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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Differences between Christians

Where Differences are Allowed and Where they are not Allowed


Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3But if anyone loves God, he is known by God. 4Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 6yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. 7However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled. 8Food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do. 9But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:1-9


As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions. 2 One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. 3 Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him. 4 Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. 6 The one who observes the day, observes it in honour of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honour of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honour of the Lord and gives thanks to God. 7 For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. 8 For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or

whether we die, we are the Lord's. Romans 14:1-8


Not everything each Christian holds dear is also held as God’s unchangeable decree by every other Christian. God allows for conscientious differences of conviction among believers. In the context of Romans 14, and also seen in 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, the issue of eating food that had been offered as a sacrifice in an idol temple, was causing problems. While Paul and others knew that it was just meat, and that idols were just that – idols and no god at all – there were Christians who could not conscientiously eat such meat - regarding it as corrupted by idolatry. To eat such food would be to betray their conscience – even to be participating in the idolatry. Paul stated that these convictions or scruples must be respected, and those who didn’t hold the same opinion should not judge these brethren, nor should they do anything that would cause them to go against their conscientious convictions, which the Bible refers to as “stumbling.” In fact, both parties were to equally respect the convictions of the other party.


Some brethren believe it is wrong to work on the Lord’s Day. Some brethren would never walk into another’s home without taking off their shoes. Others frown on wearing a hat while eating, or elbows on the table, or eating meat on Friday. Some believe birthdays are so important, while others don’t. Everything from conscientious objection and pacifism to always putting yourself last in a food queue. While many of us don’t hold to those scruples, and may even think some are trivial and inconsequential, others think they’re important, and we should respect them.


So if you are visiting my home, then please take off your shoes before entering – out of respect for my scruple, and to maintain love and unity between us, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:17.


This kind of godly behaviour contributes to unity in the church, but if our attitudes are not right, there’s going to be disunity and even ill-feeling … even if you’re so thick-skinned and broad-minded  you claim nothing upsets you! Ha! ha!

       And must I say it? It’s also a good test of whether you love others more than yourself! Even if you don’t believe it has anything to do with conscience, you do believe in submitting to others’ wishes, at times, don’t you?


If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. 28 But if someone says to you, “This has been offered in sacrifice,” then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience— 29 I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience? 30 If I partake with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of that for which I give thanks? 31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God, 33 just as I try to please everyone in everything I do, not seeking my own advantage, but that of many, that they may be saved. 1 Corinthians 10:27-33.


Of course, some who hold to these scruples, may reach a point in life where they no longer hold them. And that’s ok, as well, isn’t it?.


Finally, remember, we are not talking about standard, non-variable doctrines held by the church  and which are to be held the same by all Christians because Jesus has commanded them. Matthew 28:20; John 4:23-24; Romans 16:17-20; Galatians 5:19-6:10; Ephesians 4:1-6; 2 Timothy 1:12-14; Hebrews 2:3; 10:24-25; 12:12-15; 13:1-10. We are talking about a doctrine which allows conscientious differences of belief and practice in certain areas of life.


So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labour in vain. Philippians 2:1-16


And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17


But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. Philippians 1:24-26


Are you making joyful progress in your faith … growing in grace and knowledge? Philippians 1:25; 1 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Peter 3:18.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Faith in John; Baptism in Acts; Variety in How Jesus Offers Life?


When you read John 3:16, you hear God say this:


“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”


When you read Acts 2:38-39, you hear /God say this:


And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”


So in one place, Jesus says that whoever believes should have eternal life, while in the other place, Jesus’ apostle says that God forgives the sins of everyone whom the Lord calls to Himself through repentance and baptism.


What is going on here? Which one do we listen to?


The gospel of John shows what Jesus told people while he was with them on earth 2000 years ago.


The Book of Acts shows what Jesus told people after he had returned to heaven and was no longer personally

teaching people on earth. In fact, Acts reveals Jesus’ followers telling the world what Jesus’ parting instructions

were, after His death and resurrection, for all people for all time until the end of time. See Acts 1:8 and the following:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20


And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:15-16


Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Luke 24:45-47


The only thing here that is really different, from what Jesus taught during his ministry, is baptism into His name, because Jesus personally taught of the need for belief and repentance. We’ve seen the belief taught in John 3:16. Here’s the repentance:


There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-5


Baptism is into Jesus’ death and resurrection. Romans 6 explains this clearly. It wouldn’t have made sense to baptize into Jesus’ death and resurrection before Jesus had died and been resurrected!! Baptism brings about a union of the saved sinner with the dead and raised Christ. It’s where the new birth to resurrection life occurs. A new life in Christ.


