Hugh’s News and Views (More)
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tFIFTEEN TRAITS OF GENUINE CHRISTIAN LOVE
We Americans use the word “love” in a wide variety of ways. We “love” apple pie, banana pudding, hamburgers, French fries, and sweet tea. (When I lived in Selma, AL and ate at the Downtowner, I became convinced that “sweet tea” was really just one word with two syllables!)
We “love” our country, the state we are from, our hometown, summertime, springtime, fall (some of us even love wintertime and snow!), the mountains, and/or the beach.
Teenagers “love” their boyfriend or girlfriend.
We “love” to play golf, to fish, to hunt, to hike, our favorite sports team, college football games on TV, our cars and trucks, our dogs and cats, our husband, our wife, our parents, our brothers and sisters, our children and grandchildren, our neighbors, the Lord, the church, and our fellowman.
Yet it should be obvious that we do not “love” all of these in the same way or in the same sense.
The Greeks had four words for the one word we call “love.” Eros referred to romantic or passionate love, and is the word from which we get our word “erotica.” Storge referred to family love, love between parents and children, grandparents and grandchildren, brothers and sisters, etc. Philia referred to the love of friends or brotherly love. Agape referred to selfless love, the kind of love that God has for all mankind and the kind of love that Christians are to have for all mankind.
None of these aspects of love is mutually exclusive, but agape is the highest form of love, and arises from a deliberate choice and act of the will and mind, enabling us to love even our enemies and those who hate us.
In I Corinthians 13:1-7, the apostle Paul sets forth the necessity of agape/love, along with fifteen characteristics of that love. It will help us to know if we are a person of true Christian love by looking at each of these traits. (Note: We will use the New King James Version as the basis for our examination of these traits, with comparisons to other English versions for help in understanding the meaning of the various traits.)
1. Love suffers long. It is patient (NASB, NIV). A person of love is willing to endure or put up with a lot.
2. Love is kind. It is good-natured, gentle, affectionate, and tender. “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted . . .” (Ephesians 4:32).
3. Love does not envy (is not jealous, NASB). It does not have negative feelings toward the good fortune or success of others.
4. Love does not parade itself. It does not brag (NASB) or boast (NIV). A person of true Christian love is not a “show off.”
5. Love is not puffed up. It is not arrogant (NASB) or proud (NIV). As David Lipscomb observed, “It does not engage in an inflated opinion of itself” (Commentary on First Corinthians, p. 197).
6. Love does not behave rudely. It is not ill-mannered, discourteous; it does not act unbecomingly (NASB).
7. Love does not seek its own. It is not self-centered or self-seeking (NIV). It is not concerned with its own selfish desires, but is concerned about the good and happiness of others.
8. Love is not provoked. Here I must admit to a little favor of the King James Version for it says, “Not easily provoked,” giving me a little “wiggle room” with people who do sometimes provoke, irritate, and aggravate me. The meaning, however, is that a person of genuine love does not readily take offense or is easily angered.
9. Love thinks no evil. It “does not take into account a wrong suffered” (NASB), “it keeps no record of wrongs” (NIV). “It does not surmise evil and put the worst construction on the action of others” (Lipscomb).
10. Love does not rejoice in iniquity. It does not delight in evil (NIV). Unlike those who approve of the wicked deeds of others (Romans 1:32), the person of genuine love does not find joy in wrong doing, whether in word or deed.
11. Love rejoices in the truth. It is happy at the triumph of truth. It loves to see the truth of the gospel being advanced. It rejoices to see people “walking in truth” (II John 4), rather than in wickedness.
12. Love bears all things. It “always protects” (NIV). “It does not lay bare and expose to public gaze the infirmities and wrongs of the erring and those led into sin” (Lipscomb). Instead, “Love covers a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8, NASB).
13. Love believes all things. This does not mean that love is gullible, but it means that it is slow to believe the worst.
14. Love hopes all things. It looks for and optimistically hopes for the best in all people and all situations.
15. Love endures all things. It always perseveres (NIV). It is not driven from the path of right, regardless of the actions of others.
Paul concludes his divine description of love by saying, “Love never fails” (verse 8). Unlike the miraculous gifts of the apostolic age which served a special purpose and then passed away (verses 8-10), faith, hope, and love continue to abide, with the greatest of these being love (verse 13).
Now for a challenge: Go back and read verses 4 through 7 again, and everywhere the word “love” appears, put your name there and see if it is true that (Your Name) “suffers long and is kind . . . does not envy, does not parade itself, is not puffed up,” and so on through all fifteen of the traits. It will make you stop and think about your own life and your own attitude toward others.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (I John 4:7-8).
April 10, 2018
April 11, 18, 25: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
o ponder the questions which are brought to the surface
by the discussion presentation.
NOTATIONS, OBSERVATIONS, AND QUOTATIONS
Preachers should be kind, gracious, and loving in their presentation of the gospel. They need to be thoughtful and respectful of their audiences. There is never a time to be rude or discourteous in the pulpit (or in everyday life, for that matter). The apostle Paul said to the young preacher Timothy, “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26, NKJV).
At the same time, the faithful preacher cannot and must not compromise the truth of God’s word. Paul also told Timothy to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2, KJV). Preachers must not hold back the truth of God for fear of making some of their hearers angry. Paul asked, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth” (Galatians 4:16)? Unfortunately, that sometimes happens.
We who preach need to spend much time in prayer before we enter the pulpit that we will be kind and gracious toward our hearers and that we will speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). I arise early on Sunday mornings (usually by no later than 4:30) to spend time reviewing my Bible class and sermon notes and “bathing” them in prayer for God to help me to be considerate of my audience and to speak as I ought to speak—kindly, graciously, lovingly, with wisdom, and yet with firmness and conviction. I would commend this practice to all who preach.
I am fascinated by the multiplicity and diversity of church names that I see today in our increasingly pluralistic religious world. In our area we have the Freedom Church, the God Why Church, the Fellowship Church, the Heartsong Church, the Love’s Way Church, the Gracepoint Church, the Joy Church, the CrossLife Church, the Cornerstone Church, and various others. Interestingly, I have never seen a church calling itself the Obedient Church, the Faithful Church, the Committed Church, the Narrow Way Church, the One Way Church, or the Bible Adherence Church. Perhaps these would not be as appealing to prospective members as those previously mentioned.
One of the great congregations among us is the North Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, TN. The Sunday morning worship attendance is consistently above 600, but the impressive thing is the attendance at the other scheduled services. On a recent Sunday the attendance was as follows: Sunday morning worship—663; Sunday morning Bible classes—453; Sunday evening worship—442; Wednesday evening Bible classes—446. Through the years this church has been blessed with a stalwart eldership, able preachers in the local pulpit, and outstanding preachers for twice-a-year gospel meetings.
In my “News & Views” of last week I included a sketch of the grand old gospel preacher, F. B. Srygley, along with a quotation from him. Brother Srygley said, “I was baptized in Rock Creek by Joe Halbrook, a little more than sixty-four years ago. I have wobbled along all these years, but I have not turned directly around and started the other way” (The Warrior from Rock Creek: Life, Times, and Thoughts of F. B. Srygley 1859-1940, Earl Kimbrough, p. 480).
I doubt if brother Srygley ever “wobbled,” but I would to God that all preachers (as well as all Christians) could truthfully say what brother Srygley said. Sadly, we have an increasing number of preachers who have “turned directly around and started the other way.” They have abandoned the way of the Lord for various denominational and community churches. With an air of superiority about them, they think they have “journeyed to freedom” and found “the more perfect way” (to adopt an expression from the apostle Paul, though in context he was discussing another matter, but which seems to fit the notion of these so-called “newly enlightened” ones who once were part of us).
Worse still, however, are those who remain among us, but bring their denominational (Catholic, Protestant, and even Jewish) thinking, doctrines, practices, and terminology into previously faithful congregations of the Lord, seeking to restructure those congregations along the lines of the generic, ecumenical brand of “Christianity” that has become so popular in our land. The plain, distinctive message of the New Testament has been lost on the minds of many preachers, elders, deacons, teachers, and members of the Lord’s church in general. It is to be hoped that at least some of them will “come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil” before it is too late (II Timothy 2:26).
March 27, 2018
April 4, 11, 18, 25: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN
PAUL’S SPEECH TO THE EPHESIAN ELDERS
I have always considered the apostle Paul’s speech to the elders of the church in Ephesus (Acts 20:17-38) one of the most touching and moving speeches in all of the Bible. Obviously, it does not rank above our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5, 6, 7) or Peter’s sermon on Pentecost when the church was established (Acts 2) or Stephen’s sermon resulting in his martyrdom (Acts 7) or even Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17). Yet, for sheer pathos, to say nothing of its sobering content, few if any speeches in the New Testament would outrank Paul’s address to the Ephesian elders.
The background to the speech lies in the fact that Paul is completing his third extensive preaching tour and is on his way to Jerusalem where he will be arrested simply for preaching the gospel of Christ. In a hurry to get to Jerusalem, Paul sends word to the elders of the church at Ephesus to meet him in the little seacoast town of Miletus. It is significant that it was the elders of the church that Paul called to meet him. He did not send for the preacher of the church. He did not send for the deacons of the church. He did not send for the women of the church. He did not send for a combined delegation of the elders, deacons, preacher, and most influential members of the church. He sent for the elders, those men and those men alone who are charged with the oversight of the local church (I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:17; et al)!
He reminds them of the work he had done among them (the record of which is found in Acts 19), and how he had kept back nothing that was profitable, but had taught both publicly and from house to house. Now, with a heavy heart, he is going bound in his spirit to Jerusalem not knowing what will happen to him except that the Holy Spirit had revealed to him that chains and tribulations awaited him. Yet, none of these things moved him from his determined course of action and he did not count his life as dear to himself. He was committed to finishing his race (earthly life) with joy and the ministry he had received from the Lord Jesus “to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”
Touchingly, and no doubt with tears streaming down his cheeks, he tells these elders that they will see his face no more. He reminds them that he is innocent of the blood of all men because “I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.” (What a standard for all gospel preachers today!)
Coming to the heart of his address, Paul charges the elders to “take heed to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd/feed the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Elders are not a board of directors! They are shepherds of sheep. They learn how to do their work by observing how Christ, the good shepherd, did His work (John 10:7-14; I Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:20-21).
The need for elders being diligent doing their work lies in the fact that savage/grievous wolves (false teachers) stand ready to pounce on the flock and destroy it. Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). Paul alerted Timothy and Titus to the dangers of false teachers and false teaching (I Timothy 4:1-5; II Timothy 3:1-9; 4:1-5; Titus 1:10-16). The apostle John issued the same warning (I John 4:1; II John 5-11). Sadly, today not much attention is given to the danger of “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” and those who warn of such are viewed as being “too negative.”
Paul alerts the Ephesian elders to the fact that from among themselves men would arise “speaking perverse things to draw away the disciples after them.” It is a well-known fact of church history that the apostasy originated in the elderships of the various congregations, as certain men, vying for power beyond their local congregations, began to reserve for themselves alone the titles of bishop, archbishop, metropolitan bishop, and eventually the title of Pope. Paul therefore urges the elders to watch, stay alert, and be aware of what is going on.
He reminds them that for three years he had not ceased to warn them day and night with tears. “And now,” he says, “I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.” The word of God faithfully taught and adhered to is the only sure preventive of apostasy (see II Timothy 4:2; James 1:21-22; I Peter 4:11a).
He reminds the elders that with his own hands he had worked to provide for his necessities, as well as the necessities of those who were with him. He urges the elders to support the weak (those without the adequate needs of life) and to remember the words of the Lord that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”
With these words, Paul’s magnificent speech ends. He then knelt down and prayed with them all. The elders are overcome with emotion, falling on Paul’s neck and kissing him with the holy kiss that was part of their culture (Romans 16:16a; I Corinthians 16:20; I Thessalonians 5:26; et al). Their greatest sorrow was over the fact that they would see his face no more. “And they accompanied him to the ship.” They went with him as far as they could physically go, no doubt with arms outstretched and fingers touching until the final moment.
What a meeting! What a speech! What truths enunciated that are still so relevant and still so badly in need of being known and applied today in the church of our Lord! It is hard for me to read this speech and its emotional ending without tears welling up in my eyes.
January 30, 2018
February 5: Freed-Hardeman University Bible Lectures, Henderson, TN
ONLY SIX SHOPPING DAYS LEFT UNTIL JUDGMENT DAY
(Note: I am indebted to my friend and fellow gospel preacher, Steve Kirby, minister of the Hilldale Church of Christ in Clarksville, TN, for the idea behind this issue of “Hugh’s News & Views”).
TV, radio, and print media remind us that there are only six (or whatever the number) shopping days left until Christmas. The Bible tells us about the great day of final judgment, but it does not tell us how many days there are until that day comes. Of His second coming and the day of judgment, Christ said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, no, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
Yet, the Bible is quite clear that there will be a day of judgment and that to enter into eternal life in heaven one must be prepared for it. In a masterful verbal picture of that day, Jesus said, “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. And all the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another as a shepherd divides his sheep from the goats. And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left” (Matthew 25:31-46).
Paul, the great apostle, declared that God “has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all, in that He has raised Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Paul further affirmed: “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in his body, according to what he has done, whether it is good or bad” (II Corinthians 5:10). He emphasized: “So then each one of us shall give account of Himself to God” (Romans 14:12). Yes, “it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27).
Where should one “shop” in preparation for the day of judgment? Not among the councils, creeds, catechisms, and church manuals of men! Not among family and friends who are wed to their religious traditions and long standing denominational affiliations. Not among preachers and priests and televangelists who refuse to give people a Bible answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” Not the advocates of the “sinner’s prayer” or “just receive Jesus into your heart.” Not among the “faith only” advocates.
Christ alone is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), and it is to Him and His inspired apostles and prophets and their message as set forth in the New Testament that we must do our “shopping” and “buying” (see Proverbs 23:23) in preparation for the day of judgment. On the day of Pentecost, when inquiring sinners had been convinced of the Messiahship and Lordship of Jesus, they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’ ” (Acts 2:37-38). Those who gladly received the word were baptized (verse 41), and all those who were saved from their sins that day were constituted into Christ’s church which had its beginning on that momentous occasion. Those who have continued down through the ages to hear, believe, and obey that same original message of the inspired apostles have been saved from their sins and added to the same church to which those first converts were added (Acts 2:47).
The rest of the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament is a confirmation of this divine plan of human redemption. “And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). “Therefore we were buried with Him in baptism (not sprinkled or poured, hf), that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Just as new life for Christ began after His resurrection, just so new life for us begins after our death to sin by repentance, and after our burial and resurrection with Christ in baptism! After all, why would anyone who is already spiritually alive be buried in baptism? We bury dead people, not live people!
A thousand years before the birth of Christ, the wise man Solomon said, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
If you knew there were only six “shopping” days left before the day of judgment, what would you be “buying”?
December 19, 2017
We were having a light supper with one of the elders and his wife in their magnificent home one Sunday night after church. Another elder and his wife had been invited to join us. We were seated at the table, enjoying delicious food and delightful conversation. Suddenly, the wife of the other elder said to me, “Hugh, I think your preaching is a little bit old style. I think you need to update your preaching.” To say the least, I was taken aback.
We had been with the congregation only a few months, but I had been preaching for thirty years, twenty-five as a full-time minister. I had already served several excellent congregations of Christ and had always had good, successful works everywhere I had preached. I guess I was so naïve that I had not thought all that much about my “style” of preaching, though I realized different preachers had different ways of presenting their lessons, some more effectively than others. I had always tried to be thoughtful, gracious, poised, dignified, kind, and yet courageous in my preaching—and, above all, Biblical! I tried never to enter the pulpit unprepared, though I would be the first to admit that, like any other preacher, my sermons were not all of equal quality, nor did all of them always resonate with everyone in the audience. Rare is the preacher who can please all of the members of his congregation.
