HOW TO STAY MARRIED FOR SIXTY + YEARS
On September 7, Jan and I celebrated sixty-one years of marriage. We were married in Loudon, Tennessee in 1957 by James Matthews, professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and minister of the Loudon Church of Christ. How do people stay married for sixty or more years? I do not have all the answers to this question, but by virtue of having been married that long, perhaps I have a few insights that will be helpful.
The facetious answer to the question is three-fold: 1) marry young, 2) don’t divorce, and 3) live a long time! Jan and I both were young (19) when we married. Divorce has never been a viable option for us. And we both have now been blessed to live to be 80 years of age. At some point we will die, and when the first one goes, our marriage will end. Sixty-one years ago we vowed “until death do us part,” and that has never changed. Of course, in the life hereafter “they neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Matthew 22:30).
Staying married for sixty or more years is both easy and hard. When marriage is based on certain spiritual commitments, it is easy to stay married. Yet, in spite of these commitments, remaining married to the same person is hard. Marriage may be made in heaven, but it has to be worked out here on earth. The human factor is intensely involved in the marriage relationship, and it takes a lot of hard work for a couple to stay together. A marriage will not last very long when selfishness, self-centeredness, ego, and “me-itis” characterize one or both marriage partners.
A good and lasting marriage must be based on agape, self-sacrificing love, love that puts the other person ahead of oneself. This kind of love suffers long and is kind. It is neither envious nor arrogant. It does not act rudely or seek to have its own way. It is not easily provoked and it thinks no evil of the marriage partner. It does not rejoice in wrong-doing but rejoices in the truth. This kind of love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things (I Corinthians 13:1-7).
Have Jan and I always perfectly demonstrated these qualities toward each other? No. Have we ever had strong disagreements about a number of matters? Absolutely! The person who says that he or she has never had an argument with his or her spouse will lie about other things as well! However, when a marriage is based not only on sexual love and attraction, but on the self-sacrificing kind of love that Christ had for the church (Ephesians 5:25), that marriage will both survive and thrive. Lasting marriages are built on the “leave and cleave” principle (Genesis 2:24, KJV).
The Bible gives much instruction concerning the marriage relationship (Genesis 2:18-25; Matthew 5:32; Matthew 19:1-12; Romans 7:1-3; I Corinthians 7:1-40; Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; Titus 2:3-5; Hebrews 13:4; I Peter 3:1-7; et al). When one is ignorant of what God says about marriage or when one ignores what God has said about marriage, one should not expect to have a long and happy marriage. Ira North, a gospel preacher, said, “You cannot do wrong and get by with it” – either in this world or in the world to come!
A sense of humor contributes greatly to a lasting marriage. Being able to laugh with each other is of immeasurable value. Common interests make for an enduring and happy marriage. Jan and I both love to travel, and we have seen a good part of our country—both coasts, New England, all over the southeast, Yellowstone, the Rockies, the Tetons, Mount Rushmore, South Padre Island and the Rio Grande Valley (with lunch in Matamoras, Mexico), a cruise to Alaska, Vancouver Island, B. C., and several of the restoration movement historical sites, etc., etc. My work as a minister has taken us on some of these trips, but most were planned vacations (intentional time away from work, intentional time to relax). We both like the Gulf Coast of Alabama and Florida and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. I have been privileged to have been in all the states except Michigan and Hawaii. Jan has been with me to most of these. When our grandchildren were small, we enjoyed taking them on short trips to places they wanted to go. As we have gotten older, shorter trips are more appealing to us.
Jan and I enjoy taking walks together, going to the movies (though good ones are getting increasingly hard to find), eating out, and watching TV together, though we don’t have the same tastes and likes in all of these areas. We both enjoy the college football season and watching our favorite teams on television.
Holidays and family traditions are important to us. When our own children were young we went to our respective parents’ homes for Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as other times throughout the year. For many years now our son and his family spend time with both us and our daughter-in-law’s parents during the holidays. (We are blessed in having our daughter-in-law’s parents living only a few miles from us). Trips to see our son and his family are still important to us.
No marriage can last without a deep respect for God. The church has been the center of Jan’s and my life. Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night attendance have been the pattern for us throughout our married life, even on our honeymoon! We read the Bible together and pray together. We keep an on-going prayer list of family, friends, and fellow Christians for whom we pray on a regular, rotating basis.
Our marriage has not been a perfect one because we are two imperfect human beings. But we have worked at it. A long and happy marriage (like anything else that is worthwhile) requires work. We love each other and respect each other. Our personalities are different, and sometimes our personalities clash. We apologize and forgive and move on. So far we have “moved on” to sixty-one years of wedded happiness. We often pray for many more years together, to love and care for each other. Lord, may it be, if it is Your will.
September 11, 2018
September 21-23: Gatlinburg, TN Church of Christ
A FEW PERSONAL MATTERS AND UPDATES
KARNS CHURCH OF CHRIST, KNOXVILLE, TN: On Sunday, August 19, I had the privilege and honor of speaking at the Homecoming and Open House of the Karns Church of Christ in Knoxville, Tennessee. The church was celebrating sixty-five years of existence as a congregation and also hosting an open house for their newly expanded auditorium and a new two-story classroom and office building for the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies, a work of the Karns church under the oversight of its six very wise and capable elders.
The church had its beginning in June of 1953 when Bill Nicks, minister of the Highland View Church of Christ in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, conducted a tent meeting on the north side of Oak Ridge Highway in Karns. Nine people obeyed the gospel during that meeting, most of them from denominational backgrounds.
On Sunday, August 24, 1959 I began my work as Karns’ first full-time minister. Ninety people were present that Sunday morning 59 years ago. On Sunday, August 19, 2018, six times that number—540—were present for the Homecoming and Open House! Of that number, only seven were present from the years that I served as the preacher at Karns. Most of those who were members when I preached there have passed away. But how good it was to see the seven! And how good it was to see the tremendous growth that has taken place at Karns over the year! Of course, I have kept up with the church through the years, and have returned on numerous occasions to preach in gospel meetings and to speak on the school’s annual lectureship programs, including the first one in 1975. The church and school were kind and gracious to honor me with an Appreciation Dinner during the school’s lectureship in 2015.
Steve Higginbotham is in his eighth year as minister of the church and is doing an outstanding work. Justin Morton serves as the associate minister. The church is served by twenty-three deacons and, as previously mentioned, it is led by six very good, sound, and wise elders/shepherds/pastors. May the Lord’s blessings continue to attend the Karns Church of Christ and the Southeast Institute of Biblical Studies!
POLISHING THE PULPIT, SEVIERVILLE, TN: Following the day’s activities at Karns I then drove the short distance to Sevierville, Tennessee to attend and participate in the wonderful Polishing the Pulpit (PTP) program, an event featuring lectures and classes for preachers, elders, deacons, Bible school teachers, missionaries, women, teens, and children. This outstanding program is wielding a powerful and tremendously positive influence for the cause of pure, New Testament Christianity all around the globe! This year’s attendance set another record—5,027!
It was my privilege to teach four classes on “Wrapping Our Heads Around the Restoration Concept.” My classes were well attended and I was delighted to talk about the meaning and validity of the restoration concept, to share a number of telling and significant insights into the restoration plea, and to tell a little about the life and work of four of the lesser known yet great leaders of the restoration movement.
As this great program continues to grow in influence and popularity among faithful brethren, and as more and more people attend it year after year, we can expect “potshots” to increasingly be taken at it by the fence-straddlers and the left wingers among us. But PTP is in good hands under the oversight of the strong and faithful elders of the Lord’s church in Jacksonville, Alabama and the capable hands of such men as Allen Webster and his associates. May its power and influence continue to grow! Let us all pray for the continued success of this and all other “true to the Book” programs designed to advance the cause of New Testament Christianity in relevant and biblical ways in the present age!
MY NEWEST BOOK: Hopefully, within the next month, I will have a new book coming from the press titled Restoration News and Views. The book is being published by Hester Publications in Henderson, Tennessee and consists of a collection of original essays I have written on the restoration movement. The book consists of four parts: 1) Restoration Plea, 2) Restoration Principles, 3) Restoration Perspectives, and 4) Restoration Personalities. It will sell for $10.00 (plus shipping and handling) and will be available through me.
AN UPDATE ON MY WIFE: So very many have inquired about how Jan (my wife) is doing after a bad fall here at our home on July 24, cutting a gash on her forehead and breaking a bone in her right foot. Thankfully, she is recovering nicely. She is still in a walking “boot,” but she is able to drive and to carry on most of her normal activities. We appreciate all of the cards she has received from so many and all of the prayers that have been lifted up for her. She is a trooper! In less than two weeks we will celebrate our 61st wedding anniversary (D.V.). What a blessing she has been to my life and to the lives of our son, daughter-in-law, and two grandchildren! She has blessed so many others, including hundreds of children she taught during a 31 year teaching career, as well as those she influenced through her many years of teaching children’s Bible classes in the churches we have served over the years.
August 28, 2018
Hugh Fulford page parts 12-21, 5.3.10
FORTY THINGS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHRISTIAN LIVING
The followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch (in Syria) in c. A.D. 41-43 (Acts 11:26). By the preaching of the apostle Paul, Agrippa, a Jewish king, was almost persuaded to be a Christian (Acts 26:28). The apostle Peter said, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter/name” (I Peter 4:16[NKJV; cf. ASV]).
1. Christian living, in its essence, involves walking in the steps of Christ (I Peter 2:21). Marshall Keeble (1878-1968), the great black evangelist, said, “When you take ‘Christ’ out of ‘Christian,’ all you have left is i.a.n., and that just means ‘I ain’t nothing’!” As we say today, brother Keeble was “spot on.”
2. Christian living demands that we “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18).
3. It expects us to observe all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20).
4. It involves continuing “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
5. As a Christian everything we do in word or deed is to be done “in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” i.e., by His authority and for His glory (Colossians 3:17).
6. Christian living requires us to love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, and mind (Matthew 22:37-38).
7. It requires us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matthew 22:39)
8. Christian living involves having the mind/attitude/disposition of Christ in all areas of life (Philippians 2:5-8).
9. Christian living requires us to live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (Titus 2:11-14).
10. It requires us to abstain from “fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11).
11. It demands that we love not the world or the things of the world (I John 2:15-17).
12. It expects us to “be careful to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8).
13. Christian living involves being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, and letting our light so shine that others may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:13-16).
14. Christian living involves being living epistles (letters), known and read of all men (II Corinthians 3:2).
15. It demands that our conduct/manner of life “be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
16. Christian living requires us to be diligent to present ourselves approved to God (II Timothy 2:15).
17. It necessitates worshiping God in spirit and truth (John 4:24).
18. It involves being regular and faithful in attending the gatherings of God’s people for Bible study and worship (Hebrews 10:24-25).
19. Christian living demands that we “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).
20. It requires us to search the Scriptures daily to differentiate between that which is true and that which is false in religion (Acts 17:11).
