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).
Happy Mother's Day
W. Terry Varner
It is that time of year again. One day in 365 that all who are living should observe—Mother’s Day. Why not? Do not our mothers deserve a day in her honor? I believe so. I know so. In this mixed up world in which we live, a lot of people probably think there is nothing so special about Mother’s Day. But—all living human beings owe their earthly existence to mother. Many Christians owe their Christian life to their mothers.
A Mother’s Impact. A mother, human as she is, is that wonderful creature whose love knows no bounds is never wavering, never waning. A mother, perhaps, is the rarest of all of God’s creation. A University of Michigan survey reported 80% of 11-18 year-old girls desired to be just like their mothers. This suggests that one s mother is a very strong force in a child’s life.
The Scriptures recognize the power of a mother’s influence. Paul reminded Timothy of the vital role his mother Eunice had on his life and faith. “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure dwells in you as well” (2 Tim. 1:5, ESV). Timothy’s faith was genuine and unwavering. While Timothy’s biblical faith came from the Word of God (Rom. 10:17), his faith was deeply influenced by his mother Lois. That is the way it ought to be.
What Great Men Have Said about Their Mothers. Paul’s testimony of Eunice on Timothy’s faith is apparent. Famous men have spoken highly of their mothers. Consider.
- Napoleon said, “the future destiny of the child is always the work of the mother.”
- Theodore Roosevelt said, “She (mother) is more important by far than the successful statesman, businessman, artist, or scientist.”
- Jewish Talmud asks, “Who is best taught?” and then answers, “He that is taught by his mother.”
- Emerson said, “The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world.”
- Abraham Lincoln said, “All that I am, or can be, I owe to my mother.”
Why Is a Mother’s Influence so Powerful? The more we learn about life the more we understand the importance of mothers and fathers. Mothers ought to encourage.Who does not remember their mother saying, “Go ahead you can do it?” Mothers expect their children to do the right thing. The recent episode of the Baltimore mother who removed her son from rioting and protesting and brought him home is an example. Mothers ought to give independenceand self-confidence.Good mothers help as much as needed, but expects her child to learn to stand on his own two feet. Mothers ought to give us emotional stability.While life is a struggle in so many ways, and for so many, our mothers really ought to be a pattern of emotional stability.
A Mother’s Lasting Influence of Their Children. Most know of Sir Walter Scott’s great poetry and literature, many do not know of his mother’s deep love for poetry and literature. A good influence.
Lord Byron was greatly influenced by his mother. Byron’s mother had a horrible temper. She influenced Byron wrongly. Byron’s parents were morally unrestrained, unfaithful to their marriage vows, and devoid of spiritual values. Byron learned to indulge in the sins of his parents. He left great poetry, but he left us an example of what happens to children when parents are careless and sinful.
A young mother was reading the Bible to her baby. A friend asked, “Surely you do not think your baby understands what you are reading?” Mother replied, “No, he does not understand now. But I want his earliest memory to be that of seeing and hearing the Bible.” God bless good mothers.
AND RIGHT IS STILL RIGHT
Roger D. Campbell
There are numerous Bible exhortations for God’s people to follow that which is right and stay away from that which is wrong. In the spiritual realm, it is God alone Who determines what is right and what is not. Here are three New Testament passages that point to the need for Christians to stay with what is good:
“Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. ... Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good”(Rom. 12:9,21).
“Prove(test) all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil”(1 Thess. 5:21,22).
“Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good”(3 John 11).
Regardless of what happens in life, regardless of what others do or say, the Lord’s will does not change. Wrong is still wrong, and right is still right. Let us look at some applications of this truth.
Wrong is still wrong, even if you are a King.King David slept with another man’s wife. “But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD” (2 Sam. 11:27).
Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my brother in the flesh.When Aaron led the Israelites in making a golden calf, regardless of the fact that he was Moses’ older brother, Moses properly called Aaron’s action a “sin” (Exodus 32:21).
Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my cousin.Korah’s rebellion against the authority of Moses and Aaron was wrong, even though he was their cousin (Numbers 16:1-11).
Wrong is still wrong, even if you were faithful to the Lord in the past.Good conduct in the past does not offset or cover up present evil. The churches of Galatia had run well, but someone later hindered them from obeying the truth (Gal. 5:7). Past faithfulness does not negate current negligence.