The mistake many make today is in applying Jesus’ salvation teaching while he was in Israel to the world’s people today, but ignoring how Jesus adapted this to fit His New Covenant. So, using John 3:16, they say all we need to do is to believe in Jesus to be saved, missing born again of water and the Spirit. John 3:3,5. Justification has always been by faith in God and not by Law-keeping, under the Old Covenant, Habakkuk 2:4; Ps 32:1-6 – in fact a universal principle. See Abraham and Jonah.  They take this principle – salvation is by faith in God and not works of Law – and ignore Jesus’ applying it through baptism as the mechanism for the new birth under the New Covenant. John 3:3,5; Romans 6:3-4; Titus 3:5. These people see water baptism as an example of working for your salvation. This contradicts Jesus’ command for faith and baptism as essential in the New Covenant. Let’s look at a typical example of this erroneous thinking when applied to an example often used from Acts.


About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened. 27 When the jailer woke and saw that the prison doors were open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul cried with a loud voice, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” 29 And the jailer called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas. 30 Then he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 And they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Acts 16:25-31


What must I do to be saved? Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved. See! Just believe and you’ll be saved, as in John 3:16. But this isn’t the complete account of what the Philippians were told to do!! What does “believe in Jesus” mean? Let’s continue the account:


32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their wounds; and he was baptized at once, he and all his family. 34 Then he brought them up into his house and set food before them. And he rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God. Acts 16:32-34



1.     After telling them if they believed on the Lord Jesus they would be saved, the preachers then “spoke the word of the Lord to him … and the same hour of the night he was baptized at once.”

2.     Why? Why teach them more after telling them to believe? Why baptize them … and at once??

3.     Because the household needed information about who Jesus is and what Jesus did before they could believe, but also, in order to be saved, they needed to know what Jesus commanded, as per Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24. This would have been part of “they spoke the word of the Lord to him.”

4.     Observe that after being baptizedhe rejoiced along with his entire household that he had believed in God.”

5.     Believing included being baptized, as in Acts 18:8,27. Rejoicing happened only after baptism, as in Acts 8:39.

6.     Remember Jesus teaching “if you love Me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. Cornelius, in Acts 10:33,47-48, said, “We are all here present before God to hear everything you have been commanded by the Lord.” Then Peter “commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ.” Baptism is not a work of human merit.

7.     Baptism is practised everywhere throughout Acts as an essential part of the salvation package. See 22:16.


Now that we’ve put the cat among the pigeons with that one, let’s return to the time of Jesus’ ministry and note

how varied on eternal matters his teaching is with different people:

1.     Mark 2:1-12. Some men bring a paralytic to Jesus, who sees their faith and says to the paralytic, “Your

sins are forgiven.” Let’s look at this a bit closer.

(i)     Yes, I know Jesus uses this to show the Pharisees He is God – having the power to forgive sins, and heal paralysis, but I want to concentrate on the granting of forgiveness.

(ii)    Notice that nobody asks for forgiveness.

(iii)   Also, Jesus notices they all have faith.

(iv)   And yet Jesus grants forgiveness, but only to the paralytic.

(v)    Why? Is it just because the paralytic presents an easy example to display his divine power?

(vi)   Would Jesus “use” the paralytic just to prove a point to those stubborn Pharisees?

(vii)  After all, we’re talking about a man’s eternal future, aren’t we, when we speak of God forgiving sins?

(viii)  Also, Jesus makes no demands of this man – such as “Repent,” “Follow me,” “don’t sin any more”!


2.    Let’s leave that example, and look at another one.


John 8:21-32, So he said to them again, “I am going away, and you will seek me, and you will die in your sin. Where I am going, you cannot come.” 22 So the Jews said, “Will he kill himself, since he says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” 23 He said to them, “You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.” 25 So they said to him, “Who are you?” Jesus said to them, “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning. 26 I have much to say about you and much to judge, but he who sent me is true, and I declare to the world what I have heard from him.” 27 They did not understand that he had been speaking to them about the Father. 28 So Jesus said to them, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. 29 And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” 30 As he was saying these things, many believed in him. 31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”


Let’s discuss this and compare it a little with the previous example:

(i)     Jesus tells some Jews he is going where they cannot come, and they will die in their sins if they don’t believe “I am.”

