MORE LOVE FOR THE CHURCH
We live in a world where the church of Christ is not held by most in high regard. Often there are those who speak ill of her, and even by some who claim to be a part of her. Too many are they who are out to change her to fit their own agenda as well as the wants of today's society. The result of all this change is complete destruction of the beautiful bride of Christ. What we really need in the world today is more sincere love for the church. Let's consider some solid reasons why this is true.
1. We should love the church because it was a part of God's original plan, even before the foundation of the world. The apostle Paul wrote, “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” (Eph. 3:10,11). Men have come along and have decided to start their own churches because they desire not to be a part of that which God had already established. That which man has begun is not the church of the New Testament, nor does it have any connection to it.
The church that was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world is not, nor can it be, just an after thought or a substitute measure because man would not accept what God has sent. Truly, it was a sad day when the Jews would not accept Jesus as the Savior. But, the prophets had already declared, “Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16). To this promise the Psalmist added, “the stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psalm 118:22). Peter shows the proper application of these passages. “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believed he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed” (1 Peter 2:6-8). How could Christ be the prophesied corner stone of the church if the church was just an emergency substitute measure to serve till man would accept what God originally planned?
Without a doubt, through careful study of the scriptures we learn that the church was in the mind of God even before the foundation of the world. This is why Jesus could describe Christ as the “lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8).
2. We should love the church because of the price that was paid for her existence. In a moving scene in Miletus, Paul talks with the elders who had joined him from Ephesus. He reminded them of the work he had done while there and also of their continual work and responsibility. To these elders he said, “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” (Acts 20:28). Notice the last part of this injunction, “which he hath purchased with his own blood.” That was the price that was paid so the church might be established. I personally do not know of anything for which a higher price has ever been paid, do you?
This price was paid because of the great love God had for the souls of men. It was Jesus himself who said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). To this Paul added, “God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). This demonstration of love was given that the lost of all society could be saved, and that salvation is made possible only in Christ (Acts 4:12), only in the church (Acts 2:47).
3. We should love the church because of the sacrifices that have been made to bring the church to man today. On Veterans Day and Memorial Day we should pause to think of the great sacrifices that have been made by those who have gone before us and have fought for the freedoms and liberties we now enjoy in the greatest nation of the world. Such tribute is only right and proper. But, have we ever stopped to consider the sacrifices that have been made to bring the church to us today? The Lord sent Ananias to teach the good news of salvation to Saul of Tarsus. Ananias is very reluctant to go for he has, “heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem” (Acts 9:13). But, the Lord said, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake” (Acts 9:15,16). If anyone has suffered for the sake of Christ and for the growth of the church it was Saul the persecutor who changed his life and became Paul the preacher of righteousness.
Let us not think he was the last to be called upon to suffer for the cause of Christ. All who are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ are to “suffer with him, that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:17). Again Paul reminds us that all who live godly lives in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Down through the ages, especially through the period of the Restoration, many have laid down their lives that the church for which God planned before the foundation of the world, and Jesus purchased with his own blood, could be continued and brought to us. Not even “the gates of hell shall prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
The church, like our great nation, has been preserved for man today through blood, sweat and tears. How dare we speak disparaging words against her. How dare we try to change or alter her where she no longer resembles that which God had in mind before the foundation of the world.
Oh, with a gladsome heart let us sing: “I Love thy kingdom Lord, the house of thine abode. The church our blest Redeemer saved with his own precious blood. I love thy church, O God! Her walls before Thee stand, Dear as the apple of Thine eye, And graven on thy hand. For her my tears shall fall, For her my prayers ascend; To her my cares and toils be giv'n, Till toils and cares shall end. Beyond my highest joy I prize her heavenly ways, Her sweet communion, solemn vows, Her hymns of love and praise.”
The suggestions listed here concern themselves largely with differences between brethren that are not matters of right and wrong, truth and error. However, the principles involved would apply to all problems whether doctrinal or not.
Have and maintain the right attitude. Humility is a must. When tempers flare and rage, sensible discussion is not possible. Remember to ask yourself, “what would the Lord do?” Would He speak like this? Would He work for a just solution?
Do not have the attitude it’s “their” problem, let them come to me. Scripture demands that whether we have been offended or are the offender, we move to be reconciled. “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matt. 5:23-24). “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt. 18:15).
Do not have the attitude you’re “going to make them pay.” We cannot hold a grudge and be acceptable to God. We must seek what is best for others. Even the Lord pleased not himself (Rom. 15:2-3; Phil. 2:3).
Do not rub salt in the wound. When brethren recognize their fault and ask forgiveness, don’t belittle or shame them. Don’t tell them, “it’s about time!” Have a heart of compassion and helpfulness. Receive him back in loving arms. See Gal. 6:1-2. Love all men, especially a brother in the Lord. “He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is none occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes” (1 John 2:9-11). “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15).