I had always preached (and still preach) with the conviction that the power is in the message (the gospel), not in the messenger, and that the word of God has within it the power to convict, to convert, to instruct, to admonish, and to comfort those who hear it. Upon questioning, the critical elder’s wife could not name anything unscriptural that I had preached. Unknown to me at the time was the fact that her unmarried daughter was chasing the husband of one of our members, but her concern was not in seeking help for her daughter’s sinful lifestyle, but in chiding me for my preaching style! Perhaps she felt that some of my preaching was striking a bit closer to home than she would like. I don’t know.
More recently I heard a gospel preacher and Bible professor in an informal interview with another preacher refer to some preachers as “old school.” I suppose he meant by that the same thing the elder’s wife meant by “old style.” Some people seem to think that “new school” preachers need to use a lot of humor and contemporary human interest stories in their preaching. I am not opposed to illustrative stories in preaching, even humorous stories, and have been known to use them myself, but I am convinced that some preachers are frustrated comedians. They need to decide which they want to be—preachers or comedians. Most of them do a poor job of being either when they try to be both! Charles Spurgeon, the famous Baptist preacher, is reported to have once said, “A time will come when instead of shepherds feeding the sheep, the church will have clowns entertaining the goats.”
I am all for relevance in preaching. I am all for being fresh in one’s manner/style of presentation. I am all for preachers examining their manner of presentation and being willing to adapt to the times, but not at the expense of abandoning truth. I am all for addressing current, “cutting edge” issues, but not at the expense of forsaking “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16)! And I understand “the old paths” to be any matter addressed in the word of God that mankind is perennially in need of. God’s word is always “cutting edge” (cf. Hebrews 4:12)!
It is my duty (and the duty of every man who calls himself a gospel preacher) to follow the example of the apostle Paul who said, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:26-27). I have honestly endeavored to do that throughout my life as a preacher (now extending to almost 65 years), and I intend to continue to do that. But in doing so, I run the risk of being told (as I was by a fellow who worked with me on a television program in the same city where the incident in paragraph one occurred) that I am too “Bible-y”!
“Old style”? “Old school”? What about Bible style? What about being schooled in the Bible and preaching it?
“I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (II Timothy 4:1-5, NASB).
August 29, 2017
“EXPERIENCING GOD” VS. DOCTRINE
Clay Stauffer is the preacher for the Woodmont Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in Nashville. He frequently writes the “Faith and Values” column that appears in the Saturday edition of The Tennessean, Nashville’s daily newspaper. Dr. Stauffer is a gifted writer and I enjoy reading him, though I do not always agree with all of his conclusions.
In the June 10, 2017 edition of the newspaper, he had a column titled “Experiencing God more important to young people than doctrine.” Among his observations were the following: “One of the reasons many young people give for not being interested in the church is that they view it as boring. Compared to many other options in our entertainment culture, many millennials look at church as dull, irrelevant and out of touch.” (Dr. Stauffer had earlier referenced the absolute fever that has prevailed in Nashville for several days over the Nashville Predators’ pursuit of the Stanley Cup in the National Hockey League’s Championship Series with the Pittsburg Penguins).
My question is, should we put “church” in the same category with sports and other forms of entertainment? Should we have the same kinds of “entertainment expectations” when we go to church as when we attend a sports or musical event, a movie, or a play?
Dr. Stauffer cited Harvard theologian Harvey Cox and his book The Future of Faith in which Cox says we have entered the “Age of the Spirit,” and argues that “in this new era, doctrines and creeds are not nearly as important as breaking down barriers between religions and denominations.” Stauffer quotes Cox as saying “that spirituality is now replacing formal religion, and actually experiencing God is much more important than maintaining correct beliefs about God.”
How does the preceding measure up against the teaching of Christ and the New Testament? Is “experiencing God” and correct beliefs about God mutually exclusive? Is it a matter of “experience” versus “doctrine”? Is doctrine/teaching no longer relevant and necessary?
Christ warned that “teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” results in vain worship (Matthew 15:9). In the mind of Jesus there was a connection between acceptable worship and doctrine that is true to the word of God. Paul wrote that “the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths” (II Timothy 4:3-4, NASB). If the old apostle were present today I think he might say we are in one of those times! People love myths more than they love sound Bible doctrine, and there are plenty of religious myths floating around today to “entertain” the gullible and superficial!
John (often described as the apostle of love because he said so much about love) warned that the one who goes beyond the doctrine of Christ does not have God, while the one who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son (II John 9). How is that for a statement by an inspired apostle as to the relationship between “experiencing God” and doctrine? It is hard for even the casual student of the New Testament to miss the connection between correct doctrine and a right relationship with God. To have God and His Son in our lives, we must abide in the doctrine of Christ!
Clearly, our lives must be transformed by the power of the gospel so that we reflect the presence of Christ in our lives (Galatians 2:20; Philippians 3:7-12), but this transformation does not take place by osmosis or by some alleged working of the Spirit apart from the faithful teaching of God’s word and its life-changing principles (Matthew 28:19-20; Romans 10:17). God’s grace teaches (indoctrinates) us in how to live such a transformed life (Titus 2:11-14). Only in this way are we “transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (II Corinthians 3:18). As Stauffer noted in his article, “Healthy religion touches both the head and the heart and leads to an authentic experience of God.”
Whether we are Centennials, Millennials, Generation X-ers, Baby Boomers, or Traditionalists (those born before 1945), let us learn to worship and serve God according to His will, “nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine” set forth in Scripture (I Timothy 4:6).
If you are looking for entertainment, follow your favorite sports team, attend a good play or concert, watch a good movie or a clean TV program, but don’t go to church expecting the same kind of entertainment experience. That is not the church’s purpose. It has a much higher and nobler purpose and that is to show how Christ can transform our lives, making them “useful for the Master, prepared for every good work” (II Timothy 2:16).
June 13, 2017
(Note: Rarely do I run an essay written by someone other than myself. I can remember only one or two instances in which I have done so. The essay this week was written by my friend David Tant of Roswell [Greater Atlanta], GA. I commend it to all for our thoughtful consideration.)
According to my 9th Grade Revised Latin, the title means “NO BACKBONE.” Physically, this devastates the body, making it impossible to function. This is tragic. But more tragic is spiritual “spina absentia.” This “spinelessness” is too common in the Lord’s body, and we need the “Great Physician” to stiffen the backbone so that the function of the body of Christ might not be impaired. Consider some of the disease’s symptoms.
FAILURE TO DISCIPLINE INFLUENTIAL MEMBERS – Many denominations are reluctant to practice discipline, for this may cause them to lose money, members and popularity. But could it be that some of us (in the Lord’s church, hf) have the same thinking? There are churches where influential members are guilty of flagrant sins, and nothing is done about it. Elders’ relatives, rich folks, preachers’ children, etc., are winked at in their sin because of a “don’t rock the boat” attitude. If such is not a “respect of persons,” and therefore a sin (James 2:1-9), then what is it?
FAILURE TO TEACH AN UNPOPULAR TRUTH – Is it possible that part of the problem with immodest dress in the church is because some teachers, preachers and elders are afraid to teach their convictions? Afraid they would have some upset people to deal with? Is there any connection to Paul’s urgent charge to Timothy to “preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (II Tim. 4:1-2)? Yes, Paul knew there would be “itching ears,” but they do not change the teacher’s responsibility to speak the truth in love. How many other unpopular subjects are left alone, which then harm the church, because error will not stay in the closet!
FAILURE TO STAND FOR RIGHT WHEN AMONG THOSE WHO DO WRONG – Peter got in the wrong crowd, and didn’t have the backbone to stand up for Jesus. Where is your tongue when you are among those who are gossiping, slandering God’s name and telling filthy jokes? What about the admonition to “reprove the unfruitful works of darkness” (Eph. 5:11)? If one is ashamed to stand up and be counted on the Lord’s side, perhaps a careful study of Matthew 12:30 and II Timothy 1:8 might prove to be helpful.
FAILTURE TO REBUKE OR EXHORT A FRIEND WHO IS IN ERROR – How misguided are such friends. If I am about to eat something contaminated with poison, should my friend warn me? Love should motivate us to do what is in the eternal interest of our friends, and it may mean correcting them, as Paul did Peter (Gal. 2:11ff). Granted, our words will not always be well received (Gal. 4:16), but a soul is worth more than a superficial friendship any day, isn’t it?
FAILURE TO CORRECT OUR CHILDREN – Dr. Spock’s philosophy of not saying “No” to our children for fear of warping their personalities seems to be common today. Even our government in some areas seems to consider a corrective tap on a child’s bottom to be a grievous offense. We are reminded of the evil that came upon Eli’s house “because his sons brought a curse on themselves and he did not rebuke them” (I Sam. 3:13). Wise Solomon urges: “Correct your son, and he will give you comfort; He will also delight your soul” (Prov. 29:17). Children without discipline are considered as children who are illegitimate, i.e. without fathers (Heb. 12:8).
FAILURE TO BE A MAN AND ADMIT “I WAS WRONG” – What injury pride and ego bring when they refuse to allow us to humble ourselves and admit that we, too, are capable of error. How blessed are those who have the spirit of David and the prodigal son who were able to swallow their pride and say, “I have sinned.” It seems that this spirit of pride comes dangerously close to those in I John 1:8 who say they have no sin.
FAILURE TO TEACH SOUND DOCTRINE – With some the norm must be “Offend no one, be tolerant of all.” Obviously it should never be a Christian’s intention to offend anyone, but truth sometimes offends. It seems Christ offended some. “Then the disciples …said to Him, ‘Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this statement?’” (Matt. 15:12). Paul must have offended some, which earned him being stoned, beaten and imprisoned. He even called names (I Tim. 1:20, II Tim. 2:17), as did our Lord (Matt. 23:14, Mark 8:15, etc.). We must not be as those who told the prophets to “Speak to us pleasant words” (Isa. 30:10), but must be willing to endure sound doctrine, which sometimes “reproves and rebukes” (II Tim. 4:2).
There are many symptoms of “spina absentia,” and we need to learn to recognize the warning signs, and take preventive steps, lest we be overcome, and thus render the body of Christ a helpless invalid. Too much is at stake for us to allow this disease to go untreated. –Jefferson David Tant
June 6, 2017
June 14: Rivergate Church of Christ, Nashville [Madison], TN
Tragically, our country, Western Europe, and, increasingly, the world as a whole, are divided between traditional values and postmodern values. This division is seen in all elements of our culture—political, religious, academia, social mores, et al). Partisanship and polarity, chaos and confusion seem to reign. In contrast to this is the peace that we all desire (or at least say that we desire) and that God alone can give.
Ronald D. Reeves, minister of the College Avenue Church of Christ in my boyhood hometown of DeFuniak Springs, Florida, in a recent issue of the church’s bulletin, called attention to a number of scriptures having to do with peace. I invite your thoughtful reflection on some of them.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
“Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another” (Mark 9:50b).
“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace” (John 16:33a).
“If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18).
“Therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Romans 14:19).
“For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints” (I Corinthians 14:34).
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
“. . . endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
“And let the peace of God rule (serve as an umpire, hf) in your heart . . .” (Colossians 3:15).
“Be at peace among yourselves” (I Thessalonians 5:13b).
“. . . that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence” (I Timothy 2:2).
“Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).
“But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17-18).
Let us deeply ponder the above statements and strive to practice them in our own lives.
At the same time, we must not, unlike ancient Judah on the eve of her destruction, be naïve and cry, “Peace, peace! When there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14). While Christ is the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), in another sense, He did not come to bring peace. Hear Him! “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.’ And ‘a man’s foes will be those of his own household’ ” (Matthew 10:34-35). Clearly then it is not peace at any price!
My longtime friend, Wayne Lankford, minister of the East Main Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has cogently observed: “Truth cannot be compromised for peace. This does not mean that we have to be harsh or rude, but when one group opposes Christ (and His Word), and the other group follows Christ faithfully, this brings division” (The East Main Messenger, March 19, 2017). And this explains the polarity and division that we are experiencing in our world, in our nation, and in the church today.
Real peace, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) is found only in humbly bowing to the will of God. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:9-11).
May 9, 2017
May 9: Old Philadelphia Church of Christ, Warren County, TN. (Join us this [Tuesday] evening at 7 o’clock as I speak on “The Church of Christ is Different”).
NOTES AND QUOTES
DAVID SHANNON SELECTED AS NEXT PRESIDENT OF FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY: I am thrilled with the choice of David Shannon as the next president of Freed-Hardeman University. I am confident that David is the very man needed to lead the school, and I join with hundreds of others in wishing him all the best in his new role. I am sure he will have the support and prayers of all of us who love Freed-Hardeman.
For the past 17 years, David has been practically a next door neighbor as he has served as the preacher for the Mount Juliet Church of Christ in Mount Juliet, TN. During his ministry the church has grown from some 500 members to over 1000. He is a master communicator and is as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar in “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.” I am convinced that he will see to it that the university stays in “the old paths” of New Testament Christianity, something, sadly, that cannot be said of all the colleges and universities among us.
The university’s Board of Trustees is to be highly commended for making what I believe is an exceptionally wise choice for the presidency of Freed-Hardeman University.
“CAMPBELLITES”: “I am not a ‘Campbellite.’ We managed to get past that pejorative epithet for the most part several decades ago. I am no more content with the current tag, ‘Stone-Campbell adherent.’ I have been added by God to Christ’s church. I am not, however, ‘a Church of Christ.’ I am a Christian.” (Cecil R. May, Jr., Preacher Talk).
In spite of the biblical clarity of the preceding, there are those (even some who like to view themselves as scholars) who do not know how to speak and write of the church or of their relationship to the Lord except in the most pronounced denominational terms. I marvel!
PRAISE BAND/TEAM: A recent “News & Views” raised the question, “On the day the church was established, who were the members of the Praise Band/Team?” A reader has cited Acts 10:1 as identifying at least one of the members: “Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band.” Sorry, DHP, but that won’t work. I am sure you know that text is not a reference to a musical band but to a military regiment. And, yes, I know you were being highly facetious, but it is about as good an answer as people can come up with when they have no real scripture for their practice.
CLIMATE CHANGE: Saturday, April 22, was designated as “Earth Day.” That evening on the CBS News a fellow was being interviewed who said that his greatest fear of the future was “climate change.” Well, yes, as a matter of fact, all humanity is in for a huge “climate change.” The Bible tells us that at the second coming of Christ “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up . . . Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 2:10-13). This present earth will be consumed and replaced with the eternal abode of the righteous, otherwise known in Scripture as “heaven” (II Corinthians 5:1, et al). The wicked and disobedient, on the other hand, will “have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8) and where “the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night . . .” (Revelation 15:11).
Yes, “climate change” is coming—real climate change! In eternity which section do you prefer—smoking or non-smoking?
TRANSGENDERISM: In this postmodern world of transgenderism I suppose it is possible for the Fuller Brush Man and the Avon Lady to be the same person.
SAVED UNCONDITIONALLY?: “If man is saved without any condition, and the Lord does not save them all, all alien sinners, and one is as mean as the other and just as good as the other, why does the Lord not save them all? If the Lord saves one alien sinner without any condition, will he not save them all that way? If not, why not?” (F. B. Srygley, Christian, in a debate with C. H. Cayce, Primitive Baptist, in Nashville, Tennessee, December 25-30, 1911, in which Mr. Cayce affirmed: “God gives eternal life to an alien sinner without a condition upon his (the sinner’s) part, and the Scriptures so teach,” Cayce-Srygley Discussion, Nashville, TN: McQuiddy Printing Company , p. 26).
