BOLDNESS TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
Far too many would sweep false teaching under the rug and pretend it would go away, but Paul would not do so for one hour. We must show great boldness in exposing false teaching whenever it rears its ugly head.
The Jewish court might have expected Peter, James, John, and other disciples to become intimidated by their threats. Such would not be the case, as their former fear would be transformed to daring boldness. Paul writes, “But with all boldness as always, so now Christ also shall be magnified in my body, whether by life or death” (Phil. 1:20). The original word for “boldness” comes from an aorist participle signifying “waxing bold.” The original language suggests, “Dare to do, or to bear something terrible or difficult;” hence, “to be bold, to bear oneself boldly, deal boldly.” These early Christians acted boldly in all their activities to glorify Christ. The Sanhedrin Council threatened Peter and John to cease teaching in the name of Jesus Christ and their reply was, “For we cannot but speak the things that we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). If we are to serve Christ today, we must do so with the same boldnessthat characterized the Christians of the first century.
1. We need boldness to preach to unbelievers. We have earlier stated that the apostles were on trial before the Sanhedrin Council. The church grew very quickly to 5,000 men, not including women and those young people that have reached the age of accountability. Some have estimated the church to be 20,000-25,000 members at this time. The Sanhedrin was desperate to interrupt such rapid growth, and the two apostles were requested to give an answer to the miracles and consequent growth of the church taking place. Peter said that it was by the authority or power of Jesus Christ that all these things have come to pass (Acts 4:10-12). This message of “the only way” was not designed to make them popular; it would require, however, courage and boldness to be effective (Acts 4:13).
One of the greatest needs of our day is to convince people that they are lost in sin (Rom. 3:23; Ezek. 18:20). More and more the pulpit is becoming weaned from the power of the Gospel (Rom. 1:16). A dose of psychology and other theories are being offered as an alternative while the souls of men are being shortchanged of the distinctive message of Christ (John 14:6; 1 Peter 4:11; Heb. 4:12). We must point out in a spirit of love and kindness how ugly sin is and that a day of reckoning is awaiting those who reject the Gospel message (Mark 16:16; Gal. 1:8-9).
2. We need boldness to expose false teaching. Rebuking those that are teaching error is never easy, however Jesus did so when needed. Jesus forcefully stated to the scribes and Pharisees, “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). To some of the same Jews Jesus said, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44). Jesus did not look the other way when he saw the arrogant Pharisees teaching the doctrines of men for the law of God. The apostles displayed great boldness when dealing with religious error. When some attempted to bind the Old Testament on those of the Christian age, Paul opposed it. The apostle said, “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5).
We live in a day of permissiveness and religious tolerance when anything goes. Paul was certainly not of this persuasion and would not give in to religious error -- “no, not for an hour.” Far too many would sweep false teaching under the rug and pretend it would go away, but Paul would not do so for one hour. We must show great boldness in exposing false teaching whenever it rears its ugly head.
3. We need boldness to preach the whole truth. There’s always the temptation to preach what people want to hear, rather than what they need to hear. Imagine your doctor saying, “All is well,” while your body is riddled with cancer or some other deadly disease. We would want our physician to be forthcoming and give a full range of treatment and procedures that would enhance a full recovery. Long ago the prophet Isaiah wrote, “This is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, see not; and to the prophets, prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits”(Isa. 30:9-10). Israel rejected the prophets’ and repudiated “right things” while longing for that which was deceitful.How modern the practices during Isaiah’s day resemble the current situation in the 21st century.
Let us exemplify the attitude stated by Paul, “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:27).It will require great courage to preach the whole truth, especially when we know that some will not always embrace it. We must boldly preach the whole truth on the faith that saves, the one church, baptism for the remission of sins, acceptable worship, instrumental music, divorce and remarriage, and a host of other vitally important subjects. We cannot and must not change the Gospel to fit the needs of modern man. The Hebrew writer underscored the fundamental truth, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The proposition should follow: if Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever should we not conclude that his Word is the same yesterday, today, and forever?
The attitude of every Christian should be “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15). Our prayer should be, “Help us O father to speak the truth in all boldness, but above all things, help us to speak it.”
Where’s The Fight?
Alton W. Fonville
Changes have taken place. A few years back, “where’s the fight” was a phrase that meant excitement and people gathered around. An activity was taking place which meant opponents were “settling their differences.” This was the case in the world around us and also in the Lord’s church. But, things have changed. The “fight” has almost ceased to exist among far too many of the Lord’s church.