21. Christian living demands that we “watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong,” and that we “let all that [we] do be done with love” (I Corinthians 16:13).
22. Christian living requires us to present our bodies as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable to God, knowing that such is our reasonable service (Romans 12:1). (Note: The entirety of Romans 12 is a succinct guide to faithful Christian living.)
23. Faithful Christian living demands that we abstain from the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21).
24. It expects us to produce the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26).
25. Christian living demands that we “walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called” and that we endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
26. It requires us to put away lying and to speak truth with our neighbor (fellowman) (Ephesians 4:25).
27. It requires us to put on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the wiles (snares, traps, tricks) of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-18).
28. Christian living necessitates thinking on the right kinds of things (Philippians 4:8).
29. It involves setting our mind on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:1-2).
30. Christian living requires taking heed that we not develop an evil heart of unbelief in falling away from the living God (Hebrews 3:12).
31. Christian living demands that we make our calling and election sure by adding various Christian graces to our lives (II Peter 1:5-11).
32. It requires that we understand that religion is not something we “get,” but something we do (James 1:27).
33. Christian living requires continuous walking in the light (I John 1:1-10).
34. Christian living demands that we not be gullible in what we believe, but that we put all teachers and teaching to the test, knowing that “many false prophets have gone out into the world,” including many who profess to be followers of Christ (I John 4:1).
35. Christian living requires abiding in the doctrine of Christ (II John 9).
36. Christian living requires earnestly contending for “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
37. It involves avoiding lukewarmness in our relationship with the Lord, and instead demands that we be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Revelation 3:14-16; Romans 12:11).
38. Christian living demands that we be “steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord,” knowing that our labor is not in vain in the Lord (I Corinthians 15:58).
39. Christian living requires us to be “faithful unto death,” knowing that we shall receive the crown of everlasting life (Revelation 2:10).
40. Christian living is centered in the reality that “to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
May 1, 2018
FORTY THINGS WE ALL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT SALVATION
(A JOYOUS PRELUDE TO THIS WEEK’S “NEWS & VIEWS”: Carson Fulford, our sweet and beautiful fifteen year old granddaughter, was baptized into Christ by her father (our son) this past Sunday night at the church of Christ in Mentor, Ohio. We are so happy for Carson and so proud of her! Our son, his wife, and our two grandchildren are now all faithful members of the body of Christ. What more could a mother and father and a grandmother and grandfather ask for?)
Last summer we did three essays (not consecutively) on Forty Things We All Need To Know About The Church, Forty Things We All Need To Know About Christ, and Forty Things We All Need To Know About The Holy Spirit. Periodically throughout this year we plan to do three or four additional “Forty Things We All Need To Know . . .” articles. This week we identify Forty Things We All Need To Know About Salvation. It is important to note that in the Scriptures salvation is attributed to a number of factors. No one passage sets forth everything that is involved in one’s salvation, but while more may be required than a single passage states, nothing less than what is stated in a passage is necessary for salvation. For example, we are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9), but that does not negate the fact that we also are saved by baptism (Mark 16:16; I Peter 3:21). Following are forty things we all need to know about salvation.
1. All have sinned and are in need of salvation (Romans 3:23).
2. God planned before time began to provide salvation through Jesus Christ (II Timothy 1:8-11; Titus 1:1-3).
3. Salvation is made possible according to the eternal purpose which God purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ephesians 3:11).
4. Throughout the ages of Old Testament history God was preparing mankind for the coming of Christ into the world to save mankind (Genesis 3:15: 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 18:15-18; Galatians 3:16; 4:6).
5. Through numerous Old Testament types, shadows, pictures, and prophecies the redeeming work of Christ was set forth (I Peter 1:10-12; Hebrews 7:1-10:25).
6. God is our savior and desires all people to be saved (I Timothy 2:3-4).
7. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; I Timothy 3:15).
8. Salvation is possible because of the death of Christ and His subsequent life following His resurrection (Romans 5:6-10; Hebrews 7:25).
9. Salvation is by the grace and mercy of God (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7).
10. Salvation is by faith (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 5:1).
11. Salvation is by the blood of Christ (Matthew 26:28; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7).
12. We are saved by the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17; I Corinthians 15:1-4).
13. Salvation is in the name of Christ (Acts 4:11-12).
14. Not everyone will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14, 21; II Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 21:8).
15. Salvation depends on one’s obedience to Christ and the gospel (Matthew 7:21; Romans 6:16-18; Hebrews 5:8-9).
16. Salvation requires that one be born again of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5).
17. The word of God is able to save our souls (James 1:21).
18. In order to be saved one must hear and understand the gospel (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15; Romans 10:17; I Corinthians 18:8; cf. Mark 4:12).
19. Salvation is dependent on faith in God and believing that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Hebrew 11:6; John 8:24; 14:6).
20. Salvation demands genuine repentance of all sin (Luke 13:3-5; Acts 3:19; 17:30; II Peter 3:9).
21. Salvation requires a confession of one’s faith in Christ as the Son of God (Matthew 10:32-33; Acts 8:37 [KJV; NKJV]; Romans 10:9-10).
22. Baptism is necessary to salvation (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:26-27; I Peter 3:21).
23. Salvation requires being buried with Christ in baptism and being raised from the waters of baptism to walk in newness of life (Romans 6:1-6).
24. One is saved by calling on the name of the Lord (Acts 2:21; 22:16).
25. In order to be saved, one must obey from the heart that form of teaching (doctrine) to which he was delivered (Romans 6:16-18).
26. Salvation is not by meritorious works of human righteousness (Titus 3:4-7).
27. Salvation is by works of obedience to the will of God and not by faith only (Acts 10:34-35; James 2:24; Hebrews 5:8-9).
28. Salvation exists in three stages: a) Salvation from past sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:1-7), b) Salvation in the present by remaining faithful to the Lord and continuing to walk in the light of God’s word (I John 1:8-10), c) Eternal salvation in heaven (I Peter 1:9; II Peter 1:10-11).
29. Salvation involves being reconciled to God in the one spiritual body of Christ, the church (Ephesians 2:11-22; 1:22-23; 4:4).
30. When one is saved from his past sins, he is added to the church, the body of people who have already been saved from their past sins (Acts 2:47).
31. Christ is the savior of the body, the church, and one must be a member of the church in order to have eternal salvation (Ephesians 5:23).
32. When one is saved from his past sins, he is translated into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love (Colossians 1:13).
33. At the end of time, Christ will deliver the kingdom to God the Father, and one must be a citizen of the kingdom in order to be among those who will be presented to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24).
34. We are saved in/by hope (Romans 8:24; Titus 1:1-3).
35. Eternal salvation in heaven depends on remaining faithful to the Lord and continuing steadfastly in service to Him (Matthew 10:22; Revelation 2:10; Acts 2:42; I Corinthians 15:58).
36. One can forfeit his or her salvation and fall away from the Lord, fall from grace, and be eternally lost (I Corinthians 10:12; Galatians 5:4; Hebrews 3:12).
37. Eternal salvation depends on being repentant of the sins we commit as Christians and confessing those sins (Acts 8:22; I John 1:9).
38. As Christians we must make our calling and election sure, so that we may have an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (II Peter 1:10-11).
39. Eternal salvation will be realized in everlasting life in heaven (Philippians 3:20-21; II Corinthians 5:1; John 14:1-3).
40. Those who reject God’s gracious offer of salvation through Christ and those who forfeit their salvation by becoming unfaithful to the Lord will be eternally lost in hell (Matthew 25:46; II Thessalonians 1:6-10; Revelation 20:15; 21:8; Hebrews 10:31).
April 3, 2018
April 4, 11, 18, 25: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
RADIO AND TV PREACHING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENTRADIO & TV PREACHING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
(Note: This is the final installment of a speech I gave at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon on February 5 as part of the 82nd Annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures. The full title of the speech was “The Power Of Radio And Television Preaching In The Restoration Movement”).
In 1936 a 14 year old boy in rural southern Oklahoma began listening to W. L. Oliphant’s radio program out of Dallas, TX. He determined then and there that as an adult he would become a gospel preacher and would use radio to reach the masses. God, of course, had bigger plans for Mack Lyon.
In 1980, on a small NBC affiliate in Ada, OK, Mack launched the television program “In Search of the Lord’s Way.” In 1982 he moved the program to Edmond, OK where the program remains under the oversight of the Edmond elders. (Incidentally, not unlike what happened to U. L. Allen when he obeyed the gospel [Part 1 of this series], when Mack determined that he was going to become a gospel preacher [a preacher of what his father referred to as “the doctrine of the church of Christ”], he was told by his father to pack his suitcase and leave home. Mack did so).
Known for his kindness and gentleness, Mack was anything but flashy, but he preached the gospel effectively to millions of people every week for 30 years via TV. Since 2009 Phil Sanders has continued the program. Those of us who know and love Phil know the program is in good hands. He too is kind and gentle, but uncompromising in his presentation of the gospel.
The program now appears in the top 210 TV markets in the U. S., is seen in all fifty states, as well as in many markets abroad. It is seen in South Korea, Guam, the Virgin Islands, the Bahamas, Guyana, Trinidad, Dominica, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Iceland. From the states of New York, Michigan, and North Dakota the program reaches into various parts of Canada. It reaches hundreds of islands in the Pacific Rim. Via the internet, it goes into all the world!
Think how many souls have been saved and how many congregations of the New Testament order have been established – all unknown to us. We can rejoice in knowing that millions have access to the gospel every week via “In Search of the Lord’s Way.”
The “Herald of Truth” began in 1952 in Abilene, TX under the oversight of the elders of the 5th & Highland Church of Christ. James Walter Nichols and James D. Willeford were the early speakers. Actually, Nichols and Willeford had had a joint program in the upper mid-west beginning in the late 1940s and early 1950s. They persuaded the elders of the 5th & Highland church to take the oversight of the program and help them move it to a national level. G. K. Wallace was the first guest speaker on the program. E. R. Harper, George Bailey, and Batsell Barrett Baxter were some of the later speakers.
“Herald of Truth” expanded to television in 1954, featuring Batsell Barrett Baxter and others. B. C. Goodpasture, longtime editor of the Gospel Advocate, loved to tell the story of a family in Atlanta who watched the program every Sunday morning before going to church. One Sunday morning when the rest of the family was a little slow getting dressed for church, the little boy in the family said, “Y’all need to hurry and get in here – brother BUSHEL BARREL BASKET is about to come on!”
I do not know the state of the program today. I never hear anything about it. But at one time it had a great influence and accomplished much in the proclamation of the gospel in its apostolic purity and wholeness in the advancement of undenominational Christianity.