Be willing to solve the problem. Acts 6:1-7 shows the brethren were willing to correct the problem. When such prevails, a just solution will be agreeable to all sides.
Be willing to compromise. It won’t hurt you to make concessions to help a weaker brother. Romans 14 has much to say about this. However, we cannot compromise on the Truth.
Be willing to swallow pride. “And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matt. 23:12). “...Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble” (James 4:6). “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).
Truly consider the other side. Don’t think you have done no wrong and the entire problem lies solely with others —it may or may not. Listen to what they have to say, how they feel, what they think. Put yourself in their shoes.
Be willing to admit you are wrong. Be as David and say, “I have sinned” (2 Sam. 12:13). Don’t make excuses or seek to shift the blame. Be a man and admit your fault (cf. 1 Cor. 16:13).
Choose faithful and level-headed men to help resolve the problem. Sometimes it is necessary that others help. You may need a mediator(s). This was done in Acts 6:1-7. Be impartial. Be willing to abide by just decisions, even if it don’t go your way. You can never compromise the truth, but when the Bible truth is not at stake, then abide by fair resolutions.
Do all things in accordance to the Scriptures. This is an absolute —regardless of the problem. God’s Word always must govern our lives. It is by the truth that we will be judged (John 12:48; Rev. 20:12).
Recognize some problems cannot be resolved. But, this is only because the other party is unwilling to solve it. You may have gone the “second mile” in attempting to correct it. However, you must never violate the Scriptures yourself in an effort to be at peace with another. You can only do what is good and right. Others have to do the same. Sometimes they do not. When you have done all you can do, realize it’s out of your hands. Their blood is not on your head. God knows our heart and their heart. He will take care of the matter at the judgment.
Once the problem is solved, don’t keep bringing it up. Some hold a grudge long after a right and just resolution has been reached. If the problem has been worked out, let it die! Bury the hatchet! Don’t leave the handle sticking out of the ground so you can use it again. Put it behind you. To keep bringing a resolved problem up again and again shows you’ve either not forgiven or are unwilling for it to be made right. Jesus said, “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him. And if he trespass against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day turn again to thee, saying, I repent; thou shalt forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4).
Are you willing to work for peace according to God’s word? If you’re in a problem, solve it. If you’re not in a problem, perhaps you can assist others in helping them solve theirs.
The end result of our lives, regarding all its twists and turns, is that God be glorified and that we may be at peace in this world.
SOLVING PROBLEMS AMONG BRETHREN #1
Garland M. Robinson
There are basically two classes or areas of problems among brethren. Each are to be dealt with differently.
1) There are problems that are doctrinal. They are clearly right or wrong, black or white, based on the teaching of the Word of God. Such issues involve: the one church (Eph. 4:4), worship (John 4:24), instrumental music (Eph. 5:19), baptism (Acts 2:38), divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:9), fellowship (1 Cor. 5; Eph. 5:11), women’s role (1 Tim. 2:11-12; 1 Cor. 14:34-35). The list goes on and on.
When men transgress the Law of Christ (Rom. 8:2), their soul is in jeopardy. Unless they repent and obey God, they will be eternally lost in a devil’s hell. The Lord’s instructions on how we treat error is certain and swift. Paul 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 must have “...no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Many lists of sins shows that those who commit such things will not and can not go to heaven (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
When doctrinal problems exists between brethren and/or congregations, there is no room for compromise. Those involved cannot “agree to disagree.” This is not a time to “live and let live” or let “bygones be bygones.” The issue(s) involved is not petty differences between brethren. Doctrinal issues are heaven’s directive —eternal truth. No man has any right to tread upon such sacred ground. All must accept and adhere to the Lord’s way or be subjects of His just and final wrath.
2) There are problems that are differences of opinion or judgment. They are not doctrinal, they are personal, many times private. They do not involve matters of eternal Truth. The way they are handled is different than if it were a matter of truth and error.
Paul and Barnabas had a strong disagreement over John Mark (Acts 15:36-40). However, they each continued their work of the Lord. Romans 14 discusses problems of personal judgment and how to deal with them. These are different than doctrinal problems.
There are many of these kinds of problems that currently plague our great brotherhood. Brethren have divided, congregations have split and those involved are at a stand-off with one side (sometimes both) refusing to sit down and calmly discuss the matter in a genuine effort to solve it. Brethren, shame, shame on any who will not meet to discuss their differences and work for peace among brethren. It appears that such are guilty of the sin of being “implacable” —unwilling to budge (Rom. 1:31). What a tragedy for it to be left up to God to render judgment in the matter when it is too late for repentance and reconciliation. Brethren, if you are “at odds” with another, get on their door step NOW. Do all within your power to make things right with them. If the problem goes unsettled, make sure it’s not because of you! Swallow your stubborn pride. Eat your words. Let tears swell up in your eyes and beg forgiveness on your part.