Hugh Fulford May 2, 2017
May 7: Bethany Church of Christ, Franklin, KY (Family & Friends Day)
May 9: Old Philadelphia Church of Christ, Warren County, TN
SWIFT TO HEAR, SLOW TO SPEAK
Two weeks ago our “News & Views” essay posed some questions for Christians about the church. Last week we asked some questions concerning New Testament Christianity. The two essays were intended to complement each other and to allow us to check up on ourselves to see just how well acquainted we are with New Testament teaching about the church and the distinctiveness of New Testament Christianity. How did you do on those questions?
If as you read through those two articles you felt that your knowledge of the vital matters mentioned was somewhat lacking, what do you intend to do about it? Some may decide to do nothing about their lack of knowledge in these areas. Some may feel that they do not have time to do anything about the matter. Some may feel that it does not really make any difference how much one knows about these things.
For the person who wants to improve his or her knowledge of the things talked about in the two previous “News & Views,” as well as in all other areas of Bible teaching, James has some succinct and sage advice. He says, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (James 1:20). Let us focus on the first two items: “swift to hear, slow to speak.”
The person who is lacking in knowledge in any area of life needs to listen more and talk less. Sadly, some of those who demonstrate the least knowledge and understanding of even basic truths and principles of God’s word are the ones who want to do most of the talking. Yet, to learn and to grow in knowledge, one must be willing to close his mouth and open his ears—really open his ears to what is being said.
One begins the process of listening (and therefore of learning) by disciplining himself to take up God’s word, the Bible, and begin to read and study it in a systematic fashion, and to do this on a continuing regular basis. One cannot “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18) without regular, persistent personal Bible reading and Bible study. One will remain a spiritual infant, never able to digest the “meat/solid food” of God’s word (Hebrews 5:12-14) without a willingness to spend some quality time in personal Bible study.
The process of listening (and therefore of learning) can continue by regularly attending classes at the local church and availing oneself of the knowledge of well-informed Bible teachers. It is to be understood that the church will be one of the New Testament order, not a church of human origin, and that the teacher will be a man of fidelity to the inspiration and authority of the Scriptures, one who himself is “grounded and steadfast in the faith” (Colossians 1:23), and able to impart an understanding of God’s word to those who will be “swift to hear, slow to speak.”
The process of listening (and therefore of learning) is further enhanced by hearing the word of God preached regularly (Sunday morning and Sunday night) by a faithful and able gospel preacher. Ideally, the listener should have his Bible open before him, have a notebook in which to record the preacher’s main points and scripture references, and listen with an open mind, absorbing the truths being proclaimed. Over a period of several weeks and months, the faithful preacher will cover a wide range of Bible teaching, and the regular listener will gain a considerable amount of Bible knowledge.
The late, great gospel preacher, G. C. Brewer, once made the comment that if it were in his power to do so, he would have every member of the Lord’s church sit at the feet of a faithful and able gospel preacher every night for six months to hear the word of God proclaimed. Just think how well informed in the Scriptures one would become and how well one would do on the questions of the two previous essays if this were the case!
Beyond the matter of growing in one’s knowledge and understanding of God’s word, James’ formula of “swift to hear, slow to speak” has application elsewhere. Think how our home life would improve if husbands and wives, parents and children were “swift to hear, slow to speak.” Think how much a student’s grades would improve if James’ counsel was followed. Think how much one’s job performance would improve if one did more listening and less talking.
God gave us two ears and one tongue. That tells us something about the ratio of listening to talking. Now, let us remember the rest of the verse from James: “. . . slow to wrath.” Let us begin to apply this last admonition by not becoming angry or taking offense because we are reminded to talk less and listen more!
April 25, 2017
QUESTIONS CONCERNING NEW TESTAMENT CHRISTIANITY
Last week we wrote under the caption “Questions For Christians About The Church.” This week, as a sequel, we write of “Questions Concerning New Testament Christianity.”
Christianity as it came from the mind of God is clearly set forth in the New Testament. The four gospel records—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—give us the account of the earthly life of Christ and His ministry, including His death for the sins of all mankind, His burial, resurrection, ascension, and promised second coming to receive all of His faithful followers.
The fifth book of the New Testament—Acts of the Apostles—tells of the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles of Christ to guide them into all truth (in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to them before He left earth— see John 14, 15, 16), the establishment of the church on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem, and the expansion of the church, particularly through the labors of the apostle Paul.
The books of Romans through Jude set forth the basis of man’s justification from sin and give divine instructions to Christians as to how they are to live in the light of their redemption, how the church is to be organized, and how it is to function in worship and work. These books also set forth many warnings about false teachers, false doctrines, and a general falling away from the simplicity of the original faith of the gospel.
The last book of the New Testament—Revelation—describes the opposition Christians faced in the early centuries of the church (and, in principle, the challenges they face in all ages) and the ultimate victory of the faithful people of God.
All Christians should have this general outline of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament in their minds, and they need to be constantly reading these books to make sure they are remaining faithful to the Lord in all things (cf. Matthew 28:18-20). To assist us in this matter, here are some basic questions that may help us to draw a line between what the New Testament actually teaches and what is often viewed as acceptable in Christianity today. Can you provide biblical references for your answers?
- How was Jesus conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary?
- Did the shepherds and the wise men all show up the night Jesus was born? How many wise men were there? Where do you find this?
- Who baptized Christ and why was He baptized?
- What was the principal message that Christ preached? (You may need to do some reading in Mark 1 before you respond too quickly.)
- According to Christ, what are the two greatest commandments?
- Does love for Christ demand that we obey Him?
- What did Christ promise to build?
- Why did Christ have to die? Was there another way God could have saved mankind without Christ dying?
- What did Christ promise the apostles to assure them that they would be able to carry out His commission to preach the gospel to every creature in all nations and that their preaching would be without error?
- When the church was established in the city of Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, what were inquiring sinners told to do in order to have the remission of sins?
- On the day when the church was established, who were the members of the “Praise Band/Team”? Where do you find this?
- Who was called to be the first “pastor” of the church in Jerusalem? Where do you find this?
- Who was the first Bishop of the churches in Judea? Where do you find this?
- Who was the first Cardinal? Where do you find this?
- Who was the first Pope? Where do you find this?
- Who is the true and only head of the church?
- What is the organizational structure of local churches/ congregations?
- Does Christ want His followers to be divided into different denominations?
- Did Christ and the apostles ever issue any warnings about people departing from the truth?
- In whose name are Christians to pray?
- Christians are to do all “in the name of Christ.” What does this mean? How can we be sure that we are doing this?
- What is the purpose of the Lord’s Supper? What does the bread represent? What does the fruit of the vine represent?
- Should Christians be governed strictly and solely by the teaching of Christ and His apostles as set forth in the New Testament, or is it permissible to write creed books, catechisms, and church manuals to govern the people of God? Where do you find this?
- Are Christians God’s own special people?
- Are there many acceptable ways to serve the Lord? Where do you find this?
April 18, 2017
QUESTIONS FOR CHRISTIANS ABOUT THE CHURCH
- What is the church? (Write a simple one sentence definition of the church.)
- When did the church first exist in the mind of God?
- Was the church a subject of Old Testament prophecy?
- Who was the founder of the church?
- When was the church established as a historical reality?
- Where was the church established?
- Which book and chapter of the Bible records the beginning of the church as a historical reality?
- What are some other terms by which the church is known in the New Testament?
- In New Testament times were there any accountable saved people who were not members of the church?
- In what two senses is the word “saved” used in the New Testament?
- What did people do in New Testament times to be saved from their sins and added to the church?
- In New Testament times were there any members of the church who also were members of some denomination? (Do you know when the first protestant denomination was established and which one it was?)
- Who is the head (supreme authority) of the church?
- In New Testament times how were local churches (congregations in specific geographical locations) organized?
- What are some of the designations used in the New Testament for the overseers of the local churches?
- Are there any biblical texts that show that the New Testament sets forth a fixed standard for the church to adhere to in all ages until the end of time? Can you list some of these scriptures?
- Are there any indications in the New Testament that there would be a falling away from the New Testament standard for the church? Can you list some of these scriptures?
- Why are there so many different denominations in the world today? When and where did all of these denominations begin?
- Can one be a Christian, a member of the church of which we read in the New Testament, without being a member of any denomination?
- What is the ultimate destiny of the church? Can you give a scripture text to justify your answer?
How did you do on the questions? Do you need to do some further and deeper study on what the Bible teaches about the church?
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to every one who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear . . .” (I Peter 3:15).
April 11, 2017
A BRUISED REED AND SMOKING FLAX
Matthew, an apostle of Christ, said of Jesus, “A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench, Till He sends forth justice to victory” (Matthew 12:20). This statement is part of a larger quotation from Isaiah 42:1-4, and Matthew’s use of it is the only time this particular prophecy is quoted in the New Testament. (Note: Flax was a plant from which linen and other products were made.)
In context, both Isaiah and Matthew are talking about Christ as God’s Servant, “My Beloved, in whom My soul is well pleased,” the One upon whom God would put His Spirit, the One who would “declare justice to the Gentiles,” and the One “in [whose] name Gentiles will trust” (Matthew 12:18-21). In short, it is a text relating to the redemptive work of Christ, not only for the Jews but also for the Gentiles.
Of the expression, “A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench,” the great Bible scholar J. W. McGarvey has observed: “A bruised reed, barely strong enough to stand erect, or bowed with its head toward the earth; and smoking flax (a lamp-wick), its flame extinguished and its fire almost gone, fitly represents the sick, and lame, and blind who were brought to Jesus to be healed. The statement that he would not break these bruised reeds, nor quench this smoking flax, was an emphatic declaration, by contrast, that he would heal their bruises and fan their dying energies into a flame” (The New Testament Commentary: Vol. I – Matthew and Mark, originally published in 1875, reprinted by Eugene S. Smith, Des Moines, Iowa [n.d.], p. 106).
“A bruised reed He will not break, and smoking flax He will not quench” speaks of the gentle manner in which Christ dealt with others and sets forth a principle that all followers of Christ should pursue in their dealings with others. Jesus did not come into the world to break those already bruised, nor did He come to extinguish what little life may yet have been left in some. Rather, as He stated, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (John 10:10b). He invited all to come to Him, saying, “I am meek (gentle) and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-30).
With reference to Christians who are caught up in sin, Paul counseled, “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in the spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:1-2). In a similar vein, Jude, the brother of the Lord, said, “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; and save others with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). It must never be our intent to break the “bruised reed,” or to extinguish whatever smoldering flame of spiritual life that may still be in the person who has been overtaken in sin. Rather, it must be our aim to lift up and restore such a person.
Every Jewish priest who served under the law of Moses was to be a man who “can have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is also beset by weakness” (Hebrews 5:2). Under Christ there is no separation of priests and laity for all Christians constitute “a holy priesthood” and “a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:5, 9). But like the Old Testament priests, those who serve as elders/shepherds of the church and those who serve as ministers of God’s people need to be able to “have compassion on those who are ignorant and going astray,” understanding that they, too, are “beset by weakness.”
Concerning the approach to take with those who have become ensnared in false and erroneous ways, Paul wrote: “And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will” (II Timothy 2:24-26). The Lord’s servant is to deal gently, lovingly, and patiently with those who are caught up in sin and religious error. It must never be our desire to destroy them, but to rescue them.
Children in our homes “are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalms 127:3), and as such they are to be dealt with gently and in kindness, yet with firmness and discipline appropriate for their age. Fathers are not to provoke their children to wrath, nor provoke them so that they become discouraged (Ephesians 6:4; Colossians 3:21). When Jacob and Esau were reunited after many years of alienation, Esau magnanimously offered to lead the way back to their home, but Jacob who had gained a large family and much livestock said to Esau, “I will lead on gently (softly, KJV; slowly, NKJV), according to the pace of the cattle that are before me and according to the pace of the children . . .” (Genesis 33:14, ASV). There is a lesson there for parents if we have the wisdom to learn it!
Newborn babes in the family of God (new Christians) need this same kind of gentle care and counsel. Let those of us who are older in the faith remember how it was with us when we too were babes in Christ. We had many questions, we made many mistakes, and there was so much to learn—and still is!
“A bruised reed He will not break, And smoking flax He will not quench.” Let that likewise be our approach in dealing with our family members, our fellow Christians, and our fellowmen in society at large—with all who have been bruised by life and for whom the wick of life is burning low.
April 4, 2017
By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Moses declared, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). He also affirmed that “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:6). He further stated: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day” (Exodus 20:11). None of these inspired texts have footnotes allowing for the possibility of the evolutionary hypothesis.
The prophet Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Matthew, an apostle of Christ, quoted this passage from Isaiah and applied it to the birth of Christ (Matthew 1:22-23). There is no footnote in the divine text that indicates Christ was actually conceived in the womb of Mary by Joseph or any other man.
Daniel, a prophet of God, predicted: “And in the days of these kings (the Roman Emperors, hf) the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (Daniel 2:44). There is no footnote to this text to indicate that God might have to delay His plan to establish His kingdom and establish the church as a substitute. The New Testament reveals that the church is that kingdom (Matthew 16:18-19; Mark 1:14-15; Mark 9:1; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-4; Acts 2:47; Colossians 1:13; Hebrews 12:28).
Christ affirmed: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). The apostle Peter said of Christ, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is no footnote to either of these inspired texts to indicate that God might change His mind and save people in some way other than by Christ.
Jesus said, “Therefore, I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24). There is no footnote to this text indicating that there might be the possibility of a person being saved without believing in Christ.
The apostle Paul affirmed, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). The passage has no footnote indicating some way into Christ where all spiritual blessings (including salvation) are found (Ephesians 1:3; II Timothy 2:10) other than by baptism into Christ.
Paul further declared, “Therefore we were buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). There is no footnote indicating that if it is not convenient to bury (immerse) a person in the waters of baptism then sprinkling or pouring a little water on the person will be acceptable.
Jesus promised to build His church (Matthew 16:18), the New Testament affirms that the church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23), and further declares that “there is one body” (Ephesians 4:4). Christ prayed for the unity (oneness of all who would believe in Him (John 17:20-21), and Paul rebuked division among Christians and the wearing of human names (I Corinthians 1:10-13). None of these passages have footnotes to indicate that at some future date denominations and religious parties among professing Christians would be approved of the Lord.
Acts 20:7 provides an approved apostolic example of the Lord’s Supper being eaten on the first day of the week. Every week has a first day. The text contains no footnote signifying that men may later decide—with the Lord’s approval—to change the day and the frequency for the observance of the Lord’s Supper.
Paul instructed, “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says” (I Corinthians 14:34). To Timothy the evangelist he wrote, “Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence” (I Timothy 2:11-12). There is no footnote to either of these texts indicating that because of later changing culture in the 20th and 21st centuries women preachers would be acceptable.
May we have the simple faith and the unyielding courage to take God’s word as it is, without attaching our humanly devised footnotes to it.
LEARNING HOW TO WALK
One of the first major accomplishments of a little child is learning how to walk. As an infant he is totally dependent on others, but as he gets a little older he learns how to turn himself over, to get up on his hands and knees, and to begin to crawl. Later, he is able to pull himself up to a table or a sofa or a chair and begin to take those first faltering steps and to toddle around. Soon he is able to walk.
This has its spiritual parallel. We enter the family of God, the church, as newborn babes (Hebrews 5:13; I Peter 2:2). Early in our Christian life we depend on others to help us get around. But, as we learn and grow, we reach the point where we can stand on our own two feet and walk the Christian walk.