E. W. Stovall was a very effective radio preacher. He conducted programs in Bonham, TX, Blytheville, AR, Glasgow, KY, and other places where he served as the local preacher of a church of Christ. He was extremely successful in his radio work, especially with people ensnared in denominational churches. I believe it was in Glasgow, KY that an older man and his wife listened to brother Stovall every day on the radio. One day after the broadcast the man turned to his wife and said, “Mama, we have been wrong, and we have to get right.” They obeyed the gospel and became simple New Testament Christians! How many times down through the years could a similar story be told of the power of local radio preaching?
For many years James Watkins conducted a very effective TV program titled “Preaching the Gospel with James W. Watkins.” The program continues with Cliff Lyons as the speaker. Jack Wilhelm (along with other speakers) conducted “Televisit With the Bible,” a noon program seen Monday through Friday in Florence, AL. Billy Lambert of Summerdale, AL conducts a television program on Direct TV called “Getting to Know Your Bible.” The Gospel Broadcasting Network, under the oversight of the elders of the church in Southhaven, MS, a suburb of Memphis, TN, provides 24/7 television broadcasting of New Testament Christianity. We could tell many, many other stories about the power of radio and TV preaching in the advancement of the plea for undenominational Christianity.
I will conclude this three part series with the following statement from Roy Beasley’s Restoration Radio-Gram of July 2013 and an article titled “40 Years in Radio Has Taught Me Much.” Brother Beasley writes:
“I have experienced firsthand the powerful potential of radio outreach. I have long admired the tremendous good accomplished by many Christian broadcasters such as V. E. Howard and others. I have heard from many listeners to gospel radio whose lives have been drastically changed. The late James Swafford, a preacher friend of mine, told me how he was converted by listening to a gospel preacher on his car radio. Toby Miller, a radio announcer, who used to put my show on the air in Indiana, got to listening to my messages and was soon converted. He described himself as being the ‘next thing to an atheist,’ but now he is a good gospel preacher—one of the best. There are many other stories I could tell.
“I have learned that radio is a powerful tool in evangelism. There are more listeners to radio now than ever before. The average household, we are told, has access to five radios. In other parts of the world, especially Third World countries, access to TV is limited and too expensive for most people to own. But, they do have radios. They depend upon radio for entertainment, information, and spiritual sustenance….”
March 13, 2018
(Note: This week we resume with Part 2 of a speech I gave at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon on February 5 as part of the 82nd Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures. The full title of the speech was “The Power Of Radio And Television Preaching In The Restoration Movement”).
So far as I have been able to determine, the longest running radio program among churches of Christ is that of the Central church in downtown Nashville. In fact, according to reliable sources, the Central church hosts the U. S. A.’s longest running religious broadcast. I understand that in the lobby of the Central church building there is a certificate indicating that the radio program began a couple of months before the launch of the Grand Ole Opry which had its first broadcast on November 28, 1925.
In 1928, Hall L. Calhoun became the full-time radio preacher for the Central church. The regular Sunday services were broadcast, and Calhoun conducted a noon worship service which was broadcast every day from 12:25 to 12:55. According to J. E. Choate (via Scott Harp’s website, The Restoration Movement), thousands heard Calhoun preach in his effective and inimitable way. He was responsible for teaching many people who might not have otherwise heard and learned the truth. It was said that all the businesses along Broadway in Nashville were tuned into the program each day and that a person could walk from one business establishment to another without missing a word of the program! The program is still heard daily on W.N.A.H. in Nashville.
In 1934, in Hot Springs, AR, a young 23 year old preacher by the name of Verna Elisha Howard began a radio program. Over the next few years, the program was expanded to include stations in TX, LA, IL, OK, MO, and Mexico. Eventually it landed on the powerful 250,000 watt station XERF in Mexico, across the river from Del Rio, TX and was heard in all states, as well as Canada and other parts of the world.
Brother Howard was the speaker on what eventually became known as The International Gospel Hour and continued in that role for sixty-one years – from 1934 to 1995. Multiplied thousands of his sermons were printed and mailed to all parts of the world. Many of them were published in book form: Is the Church of Christ a Denomination?, What is the Church of Christ?, Roman Catholicism Vs. Freedom, Fake Healers Exposed, as well as others.
Brother Howard became known for his distinctive phrase, “Are you listening?” From 1945 until his death, the IGH radio program and evangelistic meetings were his work. He baptized over 8000 during his lifetime. How many were baptized or restored, or how many congregations were started as a result of his radio work, I doubt if anyone knows.
The IGH continues under the oversight of the elders of the West Fayetteville (TN) Church of Christ, and has been a powerful witness to the influence of radio preaching in advancing the restoration of apostolic Christianity.
In about 1950 the Getwell Church of Christ was established in Memphis, TN and Emerson J. Estes moved there to preach for the new congregation. The church began a thirty minute Sunday morning radio program that has continued to the present, making it one of the oldest continuous radio programs operated by brethren. Brother Estes was blessed with a marvelous speaking voice and was an extremely effective radio preacher.
In 1959, Alan Highers succeeded brother Estes as the preacher at Getwell and the program was expanded to forty-five minutes of continuous preaching every Sunday morning. In time, Alan formatted it into a Question and Answer program, thereby greatly increasing its popularity.
On one occasion when he was preaching in a meeting in Savannah, TN two ladies came to Alan and said they wanted to meet him because they had been converted by listening to his radio program from Memphis.
On another occasion, Alan stopped at a business in Eupora, MS to visit an uncle of his wife. His wife’s uncle said to him, “Wait here a moment, I have someone I want you to meet.” In a few minutes he came back leading an elderly man and his wife. The man was obviously blind. He said to the man, “Uncle Joe, I have someone I want you to meet.” Alan stepped forward to speak to the man and he immediately recognized Alan’s voice and called him by name. He had heard him preach on the radio and he and his wife had been converted. His wife would write down the scriptures Alan used and after the program she would read them to her husband. They traveled fifteen miles to the nearest church of Christ to be baptized for the remission of their sins.
On two occasions, Alan read tracts on the broadcast. One was “I Married a Catholic.” The other was “What Smoking Has Done For Me,” a tract in which a brother explained that he was dying of lung cancer due to smoking. Some listeners tuned in late and did not know that Alan was reading from a tract. Over the next several days, Alan received several sympathy cards in the mail!
Nearly seventy years after its beginning, the program continues every Sunday morning from 8:00 to 8:30 on W.H.B.Q. Gary Colley is the current speaker.
(To Be Continued
RADIO AND TV PREACHING IN THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
On February 5, 2018, as part of the 82nd Annual Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectureship, I was privileged to speak at the “Friends of the Restoration” luncheon on “The Power of Radio and TV Preaching in the Restoration Movement.” Following is some of the anecdotal history I presented on that occasion.
In 1948, from the small Florida panhandle town of Crestview, W. B. Hughes preached the gospel on the radio. A few miles away, in the little village of Baker, FL, U. L. Allen, a 23 year old blind man, sat expectantly by the radio waiting to hear brother Hughes’ sermon. He hung on every word and absorbed the simple gospel that brother Hughes preached. On August 5, 1948, at great personal cost, U. L. Allen was baptized into Christ by Burl Hughes. U. L. was immediately expelled from his home by his father!
Seven months after his conversion to the undenominational way of the New Testament and with a Braille Bible as his only resource, U. L. preached his first sermon. He went on to serve as minister of churches in Blackmon, FL and Baker, FL, then devoted his life to evangelistic meetings. He established several congregations. His meeting work took him to fifteen states (including Hawaii), as well as to Canada and Africa. He preached on the radio and baptized many people, including, eventually, his father, mother, sister, and several other relatives.
I spent my early boyhood years in the Florida panhandle, heard W. B. Hughes in many gospel meetings, and was privileged to know U. L. Allen. He regularly attended area gospel meetings, was known by nearly all of the brethren, and when anyone would greet him by saying, “I am glad to see you, brother Allen,” he would respond with “I am glad to SEE you, too!” – always with a big smile on his face.
The last time I remember seeing U. L. was in Clarksville, TN in the late 1960s. He and Howard Blazer, Sr. came by the Madison St. church building to visit me one morning. It was Ladies’ Bible Class day, and I asked U. L. to teach the class. The ladies were all utterly captivated by him and his mastery of the Scriptures. How many souls will be in heaven because of the preaching of U. L. Allen – converted to Christ by radio preaching?!
My own experience in radio preaching began early – in the summer of 1957 at the Clements Street church in Paducah, KY – when I was 19 years old. I preached that summer at Clements Street while Frank Gould held his meetings – some nine or ten. It was a tremendous experience for a young preacher still in college.
The work included a live fifteen minute radio broadcast Monday through Friday. I would get to the church office early and begin working on my radio message for the day. It aired at noon. I knew exactly how many typewritten pages I needed for the thirteen to fourteen minutes I would be on the air.
I did not attempt to talk about the authorship of Deuteronomy, how many “Isaiahs” there were, or any of the various millennial theories! I stuck with the basics – things that I knew: faith, repentance, confession, baptism, the establishment of the church, the identity of the church, worship, daily Christian living, etc. I don’t know that I converted anyone that summer by my radio preaching, but the gospel was preached, the program that Clements Street had conducted for many years continued, and a young preacher grew in grace and knowledge and gained invaluable experience.
Frank Gould, an outstanding Bible student and a great gospel minister, preached at Clements Street for fourteen years, and I am sure that many were converted to the Lord and strengthened in the faith by his radio preaching. The power of radio preaching was felt throughout Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southeast Missouri, and Northwest Tennessee.
Down in Jasper, AL Gus Nichols for many years conducted two daily thirty minute radio programs – one at 8 a.m. and one at 12:15 p.m. The 8 o’clock program aired seven days a week. The 12:15 program aired six days a week. Think about it! Thirteen live thirty minute radio programs per week! Six and one-half hours of gospel preaching every week via radio! These programs were begun by the Sixth Avenue Church of Christ in Jasper in about 1946.
The 8 o’clock program would begin by featuring news from the community, including area gospel meetings, funerals of people in the community regardless of religious affiliation, and other similar items. These community announcements created interest in listening to the program. According to James Horton, brother Nichols’ assistant for many years, no civic or secular news was given out.
The phone would begin ringing at brother Nichols’ home by 7 o’clock (or earlier) each morning, with announcements being called in from listeners and the local funeral homes. The program was heard by hundreds, if not thousands, every day. Brother Nichols was known out in town, in the hospitals, and at the funeral homes – as much or more than anyone else in the city. Local citizens knew him by his impeccable reputation and his sterling character.
Many conversions were made as a result of these programs. Word would come by phone, letter, or personal visits of those who were baptized as a result of the program. The most notable conversion was that of William Woodson who grew up in Jasper. William heard brother Nichols on the radio and asked to come and talk with him (a response of many listeners over the years). After a few study sessions, William was baptized into Christ, and the rest, as they say, is history! William went on to become one of the great scholars in the church in the last half of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century, holding teaching positions and Bible Department Chairmanships at both Freed-Hardeman University and David Lipscomb College, chairing the Graduate Program at the latter.
