saved, as much so as daylight follows dark. Membership in the church is not a human act of “joining,” but a divine act by which the Lord Himself is the one who adds the saved person to the church. The person who cavalierly says: “You can be saved outside the church as well as inside the church, the church never saved anybody,” shows a remarkable lack of understanding of what the church is! While it is true that “the church never saved anybody,” nevertheless the church is the aggregate body of those people whom God has saved, and therefore there is not a saved person on earth who is not a member of the church!

The church had always been in the eternal purpose of God because God had always planned to save mankind through Jesus Christ (II Timothy 1:8-10), thus creating for Himself “a people for [His] own possession” ( Titus 2:14; I Peter 2:9). These “special people” are the ones who have come to faith in Christ as their Savior, and responded in obedience to the message of the gospel of God’s grace (Romans 6:16-18). As a result of receiving God’s salvation, they have been added to the church so “that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known (displayed, hf) by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Ephesians 3:10-11). And just as the church was in God’s eternal purpose “from the beginning of the ages” (Ephesians 3:9), so the church will be in the consummation of all things, for “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).

Christ Himself brought the church into existence. He said: “…and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Christ “built” the church by shedding His blood so that mankind might have the remission of sins (Matthew 26:28), and all who receive remission of sins by the blood of Christ become members of “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28). (Note: This verse is a powerful proclamation of the deity of Christ, for it was God the Son [Christ] who shed His blood for the sins of the world [I Peter 1:18-19], yet in this pasage Paul designates Him as “God,” as do many other passages). Since the church is composed of those who have been “purchased with His own blood,” there is not a blood-cleansed, blood-redeemed person anywhere on earth who is not a member of the Lord’s church. And since Christ is the one who paid the purchase price for the church, it belongs uniquely to Him!

The reasons for membership in the church are many. Christians (people redeemed by Christ) need fellowship with one another. The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation from the rest of God’s people. The writer of the Book of Hebrews admonishes: “And let us consider one another so as to stir up to love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25). God’s people need the blessings and benefits to be derived from corporate worship and fellowship (Acts 2:41-47; Acts 20:7). The notion that one can be “a good Christian” without having to “go to church” is not rooted in New Testament teaching, as the above passages so clearly reveal.

For this reason, Christians are to be organized into local congregations/churches, with a plurality of elders (also known as pastors, shepherds, bishops) tending “the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers…” (I Peter 5:2). Paul and Barnabas “appointed elders in every church” (Acts 14:23). The only organizational and governmental structure for the church known in the New Testament is the local church “with the bishops and deacons” (Philippians 1:1). Both elders/bishops/pastors (in the New Testament, all of these terms refer to the same function) and deacons must meet certain qualifications in order to scripturally serve as such (I Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9). When these divine qualifications are ignored or compromised, great harm comes to the church.

People skilled in evangelism serve in the local church, with some serving fulltime as paid evangelists, preachers, and teachers (I Corinthians 9:14). But every member of the local church is to see himself or herself as a minister/servant of Christ (I Peter 4:10). The New Testament does not make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity,” but sets forth the principle that all of God’s people are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…” (I Peter 2:9).

For this reason, Christians are to “serve one another” (Galatians 5:13), “be hospitable to one another” (I Peter 4:9), “comfort one another” (I Thessalonians 4:18), “exhort (encourage and admonish) one another” (Hebrews 3:13), “confess [their] faults to one another, and pray for one another” (James 5:16), and above all “love one another fervently with a pure heart” (I Peter 1:22). Christians are “members of one another” because they are members of the “one body” of Christ, which is the church (Romans 12:4-5; Ephesians 1:22-23). So intimate, in fact, is the relationship between Christ and the members of His church that Paul says: “For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:30).