“Walk” is often used in scripture as a metaphor for “live.” Of Enoch it is said that he “walked with God” (Genesis 5:24). Of his illustrious great-grandson Noah the same is said (Genesis 6:9). As Christians, we are informed that that we rise from the watery grave of baptism to “walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). (It is sad that there are those so spiritually blind that they think they are in newness of life before they are immersed into Christ and His atoning death!) Of Christians it is said, “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (II Corinthians 5:7).
In his great letter to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul sets forth God’s grand scheme of human redemption. In the first three chapters of this profound document, the apostle gives an overview of God’s plan to save man by grace through faith and to reconcile alienated mankind to each other and to God in the one body, the church. The church is set forth as the fruition of God’s eternal purpose to save man through Christ (Ephesians 3:1-12). In the last three chapters of this New Testament book, Paul shows the practical, everyday side of what it means to be a person saved by grace through faith and how such a person is to live (walk).
As God’s redeemed children, we are to “walk worthy of the calling with which we have been called” (Ephesians 4:1). In the next two verses Paul mentions some of the things that this involves. We were called by the gospel (II Thessalonians 2:14), and our conduct is to be “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27).
We are not to walk “as the rest of the Gentiles walk” (Ephesians 4:17). Most of the Ephesian Christians were Gentiles, converts from the pagan world. Now that they (and we) have become children of God, neither they nor we are to live like the rest of the world lives (Note Ephesians 4:17-32 for insights into what this entails).
Of all people, Christians are to “walk in love” (Ephesians 5:2). This is agape, the highest and purest form of love, and it is to motivate all that we do (I Corinthians 16:14).
God’s people are to “walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). “Light” is a symbol of truth and righteousness, while “darkness” is a symbol of error and evil. Christians are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5:11).
We are to “walk circumspectly,” a word that carries with it the idea of “looking around,” being aware of our surroundings, living wisely (Ephesians 5:15-21).
When we turn to the three short letters of John near the end of the New Testament we discover additional inspired instructions as to how God’s people are to “walk.” John writes, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (I John 1:7). He goes on to affirm, “He who says he abides in Him (Christ) ought himself to walk just as He (Christ) walked” (I John 2:6).
Further, we are told, “And this is love, that we walk according to His commandments” (II John 6). It always amazes me that some of those who often speak so piously of loving God are the very ones who think that keeping His commandments is pure legalism and has nothing to do with love. But John said, “For this is the love of God that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:3).
John concludes his instructions about how Christians are to “walk” by saying, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth” (III John 4). In prayer to His Father, Jesus affirmed, “Thy word is truth” (John 17:17b). Therefore, to “walk in truth” is to live by that which has been revealed and authorized in God’s word. For those presumptuous souls who think the Bible is only a book of nice suggestions and general principles, John warned, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (II John 9). To be pleasing to the Lord we must walk in the truth of His word!
How are we coming along in our “walk” with God? Are we still just crawling, maybe only toddling, perhaps stumbling and staggering?
“Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly . . .” (Psalm 15:1-2, emphasis mine).
March 21, 2017
“IS THERE NOT A CAUSE?”
The story of David and Goliath is known to every child who has ever attended Sunday School. It is found in the 17th chapter of the Old Testament book of I Samuel, and is the exciting story of how one who was “but a youth” (verse 33) killed with a single stone shot from a sling a Philistine giant who was over 9 feet tall (verse 4).
Before his encounter with the giant, David had been tending the sheep of his father Jesse. But Jesse wanted young David to visit his three older brothers who were soldiers in the Israelite army, see how they were doing, and take provisions to them and their captain. When David arrived at the Israelite encampment he learned of the challenge of Goliath. “Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us” (verses 8-9). Of course, Goliath believed no one could win in a battle with him!
David the shepherd boy accepted the challenge. His older brother Eliab was angered by David’s audacity and accused him of pride and insolence. David’s response to his brother was, “Is there not a cause” (verse 29)? Yes, indeed, there was a cause! It was the cause of the honor and safety of God’s people Israel, and therefore the cause of God Himself!
Today, the people of God, His church, must realize that there is a cause to be loved, honored, advanced, and defended. It is the cause of Christ, the cause of simple, apostolic, New Testament Christianity in a world of so-called world religions and a multiplicity of expressions of corrupt, apostate Christianity as seen in Catholicism and Protestantism.
At the heart of this noble cause is the redemptive love of God as manifested in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ for the sins of all mankind (I Corinthians 15:1-4). These truths constitute the gospel, God’s power to save those who will believe it (Romans 1:16). This gospel is to be preached in all nations and to every creature (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). The gospel must be obeyed by all who would gain eternal life in heaven (II Thessalonians 1:6-10). This gospel also must be defended and protected from those who would corrupt it (Galatians 1:6-10; Philippians 1:17). “Is there not a cause?”
Underlying the gospel and foundational to it is the existence of God, the deity of Christ, the revelatory work of the Holy Spirit, and the inspiration, inerrancy, and authority of the Scriptures. The church (the aggregate body of those redeemed by the blood of Christ) is the fruition of God’s eternal purpose to redeem man through Christ (Ephesians 3:8-13). The church of which we read in the New Testament is pre-denominational and undenominational. It was established by Christ Himself, and not man. It has Christ as its foundation, head, and Savior. The divine plan by which one enters the church, the organization given to the church by the inspired apostles of Christ, the acts of worship engaged in by the early church as authorized by apostolic command and precedence, and the mission of the church as set forth in the New Testament is the very plan, organization, worship, and mission that the church must adhere to today! “Is there not a cause?”
Those who have been saved from their sins and added to the church (Acts 2:47) must commit themselves to “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:11-14). God’s people must “present [their] bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is [their] reasonable service” (Romans 12:1). They must be “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11). They must avoid the works of the flesh and instead demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). They must obey the great commandments (Matthew 22:37-40) and carry out the great commission (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark l6:15-16). “Is there not a cause?”
All of the above are essential elements of the cause of our Lord. They lie at the heart of the “one faith” so completely and clearly set forth in the New Testament (Ephesians 4:4-6; cf. Ephesians 3:1-7). Unlike the army of Israel who was afraid to go out against Goliath the Philistine giant, but in emulation of the shepherd boy David, God’s people must be willing to “put themselves on the line” for the holy and noble cause of Christ.
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Is there not a cause? Indeed, there is!
March 7, 2017
MALAPROPISMS AND THINKING ABOUT THE CHURCH
Likely, I should be among the last to write under the above heading. I did not grow up in a family that always used correct grammar or that always used a word in the right sense. All who speak and write are susceptible of inadvertently using the wrong word, to being “off” in their thinking, and to not expressing themselves either orally or in writing as clearly as they might like. Yet, those of us who speak and write to advance the cause of Christ should strive for accuracy—in our thinking, in our speaking, and in our writing.
A malapropism is “misusing words, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound.” Many years ago in Clarksville, Tennessee I was preaching on the Lord’s Supper and made mention of a congregation that had two large silver “gobblers” from which the fruit of the vine was served—one for each side of the two sections of pews in the auditorium! I, of course, meant two large silver goblets.
I once read an article in a brotherhood publication in which the writer, an able preacher of the gospel, spoke of “sclerosis” of the liver. I think he meant “cirrhosis” of the liver. Too, it was ten lepers that Jesus healed, not ten leopards, as I once heard a fellow say.
In a book I recently read the author (with a Ph.D. from a large and reputable mid-western state university and an advanced degree from Harvard Divinity School), spoke of his “fraternal” grandparents. We have “paternal” grandparents (our father’s family) and “maternal” grandparents (our mother’s family),” but not “fraternal” (relating to brothers) grandparents!
The same person referenced in the preceding paragraph recently sent me an email in which he said I had provided good “antidotal” evidence of a particular matter about which I was writing. He, of course, meant “anecdotal” evidence. While “antidote” is a word, it has nothing to do with “anecdote,” and there is no such word as “antidotal.”
A fellow in Alabama was explaining to his preacher why he and his wife were not in church the previous Sunday. He said they had gone to Birmingham to visit his niece who had had major surgery. He said, “Yeah, she had to have a complete ‘histerectum.’ They took out ‘everthang’—‘ovals’ and all!” Even a preacher has to be pretty straight-laced not to completely explode with laughter at such mis-use of words.
Now let’s think about the church—how we speak and write about it. In reading the New Testament, I have never found an English translation that capitalizes the word “church.” The reason for this is easy enough to understand—it is not a proper name, but one of several terms employed in scripture to refer to those redeemed from their sins by the blood of Christ. Other terms used to refer to the same people are “body of Christ,” “kingdom of God,” “kingdom of heaven,” “temple of God,” and “family of God.” “Body,” “kingdom,” “temple,” and “family” are not capitalized for the same reason that “church” is not capitalized.
God’s people have no one, exclusive, patented name. “Church of Christ” is not the name of the New Testament church, as a cursory reading of the New Testament so clearly reveals. When the church is spoken of in either its general, universal sense, or with reference to a particular geographical location, the word “church” is always spelled with a lower case “c.” Yet, because the Lord’s church exists in a denominational climate, it is hard for many members not to be influenced by denominational thinking and to speak and write of it with a kind of denominational consciousness.
I am not “Church of Christ” in my religious affiliation as opposed to being Baptist or Methodist. I am not a “Church of Christ” preacher and I do not belong to a “Church of Christ” congregation (which is the same as saying a “Church of Christ” church). There are no such things as “Church of Christ” colleges and “Church of Christ” periodicals. Only those who have not taken the time or made the effort to “think through” these matters and to see the church from a purely New Testament perspective speak and write in such a fashion.
At the same time, a local church of Christ may certainly be a legal, incorporated entity in order to own property, etc. In this case, it is proper to write of it as, for example, the “Westside Church of Christ.” Here we are talking about a legal entity that has identified itself with a proper name, and correct grammar requires the capitalization of “Church” since it is a part of the proper name of the legal entity. The same would be true of any signage in front of the meeting place. Yet, in an effort to appear not to be using the word “church” in a denominational sense, I often see it written as the “Westside church of Christ.” This, no doubt, is a reaction to what I have earlier said about capitalizing the word “church,” but in this case capitalization is not only in order, it is the grammatically correct thing to do.
Please be assured that it has not been my purpose in this essay to be hypercritical or nit-picky. These are not matters over which we should draw lines of fellowship. On the other hand, they do involve matters greatly affecting our effectiveness in advancing New Testament Christianity in its purity and simplicity. All Christians need to strive to have a clear, biblical concept of the church. We need to be clear in our thinking, clear in our speaking, and clear in our writing. And rather than passing lightly over these matters or becoming defensive about them, we need to be willing to take the time to study and think through these things. All of us probably have something to learn about these matters. We therefore need to have a humble and teachable attitude.
Of Paul and Barnabas it is said that they “so spoke that a great multitude both of the Jews and of the Greeks believed” (Acts 14:1, emphasis mine). Let those of us who preach, teach, and write for the advancement and defense of undenominational Christianity endeavor to do the same.
February 28, 2017
A PIECE OF RACIAL CHURCH HISTORY
n 1964 my family and I moved to Clarksville, Tennessee in order for me to serve as minister of the Madison Street Church of Christ. I was 26 years old and ambitious, but hopefully ambitious to serve the Lord on a wider field of opportunity. Clarksville was the home of a state university (Austin Peay) and a sprawling Army base (Fort Campbell).
When I moved to Clarksville the Madison Street church had between 400 and 500 members (considered to be a fairly large congregation as churches of Christ go), with a Sunday morning attendance commensurate with the membership. Of course, the attendance included children too young to be Christians, adult non-members, as well as visitors from the community, including a number of students from Austin Peay. Joe Morgan was president of the University and one of the church’s elders. Several other Austin Peay faculty were members at Madison Street.
At the same time I moved to work with the Madison Street church, Arthur Fulson and his family moved to Clarksville to work with the Main Street Church of Christ, a small African-American congregation of 35 to 40 members. Arthur and his family were to be supported by the Madison Street congregation. Main Street of itself was not able to fully support a minister.
Once a month, Arthur met with the elders at Madison Street to update them on the work at Main Street. I attended the elders’ meetings and was privy to Arthur’s reports. He was a fine man with a good family and an able preacher. In the very first meeting with the Madison Street elders and me he said, “Now brother Fulford and I moved to Clarksville about the same time, and we both have names that are similar—Fulford and Fulson. You may have trouble remembering which one is which, but just note that brother Fulford is a little taller than I am!” We all had a good laugh.
In 1967, Madison Street brought the well-known black evangelist, Marshall Keeble, to Clarksville to speak in a county-wide Wednesday evening service at Madison Street in preparation for a gospel meeting with Batsell Barrett Baxter. Brother Keeble spoke to over 1000 people that evening. The main floor of the Madison Street auditorium and the balcony were completely filled. Chairs were in the aisles and foyer. Children sat on the pulpit platform around brother Keeble. Members of the Main Street church attended.
Brother and sister Fulson worked hard, but the work at Main Street was slow. I would sometimes go and preach for them. By 1968, Arthur and Clara were getting discouraged and thinking about moving to another work. The Madison Street elders began to consider their options. After many meetings with brother Fulson and the Main Street members, many meetings with the Madison Street deacons and members, and many hours of prayer, the decision was reached to integrate the Main Street church with the previously all-white Madison Street church.
Brother Fulson and his family continued to live in Clarksville until a work became available to him in—as I recall—Arkansas. During this time he filled the pulpit at Madison Street from time to time. He continued to work and visit among the African-American community of Clarksville and to invite them to Madison Street. I visited among the black members and we got to know each other more intimately.
One of those coming to Madison Street from Main Street was a wonderful older brother by the name of Green Clardy. One Sunday brother Clardy was sick and unable to attend services. The following Wednesday night, he handed his contribution for the previous Sunday to Tillman Taylor, one of our elders. Brother Taylor thanked him, but explained that he could wait until the next Sunday to make up his contribution for the previous Sunday. Brother Clardy said, “Yes, I know that, but something might happen to me between now and Sunday, and I wouldn’t want to leave here with any of the Lord’s money!” What a wonderful attitude! What a tremendous sense of financial stewardship!
To the best of my memory, nothing was reported to any of the brotherhood publications about the integration of the Main Street Church of Christ into the Madison Street Church of Christ in Clarksville, Tennessee in 1968. I do not recall that it was even reported to the Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, Clarksville’s daily newspaper. It was not done for publicity. It was done because it was both the right thing to do and the practical thing to do. The merger went well. It worked! And it took place almost 50 years ago!
A few years ago, I made one of several return visits to Madison Street that I have made over the years—this time to speak at the last “Family and Friends Day” the church would hold at the Madison Street location before building new facilities at Trenton Crossing. Several of the black members from my Clarksville days were still there and it was good to see and visit with them. In recent years I understand that an African-American church has been re-established at Main Street in an effort to more effectively reach the African-American community. Many congregations—both white and black—remain predominantly one or the other, but people of other races are always welcome.
I have told this story because it needs to be told before it is lost. I would not say that Madison Street was the first church of Christ to integrate, but I think it is safe to say it was one of the first in Tennessee, if not in the entire South, to integrate. The churches of Christ continue to be criticized by certain ones—both black and white—for being slow to integrate. Madison Street proves otherwise.
Throughout the years of my ministry I have preached in gospel meetings from the Great Lakes to south Florida and from Pennsylvania to Nevada. For the past forty years I have preached rather extensively in southern congregations of Christ where the churches are fully integrated, including the leadership (elders and deacons). In 1976 I preached in a meeting in Kentucky where the membership was predominantly white, but the preacher was black. I have been the regular preacher for a congregation that has had an African-American preacher to conduct our annual gospel meeting.