You will face the Lord in judgment. Do you want to do so having made every effort to be reconciled to your brother or do you want to stand before Him having made no effort or having just forgotten it? Let’s choose the former.
Matthew 18:15-17 is often misapplied by otherwise well meaning brethren who seek to make what the Lord said in regards to a private, personal matter and make it apply to a public sin of error and false teaching. Such is a twisting and perversion of the Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). If a problem of sin is private, then handle it in that realm. It should only become public when it has not been solved privately. A grave and serious problem arises when brethren misapply the Scriptures and counsel for breaking the Law of God instead of keeping it.
Some are so enamored and charmed by so-called unity and peace that they are willing to trample upon the Word of God to have it. They are willing to sweep under the rug and ignore every sin to achieve what they think is peace. However, it is not peace with God. They conveniently neglect to understand that “peace at any price” is not approved of the Lord.
In order for there to be peace, genuine peace with God, we must first have purity, doctrinal purity. James 3:17 says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.” Compromising with error is not the way to solve problems. There are many problems that can be settled “among men” when the Truth is ignored. But, they are not settled with God. “Go along to get along” while running roughshod over God’s Word is not the theme of the Scriptures.
Peace with God is centered in love and obedience to the Lord’s Way. Notice these Scriptures. “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous” (1 John 5:2-3).
The love of God is wrapped up in commandment keeping! Not according to our works, but according to God’s works. These are the works that God devised and commands that we obey/work (John 6:29). Without our obedience and performance of the same, there can be no salvation.
Roger D. Campbell
Without any fanfare, the apostle Paul by inspiration wrote about a brother named Epaphras (pronounced with the accent on the first syllable) in both the Book of Colossians and the Book of Philemon. Paul was a prisoner in Rome when he wrote both of these epistles. Epaphras was his fellow prisoner at the time (Philemon 23). We learn a number of truths about brother Epaphras in the only three Bible passages in which he is mentioned (Col. 1:7; 4:12,13; Philemon 23). Let us take a look at the Bible’s record of his activities.
First, Epaphras was a teacher of the word. Colossians 1:5,6 states that the Gospel had come to Colosse, helping the people there to know “the grace of God in truth.” How had they learned the Gospel message? The next verse says, “As ye also learned of Epaphras.” We know little about Epaphras’ personal life, but we know that he taught the Gospel in Colosse. In one way or another, all of us “ought to be teachers” of the word (Heb. 5:12). Each of us needs to seek out opportunities to sow the seed. Jesus said, “the sower soweth the word” (Mark 4:14). Let us all be more diligent in teaching the Gospel in the time that we have remaining on the earth!
Second, Epaphras was Paul’s “dear fellowservant” (Col. 1:7). This expression has a ring of close camaraderie to it. Paul and Epaphras served together in the same Cause — a Cause which is too big for any single person to carry out by him/herself. What a thrill it is to know that we have devoted fellowservants in the church on whom we can count! They are indeed dear to us as Epaphras was to Paul.
Third, Epaphras was a faithful servant of the Christ. He was not simply a servant: he was “a faithful minister of Christ” (Col. 1:7). Colossians 4:12 simply says he was “a servant of Christ.” Is that not what we are all striving to be, a faithful servant of the Lord? We either faithfully serve Jesus or we do not. We are either with Jesus or against Him (Matt. 12:30). We are either obedient to Him or we are not. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (Rom. 6:16)? If we are in a situation where we are told, “Tell us a little bit about yourself,” would it not be appropriate to say, “I am a servant of the Christ?” Epaphras could honestly make such a claim. Can we?
Fourth, Epaphras was a greeter of the brethren. “Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth [greets, NKJV] you...” (Col. 4:12). It may not sound like much, but to make the effort to greet someone, whether in person, by telephone, or by sending a written message, can really be a boost to that person. It can make that person feel noticed, remembered, and appreciated. Most of us have been in situations where the thoughtful greetings of other saints were a source of encouragement to us. If I have counted correctly, Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance lists verses from thirteen New Testament books in which greetings were passed on between Christians, or else the instruction was given for saints to greet one another. That sounds like greeting our fellow saints is important, does it not?
Fifth, Epaphras prayed for the spiritual welfare of his brethren. “Epaphras...always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). It is so easy to get caught up in our own little world and forget about the needs of our fellowservants. And, it is also possible for us to think and pray only about their physical needs. Epaphras prayed diligently. He prayed diligently for other saints. And, he prayed for their spiritual well-being. It would not take much effort for us to do the same. When brothers and sisters in the Lord are truly in our hearts, then they will also be on our lips when we come before our Father in prayer.