Late one afternoon a man came by brother Nichols’ home to ask brother Nichols to preach his funeral. The man said he was going to commit suicide and said he had heard brother Nichols many times on the radio and that he was the one he wanted to speak over his body. Brother Nichols was taken aback by the man’s request but said to him, “Yes, I’ll preach your funeral, and since you will not be aware of my sermon, I will tell you the passage of scripture I will be using. It’s Luke, chapter 16, which tells about a man who ‘lifted up his eyes in HELL,’ for that is where you will be if you go through with your decision to kill yourself!” The man abruptly left. He had heard all that he wanted to hear.
Seventy years later the gospel continues to be preached daily on the radio in Jasper, Alabama!
(To Be Continued)
SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
SOME GREAT LEADERS OF THE RESTORATION MOVEMENT
16. J. M. Barnes (1836-1913). Born in Montgomery County, AL on February 10, 1836, Justus McDuffie Barnes was brought up on an old-time Southern plantation. His father was a cotton planter and slave owner, and his plantation was only another name for plenty, prosperity, and happiness. An only son with two sisters, Justus had as his constant boyhood companion an older slave boy named Ben. As a boy, Barnes had music in his soul, hilarity in his feet, and harmless good humor in every fiber of his being. The first time his mother heard the plea for a “thus saith the Lord” in all religious matters she accepted it, and for years she was the foremost defender of the truth in her section of the country, being such privately and person to person. Barnes entered Bethany College in 1854 and graduated in 1856, studying under Alexander Campbell, the founder of the school. After graduating, he returned to his father’s plantation in the little village of Strata, south of the city of Montgomery. With his two brothers-in-law, he established an educational institution in Highland Home, AL in which the Bible was taught and in which a number of men from the South were trained to become gospel preachers. In addition to being a preacher and educator, Barnes was a writer of some note. He preached extensively in evangelistic meetings in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Texas, as well as other states. As a preacher, teacher, and writer, he was known for the closeness with which he adhered to the Scriptures. He was a careful and constant student of the New Testament in the original Greek. In the spring of 1913 while driving down the road in a new automobile, an old black friend, working in a nearby field, waved and called to him. Taking his eyes off the road for a moment to return the greeting, he lost control of the car and died from injuries on April 28, 1913. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Montgomery, Alabama. Though small in stature, he was a giant among leaders in the Restoration Movement in Alabama in the latter half of the 19th century and the early 20th century. (Note: I am indebted to F. D. Srygley, Biographies and Sermons, Gospel Advocate [1961, a reprint], pp. 395-404, for much of the above material).
17. E. A. Elam (1855-1929). The oldest child of James Elam’s second wife, Edwin A. Elam was born on March 7, 1855 at Fosterville in southern Rutherford County, TN. His father had been a Primitive Baptist until converted to the New Testament way by the preaching of Tolbert Fanning. His mother had never been anything religiously but a Christian only. Edwin was baptized when he was sixteen years old. When he was seventeen he entered Franklin College near Nashville where he attended one year. In 1876 he entered Burritt College in Spencer, TN, graduating in the spring of 1879. At the invitation of T. B. Larimore, he moved to Mars Hill, near Florence, AL, to teach at Mars Hill Academy, a school established by Larimore. It was while teaching at Mars Hill that he preached his first sermon in the courthouse in Florence, AL in November of 1879. Significantly, Elam never attended any Bible school or college to learn how to preach. Both Franklin College and Burritt College were literary schools, and he went to Mars Hill as a teacher, not as a student, though he did spend some time studying the Bible with the great Larimore. In June of 1880 he returned to Middle Tennessee where he spent the rest of his life. On February 5, 1884, he married Mary Thompson of Bellwood, TN, near Lebanon. He preached extensively in Middle Tennessee and throughout the South and into Canada. In addition to preaching, Elam seized every opportunity to write, with most of his literary talents going to the Gospel Advocate. His first article appeared on March 4, 1880, three days shy of his 25th birthday. In February of 1901 he was listed for the first time as co-editor with David Lipscomb and E. G. Sewell. When F. D. Srygley died in the summer of 1900, Elam succeeded him as the front page editor of the Advocate, and held that position until February 1909. He gained wide brotherhood attention when in 1922 he began writing his highly acclaimed Elam’s Notes. He was one of “A Noble Quintet” recognized in the 100th anniversary edition of the Gospel Advocate of July 14, 1955, a treasured copy of which I have owned since I was seventeen years old. In that momentous issue it was said of him: “Few men could write so well on Christian living as Brother Elam. When he launched an attack on the ramparts of sin, it was relentless.” In 1901 he was added to the Board of Trustees of Nashville Bible School, and in 1906 he was elected president of the school, holding the position until 1913. After retiring from the school, he spent most of his time writing for the Advocate. He passed from this life on March 14, 1929, one week past his 74th birthday. As to what he most admired in preachers he said, “Some preachers are praised for their logic and others for their pathos and eloquence; but when I am dead, what I would rather could be said of me than anything else is: ‘Here lies a man who did not shun to declare the whole counsel of God.’ ”
18. M. C. Kurfees (1856-1931). Born into a Methodist family on January 31, 1856 near Mocksville, NC, Marshall Clement Kurfees was destined for greatness as a proclaimer and defender of New Testament Christianity. As a youth he wanted to be a Christian, but did not know how. He sought salvation in the way that all the preachers of his area advised—by the mourner’s bench. At the age of fifteen he joined the Methodist Church with the determination that he would do the best he could to live a pure life. A few weeks later he heard a gospel preacher by the name of G. W. Neely. Neely quoted the Bible freely and fully, and taught exactly what the Bible said, nothing more nor less. He aroused the animosity of all the denominational preachers in the area. One day in a family conversation at home where “Neely’s doctrine” and the abuse he was receiving was being discussed, young Kurfees, who had read the New Testament completely through for himself, spoke up and said, “They may say what they please about Brother Neely, but one thing is certain: he is preaching what is in the Bible.” On July 24, 1872, at the age of sixteen, he was baptized into Christ by W. L. Butler. Later, his father and mother renounced Methodism for the apostolic way. In 1874 Kurfees entered the College of the Bible in Lexington, KY where he remained for a year before moving to Western Kentucky and then Southern Illinois to teach school and preach. He preached his first sermon in Graves County, KY on August 29, 1875. Later, he returned to North Carolina where he spent a few years in evangelistic work before returning to Lexington in 1879 to finish his college work, graduating in 1881 with highest honors. In 1886 he became minister of the Campbell Street (later Haldeman Avenue) church in Louisville where he remained for forty-five years until his death in 1931. On September 13, 1887 he married Sallie E. Eddy of Louisville. He was a studious and dedicated preacher of the gospel. Likely his greatest literary work was his classic on Instrumental Music In The Worship, published in 1911, showing that instrumental music in the worship of the church is not authorized by the Scriptures. He held debates with Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Mormons, and Quakers. He wrote extensively for the Gospel Advocate, and in 1908 was named one of its editors. He was one of “A Noble Quintet” recognized in the 100th anniversary edition of that publication in 1955. (See preceding sketch). He wrote much about the church and its worship. In the spring of 1928 he wrote an extremely important series of articles titled “The Need of Continued Emphasis on the Restoration of the Ancient Order.” He passed suddenly from this life on February 17, 1931. His funeral was conducted on February 19 at the Haldeman Avenue building by N. B. Hardeman and T. Q. Martin, with F. B. Srygley reading the Scriptures, leading a prayer, and making a few remarks. He is buried in Cave Hill Cemetery in Louisville.
(To Be Continued)
February 13, 2018
13. John T. Johnson (1788-1856). The eighth of eleven children, Johnson was born on October 5, 1788 in Scott County, KY at Great Crossings, about three miles west of Georgetown. His father, Robert Johnson, was a colonel in the army and his brother, Richard M. Johnson, would later serve as the ninth vice-president of the United States during the presidency of Martin Van Buren. In 1820 John T. turned his attention toward politics and was elected to serve in the U. S. Congress, and then was re-elected for several terms. In 1821 he joined the Baptist Church in Great Crossings, his home community, but after his retirement from politics in 1830, he became interested in what was derogatorily called “Campbellism” (then sweeping his community) and determined to make a study of it in the light of the Scriptures. He said, “My eyes were opened, and I was made perfectly free by the truth” (John Rogers, The Biography of Elder John T. Johnson [Cincinnati: 1861], p. 21, as cited by Earl West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 1, p. 234). Johnson immediately set about to convert the Baptist Church at Great Crossings, but did not take into account the power of religious prejudice, though he did baptize his wife, as well as his brother Joel and his wife. With others, he formed a congregation in Great Crossings that worshiped after the New Testament order. Johnson went on to become an extraordinarily successful preacher of the gospel and an ardent advocate of the principles calling for a restoration of the New Testament order. Alexander Campbell said of him, “I wish Kentucky had a few persons equally gifted for taking care of the sheep, as brother Johnson is for marking them and putting them in the green pastures” (a reference to converting people to the right way of the Lord) (The Millennial Harbinger, June 1839, as cited by West, p. 228-229). Samuel Rogers said of him, “As an evangelist, I have thought John T. Johnson the best model I have ever known. Perhaps I ought not to speak of him as a model at all, for no man could imitate him” (as cited by West, p. 229). On the first Sunday evening of December 1856, Johnson preached his last sermon. He developed a case of pneumonia and died in the home of Thomas Bledsoe with whom he was staying in Lexington, KY. When told that death was approaching he said, “I did not think death was so near, but let it come.” In his delirious moments he would quote scripture or preach on the sacrifice of Jesus for sin. On December 18 he closed his eyes in death.
14. Elisha G. Sewell (1830-1924). Sewell was born on October 23, 1830 in Overton County, TN, the thirteenth child and eighth son of Stephen and Annie Sewell. All but one of the eight boys had Bible names. Four of them—Isaac, Caleb, Jesse, and Elisha—went on to become gospel preachers. Joshua, Caleb’s twin, died in infancy. Originally, the Sewells were all Baptists. When an older brother, William, married a member of the church of Christ he soon came to accept the principles of the restoration plea. His brothers regretted William’s course and Jesse set out to bring him back to the Baptist fold, but in the process he converted himself to the New Testament way. Soon, Isaac and Caleb and the whole Sewell family, except Elisha, had been converted to the original apostolic ground. In the spring of 1849 Elisha started reading and studying the New Testament for himself, and on the fourth Lord’s Day of October 1849, he was immersed into Christ by Jesse, an older brother. In the fall of 1851, in the private home of a neighbor, Elisha preached his first sermon. In 1853 he married Lucy Kuykendall near Cookeville, TN. He studied at Burritt College in Spencer, TN, and in 1859 he graduated from Franklin College in Nashville where he studied under Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb. In 1870 when David Lipscomb found himself in need of help in editing the Gospel Advocate, he turned to E. G. Sewell. For the next almost fifty years—January 1, 1870 until Lipscomb’s death in 1917—the team of Lipscomb and Sewell played a key role in shaping the cause of the restoration of the New Testament order in the South. Nothing expanded his influence more than his work on the Advocate. In addition to his work at the Advocate, he stayed busy in evangelistic work and establishing churches of the apostolic order, especially in Nashville. He lived a quiet and peaceable life, was known for his moderation in all things, and was extremely methodical. He was described by F. D. Srygley as being “meek and lowly in spirit, gentle and timid in manner, severely scriptural in doctrine, and kind and persuasive in his oratory” (Biographies and Sermons, p. 257). He and his family were extremely hospitable, and traveling preachers often found themselves welcomed in his home at 801 Boscobel Street in east Nashville, where he lived for fifty-four years and where death came to him on March 2, 1924 at the age of ninety-three.