It is time to put the past in the past! It is time to move forward, as most of us in churches of Christ are doing. It is time to stop playing the race card at the drop of the hat! It is time to drop the tiresome mantra, “11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week in America!” It is time to remember that integration is a two-way street! It is time to get on with the mission of preaching the gospel of Christ without fear and favor to a lost and dying world composed of many nationalities and ethnicities, and to do so in the most culturally relevant setting possible!
February 21, 2017
SERMONS I LOVE TO PREACH
Every preacher has his favorite sermons—sermons he especially loves to preach. Robert G. Lee (1886-1978), a famous Baptist preacher, had an enormously popular sermon—”Pay Day Some Day”—that he preached every year on a certain Sunday in May. Lee preached the sermon on many other occasions and at many different places. Over a period of several decades it is said that he preached “Pay Day Some Day” 1,275 times!
Anthony E. Emmons, Jr. (1911-1980), one of my early mentors, referred to his favorite sermons as his “sugar sticks.” I have my “sugar sticks”—sermons I especially enjoy preaching. Listed below are a few of them. They constitute a mix of textual, topical, and expository messages. Some of these will be preached at various places during this new year, D.V.
All I Need to Know I Learned From Noah’s Ark
A Way That is Right and Cannot Be Wrong
By Grace Through Faith
Christ and the Church
Christ’s Great Invitation
Coming Clean With God
Conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch
Developing a Heart for God
Four “W’s” of Baptism (What, Who, Why, & When)
Getting to Know God
God’s Game Plan for Life
Hope for the Journey of Life
How Am I Treating My Goose?
How to Get to Heaven
If a Man Dies, Shall He Live Again?
If I am Lost (with due credit to the late C. E. McGaughey)
If I Were the Devil
I Found It: The Pearl of Great Price
Interpreted by Love
Is the Church of Christ Just Another Denomination?
Keeping Our Spiritual Focus
More Than Conquerors
Our Unchanging God
Paul’s Philosophy of Life
Remembering Our Roots (a series on Bible distinctives)
Spiritual Survival Skills
Take a Little Honey (Kindness) with You
The Blood of Christ
The Church Faces the Future with Confidence
The Church Through the Ages (An Overview of Church History)
The Day You Were Baptized
The Great Love of God (with due credit to the great Gus Nichols)
The Half Has Not Been Told
The Prayer of the Cross (with due credit to the great T. B. Larimore)
The Shepherd Psalm (with due credit to the great G. C. Brewer)
Things That Cannot Be Borrowed
Things That Will Help Us to Live Better
Walking with God
Weighed in the Balances
What Shall I Do with Jesus?
What Sin Does to Us
When Jesus Comes—What Then?
Why Did Christ Have to Die?
Why I am a Member of the Church, the Body of Christ
PREACHERS AND PREACHING
I love to preach the good news of Christ and I love to hear others preach it. I love all faithful gospel preachers—young, middle aged, and old. I confess to a particular fondness for the old preachers who have gone before. I love to read about them and their work.
I have four volumes (II – V) of Preachers of Today. (Volume I was published in 1951, before I began to preach). These volumes only contain the pictures and biographical sketches of gospel preachers. Preachers of denominational groups are not to be found in them. I am privileged to be included in Volumes II through V, though any gospel preacher who submitted the required information was included. In other words, these books are not about “the greatest, the most gifted, and the most honored preachers” in the Lord’s church, but were published to serve as a sort of directory of gospel preachers. Volume II came out in 1959 and Volume V was issued in 1982. It is a shame that additional volumes have not been published since then, because a veritable army of able men have arrived on the scene during the past thirty-five years.
Over the years, I have spent many pleasant hours combing through these volumes and becoming acquainted with the work of the men listed in these books. So very many of them have now passed on. I also have spent many pleasant hours reading the biographies and autobiographies of gospel preachers. I have enjoyed the accounts found in Boyd Morgan’s fascinating (and now quite valuable) book, Arkansas Angels, stories about old preachers who labored primarily in Northeast Arkansas. (Note: An angel is a messenger and the observant reader will see the word “angel” in the word “evangelist,” the “bearer of a good word.” Brother Morgan used the term “angel” in the title of his book to refer to those who preach the good news of Christ. I have tried for many years to convince Jan that she is married to an angel, but she continues to be somewhat leery of that notion!)
God chose “the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (I Corinthians 1:21, KJV). He did not choose “foolish preaching” (of which there is an abundance in the world today) but, literally, He chose the foolishness of the message preached (the gospel) to save those who will believe and obey it (cf. Romans 1:16-17; 6:16-18). Sadly, our secular and humanistic society, as well as many professed religious folks, is really not all that interested in true gospel preaching, and to such people preaching is just so much foolishness.
All preachers do not have the same talent, nor do all of them preach in the same way. Some are only one talent preachers. Others are two talent and five talent men. The prophets of the Old Testament were all preachers from different backgrounds and with different abilities, but God used them all to accomplish His purposes. The apostles of Christ likewise were men of different occupations, training, and talent, but all were used by the Lord to accomplish His will. Outside of their names appearing in the lists of the apostles, we read nothing of the work of most of them.
The apostle Paul spoke of the work of his various fellow-laborers and recognized that they were not all gifted in the same way or equipped to accomplish the same results (I Corinthians 3:5-10). Yet all of them were “servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God,” and each was required to “be found faithful” (I Corinthians 4:1-2). Preachers (and all Christians) need to remember that God did not call us to be successful but to be faithful!
Preachers employ different methods of delivery in their preaching. Some preach without notes. Some preach from an outline. Some preach from a manuscript. My own method is to preach from an outline. Few preachers, in my judgment, are able to effectively preach from a full manuscript, though some have mastered this manner of presentation. I am reminded of what a friend said about an old Baptist debater who read the entirety of his speech. My friend said, “He read his speech. He is not a good reader. His speech was not worth reading!”
Preachers also preach various kinds of sermons. Some are more topical in their preaching, some more textual, and some more expository. I try to employ all of these kinds of sermons in my preaching, but my main concern is getting the message across, not the “kind” of sermon it may be. Those who hold up a particular kind of sermon as the “best” usually at some point go against their own opinion. While expository preaching, for example, is a fine preaching method, it is not by any means the only method, as Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount so dramatically illustrates. In that sermon Christ touched on a number of “hot,” controversial topics.
I would encourage young preachers to read, study, memorize, and absorb scripture and to preach the Scriptures. I hear young preachers telling about what they learned from their life as a high school football player, what happened to them on a hunting trip, or what they observed at the local shopping mall, but many times I never hear them preach a fundamental, doctrinal sermon (doctrine is teaching) from the word of God. Are our upcoming young preachers (many of them now coming out of our best and soundest schools) incapable of preaching on such matters as Repentance, The Faith That Saves, Conversion To Christ, The Church Of The Bible, Acceptable Worship, The Christian Life, The Day Of Judgment, Heaven, and Hell? Young preacher, how long has it been since you spoke on one of these subjects? Ever? Are our upcoming preachers incapable of giving a clear exposition of a biblical text and making relevant applications of it? Illustrations and stories are fine in their place and when properly used, but not at the expense of proclaiming the unsearchable riches of Christ!
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2, KJV).
January 10, 2017
We have now passed through the open door of a new year. One of the spiritual disciplines that we need to bring with us into 2017 is prayer. Paul the apostle urged Christians to “pray without ceasing” (I Thessalonians 5:17). That simply means that we are not to leave prayer behind, we are not to leave it out of our lives. It is our avenue of communion with God, our lifeline to God!
The Hebrews writer encouraged the people of God with these words: “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). We all stand in need of both God’s mercy and His grace! For the Christian one of the ways these blessings are accessed is through prayer.
A study of scripture will reveal that there are numerous elements of prayer. Briefly summarizing some of these various elements, we note that prayer consists of: (1) Praise to God (Psalm 9:1-2); (2) Eulogy of God (103:1-5, 22; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3); (3) Trust in God (Psalm 7:1; 11:1; 25:1-2); (4) Thanksgiving (Ephesians 5:20; 1 Thessalonians 5:18); (5) Supplication/humble entreaty (1 Timothy 2:1-2; Ephesians 6:17-18); (6) Intercession (1 Timothy 2:1; Note Abraham’s intercessory prayer for Sodom [Genesis 18:22-33]. One truly has to be a “friend of God” to beg, plead, cajole, and bargain with God as Abraham did on this occasion!); (7) Petition (1 John 5:15); (8) Contrition (Psalm 34:17-18; Isaiah 66:2); and (9) Confession (Psalm 51:1-3; James 5:16; 1 John 1:9). We should become thoroughly familiar with all of these various elements of prayer and develop a personal prayer life that includes all of them—not in a single prayer, but over the course of several prayers, recognizing that different situations call for different elements of prayer.
The careful reader of the Scriptures will note that we are instructed to pray for many things: the kingdom (Matthew 6:10; Note: The kingdom came on Pentecost [Acts 2, cf. Mark 9:1] and all Christians are citizens of it [Colossians 1:13], but we need to pray for the spread of the kingdom); our daily needs (Matthew 6:11); forgiveness of our sins (Matthew 6:12); deliverance from evil (Matthew 6:13); our enemies (Matthew 5:44); more workers in the kingdom (Matthew 9:38); other Christians (Colossians 4:12; James 5:16); wisdom (James 1:5); and earthly rulers (I Timothy 2:1-2; Note: With the inauguration of our new president in just seventeen days, how much we do need to pray for him and his administration). Above all, in emulation of our Savior, we need to pray for God’s will and not ours to be done in all things (Matthew 26:39).
A study of the prayer life of Christ will help us to pray meaningfully. While all four gospel records tell us much about Christ in prayer, the gospel of Luke gives special attention to His prayer life and to His teaching about prayer. We would be wonderfully and spiritually enriched were we to begin this new year with a reading of Luke’s gospel, paying special attention to its emphasis on prayer. We might then follow our reading of Luke’s gospel with a reading of his second New Testament volume, Acts of the Apostles, to learn about the beginning of the Lord’s church, its early growth, the challenges it faced, and how prayer played such a significant part in its success.
While it is always in order to pray for the Lord to bless us with those things of which we perceive ourselves to be in need, from time to time we need to pray without asking God for anything. This can prove to be a challenge, but it can also serve to remind us that we should be thankful for blessings already received and that some of our prayers need to be only expressions of gratitude, with no requests of any kind being made. We might eulogize the Lord for His omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, love, grace, mercy, care, forgiveness, and patience with us. We might offer to God our praise for Christ’s eternal co-existence with the Father, virgin birth, sinless life, wonderful words, atoning death, noble burial, victorious resurrection, glorious ascension, heavenly coronation, royal reign, abiding intercession, and promised second coming. We should express to God our gratitude for the church, the spiritual body of those purchased to God by the blood of Christ, and for His holy word, the Bible, which is “a lamp to [our] feet And a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). When was the last time you just thanked the Lord for all that He has already done for you, without asking anything of Him?
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry,
Everything to God in prayer.
January 3, 2017
RANDOM THOUGHTS AND GLEANINGS
This edition of “Hugh’s News & Views” is dated December 27, 2016. Today I celebrate my 79th birthday. I often wonder where the years have gone. And yet I know: They have been consumed with living!
Since this will be the last “News & Views” for 2016, it seems appropriate to share a few random thoughts and gleanings. Consider the following.
Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16a, NKJV). If a new car dealer published a notice in the newspaper that said, “He who believes and is baptized will receive a new car,” would anyone show up at the dealership and say, “I believe, therefore I am here to get my new car, and I will be baptized later as a sign to show that I received the new car”? Isn’t it funny how easily we can understand something that involves a material prize, but then deny the plain words of Christ when it comes to the heavenly prize, the salvation of our soul?
The thinking of some brethren who make fun of doing exactly what the Lord says with reference to salvation from sin seems to run something like this: He who believes (more or less), repents (after a fashion), and is baptized (by some “mode”) shall be saved (to a certain extent). I marvel at how some can mock doing exactly what the Lord said, in the way He said to do it, and for the reason He said to do it.
“Grace makes salvation possible; obedient faith makes salvation actual” (Batsell Barrett Baxter, “The Family of God,” p. 39, italics his).
“I love to think that my life should spring from his death; my healing from his wounds; my glory from his shame. If God forsake him not, I cannot be accepted. If thorns press not his temples, I can never wear a crown of glory. Now, in the grave he lies; he must conquer death, or I must sleep forever. If there ever was a time when all the harps of heaven were still, and not one note of angelic music sounded through the skies, ’twas when that lifeless, mangled form was lying in the rich man’s tomb! But the voice of God pierces the gloom and silence of the grave; angels attend upon his second birth (a reference to Christ’s resurrection, His birth from the grave, hf); with a glorious escort he passes upward in his chariot of clouds, and enters in through the everlasting gates. Those doors were closed when Adam fell; they now receive the conqueror of sin and death. And, glorious thought! They are still unbarred; and I and you, and all that follow him in life, shall one day enter through the gates into the everlasting city of our God” (“Raccoon” John Smith, The Life of Elder John Smith, John Augustus Williams, p. 565).
The church of Christ is not only undenominational, but it is pre-denominational! It existed before any denominationeither Catholic or Protestantwas ever established. The Lord’s church (and that is the sole significance of the descriptor “church of Christ,” i.e., the church that belongs to Christ) was established in the city of Jerusalem in c. A.D. 30 as we read in Acts 2. The gates of Hades have not prevailed against that church (Matthew 16:18), and it still exists today. One can become a member of it by obeying the gospel, being saved from sins, and being added to it by the Lord (Acts 2:47). That is what happened on the day the church began, and that is what still happens today when people do what the people did on that occasion. If when people read the New Testament they would remove their denominational spectacles and lay aside their religious traditions, the beauty of undenominational, New Testament Christianity would shine through in all its radiant splendor and divine power.
It takes great courage as well as great humility for one to admit that he or she has been wrong religiously and to leave a family religious tradition for the truth of God’s word, but our destination in eternity hangs in the balance. “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:37).
“The young can run faster, but the old know the shortcuts”(Jens Weidmann), i.e., they know how to run “smart.”
“The young can run faster but sometimes take off in the wrong direction” (Anonymous).
As we prepare to enter a new year, let us take to heart the wisdom of Solomon who said, “The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Life is not a matter of speed, but of direction.
December 27, 2016
CHRIST IN THE BOOK OF HEBREWS
The New Testament book of Hebrews draws many striking contrasts between Moses and Christ, the law of Moses and the gospel of Christ, the old covenant/testament and the new covenant/testament, the Jewish tabernacle/temple (physical structures) and the church (a spiritual house), and Judaism and Christianity. Key words and phrases used throughout this book are: “better,” “greater,” “more than,” “more excellent,” “greater and more perfect,” and similar terms of comparison. In every instance, the purpose is to show the superiority of Christ and Christianity to Moses and Judaism.
For example, Christ is “better than the angels” (through whom the law of Moses was mediated, Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19; Hebrews 2:2), and He has “obtained a more excellent name than they (the angels)” (1:4). Christ has “more glory than Moses” (3:3). God determined “to show more abundantly to the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel” (6:17). By means of the gospel there was the bringing in of “a better hope” (7:19). Christ is the “surety of a better covenant” (7:22), “has obtained a more excellent ministry,” and “is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (8:6). Christ is High Priest in “the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands” (9:11). Compared to the blood of bulls and goats (offered under the old testament), the blood of Christ shall “much more . . . purge [our] conscience from dead works” (9:13-14). Christians are the beneficiaries of “better sacrifices” (9:23). They “have a better and an enduring possession in heaven” (10:34). They look forward to “a better, that is, a heavenly country” (11:16), and anticipate “a better resurrection” (11:35). Through the gospel and the church, God “provided something better for us” (11:40).
