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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

God's nature is such that He shows no partiality

Giving Preference to One Another

God's nature is such that He shows no partiality (Romans 2:11; Ephesians 6:9), and we are to reflect His nature.  Scripture is quite clear that as Christians we must show no partiality either (1 Timothy, 5:21; James 2:1,9).  We are all sinners, regardless of wealth or social standing. God expects us to live this truth by treating each other, ironically enough, as better than ourselves. In other words, when we show no partiality, we seek to make everyone and everyone else's interests more important than our own.

This is exactly what Paul writes in Romans 12:10: 'Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.' The NRSV says 'outdo one another in showing honor.'  Such an attitude not only takes away the fleshly urge to pick favorites, but it also takes away a selfish desire to be some sort of 'Lone Christian'.

We have been given the local church as a blessing. We are meant to be an active participant in it. While the church is there to benefit us, when we approach it with that expectation we miss the entire point. It will serve us when other Christians are doing the same thing we are supposed to be doing -- 'outdoing one another in showing honor'. We don't do that by trying to be an adjunct member of a church: slipping in when we decide to, hurling criticisms when something doesn't suit us and choosing to get angry when for some strange reason everyone doesn't fall all over themselves to be kind to us. Every Christian must learn the truth that we are much easier to love when we are to some degree loveable. If some effort is made to include these 'Lone Christians', a stonewall is often the reaction. It's easier to criticize from afar than to be involved in the real work of building a congregation.

But when Paul writes, 'Do nothing from selfish or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others' (Philippians 2:3-4), he is telling us how to 'be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose' (vs. 2).  These things are built not only through Bible study, but also through things like hospitality, even staying after services to chat.

Unless the Christians in a church actually like each other (and they have to know one another to like each other), they will never exhibit the type of unity of purpose God intends. They will be quick to hurl accusations and suspect impure motives when trouble does arise. And trouble will most assuredly arise if the congregation is not striving to be one, and each member is not striving to 'outdo one another in showing honor'.

- by Alan Cornett


Tuesday, November 22, 2016

When Should We Deal With Controversial Issues?

There are only two times when it is proper to deal with controversial subjects in the church: (1) when the church is bothered with them, and (2) when it is not. That may sound a bit "corny" but it is just plain fact.  The philosophy that we should never trouble trouble until trouble troubles us may sound reasonable, but it is borne out neither in scripture nor history.

Religious controversy is prima face evidence of error. It does not always mean that one side is right and the other wrong, for both may be wrong. But it is a singular fact that both cannot be right because truth never contradicts truth. That means that all Christians must dust off their Bibles and find out just what is the truth. Paul admonished, "Be not unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17).  So there is no room for the excuse, "Well I just can't understand." If both can't be right, then every Christian is duty-bound to find out which one is, or if either is.

Religious error is like a physical disease, as long as it exists anywhere in the world, it poses an insidious danger to Christians everywhere in the world. Error is like a disease.  It does not usually remain confined to one particular area. It has cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, grand children, and even good friends, and through them it may travel right to our front door (it often uses the back door!) and creeps in unawares (Jude 3). Paul spoke of false teachers' words as eating like a cancer (2 Tim 2:17): "And their word will eat as doth a canker: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus." (Don't fail to notice that Paul called the names of the false teachers, those spreading the disease.  This is important to know so they can be quarantined!)

The world would have been dead from smallpox long ago had every community waited to vaccinate its citizens until it had an outbreak of the disease. The basic theory of immunization is to vaccinate before the disease strikes. The same thing holds true with pernicious religious error. Paul warned the Ephesian elders of dangers that lay ahead, Acts 20:28-29. "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock."

The church or the preacher that delays dealing with error until it strikes really is sacrificing many to the error; for often, once it strikes it is too late to save some. History proves human pride makes it difficult to reverse a commitment. All Christians have a responsibility to stand for truth and against all error. Preachers must guard that which is committed to their trust (1 Tim. 6:20) and elders are with sound doctrine to exhort and convince the gainsayers (Tit. 1:9). He who will not defend the truth is out of harmony with God's word, and fails to honor his trust.