Headlines on some of the papers throughout the brotherhood give the shameful details: “Nations largest church of Christ adding instrumental service and serving the Lord’s Supper on Saturday night.” “Leaders say there was little opposition to the announcement.” Brethren, where’s the fight which we entered when we took that “oath of office” to serve the Lord, and became a member of His army?Certainly, it is not a physical fight and our weapons are not physical. False doctrines and practices, principalities, spiritual wickedness and rulers of the darkness of this world are the things mentioned specifically by Paul, and for which he fought his “good fight of faith.” He was literally a prisoner in bonds for his constant fight against these things, and he warned everyone night and day with tears, about being constant in this fight, and using him as an example to follow (Ephesians and Philippians).
At one time not too many years back, the church of Christ was known as a “fighter.” Members were known as “people of the Book” — “walking Bibles.”The church was growing faster then than at any other time in recent history, but, we have changed and the “fight” is not in us now. We wonder what has happened and where is that fight. It does not take too long to find the answers. The Book has been replaced with words which were not so harsh and the desire to please ourselves and be entertained and to be at peace with the world, being thought of as a “group which fits in with the world” has nearly done away with that fighting spirit which Jesus Christ and the apostles wanted the Christian to have.
How does that fit with the scriptures and its teaching? Let that “inspired word” from God speak to mine and your hearts. “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (I John 2:15). “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. ... And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matt. 10:34,36,37). “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus...he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5,8). “Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)” (Phil. 3:17-19).
Those words from Almighty God have been perverted, twisted, smoothed down, forgotten willingly and otherwise neglected to the loss of our fighting spirit which each Christian should have. We have “loved this world and its pleasures more than God.” We have not humbled ourselves as servants of Christ — but to our own bellies. We have traded God’s word for “smooth sayings” and loved to have it so. We have become “friends” with this world and an enemy to God. We sit idly by and let the “chaste virgin” become a spotted and blemished “social club” which fits in with this sin-sick world. We refuse to fight the good fight of faith. It is readily admitted that when we take a stand on the side of truth, we will be criticized. But at least we know we stand with good company, “for so persecuted they the prophets that were before you” (Matt. 5:12b).And, should it be our lot to stand alone, or at best with the minority, and should the host of the armies of darkness assail us, we can be assured that in the final analysis, when all has been said and done, and we stand before the Captain of our army, we will hear the sweet words, “Enter thou into the joys of thy Lord.” It will have been a well fought battle, and the victory shall be ours to enjoy for all eternity.
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
AN OFFENSIVE PREACHER
Every true Gospel preacher is an offensive preacher. There are many who "preach" that are not, but they cannot truly be classified as Gospel preachers. According to Webster's Dictionary, the word "offensive" has four meanings. Two of these definitely apply to a preacher and I want to consider both meanings and apply them. Webster defines "offensive" as: 1) attacking, 4) causing resentment, anger; insulting....
A Gospel preacher (really every Christian) is commanded and expected to "put on the whole armor of God" and take the "sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:10-17). It is true that one of the purposes of that armor and that sword is for our defense against Satan's attacks. But too many brethren have taken the defensive position only, waiting for Satan to attack. The Gospel preacher not only must defend himself and others against the attacks of Satan, he must launch an unrelenting offensive attack against him as well. He will soon discover that the best "defence" against Satan is an aggressive offense. The grand old song entitled "Faith Is The Victory" expresses the thought very well. It says, "Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers rise, And PRESS THE BATTLE ere the night, Shall veil the glowing skies. Against the foe in vales below, let ALL OUR STRENGTH BE HURLED."
Wherever and whenever sin arises, the faithful soldier of Christ must attack it, no matter who may be involved. That's what Paul had in mind in his charge to Timothy, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2).
Any man who does not have this "attack mentality" should not be preaching the Gospel of Christ and no eldership should hire a preacher who does not possess the "attack mentality."
However, if one is an attacker, he is going to anger and offend some people, and cause resentment. Perhaps this is why so many of our preachers are not attacking sin and evil. They had rather be "liked by everybody" than to be resented by a few.
CAUSING RESENTMENT AND ANGER
Sometimes the straightforward attack on sin in men's lives will bring anger and resentment from two different classes of people. One is the one whose sin is attacked. The other may be a friend or a relative of the one whose sin is attacked, or, it may be a member of the church who does not like such straightforward preaching because it offends people and makes them angry.
While I realize we should "speak the truth in love" (Eph. 4:15), and while I agree that no one should ever be unnecessarily harsh and abusive in attacking sin and error, it must not prevent any preacher from boldly and plainly exposing sin and hypocrisy which will destroy one's own soul and the souls of others. If people are offended by such rebuke and exposure of error, they will remain lost, but we will have delivered our soul (Ezek. 3:17-21).