15. James A. Harding (1848-1922). The oldest of fourteen children born to James W. and Mary McDonald Harding, James Alexander Harding was born on March 16, 1848 in Winchester, KY. At the age of thirteen he was baptized into Christ by his father during a meeting in Winchester conducted by the illustrious preacher, Moses E. Lard. Young Harding grew up in a home in which Alexander Campbell, “Raccoon” John Smith, Moses E. Lard, John T. Johnson, and John Rogers were regular visitors. Following his graduation from Bethany College in 1869, he moved to Hopkinsville, KY where he taught school and did some preaching. In 1871 he married nineteen year old Carrie Knight of Hopkinsville. Following her death in 1876, he married Patti Cobb in 1878. In the spring of 1875, he was asked by a brother John Adams to preach in a meeting. At first he refused, saying he had no evangelistic sermons. Adams responded, “Why you have been brought up in the church all your life. You have attended Bethany College and you have your degree. You have been preaching since you were nineteen. If you can’t hold a meeting, you ought to be shot. Now shut your mouth, get your horse, and come on out and hold that meeting!” Thus was launched a great evangelistic preaching career that extended from Canada to Florida and from Maine to New Mexico. From 1876 until 1893, Harding poured himself into evangelistic meetings, preaching twice every weekday and three times on Sunday. He held over 300 meetings that lasted anywhere from three to ten weeks. In one eight-week meeting at Foster Street in Nashville there were 123 additions. In a meeting at South Nashville he had 300 additions. He was no less adept as a debater than he was as a preacher and conducted over forty debates with various exponents of error. Of him it was said, “His mind was quick and his speaking ability extraordinary” (G. C. Taylor, Gospel Advocate, June 18, 1884, as cited by Earl West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 336). T. R. Burnett said of him, “He believes the Bible from ‘lid to lid’” (West, p. 336). In 1882 David Lipscomb made Harding a corresponding editor of the Gospel Advocate, and in 1891 Lipscomb and Harding began Nashville Bible School, now Lipscomb University. Ten years later, Harding moved to Bowling Green, KY to begin Potter Bible College and remained there for ten years, resigning the presidency when his memory began to fail. Harding was renowned for his great trust in the providence of God. He passed from this life on May 28, 1922 at the home of his daughter, Sue Paine, in Atlanta, GA, and is buried in Bowling Green, KY. In 1926, following the merger of Harper College in Kansas and Arkansas Christian College in Morrilton, Arkansas, Harding College (now University) in Searcy, AR was named in his honor.
(To Be Continued)
January 16, 2018
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
The Birth Of Christ
On the opening page of the New Testament we read the following wonderful announcement: “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was thus: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). For the Christian, nothing is more significant than the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ. In this lesson we shall study His birth and some of the reasons for His birth.
Christ’s birth of the virgin Mary was not the beginning of His existence; it was only the beginning of His human presence in this world. The inspired apostle John takes us back into the vast eternity of the past, before the physical universe existed, and says: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (existed alongside God, hf), and the Word was God (was of the same divine nature as God, hf). He was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him (the eternally existing Word), and without Him nothing was made that was made” (John 1:1-3). (Note: For those wishing to further explore the matter of Christ’s eternal existence and the fact that He was the agent through whom God created all things, we call attention to such passages as Genesis 1:26; Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-4; et al).
Following the prologue to his Gospel, John then proceeds to make this startling statement: “And the Word (which had co-existed eternally with the Father, hf) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). The apostle Paul adds his inspired testimony to this tremendous truth when he says of Christ: “…who being in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (literally, “selfishly clung to,” hf), but emptied Himself (not of His divine nature, but of His heavenly glory, hf), taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). But how could such a phenomenon occur?
Luke tells us that an angel appeared to the virgin Mary and said: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). Mary was perplexed by this announcement and asked the angel: “How can this be, since I do not know (a Biblical euphemism for sexual relations) a man?” (Luke 1:34). The angel then explained: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:36). The inspired apostle Matthew declares: “Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’ ” (Matthew 1:22-23, quoting Isaiah 7:14). Thus, through the miracle of the virgin birth Christ entered the world of humanity.
The story of the birth of Christ is recorded in Luke 2:1-20. This beautiful story has been read for 20 centuries, and many have rejoiced to hear it. It is the story that never grows old. But rather than getting caught up in the physical aspects of Jesus’ birth–the manger scene, the shepherds’ visit, or the gifts of the wise men–we need to focus on why Christ came into the world.
In His encounter with Zacchaeus, Jesus succinctly stated the reason for His coming: “…for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). When we reflect back on our previous four Studies (“Humanity’s History Of Persistent Disobedience To God”), we immediately become impressed with the reality that everyone–both Jew and Gentile–stood in need of the salvation which Christ came to bring. Quoting from the 14th Psalm, Paul wrote: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way (the way of God, hf); they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12).
Yet in spite of humanity’s rebellion against Him, God is a God of mercy and grace who stands ready to forgive. “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You” (Psalm 86:5). God had known from the beginning that mankind would rebel against Him; humanity’s disobedience did not catch God “off guard.” In fact, in keeping with His merciful nature, even from the beginning He had planned for humanity’s redemption through Christ. Thus, “from before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), “from the beginning of the ages” (Ephesians 3:9), from “before time began” (Titus 1:2), “according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (II Timothy 1:9), and “according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11), God sent Christ into the world to save us from our sins!
Throughout the ages of the Old Testament, God had been gradually unfolding His eternal purpose to redeem mankind through Christ. Though the prophets of the Old Testament spoke of many things pertaining to Christ, they did not always comprehend what the Spirit was leading them say. “Of this salvation (the salvation brought by Christ, hf) the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that would come to you, searching what or what manner of time, the Spirit of Christ who was in them was indicating when He testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow” (I Peter 1:10-11). Peter went on to say that these matters concerned “things which angels desire to look into” (verse 12).
But after centuries of preparation for the coming of Christ, and “when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman (the virgin Mary), born under the law (the law that had emanated from Sinai and delivered to Israel by Moses, see Study # 003, hf), to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5). What a truly “one and only” kind of birth! “Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift!” (II Corinthians 9:15).
If this essay has blessed your life, please feel free to forward it to others who may benefit from it.
The Life Of Christ
The birth of Christ–the subject of our previous Study–was the only birth of its kind. Through the miracle of the virgin birth, “the Word (which had been with God the Father, and which possessed the same divine nature as God–John 1:1) became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). Likewise, the life of Christ was the only life of its kind. No other person ever lived “who committed no sin” (I Peter 2:21-22, quoted from Isaiah 53:9). In this Study we will briefly examine the wonderful life of Christ, giving particular attention to the reasons for His “taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:7).
Following Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, and at the urging of an angel, Joseph took the baby Jesus and His mother into Egypt to escape the murderous wrath of Herod (Matthew 2:13-15). At a point in time, He was brought to the temple in Jerusalem, where as the firstborn son of Mary, He was presented to the Lord in compliance with the stipulations of the Law of Moses under which He was born (Luke 2:22-24; see Exodus 13:2). Following these events, the family settled in the city of Nazareth in the northern Palestine province of Galilee (Luke 2:39).
At the age of 12, Jesus attended the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph. Following the Passover, and without Joseph and Mary’s awareness, Jesus remained in the city–much to the consternation of Mary and Joseph. Later, after being found by them in the temple and reprimanded for His actions, Jesus said to them: “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” (Luke 2:49). Mary and Joseph were completely puzzled by these words, “but His mother kept all these things in her heart” (Luke 2:50-51).
At “about thirty years of age” (Luke 3:23) Jesus submitted to baptism by John the Baptist in order “to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). From His baptism “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). Following His successful repulsion of Satan’s attacks, Jesus began a ministry that would extend over the next three-plus years. In the synagogue in Nazareth He announced the purpose of His life on earth when He read the following from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah (61:1-2): “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). To the synagogue gathering He then
announced: “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 2:21).
Early in His ministry Jesus selected from among His larger group of disciples/ followers, 12 men “whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:13). They became His co-laborers in preaching that the long-awaited “kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17; Matthew 10:5-7). Christ delivered the matchless Sermon on the Mount in which He set forth the principles that would guide the citizens of His kingdom (Matthew 5, 6, 7). In the course of His ministry, Christ taught many parables pertaining to the nature of His kingdom and its various characteristics(Matthew 13). Over and over, He affirmed that “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:16), that “I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak” (John 12:49).
Jesus performed many miracles. He healed the sick, enabled the blind to see, unstopped the ears of the deaf, miraculously fed the hungry, and even raised the dead. People flocked to Him to receive some cure or physical blessing, but His miracles had a far greater purpose than simply the immediate benefits to the recipients. John tells us that Christ’s miracles were “signs” that signified something of tremendous import. John says: “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples which are not written in this book (the Gospel of John); but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).
The following points will serve as a brief summary of why Jesus came to earth and lived as a man:
1. He came to fulfill the Old Testament Law and the Prophets–all that the Law and the Prophets for centuries had been pointing to (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44).
2. He came to communicate God’s final word to mankind and to establish God’s final covenant with humanity (Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 7:22; Hebrews 8:7-13; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 10:9-10).
3. He came to leave us “an example, that [we] should follow His steps” (I Peter 2:21).
4. He came to “show us the Father” (John 14:7-9)
5. He came “to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Paul explains that “many” means “all”–I Timothy 2:6).
6. He came that He might suffer “once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring (reconcile) us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18).
This all too brief summary of the life of Christ leads us to the point of His crucifixion. In our next Study we will examine the death of Christ and why in the unfathomable wisdom of God the death of Christ was necessary.
The Death Of Christ
“And when they had come to the place called Calvary, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right hand and the other on the left” (Luke 23:33).
The four Gospel writers–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–tell of the birth, life, and death of Jesus Christ. His death was by means of crucifixion–a terrible and torturous form of execution devised by the Romans. We are sometimes guilty of sensationalizing the crucifixion of Christ–of trying to fill in as many of the gory details as possible, of trying to arouse as much emotion as possible. (Mel Gibson’s 2004 movie, The Passion of the Christ, a movie which I chose not to see, was, I am told, “heavy on the details” of the crucifixion). The Bible spares us of this. Scripture reports the death of Christ in a straightforward manner, foregoing the gory details. Though they were a reality, the details of the crucifixion are not the important factors in Christ’s death.
