The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
April 15, 2012


1) "Better to be of a Humble Spirit" (R.J. Evans)
2) The Possibility of Apostasy and the Need for Edification (Tom Edwards)
3) News & Notes


"Better to be of a Humble Spirit"
by R.J. Evans

"God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6).  

"Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before a fall.  Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud"  (Prov. 16:18-19).  

A person does not have to be proud, boastful or arrogant to be great, as is believed by so many today.  Moses was truly a great man, and at the same time, "very meek, above all the men which lived upon the face of the earth"  (Num. 12:3).  King Saul was told by Samuel that "When you were little in your own eyes, were you not head of the tribes of Israel?"  (1 Sam. 15:23).  But with the passing of time, Saul became "big" in his own eyes and, because of his proud, sinful actions, the Lord rejected him as king (1 Sam. 15:23).

David, a man after God's own heart, was humble.  His humility is evident by some of his statements found in the Psalms.  He said, "My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; The humble shall hear of it and be glad" (Psa. 34:2).  He also stated that "The sacrifices of God are of a broken spirit, A broken and contrite heart -- These, O God, You will not despise" (Psa. 51:17).  

The Apostle Paul, from the world's viewpoint, had every reason to be proud.  He was highly educated, having been "brought up at the feet of Gamaliel, taught according to the strictness of our father's law" (Acts 22:3).  He had the honor and privilege of being a Roman citizen (Acts 22:25-29).  Paul told the Philippians, "If anyone else thinks he may have confidence in the flesh, I more  so: circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee; concerning zeal, persecuting the church; concerning the righteousness which is in the law, blameless" (Phil. 3:4-6).  Yet, Paul was a man of humility.  Concerning the facts just stated, he went on to say, "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ" (Phil. 4:7).  In fact, he later called these things "rubbish" (v. 8).  As an apostle, he spoke of himself as "the least of all the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (1 Cor. 15:9).  He also spoke of himself as the chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15).  

All through the scriptures, we can observe that God used the ones of a "humble spirit" for His service.  If we are going to be truly great in the service to the Lord today, then we too must be humble.  Jesus said, "but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant" (Matt. 20:26).  James tells us to "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, And He will lift you up" (Jas. 4:10).  

The person of a "humble spirit" realizes that he is nothing without God.  He is genuinely happy to obey all of God's commands and to receive His rich blessings.  He is like an empty vessel which only God can fill. Paul said, "For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith (Rom. 12:3).  May we always remember that "God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble" (Jas. 4:6).  

-- Via the bulletin of the Southside church of Christ, Gonzales, Louisiana 


The Possibility of Apostasy and the Need for Edification
by Tom Edwards

In 1 Thessalonians 3:1-5, Paul gives the following exhortation to the brethren, which also expresses his concern for them: "Therefore when we could endure it no longer, we thought it best to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's fellow worker in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you as to your faith, so that no one would be disturbed by these afflictions; for you yourselves know that we have been destined for this.  For indeed when we were with you, we kept telling you in advance that we were going to suffer affliction; and so it came to pass, as you know.  For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain."

Especially when confronted with or undergoing adversities, the Christian's faith and love for the Lord is tested; and if not strong enough, it might lead to that individual falling away.  Jesus expressed this in His parable of the seed and the sower, by saying, "And the one on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, this is the man who hears the word, and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no firm root in himself, but is only temporary, and when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he falls away" (Luke 13:20,21).

So as Paul shows, there is a need to "strengthen and encourage" the brethren in the faith (1 Thess. 3:2).  And though we see Timothy being sent for this purpose, it is also to be part of the work of every Christian.  For the command and need for that is set forth in Hebrews 3: "Take care, brethren, lest there should be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart, in falling away from the living God.  But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called 'Today,' lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end" (vv. 12-14).  

In view of this passage, and the many like it, how can people deny the possibility of apostasy?   We saw in 1 Thessalonians 3:5 that Paul also indicates that a Christian can become lost by falling away: "For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain."

If, for argument's sake, people could never fall away from the faith, how then could Paul's labor ever be in vain?  The fact that it could, however, shows that "once saved always saved" or "once in grace always in grace" is not so.

The apostle Peter and James, the Lord's half-brother, also show of the possibility of apostasy:  

Peter states, "For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them. It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire'" (2 Pet. 2:20-22).  Though this is true of any Christian who would fall away, Peter is actually applying this to the false teachers among them "who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves" (v. 1).   So, obviously, these individuals had previously been saved from their past sins, but had now fallen away and forfeited their redemption.   