(ii)    The Jews ask Jesus who He is. Jesus tells them He is just as He has been telling them from the beginning.

(iii)    After a little while many believed in Him.

(iv)    Jesus told those who had believed in Him that to truly be His disciples, they must abide in His word, whereby the truth they learn will set them free from sin.

(v)     There is no mention of forgiveness of their sins, or the free gift of eternal life. Instead, to repeat, if they continue in His word (implying obeying His word) they will be set free from sin.

(vi)    As the encounter continues, we learn that these “believers” actually want to kill Jesus!

(vii)   Their earlier believing in Him is a farce.


So, you see, there’s more to believing in Jesus than just saying “I believe.” Surely Jesus would not promise eternal life to or forgive these so-called believers in John 8. To truly believe in Jesus unto eternal life includes contrition, obedience, whole-hearted commitment. See Matthew 5-7; Mark 4:20-25; Luke 9:23-26; 18:9-14; 19:1-10; John 15:1-17.


So let’s return to the paralytic. There must have been much more to the paralytic’s faith than meets the eye. Jesus is not about to forgive someone who does not have a serious turning to God and trust in God, and a willingness to obey Jesus’ commands. Jesus isn’t so flippant about salvation that he would just say “I forgive you” only because he feels sorry for someone! Even John the Baptist required of his disciples a change of heart and life when they were baptized in a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. Malachi 3:14-18; 4:5-6; Mark 1:4-5;  Luke 3:7-18. Note that Jesus is teaching when the paralytic arrives. Jesus obviously knew a lot more about the paralytic than is revealed in the account. For example, we do not know if he had been previously exposed to more of Jesus’ teaching – even heard him teaching as he arrived, but Jesus would have known this. Perhaps this is why he doesn’t forgive the men who brought him, though He saw their faith, too.

    These are all things Jesus would have personally observed in people he granted eternal life to. But Jesus is not personally communicating with those he forgives today. What he requires now for salvation he requires equally of all people. He gave these requirements to his apostles and commanded that they be passed on to all men everywhere in the world for all time until he returns to judge the world. This is the problem with applying the sinner’s prayer from Luke 18:9-14 in today’s context. The penitence and humility is spot-on, but it must be set in the context of baptism in Jesus’ name in the New Covenant, and not temple worship under the Law of Moses when there was no requirement by Jesus for baptism in His name.


This brings us back to the first point in this essay. Let us be careful to check what it is Jesus requires of us, now, and not simply assume that an example in Israel 2000 years ago is also ok for us today. What Jesus told the thief on the cross, and the rich, young ruler in Matthew 19:16-30, are other examples of Jesus fitting His grace to someone personally, yet who today would use what Jesus told the rich, young ruler as an example to emulate?

As a final excellent example, why do we believe we today must be born again, as Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3:3-7? Ah, good question! The answer? Because being born again  is found everywhere in the New Testament. See Romans 6:3-4; 1 Corinthians 4:15; Ephesians 4:20-24; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:3,20-25. Jesus was telling Nicodemus what would soon be standard practice! In one way or another, the repentant, changed life, from self to Christ, is what receiving Christ and believing in Him means. The Baptism of John the Baptist, trust in Jesus, being born again, and repentance. Baptism into Christ brings the believer into saving union with Christ’s death and resurrection.

Salvation is God’s Way of Providing for Our Access to His Life: Escaping the Rottenness of the World to Partake of the Divine Nature


Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ:

2 May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence,

4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:1-4


In John’s gospel, Jesus is God who has come to show the world who God is, so they can believe in Him for eternal life. John 1:1-34; 6:35-40; 14:1-9; 20:26-31. The Good Shepherd has come to guide us to still waters and fill our cup with the good life. John 10.


In Matthew, Jesus again is “God with us,” Matthew 1:23, to bring us back to Himself. Matthew 11:27-30. God - teaching His commands from a mountain, Matthew 5-7; God - transfigured on another mountain to show His supremacy over Moses and the prophets, Matthew 17:1-8; God, whose teaching, when heeded, results in sinners baptized into the possession of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Matthew 4:4; 7:29; 28:18-20.


Salvation is a remarkable thing. Yes, a rescue from sin and condemnation, but it’s more than that.