By examining the accounts of the death of Christ as given by the four inspired penmen, we are provided with a composite picture of what occurred. Jesus is led from Pilate’s judgment hall to the hill of Calvary outside the walls of Jerusalem. First bearing His own cross, Simon of Cyrene is later pressed into service to carry it to the hill of execution. A multitude follows the entourage to Golgotha (another name for Calvary). Two thieves also are taken along that day to be crucified. Some have speculated that they may have been members of Barrabas’ band, the murderous insurrectionist who was released by Pilate in the place of Christ (Luke 23:18-19), but the Bible does not sat that they were. The actual crucifixion process began around 9 A.M., with Jesus being nailed to a cross between the two thieves. Possibly as an act of compassion, He is offered wine mixed with gall to deaden the pain, but He refuses the bitter elixir. An inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin is placed on the cross: “This is Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.” Someone has called this the first gospel tract–the first briefly written statement of who Jesus was and is.
The Roman soldiers commissioned to carry out the executions cast lots for Christ’s garments. A word comes from the middle cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Soon a second word comes, one directed to His mother: “Woman, behold your son!” This is immediately followed by a word to the apostle John: “Behold your mother!”, indicating that this apostle would now assume responsibility for the care of Jesus’ mother.
Jesus is mocked and reviled by the crowd, with the two thieves casting the same insults at Him. However, one of them later has a change of heart and asks for mercy. This thief’s thinking apparently was: “If He saved others, maybe He can save me. If He has a kingdom, perhaps there is room in it for me.” As the storyteller of country music, Tom T. Hall, wrote in the classic ballad, I Remember the Year that Clayton Delaney Died, “a lot of folks get religion at the end.” To this penitent thief Christ said: “Today you shall be with Me in paradise.”
At noon the second stage of the crucifixion begins as darkness overwhelms the land for the next three hours. A fourth word emanates from the cross–a gut-wrenching, agonizing cry: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?” This is followed by: “I thirst.” Then: “It is finished.” And finally: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
At this moment there is an earthquake. The veil of the temple–the veil separating the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place–is mysteriously torn in two. The tombs of the dead are opened; however, none of the dead come from their tombs until after Christ’s resurrection (Matthew 27:51-53). What wonderful symbolism we see in these two events: (1) Mankind can now have direct access to God in the Most Holy Place through “the new and living way which [Christ] consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20), (2) The spiritually dead can now be raised to life with Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7).
A centurion standing by cries out: “Truly this was the Son of God!” The multitude, now deeply touched by these unusual occurrences, begins to draw back and move away, beating on their breasts. It is now dawning on them that they have done something truly awful. But the instigators of the crucifixion, hurrying to get it over with so that they can get on to their religious rituals, request that the legs of Jesus and the thieves be broken–apparently in an effort to intensify the pain and to hasten their deaths. The soldiers broke the legs of the thieves, “but when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out” (John 19:31-37). In this incident the inspired apostle John says that two Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ were fulfilled: “Not one of His bones shall be broken” (Psalms 34:20) and “They shall look on Him whom they pierced” (Zechariah 12:10).
Finally, the body of Jesus is removed from the cross and hastily yet lovingly buried by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. A guard is placed at the tomb to prevent the apostles from stealing the body and claiming a resurrection (Matthew 27:62-66).
What shall we make of the death of Christ? Why did it have to occur? What explanation did the apostles later make of the crucifixion? What did the early Christians believe with reference to the death of Christ? In our next Study we shall look at the reasons for the death of Christ and why it was necessary.
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BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
The Death Of Christ
In our previous Study we looked at the crucifixion of Christ and some of the events surrounding His death. In this Study we will explore the reasons for His death–of why, in the unfathomable wisdom of God, the death of Christ was necessary.
Earlier in our Studies we surveyed humanity’s history of persistent disobedience to God (Studies #008 – #011). It is precisely because of the reality of sin and mankind’s inability to atone for his sins that Christ had to die. Perhaps the apostle Paul put it most succinctly when he wrote: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Everything else that the Bible says about the reasons for the death of Christ ties in
–either directly or indirectly–with this one central truth, that Christ died for our sins.
The first eight chapters of Paul’s Epistle to the Romans constitute a theological masterpiece of the reasons for–indeed, the necessity of–the death of Christ. After showing that all–both the Gentile world (Romans 1) and the Jewish world (Romans 2 – 3:20)–stand condemned before God so “that every mouth [that might profess innocence of sin] may be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19), the inspired apostle then declares of Christ: “…whom God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in His blood…” (Romans 3:25). The word propitiation (properly pronounced pro-pish-e-a-shun) means “a conciliatory offering, an atonement.” By means of the death of Christ God “has so dealt with sin that He can show mercy to the believing sinner in the removal of his guilt and the remission of his sins” (W. E. Vine, Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). What all of this means is that mankind could never atone for his sins by his own efforts, by his own works of righteousness (Titus 3:3-7). Only by the death of Christ could propitiation/atonement be made for sin, so that henceforth God can be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26).
Other Biblical statements setting forth this same sublime truth include the following:
(1) When He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Christ said of the cup, the fruit of the vine: “For this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Earlier, Christ had declared that He had come “to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Paul explains in I Timothy 2:6 that “many” means “all.”
(2) The writer of Hebrews says that Christ “by the grace of God, might taste death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9).
(3) The apostle Peter declares: “For Christ also has suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (I Peter 3:18).
(4) The apostle Paul affirms: “For He (God) has made Him (Christ) who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Christ)” (II Corinthians 5:21).
(5) Peter echoes this same truth when he says of Christ: “…who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness–by whose stripes you were healed” (I Peter 2:24).
(6) Paul plainly states: “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:3).
In this last passage we see one of several complementary reasons that is attached to the death of Christ and the overarching purpose of His death. Paul says that Christ died “according to the Scriptures,” i.e. to fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures which had pointed to the atoning death of Christ. The fact is that there had never been a time when in His infinite wisdom God had not planned for the death of His Son as the atonement for the sins of mankind. In Revelation 13:8 Jesus is described as “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” This, obviously, does not mean that Christ actually was crucified before the creation of the world; it only means that in the eternal wisdom of God this was the way He had chosen “before time began” (II Timothy 1:9) to deal with the reality of humanity’s sin. To use a contemporary phrase, in the mind of God the death of Christ for the sins of mankind was “a done deal” from before the foundation of the world. Indeed, as Jesus said to Peter when he attempted to protect Christ from the mob who came to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane and take Him to His trial and crucifixion: “How then will the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be thus?” (Matthew 26:54).
Throughout the ages of the Old Testament God’s “eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11) was gradually being unfolded. The sacrifices, rites, rituals, feasts, festivals, and Levitical priesthood, along with all the other institutions of the Old Testament were never ends of themselves, nor were they intended to last indefinitely. They served only as “a figure for that time then present” (the Old Testament period, hf) (Hebrews 9:9), and were but “a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things…” (Hebrews 10:1). The Old Testament, with its rituals and rites and feasts and festivals, was only “a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:14-17). The animal sacrifices offered and the other ordinances engaged in during the Old Testament ages could never achieve actual remission of sins “for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Only the death of Christ and the shedding of His blood could procure actual forgiveness!
In summary, the reasons for the death of Christ were as follows:
1. To be a propitiation for the sins of the world, as well as for the sins Christians commit in their imperfect walk with God (Romans 3:21-26; I John 1:7; I John 2:1-2).
2. To reconcile mankind to God (Romans 5:10).
3. To fulfill the Old Testament Scriptures and bring to fruition God’s eternal purpose to redeem mankind through Christ (Luke 24:44-47; I Corinthians 15:1-4).
4. To break down the middle wall of division between Jews and Gentiles–“that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances” so that Jews and Gentiles might not only be reconciled to each other, but, more importantly, so that both might be reconciled to God “in the one body (the church) by the cross, by it (the cross) having put to death the enmity (the enmity that existed between Jews and Gentiles, and, more importantly, the enmity that existed between all humanity and God because of sin)” (Ephesians 2:14-18).
5. To enable Christ to become the mediator of the new testament, thereby terminating the inadequate rites and rituals of the old testament (Hebrews 9:15-17; Hebrews 10:9-10; Romans 7:4).
How thankful we should be for “the manifold (the many splendorous aspects, hf) wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10) and His great love for us, demonstrated so completely in the death of Christ for our sins! “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (I John 4:10). In future Studies we shall see from the New Testament Scriptures how we are to respond to that love in faith and obedience.
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We respond on the Explanation page…..
The Resurrection Of Christ
Our last two Studies focused on the death of Christ. In these we saw that the death of Christ was: (1) a violent death, one in which He was humiliated, beaten, and subjected to the cruelest death devised by man–crucifixion; (2) a voluntary death, one from which He could have been delivered by summoning “more than twelve legions of angels” (Matthew 26:53), but one which He chose to suffer in order to fulfill God’s plan for human redemption from sin (Matthew 26:54); and (3) a vicarious death, that is, a death–not for His own sins (of which He had none)–but for the sins of the world (I Corinthians 15:3; II Corinthians 5:21). But the death of Christ was also a victorious death as we shall now proceed to show in a study the resurrection of Christ.
In a beautiful summary of the gospel, the apostle Paul explains that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen of Cephas (Peter), and then by the twelve” (I Corinthians 15:3-5). The rest of I Corinthians 15 is devoted to proofs of the resurrection–first of Christ’s, then of all who have ever died. In proof of the resurrection of Christ, Paul affirms that in addition to being seen by Cephas and then by the twelve, on other occasions Christ “was seen by over five hundred brethren at once” (verse 6), “by James, then by all the apostles” (verse 7), “and last of all He was seen by me (Paul) also…” (verse 8). These people were all eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection–credible witnesses who could have been interviewed by anyone in the area of Judea interested in knowing the facts about what had happened.
As Paul develops his arguments for the resurrection of Christ he reminds the Corinthian Christians (some of whom were denying the general resurrection of all the dead at the end of time) that if there is no resurrection of the dead in general “then Christ has not been raised” (verse 13). He further states that “if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is vain and your faith also is vain (meaningless) (verse 14). Paul goes further and asserts that if Christ has not been raised then all the apostles (and others) who testified to Christ’s resurrection “are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up–if in fact the dead do not rise” (verse 15). Finally, Paul affirms: “And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins” and “those who have fallen asleep (died) in Christ have perished” (verses 17-18). The overwhelming conclusion of denying the general resurrection of all the dead, involving as it does a denial of Christ’s resurrection, is this: “If in this life only we have hope in Christ (in other words, if there is nothing beyond the grave), we are of all men most pitable” (verse 19) and we may as well “eat and drink, for tomorrow we die” (verse 32) and that is it! Thus, the consequences of not believing in the resurrection of Christ are indeed many and tragic!