Sixth, Epaphras was a brother with notable zeal. Speaking of him, Paul wrote, “For I bear him record, that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea, and them in Hierapolis” (Col. 4:13). Do you and I have such a reputation? Are we known for our zeal in the Lord’s work? The Lord instructs us to be “fervent in spirit” (Rom. 12:11). Yes, the Christ wants His people to be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). In modern language, we call it being on fire for the Lord. Does that describe us?
As we noted earlier, Epaphras was Paul’s “fellow prisoner in Christ Jesus” (Philemon 23). More than once Paul referred to himself as the Lord’s prisoner, meaning that he was imprisoned because of his loyal service to the Christ (Eph. 3:1; 4:1). We know that Epaphras also faithfully served the Lord. It may well be the case that he, too, was imprisoned because of his unwavering commitment to righteousness. I have watched documentaries about the horrible environment that exists in many modern prisons. I have visited and taught the Gospel in prisons in three different nations, seeing first hand some of the deplorable circumstances in which the inmates live. You and I would not find it pleasant to live in such a place. I cannot imagine what the prisons of Epaphras’ and Paul’s day must have been like. Beloved, if there someday comes a time when you and I must “do time” because our steadfast devotion to our Lord puts us in conflict with and in violation of civil law, then we need to be mentally prepared to be a prisoner for our Lord. Epaphras was.
Epaphras is not a well-known figure in history. But, he was faithful to the Lord, and that is the one thing in any person’s life that really matters. May the clear Bible statements that we read about the life of Epaphras be an encouragement to all of us that want to go to heaven.
by Ron Hutchison
Will someone please tell me how we can warn the wicked of their wicked ways if it is not right to tell them they are wrong? It would be impossible to fulfill this responsibility without telling them they are wrong. We are just as much watchmen as Ezekiel was, and we have the same responsibility to warn the wicked from their wicked way. The Bible teaches in Titus 1:9-11 that an elder has the responsibility of "Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers. For there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision: Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre's sake." The word "convince" means "to convict." How can an elder convict the gainsayer of his sins and stop his mouth without telling him he is wrong. It would be impossible! Paul taught preachers "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will" (II Tim. 2:2526). How can you instruct those who oppose themselves without telling them they are wrong? How can they recover themselves out of the snare of the devil if they don't realize they are wrong? Paul taught, "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such a one in the spirit of meekness; considering thy self, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ" (Gal. 6:1-2). James taught, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (James 5:19- 20). How can we restore someone if we don't tell them they are wrong? How can we convert someone who has erred from the truth unless we point out his error? It is impossible. Jesus taught, "Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother" (Matt. 18:15). What does Jesus mean when He says, "go and tell him his fault?" Does it not mean that you are to show him where he is wrong? We not only have the right, but we have the obligation to show people where they are wrong in their religious beliefs and to help them see the truth. One of the objections people have to telling people that they are wrong in religion is based on the false teaching that people can't really know the truth - that we can't really know what is right and wrong in religion. Of course this contradicts what Jesus said in John 8:32, "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." This ought to forever settle the question as to man's ability to know what is right and wrong. We can know the truth, we can know when one errs from the truth. People seem to think that because men and women of equal education and attainments disagree on even basic passages that means the com mon man can never come to a knowledge of the truth, or at least, can never be certain that he has. Nothing can be further from the truth! God has so designed the Bible that no matter how many degrees a person has behind his name, he has no more ability to understand the Bible than the man who has a third grade education. In fact, the man with the third grade education may have the advantage because he doesn't have his mind clouded with the words and writings of modernists! WE CAN KNOW THE TRUTH! JESUS SAID IT AND WE ALL OUGHT TO ACCEPT IT WITHOUT RESERVATION!! Another objection people have to telling people they are wrong is that each one of us is a sinner and thus we do not have the right to tell another sinner that they are wrong. I agree that each one of us sins (1 John 1:8), but I disagree that each one of us lives a life of sin. To hear some of our brethren talk, they believe that we are just as bad after becoming a Christian as we were before. It is true that before we became Christians we lived in sin, but when we became Christians we became dead to sin (Rom. 6:2). We are now "walking in the light" (I John 1:7). However, the person who is wrong religiously is walking in darkness - he is living in sin because he is not walking according to the teaching of the New Testament. I submit to you that the per son who is walking in the light (in spite of the fact that he sins) not only has a right, but he is obligated to tell the person who is walking in darkness that he is wrong. If that were not the case, then no one but a sinlessly perfect individual could ever preach the gospel to others, and there aren't any of them on the earth anymore! If the gospel (truth) is to be preached it must be preached by those who are walking in the light, even though they may sin at times. Let me say again, if a person is not right religiously he is not "walking in the light," he is "walking in the darkness" and he must be told that he is wrong if there is to be any possibility for salvation. The person who is "walking in the light" is the one who has the responsibility to tell him.