Israel knew that God alone is Saviour. Isaiah 43:10-11. Jesus comes into the world as God and Saviour, Matthew 1:20-25; Titus 2:11-14; 2 Peter 1:1-4, whereby they can see, face to face, the God who will take them to the heavenly Father to live forever. John 14:1-11; 17:1-26; Colossians 1:19-23.


He saves us by atoning for our sins with his own body and blood, thus granting us eternal life and access to God the Father and heaven. John 6:45-57.


Access into God’s very presence … the greatest of all possible gifts.


Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, 4 who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, 5 to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Galatians 1:3-5


But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, Ephesians 2:4-6


For through Jesus we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:18


For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:19-23


The saying is trustworthy and everyone should believe it, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … 1 Timothy 1:15


Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22


Take in the full import of Colossians 1:19-23, my ‘Scripture of the week’. God’s fullness was in the flesh and blood Jesus when he died on the cross so our friendship with God could be restored forever, provided we maintain the faith and hope of the gospel. God personally stooped to enter our corrupt world, bear our sins, earn death as the wage for this humiliation, be raised from this death to live in glory forever, thus save us from our sins, and be with his redeemed people forever. Then compare with Philippians 2:5-16.


“The saying is trustworthy and everyone should believe it! Christ came to our world to save sinners.” Dear friend for whom Christ died: consider believing, since there is no other way to live forever and escape God’s condemnation.


--David Hunter


Thursday, October 26, 2017

The Church of Christ

The Church of Christ:
1 Corinthians 1:10-13

    Our fundamental thesis is that the New Testament condemns division and denominationalism is, by definition, division. Therefore, the church of Jesus Christ is not and cannot be divided into denominations. The church of Jesus Christ in Corinth was having some problems of division among them. Let’s take a look at Paul’s words to the church at Corinth in 1 Cor 1:10-13.

    What do we learn from this text?

    1.) We are all to “agree.”

    2.) There are to be “no divisions” among Christians. That’s clear enough, isn’t it? There are to be no “denominations” among Christians (cf. Rom 16:17). The word translated “dissensions” here means “division into opposing groups, generally two - ‘division, discord.’”

    3.) We are to be “made complete” in the same mind and in the same judgment.

    4.) Divisions give rise to “quarrels.”

    5.) There were “denominations” in Paul’s day and he says that that was wrong.

    6.) Christ is not divided. If Christ is not divided, then the implication is that His body, His church, should not be divided.


    Having said all of that, what is the solution to the problem of division in Christianity? What was the solution to the problem of denominationalism in the first century? What does Paul say the church of Jesus Christ should do in Corinth?

    First, Paul argues that division, contrary to being a good thing, is actually an evil thing. Notice his words in 1 Corinthians 3:1-3.

    Division in Christianity is a sign of pride. It is a sign of selfishness. It is a sign of walking after the flesh. It is a sign of spiritual immaturity. So, what’s the solution?

    Second, we need to recognize that there are certain behaviors and beliefs that God expects all Christians to know and practice, for all time, everywhere. Notice Paul’s words in 1 Cor 4:17.

    Third, how do we solve the problem of denominationalism? We go back to the commands of Jesus Christ, through His apostles. Notice yet another passage in 1 Corinthians 14:37.

    That’s the solution to the problem of division in Christianity today. Of course, fourthly, when we learn that we are not doing what Christ, through His apostles, commands Christians to do, then we need to have the humility to admit we are wrong and then correct our behavior. Look at Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:20-21.

    Repent and go back to the pattern of teaching that the New Testament gives us from Jesus Christ through His apostles who were inspired by the Holy Spirit.

    Tomorrow we’ll see that Paul taught these same points in other letters.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

"How Can I Get More Out Of Bible Study?"

Many people ask this very question. It comes from a sincere desire to read and understand the Bible - just as God intended - for God did not give us an unintelligible book. He knows we can understand His word, and He gave us that word to comprehend. However, the Bible is a book which must be "rightly divided' as Paul said to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:15). One must study the Bible in order to properly discern its teachings. Timothy was commanded to study and read the Scriptures (1 Tim. 4:13). The fact that he was so commanded means that it was possible for his study to be productive and useful. As Christians, Peter exhorts us to add knowledge to our faith (2 Pet. 1:5). If we achieve this knowledge, it will come through study of God's word. No one will be miraculously endowed with scriptural knowledge in our generation.