- by James P. Needham


Tuesday, November 15, 2016


It has been pointed out by many that Jesus was “the Master Teacher.” Of all the professions in Greek society, teaching was held in high esteem. It was His role as teacher that seemed to capture the imagination and respect of those who knew our Lord. Even his enemies recognized Jesus as an unusually gifted teacher. When they came to Him to test him, they often address Jesus using the title of “teacher.” “Teacher, we know that you are true, and teach the way of God truthfully” (Matt. 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21). The Greek text refers to Jesus as “teacher” more than three dozen times in the Gospel accounts. In addition, our English word “Master,” when applied to Jesus, frequently viewed Jesus as a “school master.” Much of the teaching of Jesus was in the open air. It was what William Barclay referred to as “field preaching.” It seems to me that much, if not all of the teaching of Jesus was spontaneous. It was the natural outpouring of the depth of knowledge and love of the truth that made Him what He was. Let me suggest some things that made Jesus the incomparable teacher.


First, His teaching captured the attention of those who heard Him. Unlike a professor in a classroom, where the teacher speaks to a captive audience, much of the teaching of Jesus was out in the open, and because it was thus, His audience could come and go at their leisure without fearing embarrassment. I have had occasion to speak “on the street” in India. On those occasions, while most of those who had gathered to listen were polite to stay seated, there were always those curious individuals who might wander up, listen for a moment or two, and then drift off into the night, indicating little or no interest in the message. I did not “capture” their attention, and if I did, I did not keep it. Jesus was not like that. “Never a man spake” (John 7:46) was probably spoken by more than those officers who had been sent by the religious authorities to arrest Jesus.


Second, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because He spoke plainly. Do you remember when the Jews came to Jesus and inquired, “How long dost thou hold us in suspense? If thou art the Christ, tell us plainly” (John 10:24). Jesus replied, “I told you, and ye believe not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, these bear witness of me” (John 10:25). Jesus did speak to them plainly; they refused to listen. What message of our Lord could be more “plain” than that spoken to the woman at the well of Samaria? The Pharisees had no problem understanding the Lord’s message, so much so that they sought to destroy Him. Never once do I read of Jesus telling His audience, “Oh, you misunderstood!”


Third, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because His message had a universal appeal. William Barclay picked up on this: “One of the most amazing characteristics of Jesus as a teacher is the universality of his appeal. We find him teaching in the synagogues (Matt. 4:23). We find him teaching in the Temple at Jerusalem (Mark 14:49). We find him engaged in technical arguments and discussion with the foremost scholars of his day (Matt. 22:23-46). We find him in the streets and on the roads, using a fishing boat as a pulpit by the seashore, holding the crowds spellbound with his words. We find him teaching the intimate inner circle of the disciples, and yet we find that amidst the crowds the common people heard him gladly” (Barclay, The Mind of Jesus, 90-91). The versatility of our Lord with regard to subject, audience, and method astounds all those who would study the teaching methods and manner of our Lord.


Fourth, Jesus was the incomparable teacher because He never avoided controversy. He did not go about looking for controversy, but when it came His way, He would engage the lawyers, Pharisees, Sadducees with the courage and determination to protect the truth and expose error at every occasion. The late G.C. Brewer wrote: Our Lord Jesus Christ was the most persistent, alert, resourceful and master controversialist that ever lived. He lived at a time when controversy was the order of the day. The Pharisees and the Sadducees were the leading sect among the Jews, and they were constantly in disputes among themselves. The Sadducees were cool and calculating, rationalistic and philosophical. The Pharisees were technical, carping, and captious. They were past masters in the tricks of sophistry, caviling, and casuistry. But Jesus met the combined efforts of these masters of debate and quibbling and put them to silence. His quick analysis, his penetrating, powerful and unsparing logic, and his unanswerable and embarrassing ad hominem replies to their assaults have never been equaled among men. They, therefore, prove him to have been something more than a man” (G.C. Brewer, source lost). Regarding Jesus and controversy, Alexander Campbell wrote in the Millennial Harbinger:


No man can be a good man who does not oppose error and immorality in himself, his family, his neighborhood, and in society as far as he can reach, and that he cannot oppose it successfully only by argument: or, as some would say, by word and deed, by precept and by example. There can be no improvement without controversy. Improvement requires and presupposes change; change is innovation, and innovation always has elicited opposition! And that is what constitutes the essentials of controversy. Every man who reforms his own life has a controversy with himself. And, therefore, no man who has not always been perfect, and always been in company with perfect society can be a good man without controversy. This being conceded, it follows that whensoever society, religious or political, falls into error; or rather, so long as it is imperfect, it is the duty of all who have any talent or ability to oppose error, moral or political, who have intelligence to distinguish, and utterance to express, truth and goodness, to lift up a standard against it, and to panoply themselves for the combat. If there was no error in principle or practice, then controversy, which is only another name for opposition to error, real or supposed, would be unnecessary. If it were lawful, or if it were benevolent, to make a truce with error, then opposition to it would be both unjust and unkind. If error were innocent and harmless, then we might permit it to find its own quietus, or to immortalize itself. But so long as it is confessed that error is more or less injurious to the welfare of society, individually and collectively considered, then no man can be considered benevolent who does not set his face against it. In proportion as a person is intelligent and benevolent, he will be controversial, if error exist around him. Hence the Prince of Peace never sheathed the sword of the Spirit while he lived. He drew it on the banks of the Jordan and threw the scabbard away (Alexander Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, Volume 1, Electronic Edition).


Finally, Jesus was the incomparable teacher for the simple reason that His messages were memorable. Jesus was most effective in this particular aspect of His teaching because of the parables He presented that enabled His audience to take the message home, not only imbedded in their mind, but encased in their hearts. Multitudes are those who know the meaning of the words “Good Samaritan,” though they may never have read a page of the Bible. Jesus was fully aware that the use of parables would serve to impress upon the minds of His audience great truths that would come to be understood and cherished many days after He actually spoke the words.


Great leaders have often been great spokesmen. That is not always the case; but it certainly is true of our Master. Not only is He our King, but as King, His words sound clear, and when compared to the thoughts of men, they demonstrate the unique nature and source of those words. Yes, indeed, Jesus is the incomparable teacher, and we are the richer for it.


by Tom Wacaster

(excerpt from my upcoming commentary on Matthew)


Alexander Campbell

"No man ever achieved any great good to mankind who did not fight for it with courage and perseverance, and who did not, in the conflict, sacrifice either his good name or his life.  John lost his head.  The apostles were slaughtered.  The Saviour was crucified.  The ancient confessors were slain.  The reformers were excommunicated.  If I am not slandered and misrepresented, I shall be a most unworthy advocate of the cause which has always provoked the resentment of those who, fattened upon the ignorance and stupidity of the mass, will not try to think or learn." 

- Alexander Campbell


Tuesday, November 8, 2016


When our fiery trial descends upon us  - and it will if we are living godly lives in Christ Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12) - it would behoove us to have the kind of faith that will see us through that trial. John has told us in advance of the trials that we will face in life, and that “this is the victory that hath overcome the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4). Look at the catalogue of the faithful men and women listed in Hebrews chapter 11. They endured some of most severe challenges to their faith that men can, and often will, have to confront; and each and every one of those recorded in that “hall of fame of the faithful” came through with shining colors. What is it that saw them through? How is it that they were able to overcome the temptations that came their way, while so many throughout history have simply thrown in the towel and followed the multitude to do evil? I submit to you that it was a faith that give them unshakable assurance in the face of adversity. Someone once said, “Men will wrangle for religion; write for it; fight for it; die for it; anything but live for it.” What the world needs is more men and women who will be willing to live their faith, and be willing to die for it as well. I submit to you that unless men have the same kind of unshakable assurance in God and His promises to us as did those men and women of faith recorded in the pages of God’s word, when the time for battle comes they will fail the test every single time.  The absence of faith and assurance can be seen in the fact that too many Christians live their life in fear and anxiety of what the future holds. Their demeanor and countenance suggest that they have no joy. Were someone to inquire as to their relationship with God their answer would be filled with doubt and foreboding.


When Paul wrote his second letter to Timothy, he expressed great confidence in his eternal salvation: “I know him whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to guard that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Tim. 1:12). Again, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give to me at that day” (2 Tim 4:7). John said, “I have written unto you, that ye may know that ye have eternal life” (1 John 5:13).  And yet, in spite of so many passages that speak positively of our “blessed assurance,” there are a great number of our brethren who doubt their salvation! That doubt is reflected in a gloomy disposition of despair and despondency characteristic of a world in darkness. One sister in Oklahoma used to say, “Too many of my brethren act as if they were baptized in vinegar.” One of the most beautiful passages in all the Bible is 1 John 1:7 - “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” There are two important truths that emerge from this passage.