The book was written to Hebrews/Jews who had become Christians but apparently were living in circumstances in which they were being sorely tempted to apostatize from Christ and revert to their former religious practices under the law of Moses. The force of this “word of exhortation” (13:22) is that if they should abandon Christ to return to Moses and forsake the new covenant for the old covenant, they would, in every respect, be abandoning the superior for the inferior! Thus, they are urged to “give the more earnest heed to the thing things [they] have heard (the great salvation made possible by Christ), lest [they] let them slip” (2:1), to “take heed . . . lest there be in any of [them] an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God (3:12), and to be “not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (10:39). As the late Dr. Walter Martin said (somewhat with tongue-in-cheek): “[T]he Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews” (https:// gotquestions.org/ Book-of-Hebrew.html)! In other words, the Hebrew religion (Judaism) and the old covenant/testament was a thing of the past!
All of the above explains why we have an Old Testament and a New Testament in our Bibles. The Old Testament governed the Hebrews/ Jews under the law of Moses. The New Testament governs Christians under the gospel of Christ. God no longer speaks to man through Moses and the prophets, but through Christ and the apostles (Hebrews 1:1-2; Acts 2:42). Christ fulfilled the law, the prophets, and the psalms (Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44). While the Old Testament has great value for God’s people today (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11; et al), we do not go to it to learn the specifics of how to be saved from sin, how to worship God, or how to live the Christian life. This is one of the most basic truths of all Scripture, yet one that many people have never grasped.
In the grand book of Hebrews, Christ is held up in all of His radiant splendor and saving power. It is interesting, enlightening, and encouraging to see the many ways Christ is portrayed in this divine document. Consider the following.
He (not Moses and the Old Testament prophets) is the One through whom God now speaks to all mankind (1:1-2).
He is our “merciful and faithful High Priest” (2:17-18; discussion greatly expanded in Chapters 7 through 10).
He is “the Apostle and High Priest of our confession” (3:1-2).
He is God’s Son “over His own house” (3:5-6).
He is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (5:9).
He is our “forerunner” into heaven (6:19-20).
He is the “surety (guarantee) of a better covenant” (7:22).
He is the One “who ever lives to make intercession for us” (7:25).
He is “the Mediator of a better covenant,” “the new covenant” (8:6; 9:15).
He is the One who put away sin once for all “by the sacrifice of Himself” (9:24-28).
He is “the author and finisher of our faith,” and the One to whom we should constantly be looking (12:1-2).
He is the “great Shepherd of the sheep” (13:20-21).
December 20, 2016
OBITUARY OF AN OLD FRIEND
Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense, who has been with us for many years.
No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.
He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as knowing when to come in out of the rain, why the early bird gets the worm, life isn’t always fair, and maybe it was my fault.
Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don’t spend more than you earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).
His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place. Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate, teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch, and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student only worsened his condition.
Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.
Common Sense declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student, but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.
Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses and criminals received better treatment than their victims.
Common Sense took a beating when he learned he couldn’t defend himself from a burglar in his own home and the burglar could sue him for assault.
Common Sense finally gave up the will to live after a number of frivolous lawsuits continued to adjudication, many of which resulted in enormous judgments in favor of the plaintiffs who themselves were at fault.
Common Sense was preceded in death by his parents, Truth and Trust, by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his son, Reason.
He is survived by his four stepbrothers: I Know My Rights, I Want It Now, Dont Blame Me, and I’m A Victim. Not many attended the memorial service for Common Sense because so few realized he was gone.
December 13, 2016
TWENTY-ONE STEPS TO THE ELECTRIC CHAIR, OR
HOW TO RAISE A JUVENILE DELINQUENT
Curtis Ramey was a gospel preacher, a practicing attorney in Fort Worth, TX, and, before that, a Juvenile Judge in Madison County (Huntsville), AL. Over forty years ago, brother Ramey wrote an article titled “Twenty-One Steps to the Electric Chair,” “Or, How to Raise a Juvenile Delinquent.”
Nineteen states now have no form of capital punishment and another four have a Governor’s-imposed moratorium on capital punishment. Of the twenty-seven states that still execute criminals, lethal injection is the most common, but the electric chair is still an option in four states and the backup form of execution in Tennessee if lethal injection fails.
We hear little today about the problem of juvenile delinquency, probably because it is no longer a politically correct term. But we still have young people who are guilty of heinous criminal behavior.
So, while the title of brother Ramey’s article is now a bit dated, his points are still relevant. We run it this week as a fitting sequel to Gus Nichols’ letter to his family at home that we ran last week. Here are the twenty-one steps.
- Begin early, even when he is a baby and a small child, to give him everything he wants.
- Do everything for him. Do not make him feel that he has any responsibility.
- Make him thoroughly dependent upon you.
- Allow him to do as he pleases.
- Praise him lavishly in his presence.
- Never use the word “wrong.”
- When he gets into trouble, defend him and take his side against teachers, school officials, neighbors, and police officers.
- Criticize the church and people who go to church.
- Constantly run down the government in his presence.
- Lose your patience with him. Be cross and irritable at all times.
- Ride him all the time.
- Interrogate him every time he comes in. Never show him that you trust him or have any confidence in him.
- As parents, fight and quarrel a lot in his presence.
- Give him more spending money than he needs and never make him work to earn any of his own.
- Pet and pamper him. Tell everybody that nothing is too good for your child.
- Make him a cynic by running down and being critical of everything and everybody.
- Satisfy his every fleshly desire. Let him eat and drink all he wants of what he wants. Let him read and watch whatever he wants to read and watch.
- Believe everything he tells you. Never give him the idea you know he is lying to you.
- Let him get the idea that it is alright to fudge a little here and fudge a little there.
- Never give him any spiritual training.
- Let him know that you will be glad when he is old enough to be gone and out of your hair.
December 6, 2016
THINGS FOR WHICH I AM THANKFUL
We should not wait until Thanksgiving to give thanks for our blessings, because thanksgiving is not a day on the calendar but an attitude of gratitude that should characterize us at all times. Nevertheless, as we celebrate another national day of Thanksgiving this week, it is an excellent time to count our blessings and to express to the One from whom all blessings flow our deep and sincere appreciation for His abundant blessings.
The apostle Paul wrote: “And let the peace of God rule (Grk, brabeus = “act as an umpire”) in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15). Among the many things for which I am thankful are the following:
* Christ my savior and Lord
* God’s abundant grace and mercy
* His abiding love and constant forgiveness
* The church, the body of blood-redeemed souls
* God’s patience with me through the years, giving me time to repent of the sins of my youth, and to mature (mentally, emotionally, and spiritually), all while still being a work in progress
* A beautiful, loving, and compassionate wife who has been with me every step of the way in our long marriage
* A highly intelligent son who is devoted and faithfulto his family, to his mother and me, and, most importantly, to the Lord
* A pretty, smart, and industrious daughter-in-law who is second to none
* Two bright great grandchildren (not great-grandchildren, but great grandchildren)
* The privilege of preaching the blessed gospel of Christ for over 60 years
* Every congregation I have had the privilege of serving as the regular minister
* The hundreds of churches (and other venues) where, over the years, I have served as a guest preacher/speaker on numerous occasions and for various events
* The loving Mitchellville (TN) Church of Christ where I have served as the part-time minister for the past three and one-half years
* The great Nashville Road Church of Christ in Gallatin, Tennessee where we have our membership and which is our spiritual home and serves as our home base
* A wonderful degree of physical health
* Faithful friends who love me and accept me in spite of my imperfections
* A comfortable home, nice clothes, an abundance of food, all the necessities of life, and no small number of creature comforts
* A great country in which to live in spite of its faults, and the privilege of praying for it
* Eternal life in heaven when I come to the valley of the shadow
“Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good” (Psalm 106:1).
November 22, 2016
ADJUSTING THE BIBLE
In the October 22 edition of The (Nashville) Tennessean, Heidi Hall, former religion editor, published a piece in the “Faith and Values” column of the newspaper that carried the headline, “Nashville publisher’s new release isn’t your mother’s Bible.” On the day the column appeared I made some comments about it on my Facebook page, but want to add to those remarks in this edition of “Hugh’s New & Views.”
Hall’s column is a review of a heavily feminist-oriented annotated edition of the Common English Version of the Bible by Nashville-based Abingdon Press, an arm of the United Methodist Publishing House. “It’s clear almost instantly Abingdon Press’s newest Bible isn’t the kind of Christian women’s fare that focuses heavily on Proverbs 31 and lightly on indignities around gender,” reads the opening paragraph of the column.
“The CEB Women’s Biblea version of the Common English Bible, which was released in 2011is annotated solely by women.” (Translation: The Bible has been “monkeyed” with and changed by women to favor the politically correct feminist movement and to remove any restrictions God has placed on the role of women in the work and worship of the church.) The women responsible for this “adjusted” edition of Scripture “are National Baptist, Jewish, Catholic, Methodist and from several other faiths, and at least five are in Nashville or have strong ties.”
“One of the editors is the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington, D. C., where presidential candidate Hillary Clinton attends.” (I wonder if “the Rev.” Gaines-Cirelli has ever preached a sermon in Hillary’s presence about the sin of lying or of launching into profanity- and vulgar-laced tirades against those with whom she disagrees and/or labels as “deplorables”?) (Note: It could be that by the date of this article, Hillary Clinton will have been elected president of the United States. If she is, I will not at all be optimistic about the future of America, but in keeping with I Timothy 2:1-2, she will be in my prayers.)
God made man in His image, but the colossal sin of the ages has been the desire of man to make God in man’s imageto make God into what man wants Him to be rather than who He is, and to change God’s immutable word into what man wants that word to be rather than what that word actually is. Catholics, Protestants, and Jews are all guilty of what the inspired apostle Peter referred to when, in reference to the writings of the apostle Paul, he said: ” . . . which those who are untaught and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (II Peter 3:16). Their catechisms, creed books, church manuals, corrupted Bibles, and politically correct agenda are overwhelming testimony to this reality.
The Bible teaches beyond all shadow of doubt that baptism is immersion in water (Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:38; Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), but the theologians have adjusted the Bible to allow for sprinkling or pouring. How “convenient”!
The Bible teaches that only repentant believers are subjects of Bible baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38), but the theologians have adjusted the Bible and said it is permissible to “baptize” babies, and later their parents can tell them that matter has already been taken care of for them. How “convenient”!
The Scriptures authorize a first day of the week observance of the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7) and every week has a first day, but the denominations have adjusted that apostolic practice to a once a month, once a quarter, or even once a year practice. How “convenient”!
In no uncertain terms the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality (Romans 1:27; I Corinthians 6:9-11), but liberal churches have adjusted that and pronounce homosexuality and same-sex marriage a legitimate lifestyle. How “convenient”!
God’s inspired word instructs us to not be conformed to this world (not allow the world to pour us into its mold) (Romans 12:2), but some Christians have adjusted that so that their moral standards and conduct differ little from those of non-Christians. How “convenient”!
The Bible speaks in explicit terms of everlasting punishment in hell (Matthew 25:46; Mark 9:44, 46, 48), but those who are smarter than God Himself have adjusted these and numerous other texts to say that the lost will not suffer eternal conscious punishment. How utterly “convenient”!
As I have frequently said, I would not want to be in some folks’ shoes (including preachers not a few) on the day of judgment.
November 8, 2016
SLOW ME DOWN, LORD
Over the years, I have used the following poem in various sermons to emphasize the value of “backing off,” relaxing, taking a longer look at life, and seeking a broader perspective for our often harried and hurried lives. I hope it blesses your life this week.
Slow me down Lord
Ease the pounding of my heart
by the quieting of my mind.
Steady my hurried pace
with a vision of the eternal march of time.
Give me amid the confusion of the day,
the calmness of the eternal hills.
Break the tension of my nerves and muscles
with the soothing music of the singing streams
that live in my memory.
Help me to know the magical restoring power of sleep.
Teach me the art of taking MINUTE vacations,
Of slowing down to look at a flower,
to chat with a friend,
to pat a dog,
to read a few lines of a good book.
Slow me down Lord
and inspire me to send my roots
deep into the soil of life’s enduring values
that I may grow toward the stars of my greater destiny.
— Wilfred A. Peterson
September 15, 2015
As thousands of innocent and naÃ¯ve young people recently trooped off to college for the first time, I was reminded that sixty years ago I entered Freed-Hardeman College (now University) in Henderson, Tennessee as a freshman. It was September 1955, and I was seventeen years old. (As a matter of trivia, it also was the month and year that “Gunsmoke” debuted on television). I sometimes wonder where the years have gone. As I recently said while visiting with my old college friend, Jay Lockhart, there has been a lot of water over the dam since we were students at Freed-Hardeman.
On September 17, 1956, I returned to Freed-Hardeman for my second year. I still remember the spot where I was standing and the spot where she was standing. I was in line in the college quadrangle, waiting for the cafeteria doors to open. Up ahead of me in line was the prettiest girl I thought I had ever seen. I kept my eye on her and took note of where she sat in the cafeteria. As luck would have it, when I got my tray of food there was an empty place at the table where she was sitting and I made my way to it. I asked if I might join the table and introduced myself to those sitting there. They each told me their names, but the only one I remember was Janet Young.
Jan and I became friends and began dating. Three hundred and fifty-five days later, on September 7, 1957, we were united in marriage. Yesterday we celebrated our 58th wedding anniversary. Jan is still a beautiful woman-beautiful of face and form, as the late great preacher Jim Bill McInteer once said of her-with a beautiful spirit and a beautiful mind. Today, our son is flying into Nashville from Florida on a business trip and will spend the night with us. We are looking forward to his coming. We will have dinner together, and enjoy one of Brett’s favorite desserts that Jan has prepared (and which I will continue to enjoy over the next few days). More importantly, the three of us will have a wonderful visit.
Life has been good to us. Like most marriages, ours has faced its “ups” and “downs.” We lost our older son when he was thirty-four years old, but the Lord and His people saw us through those sad, dark days. We have made hundreds of friends across these fifty-eight years. Some of them go back to our days at Freed-Hardeman College and before. We have enjoyed good health. In my entire life, I have spent only one night in a hospital. I was not even born in a hospital, but in my grandfather Fulford’s farmhouse in rural Geneva County, Alabama. Other than to give birth to our two sons, Jan has never spent but one night in a hospital and that was nearly fifty years ago! As a result of a fall on her treadmill a few years ago, she had to have rotator cuff surgery, but it did not require an overnight hospital stay. We both know how blessed we have been health-wise and otherwise, but most of all with the spiritual blessings that are found in Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And, yes, we both know that health conditions can change suddenly, but we are thankful that things are as well with us as they are.
I have preached the gospel for over sixty years, beginning when I was just a high school boy. Jan taught school (primarily in private schools) for thirty-one years. We both have been retired from full-time work for fifteen years, but we continue to lead an active life. I still preach every Sunday, conduct gospel meetings, speak on lectureships, fill special speaking engagements, and carry on an extensive writing ministry. Jan never lacks for something to do. This summer we have renovated our kitchen and master bathroom, repainted the interior of our house, and put in new carpeting. I have said to her, “This is it â no more renovations.” The recent “updating” ought to last until Brett has to take us either to the nursing home or the funeral home. We, of course, shall see.