FOUR BIBLE EXAMPLES OF OFFENSIVE PREACHERS
The preachers mentioned in the New Testament were "offensive" preachers. I want to look at four examples to illustrate the previous points.
JOHN THE BAPTISTwas an offensive preacher. He saw the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, knew they weren't there to repent and be baptized, and cried out to them, "O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth fruits meet for repentance" (Matt. 3:7-8). Careful there John, you may offend those fellows. And, when he stood before Herod, John saw a man condemned in sin. He straight-forwardly told him, "It is not lawful for thee to have her" (his brother's wife, Mark 6:18). It didn't make him very popular with Herod nor with Herodias. They were greatly offended.
STEPHENwas an offensive preacher also. Because he took the offensive to preach the Gospel, he was arrested and brought to court. Given an opportunity to speak, he took the offensive even more and boldly denounced his audience, including their forefathers. "Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which showed before the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers" (Acts 7:51-54). IT REALLY OFFENDED those folks. They gnashed on him with their teeth and stoned him to death.
PAULwas an offensive preacher. He took the offensive to preach and defend the Gospel. When certain men began to preach a perverted Gospel at Antioch, he immediately challenged them. He and Barnabas "had no small dissension and disputation with them" (Acts 15:1-2). These false teachers became constant enemies of the apostle. When Paul was trying to convert Sergius Paulus, a sorcerer named Elymas tried to turn the deputy from the faith. Paul took the offensive against him in the strongest of language and even struck him blind (Acts 13:7-12).
JESUS CHRISTwas an offensive preacher. Notice the incident recorded in Matthew 15:1-14. The Pharisees criticized the disciples for not washing their hands before they ate. Jesus took the offensive and reminded them they transgressed the command of God by their traditions. He called them hypocrites and told them their worship was vain as they honored God with their lips but their heart was far from him. The disciples asked Jesus, "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" (v.12). He didn't seem too concerned. He said, "Every plant which my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (vs.13-14). It is interesting that Jesus' disciples were concerned because the Pharisees had been offended by Jesus' teaching, but Jesus was not. How many brethren since the first century have tried to apologize for a preacher's bold proclamation of the truth that "offended" someone?
I surely want to be one of those "offensive" preachers who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16).
THE FUTURE OF THE CHURCH
Marvin L. Weir
There are many glorious truths that we can know about the church of our Lord because divine revelation has revealed them to us. The church has always been a part of the eternal plan of God. The apostle Paul records, “And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him”(Eph. 3:9-12).
Not only has God always intended that the Lord’s church exist, but He knew that it would be the place where salvation is located. Salvation is IN Christ (2 Tim. 2:10), but Christ has promised to save only His body, the church (Eph. 5:23; 1:22-23). It is therefore imperative that all men willingly submit to the gospel “for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek”(Rom. 1:16). The Bible plan of salvation is as follows: all must hear God’s Word (Rom. 10:17), believe (Mark 16:16), repent (Luke 13:3), confess Christ (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16). Bible baptism is a burial [not a sprinkling] (Rom. 6:4) and is the final submissive act that puts one into Christ (Gal. 3:27).
One who genuinely obeys the Gospel plan of salvation becomes a member of the kingdom — the church, the body of Christ (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:18; Acts 2:47). But what is the future of the Lord’s church? To a great extent, the future of the Lord’s church is up to you and me. It is true that the church of our Lord will always exist in this world, but its members will determine just how effective each local body will be.Jesus commands those who follow Him to be the saltof the earth and the lightof the world (Matt. 5:13-16). To young Timothy, the apostle Paul said, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth”(1 Tim. 3:15). Children of God are to behave differently from the world as they live on this earth! As a member of the body of Christ, a Christian has the obligation and responsibility to fulfill the requirements of membership. In this sense, the future of the church depends entirely upon the attitudes and actions of its members. We know well of the willingness of Christ to give and sacrifice so that we might have eternal life (Rom. 5:8-10). Do members today feel compelled to give and sacrifice so that the Lord’s church might be glorified? Peter reminds the Christians to whom he wrote, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light”(1 Peter. 2:9). It was also Peter who admonished, “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Peter 2:1-2).
The future of the Lord’s church today is not nearly as promising as it was in the 1950s. Fifty or sixty years ago the church was growing, members were convicted and willing to sacrifice for the cause of Christ, and most congregations believed the essentiality of 1 Corinthians 1:10 (unity). They also believed the truth stated in Ephesians 4:4-7. Very few members of the church of Christ sixty years ago believed instrumental music to be a matter of preference or that there were Christians in man-made churches!
What is the future of the church as far as you are concerned? Can the church depend on you? Will you be an asset or a liability to the cause of Christ?