It is interesting to observe that not all the Gospel writers–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–tell of the birth of Christ. None of them claim to tell all that Christ did and taught (John 20:30-31; 21:25). But all four Gospel writers tell of the resurrection of Christ! (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-12; John 20:1-10). Not only do they record the fact of His resurrection, but they each tell of individuals and groups to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection, thus providing credible witnesses to the reality of the resurrection.
Through the years, religious liberals and modernists have sought to explain away the resurrection. They do this because they cannot bring themselves to accept anything that that is beyond the boundaries of their human reasoning. Thus, they deny both the virgin birth of our Lord and His literal, bodily resurrection from the dead. It is with this mindset that they also deny the divine inspiration of the Bible.
The resurrection of Christ has been “explained” by asserting that Christ did not actually die, that He only fainted (this is known as the “swoon” theory), later revived, and escaped from the tomb. However, the Roman soldiers who pierced His side knew that Jesus was dead (John 19:33-34), and Pilate the Roman governor verified the death of Christ before granting permission for the burial of the body (Mark 15:44-45).
The resurrection also has been “explained” by suggesting that the disciples of Jesus stole the body and then claimed a “resurrection.” In fact, this is the oldest “explanation” that has been made for the resurrection, one that the Jews had continued to make at the time Matthew wrote his Gospel (Matthew 28:11-15), and one that unbelieving Jews and other infidels continue to make until this day. But guards had been placed at the tomb of Jesus to prevent this very thing from happening (Matthew 27:62-66), and after the resurrection they were bribed to say: “His disciples came at night and stole Him away while we slept” (Matthew 28:13). But consider this: If the guards did “go to sleep on the job,” how did they know what had happened? If they were asleep how could they know if the disciples (or anyone else) had come and stolen the body? And if the disciples had stolen the body and faked the resurrection, how do we explain their later dying the deaths of martyrs–all for what they knew to be a lie, a fable?!
Still again, in their insistence on denying the reality of the resurrection, modernists have “explained” the resurrection by asserting that the apostles only saw Christ in their imagination, that they wanted so badly to believe that He arose from the dead that they “saw” Him in their minds, but that He did not literally, physically, and actually arise from the dead. How then do we account for the “over five hundred brethren” who all saw Him “at once” (I Corinthians 15:6)? Were they all possessed of an “over-worked and highly vivid imagination”? And how do we explain Christ being seen by Saul of Tarsus, the arch-enemy of Christ, and the last person on earth who would want to see Him (I Corinthians 15:8-9)?!
The facts are these: Christ lived, He was crucified, He was buried, and three days later He arose from the dead. As Peter preached so convincingly to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested (approved) by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know–Him, being delivered by the determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it (death)” (Acts 2:22-24). Indeed, Christ has been “declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4) and therefore “He is able to save to the uttermost (completely) those who come to God through Him, seeing He ever lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
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The Ascension And Coronation Of Christ
“Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you have crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
Throughout the centuries of the Christian era much emphasis has been given to the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. This is as it should be since Scripture affirms that these events–and specifically the death, burial, and resurrection–lie at the very heart of the gospel (I Corinthians 15:1-5). However, attention also needs to be given to the ascension of Christ and His coronation as King of kings and Lord of lords. Without a Biblical perspective of Christ’s ascension and kingship, one cannot appreciate the formal inauguration of the Christian faith and the nature of Christ’s kingdom.
After giving final instructions to His apostles, Christ “led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven” (Luke 24:50-51). Among other reasons, the ascension of Christ showed that His mission on earth had been completed. In a special prayer uttered shortly before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion, Jesus said to His Father: “I have finished the work which You have given Me to do” (John 17:4). While at that moment He still faced death on the cross for the sins of the world and His subsequent burial and resurrection, so sure was He of their accomplishment that He could speak of His mission as being finished. In His dying breath He proclaimed: “It is finished” (John 19:30). Following His burial and resurrection, and after another forty days during which He appeared to His apostles and numerous others (Acts 1:1-3; I Corinthians 15:5-8), Christ’s mission on earth indeed was completed and He returned to God in heaven.
In one of His first post-resurrection appearances, and in a passage that has been enigmatic to many, Jesus said to Mary: “Do not cling to Me (do not hold on to Me, NIV), for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God’ ” (John 20:17). Because both the King James and the American Standard Versions of this passage have Jesus saying: “Touch me not…” some have thought that there was some kind of mystical prohibition to anyone touching the resurrected body of Christ prior to His ascension. However, later in this very chapter, Jesus invites Thomas to “reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side” (John 20:27). Thus, as the New King James, the New American Standard, and the New International Versions, as well as the footnote of the American Standard Version, all indicate, Jesus apparently is only saying to Mary: “You do not have to hold on to Me, you do not have to cling to Me, as though I am about to leave. I have not yet ascended to the Father, and there will be an adequate amount of time for such touching, holding to, and clinging to Me. However, at the appointed time, I will ascend to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”
The ascension of Christ is described as follows: “And when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up and a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). In beautiful predictive imagery and anticipation of this very event, the prophet Daniel (c. 600 BC) had written: “I was watching in the night visions, and behold, One like the Son of Man (Christ–Luke 19:10), coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days (God), and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away. And His kingdom one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14). In this magnificent prophecy we see both the ascension of Christ and His coronation as the King of His kingdom.
When the angel Gabriel had announced to the virgin Mary that she would have a Son, he had said of the Christ: “He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:32-33). This promise is irrevocably tied to the covenant God made with David recorded in II Samuel 7:12-13. Christ was “of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3), and following His ascension to heaven He was seated on the throne of David, which also is said to be God’s throne. The Old Testament clearly states that “Solomon sat on the throne of his father David” (I Kings 2:12), but with equal clarity it states that “Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord” (I Chronicles 29:23). Thus, David’s throne and the Lord’s throne were one and the same throne.
Now consider this: In Revelation 3:19 Christ commanded the lukewarm church in Laodicea to “be zealous and repent,” and then promised: “To him who overcomes, I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down (both past tense verbs) with My Father on His throne” (Revelation 3:21). So, Christ is now on His throne, which also is the Father’s throne. But the Father’s throne is David’s throne (see above Old Testament references); therefore, Christ is now on David’s throne, which obviously means that David’s throne from which Christ now reigns is not physical or earthly, but spiritual, and His kingdom is not physical, earthly, or national, but spiritual.
That is precisely what Christ affirmed to Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). That is what Paul stated concerning the spiritual realm in which Christians live (Colossians 1:13). And that is what the apostles, by the power of the Holy Spirit, preached on the memorable Day of Pentecost when Peter quoted David’s prophecy from Psalms 16:8-11 that God “would raise up Christ to sit on his (that is, David’s) throne” (Acts 2:30). Peter then proceeded to explain that David foreseeing this “spoke concerning the resurrection of Christ” (Acts 2:31). Then Peter declared: “For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he (David) says himself: ‘The Lord (God) said to my Lord (Christ), “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool” ‘ (quoting Psalms 110:1). Then with an inescapable conclusion, Peter affirmed: “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made (past tense verb) this Jesus, whom you have crucified both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:34-36). Thus, if Christ is not now on David’s throne He is not occupying the position God raised Him to occupy, nor is He where He ascended to be, because both David in the Psalm 16 and Peter in Acts 2 affirmed that Christ was both raised and ascended in order to sit on David’s throne! Indeed, as this same apostle elsewhere wrote concerning Christ: “…who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (I Peter 3:22).
The New Testament book of Hebrews speaks often of the ancient Melchizedek, and describes him as “king of Salem (an older name for Jerusalem, hf), and priest of the Most High God” (Hebrews 7:1). It is likewise affirmed numerous times in this same epistle that Christ is “a priest forever according to (after) the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:5-6; 7:15, 17, 21; et al). And just as Melchizedek was both king and priest, so Christ is both king and priest. Indeed, as the prophet Zechariah (c. 520 BC) predicted of the Christ: “… He will be a priest on His throne” (Zechariah 6:13). Inasmuch as Melchizedek was both king and priest, and inasmuch as Christ is a priest after the order of Melchizedek, and inasmuch as He would be on His throne at the same time He was a priest–“a priest on His throne” (Zechariah 6:13), and inasmuch as Christ is now priest (Hebrews 8:1), we may know of a certainty that Christ is now on His throne!
In one further note regarding the fact that Christ is now reigning on His throne, we call attention to Paul’s statement in I Corinthians 15:25: “For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet.” (In connection with this phrase, see again Peter’s quotation in Acts 2:34-35 from Psalms 110:1: “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool”). Continuing, Paul says: “The last enemy that will be destroyed is death” (I Corinthians 15:26). Since people are still dying, we know that death has not yet been destroyed. Paul goes on to explain that death will not be destroyed until the resurrection of all the dead at the second coming of Christ (I Corinthians 15:51-55). But Paul has already said that Christ must reign until death is destroyed. Therefore, as long as men are still dying, Christ is still reigning. But He could not still be reigning if His reign has not yet begun!
In summary, we have learned:
1. That following the completion of His earthly mission to accomplish human redemption from sin by means of His death, Christ ascended back to heaven (Acts 1:9).
2. That when Christ returned to the Father, He was “given dominion and glory and a kingdom”–He was crowned as King of kings and Lord of lords (Daniel 7:13-14).
3. That Christ’s throne is not earthly or physical, but spiritual; neither is His kingdom earthly, physical, or national, but spiritual (John 18:36).
4. That Christ was raised from the dead and ascended into heaven to sit on David’s spiritual throne (Acts 2:30-35).
5. That Christ combines His priestly function and His kingly office into one role, serving as “a priest on His throne” (Zechariah 8:13).
6. That all who surrender to the Lordship of Christ in obedience to the gospel are “delivered…from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love” (Colossians 1:13).
In future studies, we will learn more about the nature of Christ’s kingdom and see when it was inaugurated.
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
The Coming Of The Holy Spirit
“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (Comforter, KJV & ASV) will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7, New King James Version).
In our previous lesson we studied “The Ascension And Coronation Of Christ.” Throughout the course of His earthly ministry Jesus had endeavored to prepare His apostles for the fact that He eventually would leave them and return to the Father. As He came closer to the time of His death, Christ tried to get them to understand what would soon take place. However, they were extremely slow to grasp the import of what He was saying.
Consider, for example, the following instance: “From that time on, Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day. But Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, ‘Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!’ ” (Matthew 16:21-22).
Still again, consider the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane when Judas Iscariot led the Jewish religious leaders to Christ and Peter attempted to protect Him from the mob. Jesus said to Peter: “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? How then will the Scriptures (of the Old Testament, hf) be fulfilled, that it must be thus?” (Matthew 26:52-54). But they were so “slow of heart to believe” all that the prophets had spoken! (Luke 24:25).