Wrong is still wrong, even if you are a Gospel preacher.When Peter acted as a hypocrite, Paul rebuked him to his face (Gal. 2:11-14).
Wrong is still wrong, even if you are my friend.None would doubt that Judas sinned when he betrayed Jesus, though the Bible calls Judas the “familiar friend” of the Messiah (Psalm 41:9).
Wrong is still wrong, even if many people support wrongdoing.The Jewish leaders that wanted to see Jesus killed got the backing of “the multitudes” in crying for His death. Nonetheless, their action was evil (Matt. 27:17-24).
Now consider the other side of the picture.
Right is still right, and truth is still truth, even if the one that tells me the truth is arrogant.His arrogance is unacceptable, but if he shows me that the Bible says Jesus is the Head of the church, then his arrogance does not change that fact (Eph. 5:23).
Right is still right, and truth is still truth, even though the one who tells me the truth is inconsistentin their own life. One may not “practice what he preaches” in the matter of being prejudiced toward others, but if he shows me from James 2:1-9 that partiality and racial prejudice are wrong, then the truth he has proven from the Bible is not negated by his own personal inconsistency.
Right is still right, even if the one that tells me the truth has a bad attitude.The one who points me to the truth that Jesus wants us to seek the kingdom (church) first may be an envious, bitter, grumpy man that simply cannot stand people, but what he says about Jesus’ demand is still true (Matt. 6:33).
Right is still right and the truth is still the truth, even if I do not like it.An advocate of a modern “Women’s Rights” group may not like what God says about women not being allowed to have dominion over men in spiritual activities, but God’s instruction remains true, whether any human likes it or not (1 Tim. 2:11-14).
Right is still right, even if other people make fun of it.Jesus endured mockery more than once, but His message and course of action were correct, regardless of men’s negative reaction.
We read about it in the Bible time and again. We see it demonstrated in the lives of people in our generation over and over again. People who are doing wrong often try to come up with some kind of defense to justify their wrongdoing. They may be able to smooth it over with others, but God still sees and knows. Wrong is still wrong. At the same time, people who are told what is right, either about religious truth or else the reality of their own personal activities, sometimes try to dodge the truth by appealing to some fault in the messenger of truth or in other people. When all is said and done, however, right is still right.
May the Lord help each of us to have a love for that which is right and an equally strong hatred for all that is wrong in God’s eyes. May we each be committed to doing good and abstaining from evil.
SAD, MAD OR GLAD
When the Truth is proclaimed (2 Tim. 4:2-4) the hearer will respond in one of three ways: sad, mad or glad. The obedient people on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 responded with gladness (Acts 2:41) while the rich young ruler was sad when he heard the Truth (Matt. 19:16-22). In Acts 7:51-60, some became so mad at what Stephen preached they stoned him to death. False accusations were made against Jesus (Matt. 11:19; John 10:20) and the apostle Paul (Acts 26:24) out of anger over the Truth that was proclaimed.
Do people generally respond in the same way today? Yes! We are thankful that some are glad to hear the Truth and obey it. But how tragic it is when people respond in a sad or mad way and continue to do so.
Why are people sad or mad when Truth is proclaimed? Let’s notice three reasons.
1) People are sad or mad when they hear what is NEEDED, not necessarily what is wanted. Some want their ears tickled with fables and foolishness (2 Tim. 4:3-4). They want to hear that which is smooth and not right (Isa. 30:10). Too many want to hear what pleases them rather than what God demands that must be preached.
2) People are sad or mad when they hear NEGATIVE preaching. It is amazing how some believe there is no place for negative preaching. One cannot read and understand 2 Timothy 4:2-4 and not understand that negative preaching is a part of “God pleasing preaching.” The very words “reproving” and “rebuking” demonstrate that. Of course, there must always be the preaching of both the positive and negative.
3) People are sad or mad when they hear NAMES called or mentioned. Is it wrong to identify those who are making havoc of the Truth and/or who are false teachers? Of course not. FulfillingRomans 16:17-18 demands that it be done. Paul did it in 2 Timothy 2:17-18 and 4:14-15. He was not wrong for doing so. Some will become mad when a false teacher is identified but will not say one thing when that false teacher (by his teaching) causes others to lose their souls. Indeed, isn’t that strange. Such is a demonstration of the wrong attitude toward God, His Word and the church.
We must not become mad with the message nor messenger of Truth. “Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, [then] are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:31-32).