First, while walking “in the light” we are still going to sin. Did you catch the words of John: “If we walk in the light...the blood of Jesus cleanseth.” Even if we are walking in the light we are still going to sin from time to time. All too often we demand of ourselves that which we are not capable of giving, namely sinless perfection. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1:8). Will we stumble from time to time? Indeed we will. But even when we occasionally sin out of inattention or a moment of weakness due to the fleshly limitations in all of us, we can be assured that our relationship with God is not severed.


Second, we have the cleansing blood of our Lord at our constant disposal. Like an ever flowing fountain, limitless in its resources, and powerful in its efficacy, our Lord’s blood will wash away every single sin and remove the guilt associated with it. No wonder John could, in this same letter, write of our assurance of salvation (5:13). It was once said, “A joyless saint will never win a joyful sinner to Christ.” If your lack of assurance has robbed you of the joy of Christian living, how can you ever expect to convert someone who, though living in error, has greater confidence of his salvation than do you? No wonder Paul told us to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Phil. 4:4). And as if to drive the point home, he immediately repeats, “again, I will say, REJOICE!”  Beloved, we CAN know that we are saved, and with that assurance comes the great joy of Christian living!


Brethren, let us get on with living, and while doing so, let us rest in the assurance that God is on our side, His promises are sure, and that even though we sin from time to time, we can rest upon the realization that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous” (1 John 2:2). He is the “propitiation for our sins, the Protector of our souls, and the Provider of our salvation. Some years ago I came across the following wonderful illustration/quote:


Cyprian, a third-century martyr, writes to Donatus, saying: “This is a cheerful world as I see it from my garden under the shadows of my vines. But if I were to ascend some high mountain and look over the wide lands, you know very well what I would see: brigands on the highways, pirates on the sea, armies fighting, cities burning; in the amphitheaters men murdered to please the applauding crowds; selfishness and cruelty and misery and despair under all roofs. It is a bad world, Donatus, and incredibly bad world. But I have  discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people, Donatus, are the Christians—and I am one of them.”


That, my friends, was peace and confidence borne of assurance that comes as a result of an undying and unflinching faith in the God Who has promised, “I will in no wise fail thee, neither will I in any wise forsake thee” (Hebrews 13:5).  


 by Tom Wacaster


Monday, November 7, 2016

The Prescription for Growth

We are all fully aware that as Christians we are to grow spiritually.  There are several passages that clearly teach that God not only expects but also requires such development.  "As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby" (I Peter 2:2).  "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18).  "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Hebrews 5:12).

Let me suggest to you a few things that are needed in our lives if we are to grow and develop as God commands:

1) There has to be a desire on our part. Look once again at I Peter 2:2. The writer says that you must desire the pure milk of the word. In the sermon on the mount, the Lord said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6). We have to want to grow! It is not going to happen unless there is that hunger and thirst within us for the things that will help us to progress.  One thing that has happened to far too many Christians, they have lost their spiritual appetite. They have become choked with the cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and as the Lord said, "bring no fruit to maturity" (Luke 8:14).

2) It also takes time. When the Psalmist spoke of the man blessed, in Psalms 1:1-2, notice how he spent his time. "But his delight is in the law of the Lord, And in His law he meditates day and night." We usually make time for the things that we enjoy doing, whether it is fishing, golf or shopping, etc. If we really have the desire to grow, we will find time to study, pray and practice the truth in our daily lives. It may mean that we've got to turn off the TV, not read the Newspaper as thoroughly, or take some time from a hobby that we enjoy. But we will find time and use it to the glory of God. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul, "Redeeming the time, because the days are evil" (Ephesians 5:16).

3) Effort has to be put forth. Certainly the word of God is that which will build us up and make us stronger. Paul in speaking with the elders from Ephesus, said, "So now, brethren, 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" (Acts 20:32). Not only does it take time to know and understand the word of God; it takes effort as well. This same apostle told Timothy, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). The word "diligent" (KJ says study), is defined as "to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavour, give diligence" (Vine's Expository Dictionary Of New testament Words). Those who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord, take the time and exert the effort and energy to ascertain the meaning of the Scriptures. Practice is the next logical step. Only by doing can we please God (James 1:22,23,25).