James writes: "My brethren, if any among you strays from the truth, and one turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death, and will cover a multitude of sins" (Jms. 5:19,20).  

It is also clear that James is speaking of Christians who would fall away.  For he says, "if any among you strays from the truth."  So they once were in that truth and with the brethren, before departing from it and losing fellowship from the saints (cf. 1 Jn. 1:6,7).  Notice, too, the result of winning this person back to the truth: it will "save his soul from death." What "death" is that?  It is not talking about physical death, but rather the consequence of sin.  For sin leads to spiritual death.  Paul had told the Ephesians, for example, that they had formerly been "dead in your trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).  So that is how a woman can be "dead even while she lives," in referring to one who would give herself over to sinful pleasures (1 Tim. 5:6).  The Bible also teaches that "the wages of sin is death"  (Rom. 6:23), and it is how Adam and Eve "died" when they disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit (Gen. 2:17).  In addition, those who leave this life as lost souls will end up in hell, which is referred to as "the second death" (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).  So the phrase James uses, "save his soul from death," makes it clear that a Christian can fall away and be lost in the Judgment Day.        

The Holy Spirit also warns against apostasy: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim. 4:1).  And notice what some of those false doctrines would be: "men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth" (v. 3).

Through what means did Paul strive to build up the brethren in Thessalonica, which would help prevent them from falling away, and also aid them toward the goal of heaven?  He declares: "You are witnesses, and so is God, how devoutly and uprightly and blamelessly we behaved toward you believers; just as you know how we were exhorting and encouraging and imploring each one of you as a father would his own children, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory" (1 Thess. 2:10-12).  Paul built them up with the gospel and also lived according to it himself, which would add to the encouragement given to the Philippians.

Paul's labor was not always during the most ideal times, but he still practiced what he had instructed to Timothy to, "preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Tim. 4:2).  In speaking of some of the opposition that Paul and other Christians had been up against, he says: "For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost" (1 Thess. 2:14-16).  

In spite of these difficulties, notice the fruits of Paul's labor.  Through his teaching, the Thessalonians had become "imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea" (v. 14).  They were able to withstand the test of persecution.  But how?  By their acceptance of God's word for what it truly is.  As Paul shows: "And for this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe" (v. 13).  

Yes, falling away is possible for the Christian.  We all have need of strengthening and encouragement to help prevent that, and Christians are to seek to build one another up in the Lord (cf. Rom. 15:2; 1 Cor. 14:2,26; Eph. 4:29).  Therefore, may we who are children of God continue to do our part in encouraging one another to the goal of eternal life and to fulfill our other duties, as well, as the Lord's faithful servants.


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:  Curtis Gautreau who will soon be receiving a bone marrow transplant, due to a type of bone cancer; Gyndell Henry (who has breast cancer); Mike Dubose (who must receive cancer treatment for the rest of his life); R. J. Stevens (who is undergoing therapy, following heart by-pass surgery and a mini stroke),  Roy Fenner (who has macular damage causing distortion, for which he must receive monthly shots in his eye indefinitely, and the development of a small, unpredictable legion near the scar where cancer had been recently removed, and  who requires plastic surgery to eliminate a basal cell wound that has been behind his ear for more than 2 years); and for our members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean CallowayShirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.  Also Mozelle Robertson (who is healing from wrist surgery at 91), Clifton Trimble (whose health has been poor), and Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson (who are seeking new employment). 

I received the following from R.J. Evans concerning an update on David Hartsell (from Belinda):

"Dear Friends,

"Doctors have been searching for an answer to David's unresponsiveness. They believe they have found an explanation. In the quest to control his seizures in the week after surgery, he had a rare metabolic response to a seizure medication. The results are temporary changes in his brain which it is believed can be gradually reversed. However, this means that he has to stay in ICU at... MD Anderson while we await his recovery. This is an extremely rare condition which will take time to reverse. We entered into the meeting with the doctors expecting bad news, but we firmly believe that the power of so many prayers allowed us to receive this hopeful report.

"I so much appreciate the support I have received from brethren. I have many long days ahead as I work out a way to keep my job in Tuscaloosa going and still provide David with the best care and chance of recovery.

"Thank you and may the Lord be Praised!"

The Southside church of Christ in Gonzales, Louisiana, will be having a gospel meeting April 27-29 with Chris Reeves as the guest speaker.  The church meets at 405 W. Orice Roth Road.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)