The Lord’s church is the one that was established in A.D. 33 in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The Lord’s church is the onethat Jesus built (Matt. 16:18) and purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). The Lord’s church is the one body the apostle Paul recognized as being valid (Eph. 4:4). There is only one body that the Savior has promised to save (Eph. 5:23). It is imperative to understand that we are not discussing what denominations were established to do. Denominations may do whatever their founder desires them to do and please men, but they will never please God. If the church of our Lord is to be faithful, it must only do the bidding of its founder, Jesus Christ, and such will never please most men.
The Lord’s church was not established to exist incognito! It makes one want to gag to hear those who profess to be members of the Lord’s church avoid telling people they are a member of the church of Christ. These modern day dreamers will tip-toe for miles on eggshells before they will admit they are a member of the church of Christ. Upon being forcedto make the admission, they then apologize by saying, “But we don’t believe we are the only one’s going to heaven.”
What is wrong with the name church of Christ? Am I ashamed that Christ built His church? Am I embarrassed that the church wears His glorious name? Do I not want the church to be connected with the Savior? Brethren, these questions deserve an honest answer. Many members need to begin thinking for themselves and cease following the liberal change-agents who would place the church under a bushel (cf. Matt. 5:13-16). Faithful soldiers of the cross will boldly proclaim the essentiality and eternal destiny of the Lord’s church. We cannot keep the church a secret and save the souls of men!
The Lord’s church was not established to provide entertainment for its members! One can search the Bible from beginning to end and never find one incident where God has sought to entertain His people. It can be proved, however, that God “would have all men to be saved, and come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Tim. 2:4). It is also true that “the Son of man came to seek and save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). We read that it was the Lord’s desire “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). When the early church was persecuted and scattered, they did not offer all types of entertainment to attract people. They did, however, go “about preaching the word. And Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and proclaimed unto them the Christ” (Acts 8:4-5). The early church realized that the Gospel was the only “power of God unto salvation,” and they were not ashamed to proclaim it (Rom. 1:16).
The early church did not seek to attract people with eloquent dramatized skits laced with finger-nail biting excitement! Neither did the early church have “youth ministers” to entertain and baby-sit the young. Didn’t they know that because of severe persecution they would have to cater to the wants of both young and old in order to grow? The wisdom of man says that the early church is destined to fail. The result — the early Christians who feared God and unashamedly proclaimed the Gospel grew by leaps and bounds (cf. Acts 2:41; 4:4; 5:14; 6:7; 9:31).
The Lord’s church was not established to provide a soothing answer to man’s sins! The majority of men want to live in sin, enjoy the pleasures of the moment, and be told that all is well with their souls. Thus, alcoholics have a disease, homosexuals have a defective gene, fornication is simply an affair, lying is misinformation, and sin is tolerated as a mistake. Brethren, we can ill afford to pat members on the back, accept their contribution, and overlook sin! All sin is deadly (Rom. 6:23), and all must repent (give up) of their sins or lose their souls. Even though not “politically correct,” Christians will teach sinners that they must “repent or perish” (Luke 13:3).
May we keep in mind that the Lord’s church was established to do what no man-made institution can do. Let us therefore not lose sight of the glorious purpose and mission of the Lord’s church.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE “ISSUE ORIENTED?”
Occasionally, I hear someone make the comment that those who are adamant regarding issues that face the Lord’s church are “issue oriented.” Funk and Wagnalls defines “issue” as “a matter of importance to be resolved.” Webster says it is “the point or matter depending in a suit on which two parties join and put their cause to trial.” Oriented means “the determining of one’s position with reference to circumstances, ideals, etc” (Funk and Wagnalls). Hence, to be “issue oriented” is to “determine one’s position and put that cause to trial or to the test.”
Since the Christian has the obligation to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (I Thess. 5:21), it stands to reason that there will always be “issues” facing the Lord’s church. And, since we have the obligation to “...sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (I Peter 3:15), we are therefore “oriented” in giving a defense for the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
While it is possible to become so imbalanced that we are cynical about the Lord’s church and its future, we must also face the fact that so long as the church exists, we are going to have to face the issues that come our way. To do otherwise is to abdicate our responsibility.
A negative connotation has been attached to the words “issue oriented.” This “label” is used by critics to hush the mouths of those who still love the truth while making the unsuspecting believe that there is something inherently evil in dealing with issues. None would be so bold as to suggest that all issues should be ignored, since even the most liberal change agent will take us to task on the issue of being issue oriented.
The question arises, then, as to “when” our dealing with issues becomes imbalanced. I suggest to you that any issue, and every issue that comes down the pike, is an issue that cannot be ignored and must be dealt with forthrightly. If the truth is at stake we cannot and will not remain silent. The only alternative is to ignore the issues and allow the church to be swept into apostasy. It is my studied conviction that at least one reason why the Lord’s church is so troubled today is that too many brethren have simply grown weary of fighting the battle. Consequently, false teachers have crossed the threshold and are in the midst of the flock having a heyday. Meanwhile too many elderships and preachers sit back and do nothing for fear that they might be perceived as being “issue oriented.”
Yes, it is possible to become so consumed with the issues that face the Lord’s church that we become cynical and never hold out any hope to God’s people. But the desire to provide hope and peace cannot drive us to ignore the issues that would in fact rob us of that hope and peace by leading us into error.
The Privileges Of Membership
American Express has the slogan: “Don’t leave home without it!” The company is suggesting that membership has its privileges. With it, you can do anything from grab a bite to eat or go on a family vacation; and, if you were to lose your card while on vacation, you could get a new card and even a cash advance, so that your vacation will not be interrupted. It is certainly a comfort to know that you won’t be stranded in the middle of nowhere.