I often think of the “boys” with whom I was in school at Freed-Hardeman. Many of them went on to become some of the best preachers in the church. Others became elders and Bible teachers At the risk of being thought of as a “name dropper,” I will mention such men as Alan Highers, Wayne Emmons, David Pharr, Jay Lockhart, Clarence DeLoach, Ken Samuel, Kent Hall, Clyde Woods, James Segars, Jerry Jenkins, Dan Jenkins, Ancil Jenkins, Ben Flatt, David Sain, Lynn Anderson, Landon Saunders, John Allen Chalk, Leonard and Lee Smith (twin great-grandsons of the great evangelist, T. B. Larimore), August Ruff, Gerald Romine, Jerry Smelser (who rose to a high position with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration), Malcolm Hill, Albert Hill, Ronald Hill, Darrell Beard, Walter Fennel, Bob Langston, Joe Galloway, Dewayne Shappley, Kyo Rhoon Jhin (from Korea), Yoshio Inomata (from Japan), Pat Phillips, Don Flatt, Albert Lemmons, Gene West, Richard Kruse, Kenneth Hoover, John Hoover, and many, many others. My path has crossed with many of these over the years in gospel meetings, lectureships, and other speaking engagements. A number of them are dear friends. Some of them have passed from this life. The mention of all their names is not intended as an endorsement of where some of them are today spiritually. Sadly, some of them no longer walk in “the old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16). But in those halcyon days of the mid-1950s we were all friends, we were idealistic, and we were committed to giving the Lord and the church our best.
Sweet memories, indeed, from sixty years! And what a wonderful life Jan and I have shared for fifty-eight years. May the Lord bless us with several more years, as I so often pray.
September 8, 2015
September 13: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mt. Juliet, TN (p.m. only)
“KEEP IT LOW TO THE GROUND, BOYS“
I recently read a most interesting book titled Every Highway Out of Nashville â Volume 2 by Ruth White. Ruth is the widow of Howard O. White, Jr., (1926 – 2008) who was a sideman and sessions player for many of the great country music stars of the earlier days, as well as for the Grand Ole Opry. He played the steel guitar and worked for such notables as “Cowboy” Copas, Hank Snow, Tex Ritter, Roy Acuff, Hank Williams (for a short while), Audrey Williams (Hank’s widow), Ferlin Husky, Don Gibson, Minnie Pearl, and many others. All of the stars and their sidemen knew each other, often performing on shows together all across the U. S., Canada, and overseas. For those of us who loved the old stars and their music, this book is a veritable treasure trove of the names, lives, music, escapades, laughter, and tears of a group the likes of whom we will never see again!
According to the “Author Acknowledgements,” Ruth White was a resident of Gallatin, Tennessee where I live, but I do not know if she is still living. Her first book was published in 1990, and this later edition was published in 2014. Ruth began Chapter 6 (p. 30) with the following: “Howard White got to the Grand Ole Opry before all the founders passed on. The real flavor of the Opry was still there. On a still night, if you wander into the old Ryman Auditorium, and if you listen real good, the ghosts of the old voices can still be heard. Howard said: ‘I am glad that when I played the Opry, Judge Hay (George D. Hay, who gave the Opry its name, hf) was still there, telling us all, “Keep it low to the ground, boys.” What he meant was keep it simple, keep it real, hang on to the original.’ “
“Keep it low to the ground, boys.” Hmmm. Not bad advice for the country music industry (which, unfortunately, has come to ignore the old judge’s advice) and not bad advice for the church of our Lord, its preachers, elders, deacons, teachers, and every member. The church is in desperate need of keeping the gospel simple (as it was delivered by Christ and the apostles), keeping it real (what it was for), and hanging on to the original (without the perversions and corruptions and apostasies that have occurred down through the ages). We must constantly keep going back to the New Testament itself and drinking afresh from its pure, clear fountain. In the words of the apostle Paul, we must “Beware lest anyone take you captive through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the traditions of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ” (Colossians 2:8).
The gospel of Christ and the church it produces are profound in their origin (the infinite mind of God) and in their purpose (the eternal salvation of the soul of man). At the same time, the gospel and the church are not complicated except as man has complicated them with his additions to, deletions from, and substitutions for what the Lord taught and authorized.
The gospel was (and is) to be preached to every creature in all nations (Mark 16:15; Matthew 28:19-20), implying that it is not so complicated but that even the most illiterate and unsophisticated can grasp it. Its facts, commands, promises, and warnings are understandable to all, as a reading of the Book of Acts in the New Testament abundantly shows. Through faith in Christ (John 8:24), repentance of sin (Acts 3:19), confession of faith in Christ (Romans 10:9-10), and baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16) one obeys the gospel (Romans 6:16-18), is saved, and added to the church (Acts 2:47). If that person will remain faithful to the Lord, he will be saved eternally in heaven (Revelation 2:10).
The church of the New Testament was (and is) simple and uncomplicated in its organization, worship, and work. Autonomous congregations overseen by a plurality of elders (also known as bishops and pastors), served by deacons, and constituted of redeemed people who have become Christians only (Christians without denominational affiliation) is the New Testament plan for the organization of the church (Philippians 1:1).
Christians gathering on the first day of the week (the Lord’s Day) to observe the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7), to engage in prayer (I Timothy 2:1-4), to sing and make melody in their hearts (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16), to be taught and encouraged by the preaching and teaching of the word of God (without the creed books, church manuals, and catechisms produced by men) (Acts 2:42), and to give monetarily to the work of the church (I Corinthians 16:1-2) constitute the divine acts of worship appointed for the church.
These matters are not hard to grasp and they are not beyond the reach of anyone anywhere who wishes to serve the Lord according to His word.
Indeed, let us “Keep it low to the ground, boys.”
September 1, 2015
September 13: LaGuardo Church of Christ, Mt. Juliet, TN (p.m. only)
GREAT LESSONS FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT
While the Old Testament no longer governs the people of God (we are governed by the new covenant which Christ sealed with His blood, Matthew 26:28), the Old Testament remains a part of the divinely inspired revelation of God to mankind and contains within it many great lessons for people living in the Christian age. Paul wrote: “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4). Following are some important lessons from the Old Testament.
From the story of Cain and Abel, the first two sons of Adam and Eve, we need to learn the importance of offering in worship that which the Lord has authorized and not presume to offer that which we have decided on our own will be pleasing to the Lord (Genesis 4:1-15; Hebrews 11:4; Jude 11).
From the story of Noah and the ark we need to learn the importance of adhering to the pattern God has determined for His institutions, including the home and the church. “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).
From the life of Abraham (Genesis 12:1 â 25:11) we need to learn what it means to truly believe in God, to trust in God, and to be the friend of God. (Hebrews 11:8-12; II Chronicles 20:5-7; Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23).
From the record of the construction of the Tabernacle under the leadership of Moses (the book of Exodus) we need to again learn the importance of honoring God’s pattern for His institutions. “Then Moses looked over all the work, and indeed they had done it; as the Lord had commanded, just so they had done it. And Moses blessed them” (Exodus 39:45). That this was intended to have an application to the New Testament church is shown by the writer of the book of Hebrews when he said, “. . . as Moses was admonished by God when he was about to make the tabernacle. For He said, ‘See that you make all things according to the pattern shown to you on the mountain’ ” (Hebrews 8:5).
From the tragic story of Nadab and Abihu (Leviticus 10:1-2) we need to learn the importance of not substituting our wisdom for the wisdom of God when it comes to what we do in worship.
From the story of Joshua we need to learn the importance of making the wise decision to serve the Lord. (Joshua 24:14-15).
From the period of the Judges we need to learn the depths of depravity to which a culture sinks when everyone does what is right in his own eyes. (Judges 17:6; 21:25).
From the story of king Saul’s sparing of the heathen king, Agag, and the best of the cattle (presumably to later offer as sacrifices to the Lord), we need to learn that “to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion (and that is what Saul was guilty of, hf) is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness (also of what Saul was guilty, hf) is as iniquity and idolatry” (I Samuel 15:22-23).
From the tragic story of Uzzah’s unlawful touching of the ark of the covenant, we need to learn that when God speaks He says what He means and means what He says. (II Samuel 6:1-11).
From the fact that all the Old Testament priests were to come only from the tribe of Levi (Numbers 3:5-10; et al) we need to learn the importance of respecting the silence of God and not presuming to speak where He has not spoken. “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Hebrews 7:14). In other words, when God specifies and limits, He does not have to list all of the things that are thereby excluded! For example, when God says, “Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord,” He does not have to say, “Do not use instrumental music in your worship of Me.” His very silence forbids it!
From the wonderful book of Psalms (Psalm 88; et al) we need to learn of and bask in the steadfast love and mercy of the Lord.
From the prophet Jonah, preachers need to learn the important lesson of preaching “the preaching that I [God] bid thee” (Jonah 3:2, KJV), rather than preaching the philosophies and wisdom of men.
From the prophet Micah we need to learn, “He has shown you, O man, what is good: And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8)?
From the great book of Ecclesiastes and Solomon’s search for the meaning of life, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).
August 18, 2015
August 21-27: Polishing the Pulpit, Sevierville, TN (I will make six presentations and be a part of one “pass it on” session). PTP is for every member of the Lord’s church. Thirteen concurrent sessions run each hour, featuring 190 different speakers, with 700 separate topics spread over seven days. Join us for this inspirational event in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains at which 4000 people are expected to be in attendance!
THE NEW TESTAMENT
The New Testament is the capstone of God’s revelation to man. Without it the story of redemption is incomplete. Everything set forth in the Old Testament in prophetic predictions, promises, types, and shadows comes to majestic fullness and fruition in Christ, the gospel, the church, and the New Testament as they display in radiant splendor God’s “eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ephesians 3:11).
The ordinances of the Old Testament were but “a figure for that time then present, in which both gifts and sacrifices were offered that could not make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience-concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation [the Christian age, hf]” (Hebrews 9:9-10). The Old Testament worthies, as faithful as they were to God and the law under which they lived, “did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us [of the gospel age, hf], that they should not be made perfect apart from us” (Hebrews 11:39-40).
In the New Testament we have the record of the birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, coronation, reign, and promised second coming of Christ. In the New Testament we have the gospel plan of salvation clearly set forth. In the New Testament we have the account of the beginning of the church and the record of its early growth. In the New Testament we have instructions as to what the church is to be and how it is function until the end of the ages. In the New Testament we have how we are to worship the Lord. In the New Testament we have the doctrine of Christ, the doctrine of His inspired apostles, and the complete revelation of what we are to teach, believe, and practice religiously until the end of time. In the New Testament we have divine instructions-both positive and negative-as to how we are to live as Christians. In the New Testament we have in beautiful apocalyptic language the ultimate victory that the faithful people of God will experience. In short, in the New Testament we have “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
The New Testament is “the revelation of the mystery [that which had previously been kept hidden, hf] which was kept secret since the world began but NOW has been made manifest, and by the Scriptures of the prophets has been made known to all nations, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, for obedience to the faith-” (Romans 16:25-26, all emphasis here and following mine, hf). In the New Testament we have “the wisdom of God in a mystery [that which previously had not been revealed, hf], even the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory . . .” (I Corinthians 2:7).
Of the New Testament revelation, the apostle Paul wrote: “. . . how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery as I wrote before in a few words, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which in other ages [Old Testament times, hf] was NOT made known to the sons of men, as it has NOW been revealed by His Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets” (Ephesians 3:3-5). The New Testament affirms that “NOW [in the Christian age, hf] the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by THE CHURCH [a New Testament reality, hf] to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). The Old Testament never made known these divine realities!
Christ is the “Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promise” (Hebrews 8:6), “the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). The blood of Christ is the “blood of the new covenant (testament), which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). With His blood Christ purchased the church (Acts 20:28). All who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ are in the church and in covenant relationship with God. Those outside the church are outside that covenant relationship and are therefore lost.
We are New Testament Christians (there are no genuinely any other kind!) and we constitute the New Testament church. We are to hear Christ, not Moses and the prophets (Matthew 17:1-5; Hebrews 1:1-2; Hebrews 12:25). We are committed to observing all that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20) and to abiding in His doctrine and the doctrine of His apostles (II John 9; Acts 2:42). Unlike certain first century Jewish Christians who were being tempted to revert to the ordinances of the Old Testament, “we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul” (Hebrews 10:39), because only in Christ and the testament sealed by His blood is there salvation!
August 11, 2015
August 21-27: Polishing the Pulpit, Sevierville, TN (I will make six presentations and be a part of one “pass it on” session). PTP is for every member of the Lord’s church. Thirteen concurrent sessions run each hour, featuring 190 different speakers, with 700 separate topics spread over seven days. Join us for this inspirational event in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains at which 4000 people are expected to be in attendance!
THE OLD TESTAMENT
The canonical Bible is composed of sixty-six books, constituting two testaments or covenants that God has made with mankind-the Old Testament and the New Testament. (Note: We are not taking into consideration the period of Patriarchy [father rule] that preceded the Mosaical covenant that God made with the Hebrews/Israelites/ Jews.) A little boy, struggling with the difference between the two, said that he thought he had figured out why they were called the Old Testament and the New Testament. His “take” on the matter was that when you first buy a testament it is a new testament, and after you have had it for awhile, it is an old testament! Well, not exactly!
The reason the Old Testament is called “old” is because it governed the people of God before the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the Christian system. The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “God who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers [Hebrew/Jewish ancestors, hf] by the prophets, has in these last days [the gospel age] spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds . . .” (Hebrews 1:1-2, emphasis mine, hf). Later, quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, the same writer affirmed: “In that He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first [the Old Testament, hf] obsolete. Now what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). Still later, the inspired penman declared of Christ: “‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first [the Old Testament] that He may establish the second [the New Testament]” (Hebrews 10:9).
To summarize, the Old Testament guided God’s people before the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church, but now that Christ has come and His church has been established, we are guided by the New Testament. “Therefore the law [of Moses, hf] was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith [the gospel system of justification] has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” [i.e., the Old Testament, hf]” (Galatians 3:24-25). “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law [of Moses, hf] by the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who has been raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). We cannot be married to both Moses and Christ without being guilty of spiritual bigamy!
The writer of Hebrews states: “For if that first covenant [the Old Testament, hf] had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second [the New Testament, hf]” (Hebrews 8:7). The “fault” of the Old Covenant/Testament lay in the fact that the animal sacrifices offered under it could never take away the sins of those offering them. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It remained for the blood of Christ to be offered by which the new covenant was ratified. In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Christ affirmed: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first [old, hf] covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). Thus, “Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).
Because of a failure to grasp the above fundamental truths concerning the Old and New Testaments, many people are confused religiously. We do not go to the Old Testament to learn how to be saved, how to worship, or how the church is to be organized and how it is to function. We do not offer animal sacrifices as acts of worship, we do not burn incense, we do not make annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem to observe feasts and festivals that were only for the Jews while the law of Moses was in effect, we do not observe the Sabbath day (Saturday), and we do not use instrumental music in Christian worship! (The church in New Testament times did not use instrumental music in worship, and a later essay will explain why loyal churches of Christ today do not use instrumental music in the worship of God, a matter vastly misunderstood by a great number of people).
The Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ to the world as the ultimate redeemer of all mankind. It spoke of the spiritual house He would build and the indestructible kingdom He would set up, all of which occurred with the marvelous events of Acts 2. The Old Testament predicted the establishment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13). In short, the Old Testament was prelude to and preparation for the New Testament, but of itself the Old Testament was incomplete, inadequate, and insufficient.
While the Old Testament contains many principles and lessons for Christians (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11), it is not the standard by which our standing with the Lord is determined today. As someone has rightly observed, “All of the Bible is God’s word, but not all of it is God’s word for us today!”