If Bible study is to be profitable to us, we must make the proper approach to Scripture. Bible reading is different than reading the newspaper or a novel. Following some of these guidelines for effective Bible reading and study will help you get more out of the time you spend with the Word of God.

* Read with reverence. The Bible is "inspired" of God. It did not originate with man. 2 Pet. 1:21 says that the Holy Spirit "moved" the men who wrote the Scriptures.

* Read with a sense of need. Realize that you need God's instruction and that He will provide it through His word. Man is incapable of directing his own steps (Jer. 10:23).

* Think while you are reading. How often have you read words but did not comprehend because you were not thinking about what you were reading? The Bible deserves meditation - deliberate thinking. Don't imagine that just reading the words of the Bible will help you. The upright man of Psalm 1:2 meditated on the law of God.

* Don't "read something into" the Bible. Let the Bible speak for itself. So many people make the mistake of reading the Bible with their minds already made up concerning what it has to say. We must not decide what we want to believe and then go to the Bible to try and prove it. The Scriptures are profitable for doctrine (teaching) according to 2 Tim. 3:16. Allow the Scriptures to formulate your beliefs.

* Determine to apply what you are reading. If you love God's truth, you must be governed by it. If you read the Scriptures but fail to do what you read, do not be surprised if soon your Scripture reading stops altogether. We must not only listen to the Scriptures, we must also obey them (Jas. 1:22). The Scriptures are not designed to be ignored.

Why not give these suggestions a try and see if your personal Bible study doesn't improve?

- by Mark White


Saturday, October 21, 2017

Rainbow Omega, a faith-based nonprofit that cares for adults with developmental disabilities

He Went on His Way Rejoicing


Rob Davis suffered with cerebral palsy, but he made the most of his life.  After the death of his father, Rob moved into a facility operated by Rainbow Omega, a faith-based nonprofit that cares for adults with developmental disabilities.  Rob died in 2010 after a brief illness.  His mother, Dottie Glenn Travis, recounts his life in her 2017 memoir, “R-O-B spells Joy!”  In her memoir, she recounts the day when Rob became a Christian:


In June of 1968, the Churches of Christ in Denver were having a joint campaign in the downtown civic center.  We went each night.  People were responding and being immersed in a portable baptistery.  Rob sat in his wheelchair.  Every night he tugged on his dad’s coat, pointing to the front, indicating that he want to respond to the invitation.


At the last service, he was so persistent that Bob finally whispered to him, “After the meeting, we will go to our church building, and you can be baptized.”


We went with a group of friends to the University Boulevard church.  Amid tears of joy, our minister, Max Hughes, and Rob’s dad immersed him into Christ.  Like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, I think Rob went on his way home rejoicing (see Acts 8:26-39).


Rob had to tell his sister, who was away at college in Nashville, TN.  He used his electric typewriter.  It had a guard over the keyboard so his one-finger, erratic hand movements would not jam the keys.  Putting his finger through the guard and into the correct key hole was a challenge.  As he tried, his head would throw back to the right, making it impossible to see the keyboard.  He often missed the mark.  These were the days before “delete” keys, so the only way to correct a mistake was to backspace and slash over the error.  Much effort went into this short letter:


Dear Glenda: I was t to fa baptized June 23, 1968. I ha have Chris am a Christian. Bro. Hughs A and Daddy have Chair and Ginny baptized me in a chair. Tell Ginny. Love R Rob.


Glenda picked up the letter at the school post office and was reading it as she walked along.  Dan Kirby happened to be walking beside her and said, “Beautiful day, isn’t it?”  She then ran off to her dorm room, crying.


A few days later, she sought out Dan to apologize and shared the letter.  She explained about her brother’s cerebral palsy and his baptism.  (Dan, by the way, is now Glenda’s husband.)


In spite of not being able to participate actively in church, Rob was well-known and loved by so many people… Rob had a real love for the Lord.  The influence of God’s people and the support of friends left a lasting imprint on his life.  Being surrounded by loving church families helped him develop and use his talent for sharing joy with those around him.*


He went on his way rejoicing, and YOU can, too, if you, like Rob, will understand that Jesus died on the cross to save you from your sins.  You can go on your way rejoicing, like Rob and the Ethiopian eunuch, if you will place your faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and be baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  You can go on your way rejoicing because as you continue to walk in the light of His Word, the blood of Jesus will continue to cleanse you from your sin (1 John 1:7).