Each member of the Lord’s church needs to ask himself the following questions:
If everyone attends services as I do, would the doors of the church building remain open?
If everyone’s interest were as great as mine, would there even be a Gospel Meeting?
If everyone prepares and studies as I prepare and study, would there be any Bible classes taught?
If everyone did as I do during the song service, would there be a sound heard?
If everyone’s attitude toward the authority of the Scriptures were as mine, would the Bible even be consulted or needed?
If everyone stands for truth as I do, would truth ever prevail?
If everyone opposes false teaching as I do, will false teaching ever be confronted or stopped? Brethren, are we interested in glorifying God or self?
Will we support preachers of truth and mark preachers of error? The future of the Lord’s church depends on you!
THERE MUST BE LEGITIMATE PROOF
Roger D. Campbell
First-century saints were instructed, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world”(1 John 4:1).The charge “believe not every spirit” makes it clear that Christians should not believe everything they hear. The context of 1 John 4 shows that some spirits (teachers and their messages) are “of God,” while others are “not of God” (4:6).
We must be neither naive nor gullible.
When someone tries to persuade us about a religious matter, one of the challenges we face is to be able to discern the difference between real proof and so-called proof. Some approaches and some lines of reasoning are not evidence at all.
Feelingsare not evidence.One might feel their actions are appropriate when, in fact, they are a violation of God’s will. Saul of Tarsus felt good about himself when he was persecuting Christians, but his feelings were not legitimate evidence that God was on his side (Acts 26:9-11).
Claimsare not evidence.One might claim he was saved as a youth because he prayed to the Lord and asked for forgiveness. Look at the facts in this situation: 1) he prayed; 2) he prayed to the Lord; 3) he asked the Lord to forgive him; 4) he’s convinced he was saved at the moment he prayed that prayer. What is missing from this list of “facts?” That the man obtained salvation. Why is it omitted from our facts list? Because he was not saved by prayer. “But he said he was saved.” Oh, yes, he claimed to be saved; but claims are not proof. One must obey Jesus in order to be saved (Heb. 5:8-9), and a lost person praying for forgiveness is not what the Savior prescribes to be saved. Remember, a “claim” is an assertion, not evidence.
Humanly-thought-up illustrationsare not proof. When we teach the Bible, we use illustrations frequently; some of them are Bible examples, but others we make up ourselves or borrow from other sources. Why do we use illustrations? We do so in order to make a point —to help those to whom we are speaking understand just what it is we are trying to get across. But, a man-devised illustration does not constitute proof that what we are teaching is true. The Bible teaches that Jesus is the singular Head of His body/church (Col. 1:18). In an effort to emphasize this truth, a Christian might say, “It is just like a country’s government. A country does not have more than one president or prime minister, and in the same way the Lord’s church does not have or need more than one head.” This reference to worldly affairs may make sense to the listener(s), but in reality, it does not prove how many heads God’s church ought to have. Only the Bible can supply such information and evidence.
Accusationsare not evidence. The Jews who detested the apostle Paul and his preaching made serious accusations against him before a Roman governor (Acts 24:1-9). Paul denied the charges, saying, “Nor can they prove the things of which they now accuse me” (Acts 24:13). Mere accusations of wrongdoing are not proof that such really occurred.
Being a skilled orator or writeris not evidence.One’s ability to speak or write may persuade others to accept the position(s) he sets forth, but in fact, such skills have nothing to do with whether or not the statements made are accurate. Tertullus was an “orator” (Acts 24:1) who served as the spokesman for the Jews who accused Paul of misconduct. Yet, his speaking ability, regardless of how impressive it was, did not prove that what they were saying about Paul was true. Do not allow your appreciation of someone’s ability to cloud your vision and judgment.
Saying “that is what we’ve always practiced” is not proof. What we have done or believed in the past has no bearing on whether or not something is acceptable in God’s sight. Some people of Jeremiah’s day tried to justify their worship of the queen of heaven by saying they were just doing what they and their fathers had always done (Jer. 44:17). Yes, they did carry on what had been started in the past, but that did not prove that it pleased Jehovah. We must be careful lest we “build our cases” on human traditions instead of God’s word (Mark 7:7-9).
Give us evidence. Provide us with proof. Be sure it is legitimate. Make it convincing. That is our plea. If you want us to believe that something is true in the spiritual realm, then you are going to have to provide us with genuine evidence. Give us book, chapter and verse in its context and correctly used in accordance with the rest of the Bible.
On our part, as you and I teach the Bible or discuss it with others, we must be certain that we, too, set forth legitimate, scriptural reasoning and proof. Yes, if we speak, it must be “as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11).