Membership in the church is a rich privilege. Such membership cannot be purchased with money. It cannot be earned by good works. It comes only as result of complying with the conditions set forth by Christ and His apostles for appropriating His grace and being saved. When those conditions are met, the Lord adds that person to the church. Having been saved and added to the church, one must not take his or her membership lightly, as if little is required or expected of them. All members of the church must heed the exhortation: “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kindgdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 1:10-11).
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BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
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The Christian Life

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

As a result of appropriating the saving grace of God to one’s life through faith in Christ, repentance of all sin, confession of faith in Christ, and baptism into the death of Christ (Romans 6:3-4), at which point all of one’s sins are washed away (Acts 22:16; Revelation 1:5b), a person enters a state of justification (right standing) with God (Romans 5:1-2). At the same time, he receives the gift of God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38) and is added to the church, the aggregate body of all who have been saved from their sins through obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:47). As a member of the church and with God’s Spirit dwelling in him, how is such a person to live day by day? After all, a great change has taken place in a redeemed person’s standing before God, and that change should be reflected in the everyday life of that person. There is a difference between a Christian and a non-Christian!

As a redeemed child of God, a Christian is “a new creation/creature” (II Corinthians 5:17). His words, deeds, actions, and attitudes are to demonstrate that new relationship. He is not to “continue in sin” for “how shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2). Having become God’s child, a Christian is to live “in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). This “newness of life” is reflected in a number of ways.

The holy God is now the object of the Christian’s supreme love (Matthew 22:37-38), and the kingdom of God and His righteousness is a Christian’s top priority (Matthew 6:33). Worship–both private and corporate–are eagerly and earnestly engaged in by a faithful child of God (John 4:24; Matthew 6:5-6; Acts 20:7; Hebrews 10:25).

A redeemed child of God abstains from every form of evil (I Thessalonians 5:22) and does not engage in “the works of the flesh…which are these: adultery, fornication, [moral] uncleaness, licentiousness (a loose attitude toward God’s sexual standards, hf), idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contention, jealousy, outburts of wrath, selfish ambition, dissensions, heresies (false teachings and practices, hf), envy, murder, drunkenness, revelry, and the like…[because] those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21). Rather, the child of God, having received God’s Spirit (Galatians 4:6; Acts 2:38), keeps himself “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), and allows the Spirit to produce in his life the beautiful and multi-faceted “fruit of the Spirt [which] is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Christian life was not meant to be lived in isolation from the rest of the world–in a cave or conclave or monastery–but in the milieu of humanity, with Christians being “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation among you are seen as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:15). As Edwin Jones recently wrote: “Daily life is the arena for effective Christ-likeness,” and it is in this arena that all Christians are to be “the fragrance (aroma) of Christ” (II Corinthians 2:15).

Beginning at home as husbands, wives, and parents, Christians are to practice the principles of Christ. God’s law regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage is to be honored (Matthew 5:31-31; Matthew 19:1-9; Romans 7:2-3). Parents, and especially fathers, are to bring their children up “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4). The home is the bulwark and backbone of civilization, and without strong, God-fearing homes where God’s Word is honored there is no solution to the moral degradation that is currently destroying the very fabric of America!

In one’s work, recreation, business transactions, and social interaction with others, a Christian is to be honest, upright, dependable, and fair, always practicing “the golden rule” (Matthew 7:12). A Christian is to “aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind [his] own business, and to work with [his] own hands…[and to] walk properly toward those who are outsiders” (I Thessalonians 4:11-12). He is to “lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2). He is to be a law-abiding citizen (Romans 13:1-7). He is to “pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Over the years, a number of Biblical passages pertaining to a truly Christian life have become indelibly impressed upon my mind and memory–some from childhood. As I complete this Study I will list some of these passages in the hope that you, the reader, will take the time to turn to them in your Bible, absorb their message, and let them shape your life. They are: Matthew 5:3-14; Matthew 6:31-34; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 22:37-40; Luke 6:46; John 13:35; Acts 2:42; Acts 20:24; Romans 12; I Corinthians 13; I Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 5:22-26; Ephesians 4:17-24; Ephesians 5:15-21; Philippians 1:21; Philippians 3:7-11; Colossians 3:1-4; I Thessalonians 5:16-22; I Timothy 2:1-4; II Timothy 4:6-8; Titus 2:11-14; Hebrews 4:15-16; Hebrews 10:19-25; Hebrews 12:1-2; James 1:21-27; II Peter 1:5-11; I John 4:7-8; Revelation 14:13.

If this essay has blessed you, feel free to forward it to others who may benefit from it.

Hugh Fulford