It will require using some of our money. To be a good fisherman one will buy a good rod and reel, tackle, and maybe a boat along with all the accessories. Don't mind spending the money for these kinds of things. To be knowledgeable of the word of God, we will need a good study Bible, a concordance, a good Bible dictionary, maybe some reliable commentaries, etc. Are we willing to spend money on these type books to help us in our studies? If you really have the desire, will take the time and put forth the effort, you won't mind spending the small amount it would take to buy these study helps.

Want to grow as the Lord commands? Follow this prescription!

- by Jim Mickells

“Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness?” (2Pet. 3:11)

Today's editorial falls under the category of what I like to call "great questions of the Bible."  It's in the above cited verse that we find the question under consideration today. "What manner of persons ought ye to be?"  It's the same as asking in today's vernacular: "What sort of people ought we to be in our Christian lives.  ("holiness and godliness").


That question was posed by Peter right after saying that there will be a time when everything pertaining to this earth is going to be destroyed.  This is commonly referred to as the Day of Judgment, but in reality, it's the Day of Sentencing.  But, he's asking about how our lives should be lived up until that time.


Is there an example given us in the Gospel?  Of course there's the old much-cited ones like Paul's advice in 1Cor. 11:1 where in essence he says "follow me as I follow Christ."  Or the advice of Paul about following "things" such as we read about in 2Tim. 2:22 and 1Tim. 6:11.


Perhaps you may remember some previous editorial lessons where we looked at individuals in the Bible for examples to emulate, to follow.  Guys like Nathaniel, who was described by Jesus as being "guileless."  Or, maybe Paul's "son in the faith."


How about a Christian that most know nothing about, or even those that do, don't know a whole lot about.  I'm speaking of a person in Paul's life by the name of Onesiphorus.  I truly think that he can serve us as a practical example of an everyday Christian.


You know, Onesiphorus is not mentioned as being a "great hero" of the Bible.  He's not considered to be a great "shaker and mover" of the early church.  He was, like us, an everyday Christian going through his life.  But, what few things we know about him teach us some valuable lessons for our lives.


Really the only things we know about Onesiphorus is found in Paul's second letter to Timothy.  In chapter 1, verses 16-18 we read these words: "May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me.  May the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!  And you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus."


Then in chapter 4, verse 19 we see Paul requesting Timothy to "salute" the household of Onesiphorus.  Four short verses is all we have to show us our example for today.  But, we can learn a great lesson from them.  They provide us an answer to our signature question: "What sort of people are Christians supposed to be?"  In "holiness and godliness" simply means "in the service of Christ."


Let's break down what Onesiphorus can teach us in those few verses.  Notice Paul says that he "often refreshed me" (helped and provided for me) and that he was not "ashamed of my chains."  (Being a prisoner).  But when he was in Rome, "he eagerly searched for me and found me."


Then Paul offers a prayer in his behalf, IE: that he may find mercy "in that day."  (Judgment).  At the close of vs. 18 notice these words: that both Timothy and the church at Ephesus knew "very well" what service he had rendered there at Ephesus.  Not only was Onesiphorus a loyal servant of Christ when traveling, he was also recognized as such back home.


In 2Tim. 4:19 Paul says something that I feel that many people don't fully understand.  Among others, Paul tells Timothy to "salute" the "household", the family, of Onesiphorus.  "Salute," as used there, means far more than to greet or "say hi" to.  It's a Greek word meaning to "enfold" or to "embrace" someone.  We might say to day, "give them a big hug for me."


So, what is it that we know about this Onesiphorus that helps answer the question of how we should be in our Christian lives?  He and his family were "servants of Christ." That he was not "ashamed of the Gospel of Christ" (Ref: Rom. 1:16 and 2Tim. 2:15).  Not "ashamed" of being associated with a preacher who was imprisoned for doing just that - preaching the Gospel.  We read in 2Tim. 1:15 that others apparently were "ashamed" and had left Paul.


Onesiphorus stands in contrast to them (Phygelus and Hermogenes) and their service to Christ.  In a word, Onesiphorus is "a servant."  And he's the kind of "servant" that all of us fellow servants should strive to be.  He is a great example of the "manner of persons" that everyday Christians should be.


"Salute" those Onesiphorus's among us.


Respectfully submitted,

Ron Covey




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