-- David A. Sargent


* From “He went on his way home, rejoicing” by Dottie Glenn Travis in The Christian Chronicle.  Read the full article here: went-way-home-rejoicing/?mc_cid=81469fdc96&mc_eid=5dd00cb902  The memoir is available from the 21st Century Christian bookstore.


David A. Sargent, Minister


Thursday, October 12, 2017

Joey Spann, minister of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, TN

The Spann of His Life


Joey Spann, minister of the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ in Antioch, TN, thought he was going to die.


Spann was one of the shooting victims when a masked man firing a gun entered the Burnette Chapel church building on Sunday morning after worship services on September 24, 2017.  The gunman killed one church member and injured seven others, including Spann and his wife.


Spann tried to stop the shooter as he entered the building.  He threw a wooden crate at the man and ran toward him, but Spann collapsed.  He had been shot.


"He shot me in the chest and shot again and shot again.  I heard the bullet go by my head.  Another one tore my hand up," Spann said.  "I just continued to cross the vestibule and fell down on the other side of it."


He thought he was going to die.


So he prayed.  He didn’t pray, Holly Meyer reports, to be saved by the church members who applied pressure to his wounds.  He didn't pray to be saved as he heard them call 911.  He prayed for forgiveness.


"God, I’m sorry for things I didn’t do right" was his prayer, Spann said in a telephone interview on the following Monday evening from his hospital room.


Recalling events after he had been shot, Spann reported: "My wife called my name out.  She said, 'Are you OK?' I said, 'He's killed me. I'm dying.' And I told her, 'I'm sorry.'"


The gunman was finally stopped and paramedics rushed to the scene.  Spann vividly remembers being carried by the paramedics and seeing his wife.  "When they were rolling me by her, I was saying goodbye to her," Spann said.  "I thought that was it."


But Spann didn’t die.  He lost a finger, but he is healing from his gunshot wound in his chest, and he’s thankful to be alive.


At a news conference two days after the shooting, Spann was asked about what he thought about the gunman.  Spann said he did not resent the shooter who attacked his church.  He would forgive him.   


"I don’t have any hard feelings toward him.  I don’t think about him," Spann said.  "If I had the opportunity to talk to him I would and I would try to help him."


Why would he try to help the man who almost took his life?


I think it’s because of the influence of the One that Spann has been preaching about for years.  It’s because Jesus died on the cross for the very ones who put him there.  You and I are included in that number, for Jesus died on the cross for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2).  Jesus died on the cross so that we might have forgiveness of our sins and receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; Romans 6:23).


God will save those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), who turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), who confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).


The “span” of Jesus’ life and His love is evident from His outstretched arms as He hung on the cross for our sins.  That is what has influenced Preacher Spann.  That is what can change our lives and our destinies, too – IF we’ll only accept His offer on His terms.


Won’t YOU?


-- David A. Sargent


* Information gleaned from “ ‘He’s killed me.  I’m dying.’ Minister recounts chaos during Antioch church shooting” by Holly Meyer, USA Today Network – Tennessee.  September 26, 2017.


Thursday, October 5, 2017

The truth about baptism

Water Baptism

      In a juvenile jail class I was once asked the question, "What does baptism have to do with salvation from sin? Isn't baptism just a bunch of water?" That was a sincere question which demands a Biblical answer!

     Yes, baptism involves enough water to immerse the believer. John the Baptist baptized his converts “in Aenon near Salim because there was much water there” (Jn. 3:23). “Much water” is needed for one to be "buried with Him (Jesus) into death" (Rom. 6:4). The rich meaning of water baptism is that it is a beautiful reenactment of faith in Jesus' death, burial and resurrection. Jesus died for our sins. Through repentance we choose to die to the practice of sin. As He was buried, “we were buried with Him through baptism into death" (Rom. 6:4). As He was raised from the dead, our old man of sin was raised with Him from a watery grave to walk "in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4).

     When one understands how baptism is "into the death of Jesus", the truth will dawn that baptism is the holy moment in which one's soul contacts the precious blood of Jesus. The old hymn asks, "What can wash away my sin?" The answer is, "Nothing but the blood of Jesus." God's wisdom declares that our sins are washed away by the blood when we are buried by water baptism into the death of Jesus (cf. Acts 22:16).