Now, brethren, membership in the Lord’s church has even greater privileges. We have the privilege of calling upon God our Father in prayer, and cast all our cares “upon Him” (1 Peter 5:7), knowing that “His ears are open to” our prayers (1 Peter 3:10-12). We have the privilege of worshiping Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) because through His beloved Son, we have “grace and truth” (John 1:17). We don’t have to wonder or guess or think up how we are going to serve Him, or worship Him; He “has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). We have the privilege of knowing that wherever we are, wherever we go, we can carry with us the blessed hope of eternal salvation (Hebrews 10:22-23). For those who are on vacation or about to go on vacation, it is a privilege to know that there are faithful, sound congregations of the Lord’s church in many locations, usually within a short distance of where we plan to go on vacation. It is a privilege and beautiful thing to be in different locations, with different people, and still be able to worship the same God together, in the same way (e.g. “in spirit and truth”). It is a privilege to know that should we find ourselves drifting away from God (through sin), and realize that, at that very moment, we are lost; that we can come to God with a penitent heart, confess our sin(s), and know that He is loving and merciful, and that He will forgive us of our sins (1 John 1:5-2:2). It is a privilege to know that we can be restored to His good favor (Jude 20-21).
Friends, if this sounds good to you, here is all you need to know in order to apply:
a. Study the Bible, specifically the New Testament (as the Old Testament has been fulfilled,
Matthew 5:17; Luke 24:44; Galatians 3:24-25; Hebrews 10:9-10; and has been nailed to the cross,
Colossians 2:14), until you are convinced that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God
(John 8:24; 20:30-31).
b. Upon believing in Jesus as Lord and Christ, confess and repent of your sins (turn away from
those sins, change your destiny by changing your direction; 2 Corinthians 7:10;Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30).
c. Having repented of your sins, confess your faith in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the living
God (cf. Matthew 16:16; John 11:27; Acts 8:37).
d. Once you have confessed your faith in Christ, be baptized “in the name of the Father and of
the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).
After you have done these things, the Lord Himself will add you to His church (Acts 2:47); and you will have, at that very moment, the blessed hope of eternal salvation (cf. 1 Peter 1:3-5; Romans 8:24-25).
An added privilege: no one will run a credit check on you. All who come to God, through Christ, come hopelessly in debt. That’s why people want membership – because Jesus paid the debt that we could never pay! He paid the penalty for our sins when He died upon the cross of Calvary. As Paul said, so every member of the Lord’s church says: “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). In Christ, your debt of sin can be forgiven!
If you haven’t done so already, please apply for membership today!
To God Be The Glory Both Now And Forever!
YOU CAN’T JUST SIT!
Wayne A. Dixon
In Numbers 32:1-5 we read of a request presented to Moses by two of the tribes of Israel. The tribes of Gad and Reuben, and (as we later learn in verse 33) half of the tribe of Manasseh, asked that they be allowed to stay on the east side of the Jordan (Num. 32:5). Verse one of this text tells us this was a good place for cattle, of which they had many.
After hearing their request, Moses responds, “...Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here”(Num. 32:6)?He rebukes them for their indifference and accuses them of discouraging the other nine and one-half tribes (Num. 32:7). He proceeds to give them a history lesson (vs.8-13) of the similar half-heartedness of the ten spies which caused discouragement and disobedience with a resulting forty year punishment in the wilderness. Moses then reminds them (Num. 32:14-15) that their request, as stated, will result once again in a wilderness wandering as well as “ye shall destroy all this people”(Num. 32:15). Numbers 32:15-33 are conditions proposed by these two and one-half tribes agreed to by Moses (v.33).
After the death of Moses, Joshua reiterates the previous agreement between the tribes of Gad, Reuben and one-half of Manasseh and Moses which is recorded in Joshua 1:12-18. This occurs as the actual crossing of the Jordan is about to take place.
There are several lessons from this study for us today that will increase our faith (Rom 10:17).
First, conditions were required.The two and one-half tribes had to provide armed troops to participate in the battle (Num. 32:20; Josh. 4:12-13). Furthermore, they had to continue in the battle “Until he hath driven out his enemies before him. And the land be subdued before the Lord: then afterward ye shall return”(Num. 32:21-22). Moses reminded them that disobedience would not go unnoticed. “But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the Lord: and be sure your sin will find you out”(Num. 32:23).
Likewise, our salvation is conditional.We can only enter our promised land (heaven) by being obedient to the Gospel which requires us to Hear(Rom. 10:14-17), Believe(John 8:24), Repent(Luke 13:3), Confess(Rom. 10:9-10) and be Baptized(Acts 2:38).
Just as Moses told the two and one-half tribes they could not just sit (Num. 32:6), after becoming Christians we can not just sit! We also have to be doers. “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves”(James 1:22). We must actively engage in the daily fight with the devil. By inspiration, James makes it crystal clear that “faith without works” is dead and tells us so three times (James 2:17,20,26).
Unlike the Israelites and their physical battle, ours is one of a spiritual nature and our “sword” is God’s word. “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God”(Eph. 6:17). With this sword (God’s word), we are admonished to take a stand in accordance with God’s word (Eph. 6:13-14).
If we will be obedient, God will not forsake us. He told Joshua this very thing specifically in the last three words of Joshua 1:5 when he said, “I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”as long as they followed the conditions of verses 7-8. He tells us the same thing today as we read in the last phrase of Hebrews 13:5, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.”The conditions for our access to an eternal heavenly home are also based on our obedience to God’s will for us today, which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as Moses reminded the Israelites that their sins would be uncovered, likewise, we face the same fate, “For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ”(Rom. 14:10).
Won’t you be obedient today? After all, this is all that God has required since the Garden of Eden. Also, let us never forget that his burden is light, “For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light”(Matt. 11:30).
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.”