August 4, 2015
August 21-27: Polishing the Pulpit, Sevierville, TN (I will make six presentations and be a part of a “pass it on” session). PTP is for every member of the Lord’s church. Thirteen concurrent sessions run each hour, featuring 190 different speakers, with 700 separate topics spread over seven days. Join us for this inspirational event in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains at which 4000 people are expected to be in attendance!
READING AND QUOTING OTHERS
On May 22 of this year, my young preacher friend, James Hayes, in his weekly column “Something To Think About,” wrote about the uniqueness of Scripture. James is a good and careful student of the Scriptures, and a good and careful writer (pays attention to spelling, grammar, syntax, etc.). Hear what he says.
“Any discussion of the Bible must be based on this fundamental premise: God’s word is not in the Bible; it is the Bible. The pages are not sacred. The ink is not holy. But the message of Scripture-the good news of Jesus-is divinely inspired.
“The Bible is not structured like modern books. It has several unique characteristics.
“(1) Considering the scope of material, the Bible is brief. The first 34 verses tell the story of the creation of the material world, plant life, animal life, and man. Genesis covers 2,500 years of history in just 50 chapters. Jesus’ baptism is recorded in only five verses. Yet, a federal directive regulating the price of cabbage contains 26,911 words.
“(2) What the Bible omits is significant. The gospel of John covers only 20 days of Jesus’ three-plus years of ministry. We know little to nothing of the lives of most of the apostles. We have no physical description of Jesus. It is clear that through inspiration of the Spirit, the Bible writers gave us what we needed to know and not a bit more (John 20:30-31).
“(3) The Bible shows remarkable restraint. Not only does the Bible omit things that uninspired writers might include, it also describes dramatic events in undramatic ways. The transfiguration. The feeding of the 5,000. Jesus’ and Peter’s walking on water. All are told in a straight forward, “Just the facts, ma’am” sort of way. Uninspired writers would have elaborated for chapter upon chapter, trying to ‘wow’ the reader.
“The Bible is not just another book. There is nothing man can say or do to lessen the power of God’s word. Man can only embrace it for his salvation or reject it for his condemnation. What do you do with the Bible?
” ‘â¦but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ (John 20:31).”
“You’re out of date,” said young preacher Bate,
To one of our faithful old preachers;
Who carried for years, in travail and with tears,
The Gospel to poor sinful creatures.
“You still preach on Hell, and shock cultured ladies,
With your barbarous doctrine of blood;
You’re so far behind you will never catch up;
You’re a flat tire stuck in the mud.”
For some little while, a wee bit of a smile,
Enlightened the old preacher’s face;
Being made the butt of ridicule’s cut,
Did not ruffle his sweetness or grace.
Then he turned to young Bate, so suave and sedate,
” ‘Catch up,’ did my ears hear you say?”
Why I couldn’t succeed, if I doubled my speed,
My friend, I’m not going your way.”
Finally, from Dr. Cecil May and the Spring 2015 edition of his “Preacher Talk” comes this little blurb titled “No S”:
Three things often quoted as plural are actually singular.
Describing heaven, John says, “And the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass” (Rev. 21:21). Not “streets.” John mentions one.
“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). They are collectively “fruit,” not individually “fruits.”
“Revelation” is “the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1:1). There is one revelation of one Lord. No biblical book is called “Revelations.”
Yes, we all need to learn to read carefully â labels, street signs, directions on meds, books, newspapers, magazines, legal documents, but especially the Bible. Many do not, you know.
July 28, 2015
FOY E. WALLACE, JR.
From time to time, I have written about some of the ordinary, everyday Christians I have known through the years who have made a deep impression on me by their exemplary lives. I will continue to write about such people at intervals. At the same time, I also want to write about some very extra-ordinary people I have known (primarily great preachers of the gospel) and why I consider them to be great.
A few years ago, I gave a speech at the Friends of the Restoration luncheon at Freed-Hardeman University on “Great Preachers I Have Known.” One of those of whom I spoke was Foy E. Wallace, Jr. He is the subject of this week’s edition of my “News & Views.”
Brother Wallace was born on September 30, 1896 in Montague County, Texas in a house surrounded by cotton fields a few miles south of the little town of Belcherville. He passed from this life on December 18, 1979 in Hereford, Texas and is buried in West Park Cemetery in Hereford. His grave-stone bears the simple inscription, “Soldier of the Cross.”
Strictly speaking, brother Wallace was not a “Junior.” His father’s name was Foy Edwin Wallace. His name was Foy Esco Wallace. But his father was also a well-known gospel preacher who went by the name of Foy E. Wallace, and when the younger Wallace began preaching (at about the age of 15), because his middle initial also was “E,” he became known as Foy E. Wallace, Jr.
I first heard brother Wallace when my wife and I and our less-than-one-year-old son attended a meeting brother Wallace was conducting at the South End Church of Christ in Louisville, Kentucky in the spring or early summer of 1959. After brother Wallace had spoken for about thirty minutes on “Blessed are the poor in spirit,” I concluded that he was starting a series that evening on The Beatitudes. He was â but he preached the whole series that evening! Before the sermon ended he had discussed every one of the beatitudes with which Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount. This was one of brother Wallace’s favorite sermons, one that he often preached, and one that he described as “kingdom principles and Pentecost pointers.”
In the fall of 1974, brother Wallace came to Mobile, Alabama where I was preaching for the Pleasant Valley church and conducted a four day meeting. Large crowds came from throughout the greater Mobile area to hear this well-known gospel preacher. His sermon on Sunday morning lasted for about 45 minutes, but each sermon of the meeting grew progressively longer, until on the last night (Wednesday) he preached for almost two hours. When I closed that final service, among other things, I said, “We are deeply appreciative of the week long meeting brother Wallace has held for us these past four days!” (On one occasion at the old Airways church in Memphis, Tennessee, brother Wallace had been requested to preach on the work of the Holy Spirit. He entered the pulpit at 7:45 p.m. and at 10:45 p.m. he closed his sermon and extended the invitation of Christ!) In all of the preaching I ever heard brother Wallace do, he never opened his Bible or consulted a note. He quoted extensively from the Scriptures and his sermons were masterpieces, but their content was all stored in his massive mind and amazing memory and delivered extemporaneously.
Not everyone agreed with brother Wallace on some of his views. He was not afraid to be independent in his thinking. At the same time, he was human and obviously capable of being wrong about some things. But it came as a shock to read from a young progressive preacher such a reckless charge as â “Foy E. Wallace, that famed false teacher.” Not that brother Wallace held some views with which the young preacher disagreed. Not that brother Wallace was a “product” of the social and racial milieu in which he grew up. Not that brother Wallace later moderated some of his social views. No! None of these! But rather, “Foy E. Wallace, that famed false teacher”!
Liberals claim to be so tolerant, accepting, and inclusive of a wide variety of views. But when it comes to one they utterly despise because of his determination to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” and to be uncompromising in his stand for New Testament Christianity, their tolerance, acceptance, and inclusiveness vanish, and they show their true colors by labeling such a stalwart soldier of the cross as a “famed false teacher”! Yet compared to Foy E. Wallace, Jr., the young progressive preacher is an intellectual and spiritual pigmy!
When I retired from full-time preaching fifteen years ago, I disposed of a good portion of my library. However, there were certain books that I did not want to part with, including several by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. These included God’s Prophetic Word (a series of addresses delivered in the Music Hall in Houston, Texas, January 1945, exposing modern millennial theories), Bulwarks of the Faith (a series of addresses delivered in the Music Hall in Houston, Texas, January 1946, refuting the dogmas of Roman Catholicism and the doctrines of Protestant Denominationalism), the Neal-Wallace Discussion on The Thousand Years Reign of Christ (a debate conducted in Winchester, Kentucky, January 2-6, 1933, in which brother Wallace annihilated the theory of a literal 1000 years reign of Christ here on earth before the beginning of the eternal state), Number One Gospel Sermons (a series of sermons preached at the Nashville Road Church of Christ in the Number One community of Gallatin, Tennessee, February 1967), and The One Book Analyzed and Outlined. These should be in the libraries of gospel preachers and elders of the church and thoroughly read and digested.
Much, much more could be written about this marvelous man. I would love to tell about the tender care he gave his invalid wife for so many of the years of their life together and how that after getting her down for the night he often would sit up all night studying and writing. I would love to tell you about his financial assistance to a later well known gospel preacher in need of surgery and the follow-up care he and sister Wallace provided him in their home, as well as many other things about this grand old “Soldier of the Cross.” Space forbids saying more at this time. I cherish his memory and honor his life’s work. I do not have to agree with everything he said or did in order to do so.
July 21, 2015
THE GOSPEL ADVOCATE
The Gospel Advocate is a religious journal published in Nashville, Tennessee by members of the church of Christ and has as its mission exactly what its name suggests-to advocate by means of the printed page the pure gospel of Christ as set forth on the pages of the New Testament.
The periodical was begun as a monthly by Tolbert Fanning and William Lipscomb in July of 1855. This month the journal celebrates its 160th anniversary. During the Civil War it was forced to suspend publication, but following the War it resumed publication under the editorships of Tolbert Fanning and David Lipscomb. In time, it became a weekly publication and was widely read by members of the church throughout the South. The paper came to my father’s home from before the time I was a teenager and I have been exposed to its columns for over sixty-five years. For the past sixty years, I have kept a cherished copy of the Special 100th Anniversary Issue of the Gospel Advocate, celebrating 100 years of Christian Journalism, dated July 14, 1955. (Interestingly, this edition of “Hugh’s News & Views” bears that same date, exactly sixty years later!) I also have a valued copy of the 150th Anniversary Edition, issued ten years ago in July of 2005. (The journal is now again a monthly publication.)
I began contributing occasional articles to the Gospel Advocate in the 1960s. In October of 1973, I was invited by B. C. Goodpasture, editor of the journal from 1939 until his death in 1977, to become a staff writer for the Advocate, and served as such until his death. I have continued to write for the paper through the years since then. I am deeply appreciative of the confidence that each of the editors since brother Goodpasture has placed in me by publishing my articles.
I have known and been a friend of the current editor, Greg Tidwell, for over thirty years (since he was in his early twenties). In addition to serving as the Advocate’s editor, Greg is also the regular minister of the Fishinger and Kenny Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio, where he has effectively served for over thirty years. He is an astute student of the Scriptures and of church history. He is well-informed in what is going on in our pluralistic and postmodern world, and is on the “cutting edge” of addressing the challenges posed by contemporary culture. He is well acquainted with the threats facing the Lord’s church here in the early decades of the 21st century. He knows how history-including religious history-tends to repeat itself, and is aware that the old apostasies of the past are now being recycled through some local churches, as well as through various educational institutions operated by members of the churches of Christ.
Greg honored me by inviting me to write a blurb to be included in the 160th Anniversary Edition of the Gospel Advocate. Here is what I wrote (with the addition of the date of Foy E. Wallace, Jr.’s editorship and the beginning year of Greg’s editorship of the journal):
“As a seventeen year old lad just graduated from Mars Hill Bible School in Florence, Alabama, I received the 100th anniversary edition of the Gospel Advocate, dated July 14, 1955, and still have this prized historic edition in my possession. I also have the 150th anniversary edition of the Gospel Advocate, issued in July 2005. How could I have possibly known sixty years ago that I would be here to send a note of congratulations to the “Old Reliable” on the 160th anniversary of its storied history?
“My parents received the Gospel Advocate and the family always looked forward to its arrival. Through all these years I have loved the paper and what it has stood for. With the exception of John T. Hinds, I have known all the editors of the Gospel Advocate from Foy E. Wallace, Jr. (editor 1930-1934) to Greg Tidwell (editor since 2011), and have counted them all as friends, though I came to know brother Wallace long after his tenure as editor. I have been honored to have had many articles published in its pages, and during the final four years of the editorship of the esteemed B. C. Goodpasture I served as a staff writer for the journal.
“I wish for the Gospel Advocate many, many more years of faithful service to the cause for which we plead-simple, apostolic, undenominational Christianity.”
July 14, 2015
July 15: Philippi Church of Christ, Hartsville, TN
JUNE 26, 2015: A DAY THAT WILL LIVE IN (IM)MORAL INFAMY!
June 26, 2015 is a day that will live in (im)moral infamy in the United States of America! On that day, by a vote of five to four, the United States Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal in all fifty states. For God-fearing, Bible-believing, self-respecting people, this brought our country to a new low, morally speaking. One wonders if it can get any worse? Perhaps the only bright spot to be seen is that now we have only one way to go and that is up!
The Bible, God’s divinely inspired and inerrant word, says: “And the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man [Adam] should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him . . . And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. And the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man. And Adam said: ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.‘ Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:18-24).
Do you believe that? I do! And I will say that if you do not believe it, you might as well throw your Bible in the trashcan and forget about claiming to believe any of it! To reject this foundational account of the origin of mankind and the sanctity of male and female relationships in the marriage bond found in the opening chapters of the Bible sets the stage for the rejection of every other teaching, principle, doctrine, and practice set forth in that divine volume that arrogant and depraved man chooses not to accept! And there is not a Bible doctrine, principle, precept, or practice that some liberal/ progressive somewhere has not rejected!
Moses wrote: “You shall not lie [euphemism for “have sexual relationships with,” hf] a male as with a woman. It is an abomination” (Leviticus 18:22). The apostle Paul, in describing the depravity of the ancient world, wrote: “Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:27). Jesus Christ, reminding people of God’s original law of marriage, said: “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).
But the sad fact is that many have not read what God says about the matter, and others simply do not care. They have become wise in their own conceits (Romans 12:16). Many years ago, when the gays and the lesbians began to “come out of the closet,” a friend in Dallas said to me, “If God does not destroy America, He will need to apologize to Sodom and Gomorrah.” I am afraid my friend was right. But as another friend recently said, “I hope there are ten righteous people left in America. That may spare us for a while!” (See Genesis 18:16-33 for the biblical background of the preceding statement, followed by Genesis 19 and the account of the destruction of the two sexually depraved and perverted cities).
The Bible teaches that “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). We need to remember that no earthly court can supersede the Court of Heaven! And, as still another friend has so wisely observed, no earthly court impose dignity on an abomination!
May God have mercy on us all! Only Christ and His gospel can change us and save us.
July 7, 2015
July 15: Philippi Church of Christ, Hartsville, TN
CONVERSION OF A FAMILY
A few weeks ago I received an interesting email from my friend and fellow gospel preacher Raymond Elliott of Prattville, Alabama. Raymond told the story of the conversion of Andrew Jackson and Lonia B. Harden and their family from denominationalism to the purity and simplicity of New Testament Christianity. I was so impressed with the story that I asked Raymond for permission to use it as a “Hugh’s News & Views.” He gladly granted permission. The fascinating story follows in Raymond’s words.
A. J. Harden was a farmer. He and his family lived in a rural area in the lower part of Dale County, Alabama south of the small town of Newton. Mr. Harden had the habit of stopping his plowing or whatever kind of farm work he was doing each morning at a certain time so he could go to the house and listen to a radio program conducted by brother Rex A. Turner, Sr. from Montgomery. Mr. Harden was not a highly educated man but he could read and read he did, especially his Bible. He studied the Word of God very diligently and could understand the teaching of our Lord and His apostles as found in the New Testament. The more he listened to the preaching of brother Turner, the more he studied his Bible. Mr. Harden was so impressed with the teaching of brother Turner that he had a great desire to meet him in person. Perhaps it was in the providence of God that he would soon have that opportunity.
It was about the year of 1939 that the Bethel Baptist Church where Mr. Harden served as a deacon, decided to conduct a special meeting on a Saturday night. Because Mr. Harden had been actively engaged in providing transportation for their regular preacher, the men asked him to obtain the service a p