     Is baptism "just a bunch of water"? No! Baptism is water and the blood of Jesus! It is a physical act involving much water. It is also a spiritual act which expresses our faith that Jesus shed His blood "for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). Peter commanded baptism "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38. We can understand the vital, spiritual link between water baptism and Jesus' blood "for the remission of sins" when we understand that baptism is the moment of faith when we make contact with the cleansing blood of Jesus.

     In His parting words Jesus clearly stated one must believe (trust His blood) and be baptized to be saved (Mark 16:16). In 1 Pet. 3:21 Peter declared baptism "now saves us". The context of Peter's statement is the flood of Noah's day. When Noah and his family entered the ark they were leaving their old world of sin. When they stepped out of the ark they stepped into a brand "new world" which had been washed of all sin. In this sense of the word Peter declares that "eight souls were saved through water".

     Yes, baptism is "a bunch of water" which washes our sins away because baptism outwardly expresses our faith in Jesus' blood as "the answer of a good conscience toward God through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 3:21). When we enter the waters of baptism we leave the old world of sin behind. When we step out of the waters of baptism we take our first step into the new world of God's spiritual kingdom of eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord!

 Ralph Weinhold

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Train StoryThe Train Story

The Train Story


In the 1960s, Vienna, Austria and Communist-occupied Budapest, Hungary were worlds apart, separated by the Iron Curtain.  Vienna was basking in the new freedom of liberation from Nazi domination; Budapest was suffocating under Russian occupation.


Ivan Martos, however, was like a breath of fresh air in Budapest when Lynn Camp and a co-worker visited there, seeking people who professed faith in Christ.  Camp describes Martos as “one the friendliest and happiest, most positive and enthusiastic of God’s creatures.”  Martos worked as an officer of the National Bank of Hungary.  Because of his position, he would travel to Vienna twice a year to attend banking conferences.  These trips enabled Martos to visit with Camp and other Christians regularly.


It was during one of those summer trips that when Martos got off the train in Vienna, Camp immediately knew something was wrong.  “Before we could even leave the train platform, Ivan, practically in tears, related his bitter experience.  That day, as the train neared the Austrian border, uniformed guards boarded the train at the next-to-last stop on the Hungarian side.  They would make their way through the train, checking identification and documentation of all passengers prior to arriving at the border stop.  The guards immediately discovered that Mr. Martos was an important officer with Hungary’s National Bank.  His papers were all in order, permitting the official travel.  Before proceeding to the next passenger, one of the guards asked Ivan to open his briefcase.  The first item removed for inspection by the guard was Ivan’s personal Bible.  In a loud, angry voice, the guard held up the Bible for all in the car to see and yelled, ‘What is a man in your position doing with a Bible?’  Before Ivan could respond, the guard sailed the Bible through the open window of the moving train.”


“Ivan had indeed lost a best friend.”


Fast forward two years.  Again Camp was awaiting Martos’ arrival in Vienna.  “This time he arrived as upbeat as he had been downcast two years earlier.”  Here’s why: “Just a few days before leaving Budapest, a package had been delivered by the postman.  Ivan did not recognize the return name and address.  But as his wife prepared dinner, he sat in the kitchen and opened the unexpected prize – it was his Bible!  And accompanying his old friend was a letter of apology and explanation.  It went something like this: ‘Some of our children were playing one day along the railroad tracks.  They found your Bible.  Not knowing what it was, one of them took it to his grandmother, who immediately recognized it as a Bible.  Word spread quickly through the little village on the border.  Some of our older people had possessed Bibles before they were banned and remembered the significance and power of the Word of God.  We decided to conceal the discovery while those who so desired would make handwritten copies.  That joyful task took two years.  Please forgive our keeping your Bible so long.  But you might like to know that we are now a secret band of about 30 who have baptized each other and seek to follow Jesus in our daily lives.’”


Thus says the Lord: “For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, And make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower And bread to the eater, So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please, And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” – Isaiah 55:10-11


God’s purpose in providing His Word is the salvation of man, for it is the “implanted Word which is able to save [our] souls” (James 1:21).  God’s Word reveals God’s plan of redemption of sinful man through the gift of His Son, Jesus, who died on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; Ephesians 1:7).


God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).


Won’t YOU open God’s Word, study it, believe it, and obey it?  That’s the very reason God wants YOU to have a Bible.


-- David A. Sargent


* From “The Train Story” as told by Lynn Camp, a booklet provided by Eastern European Mission,


David A. Sargent

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