In a very intimate conversation with His disciples shortly before His crucifixion, Christ sought to comfort the apostles by assuring them that even though He was going away He would not leave them alone. This conversation with just the apostles (and recorded only by the apostle John in chapters 14, 15, and 16), sets forth Christ’s wonderful promise to His disciples to send the Holy Spirit to them. Listen in as Christ says to them: “And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and shall be in you” (John 14:16-17).
A little later Christ said to the apostles: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). (Note: It is extremely important to keep in mind the context of these statements and to realize that Jesus is addressing only the apostles. To take words spoken to the apostles and apply them to a larger audience is fraught with numerous problems and results in many erroneous views regarding the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of God’s people today).
Still later in this special visit with His apostles, Jesus said to them: “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He (the Holy Spirit) will not speak on His own authority (just as Christ had not spoken on His own authority–John 12:49, hf), but whatever He hears (from the Father, hf) He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:12-13). It was just prior to this statement that Christ had said to the apostles: “It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you” (John 16:7). Then, as Christ ends this intimate conversation with His disciples, He says to them: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Against the background of the above promise of Christ to send the Holy Spirit to His apostles, let us now fast forward to after His death, burial, and resurrection. The gospel writer Luke records the following words of Christ to His apostles: “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me…Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem…And behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:44-49). What was this “Promise of My Father” and the “power from on high” of which Jesus spoke? Let Luke the inspired recorder of these words explain them as he begins the Acts of the Apostles and “dovetails” its opening words with the closing words of his Gospel: “And being assembled together with them (the apostles), He commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, ‘which,’ He said, ‘you heard from Me; for John (the Baptist) truly baptized with water, but you (the apostles) will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now…But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth’ ” (Acts 1:4-8). (Note: Luke wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. Both books are addressed to a man by the name of Theophilus [Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3], and are intended as a two-volume work on the earthly ministry of Christ and His continuing ministry through His spiritual body, the church. This accounts for the marvelous connection between the ending of Luke and the beginning of Acts, and for the inspired explanation of what Jesus meant when He spoke of “the Promise of My Father” and “power from on high” (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8).
In the following chapter of Acts we read of the fulfillment of Christ’s promise to His apostles to send the Holy Spirit to them. On the historic Day of Pentecost following the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues (languages, verse 6), as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4). With the coming of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the apostles were “endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49) and the stage was set for the inauguration of the kingdom of Christ, the establishment of His church. In our next Study we shall look at the details of that great event.
Important footnote: This Study has not dealt with the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of Christians–either in the early stages of Christianity or today. It has dealt only with the special promise Christ made to the apostles before His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension, and the fulfillment of that promise as recorded in Acts 2:1-4. Another series of Studies would be needed to examine what the New Testament teaches regarding the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a child of God. Perhaps such a Study can be conducted in the future.
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
The Establishment Of The Church
“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18, New King James Version).
Before looking at the specifics regarding the establishment of the church, it is in order for us to do a quick review of our last few lessons. Beginning with # 012, we studied the birth of Christ. From that lesson we moved to a study of the life of Christ. Then we had two Studies on the death of Christ. Next, we examined the evidence for the resurrection of Christ. Following that, we studied the fact of Christ’s ascension back to heaven and His coronation. In our last lesson we studied about the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles to empower them to proclaim the message (the gospel) by which people could be saved from their sins and brought into a proper spiritual relationship with God. The observant student will see that these last several lessons are sequentially connected, providing a step by step development of events leading to a grand climax, namely the bringing into existence a body of people–the church–that is uniquely the people of God. Let us now see how the church was created.
Jesus Christ came into the world for constructive purposes. He came to fulfill the Law (of Moses) and the prophets (Matthew 5:17). He came to bring to fruition all that the Old Testament had been leading up to and for which the prophets had been preparing mankind (Luke 24:44). Christ came to inaugurate the kingdom of God. Early in His ministry He preached: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). Jesus came to “save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to give Himself “a ransom for all”
(I Timothy 2:5-6). In order to achieve these divine purposes, Christ died for the sins of the world. He shed His blood so that humanity might be forgiven of sin, be brought into spiritual fellowship with God, and have the hope of everlasting life. These purposes all came together with the establishment of the church.
Just as the death of Christ was fixed in the mind of God “from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), so the church was in the mind of God from the very beginning. The apostle Paul describes the church as the manifestation of “the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the ages has been hidden in God who created all things by Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 3:9). He goes on to say that the church is the divine display “of the manifold (multi-faceted and splendorous) wisdom of God” because God’s wisdom is “made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (the spiritual realm of life and thought, hf) and is “according to the eternal purpose which He (God) purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:10-11).
In the light of the above, it is not surprising that following His death for the sins of the world, Jesus said to His apostles: “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). Before anyone could have remission of sins, Christ had to die and shed His blood “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). But after having suffered for the sins of the world and having been resurrected, Christ commanded His apostles to “go into all the world and preach the gospel (the good news of His death, burial, and resurrection, I Corinthians 15:3-4) to every creature” (Mark 16:15). To enable the apostles to carry out this tremendous responsibility, Christ promised them that they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem (the beginning place, Luke 24:47), and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). (See the previous Study: # 018 – “The Coming Of The Holy Spirit”).
When we move to Acts 2 we find the Holy Spirit filling the apostles, empowering them to speak in the languages of the thousands of Jews who were in Jerusalem “from every nation under heaven” for the observance of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-13). Peter, along with the rest of the apostles, explains the phenomenon that was taking place, showing that it was the fulfillment of what God had foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament (Acts 2:14-21). The Spirit-filled apostles then proceed to proclaim the death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and coronation of Christ, building to a grand crescendo: “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
As a result of this first proclamation of the gospel in the fullness of its accomplished facts (the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ), many in the audience “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37). The divine reply is given: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).
What were the results? “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). Thus, the church was established. People heard the good news of Christ’s death for their sins, they believed the message, they acted upon the divine instructions given to them, and they became numbered with the embryonic group of 120 left behind by Christ when He ascended back to heaven (Acts 1:15). Thereafter, “the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
From the above, the following truths emerge:
1. The church began in the city of Jerusalem, for that was the place where “repentance and remission of sins” were first preached (Luke 24:47).
2. The church had its beginning on the first Day of Pentecost following the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, for until Christ’s death and the shedding of His blood the church could not exist as an historical reality (Acts 20:28).
3. Christ alone is the founder of the church, the body of blood-redeemed people, because He alone paid the price for human redemption (Romans 5:8-9; Matthew 16:18).
4. Christ alone is the foundation of the church, because the faith of its members rests solely on Christ (I Corinthians 3:11; I Peter 2:6-8).
5. Christ alone is the head of the church, for He alone is worthy of our allegiance (Ephesians 1:22-23).
6. The church is the collective body of people that has been cleansed of its sins by the blood of Christ and purchased to God by Christ’s blood (I Peter 1:18-19; Acts 20:28).
7. The church is composed of those people who have been delivered from “the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His (God’s) love” (Colossians 1:13), which is the same as “and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
8. The church is now God’s “holy nation, His own special people (a people for His own possession, American Standard Version)” (I Peter 2:9).
How significant the church! How vital the church! How necessary the church! Without it the manifold wisdom of God is never displayed. Without it the redemptive work of Christ is never realized in the existence of a body of redeemed people. Without it the kingdom of God does not exist. Without it there is no place in which to glorify God since “to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen” (Ephesians 3:21).
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
Saved By Grace
“And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47). “But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we (Jews) shall be saved in the same manner as they (Gentiles)” (Acts 15:11).
In our previous Study we learned that all that God had been preparing mankind for prior to the coming of Christ, all that the Old Testament prophets had been foretelling, all that Christ came into the world to accomplish reached its fruition in the establishment of the church, the body of people that has been redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ. We are now ready to move into a series of studies that is designed to set forth God’s wonderful plan of salvation, of how a person–any person anywhere–can enter into a spiritual relationship with God and be a part of the church, that body of people to whom the Lord adds those who have been saved from their sins (Acts 2:47).
The New Testament book of Romans, particularly chapters 1 through 8, sets forth in magnificent tones the wonderful, amazing grace of God toward sinful humanity. By His grace, God made provisions for mankind’s redemption through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Consider for example the tremendous statement found in Romans 5:6-8: “For when we were still without strength (to save ourselves, hf), in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” This is grace–God’s unmerited, undeserved love and favor toward sinful humanity in taking the initiative to save us by means of the propitiation/atonement offered by Christ for us on the cross (Romans 3:25).
The reality of salvation by grace runs throughout the gospel. In fact, the gospel is the message of God’s grace toward us, the good news that “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…” (I Corinthians 15:3). The apostle Paul speaks with great appreciation of “the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24). Throughout the New Testament emphasis is given to the exhilarating truth that we are saved by grace. Consider a few of the passages setting forth this fact.
Romans 3:24: “…being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”
Romans 5:20: “But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more…”
I Corinthians 15:10: “But by the grace of God I am what I am…”
II Corinthians 8:9: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich (referring to His pre-fleshly existence with God, Philippians 2:5-6), yet for your sakes He became poor (by coming to earth as a man and dying for our sins, Philippians 2:7-8), that you through His poverty might become rich (in spiritual blessings, Ephesians 1:3).”
Ephesians 1:7: “In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”
Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”
II Timothy 1:9: “…who (God) has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.”
Titus 3:5-7: “…not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit…that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Hebrews 2:9: “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
On we could go, submitting passage after passage of Sacred Scripture affirming the truth that salvation is possible only because of the grace, the unmerited love and favor of God toward man as demonstrated in the death of Christ for all mankind. Truly, “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).
In the light of the above, some may wonder why everyone will not be saved. Some may wonder why Christ, in His Sermon on Mount, urged people to “enter in at the narrow gate,” and then warned: “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go through it” (Matthew 7:13). Some may wonder why, as Christ came to the end of that great sermon, He cautioned: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). While no one deserves God’s grace and while salvation can never be earned, is there something a person must do to accept God’s grace? Is there any validity to the question often raised in the Acts of the Apostles: “What must I do to be saved?”
In the next several lessons we shall give careful attention to the response that one must make to God’s amazing grace in order to be saved and incorporated into the church, the people who are now God’s “holy nation, His own special people” (I Peter 1:9-10).
BASIC BIBLE STUDIES
“What Must I Do To Be Saved?”
“Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ ” ( Acts 2:37).
In our previous Study we saw that any person’s hope of salvation rests upon the grace of God. No one can ever “lift himself up by his own bootstraps” to a right relationship with his Maker. As futile as were the efforts of the ancients to build “a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven” (Genesis 11:4, KJV), so is mankind’s effort to save himself by his own goodness. Human redemption required God taking the initiative on man’s behalf and providing a propitiation for sin. That atonement was the blood of Christ, shed “for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28), motivated as it was by the unmerited love and favor of God (Romans 5:8).
The writer of the New Testament book of