Month: May 2015

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) From Creation to the Creator — and Following Through (Tom Edwards)
2) Led By Whom (Boyd Sellers)
3) News & Notes
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From Creation to the Creator — and Following Through

Tom Edwards

Though we differ in some religious views, yet I found the following comments of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who lived from 1712 to 1778, interesting reasons for his belief in the Creator — and perhaps you will, too.  So I included some of them for you.

In the creation, Rousseau sees the “mutual concurrence,” the “reciprocal relations,” their “intimate connection” and their “mutual assistance” as an indication of the reality of God and in which led Rousseau into likening himself to “a man who sees the inside of  a watch for the first time, and is  captivated with the beauty of the work, although ignorant of its use.  I know not, he may say, what this machine is good for, but I perceive that each part is made to fit some other.  I admire the artist for every part of his performance, and am certain that all these wheels act thus in concert to some common end, which as yet I fail to comprehend” (Harvard Classics, Volume 34, pp. 258, 259).

That can be quite a site to behold, especially when never having seen it before. Early in my youth, after taking off the back of an analog watch, I had been thoroughly impressed with all the various intricate parts that made it up, and with each component being meticulously placed in its necessary and exact position.  What a fine and delicate work it was!

But even more complex than that watch is our own anatomy with its numerous and differing constituent parts that all work together to form one body.  But how did they come to be that way?  As Rousseau writes, “If organized bodies are fortuitously combined in a thousand ways before they assume settled and constant forms; if at first they are formed stomachs without mouths, feet without heads, hands without arms, and imperfect organs of every kind…how comes it that none of these imperfect essays have engaged our attention?” (ibid. p. 259).  In other words, why is this disorder or lack of needful parts and arrangement not what is being seen everywhere — or even traces of?  Instead, in regard to whatever the creature — and regardless of how different one is from the other — we see it having exactly what it needs.  What are the odds of that, if by mere coincidence or random selection each part was acquired?  And how would even such a “choice” of all the needful components be made by that which has no intelligence?

Rousseau likens the possibility of organized bodies just so happening by chance to “a number of printer’s types, jumbled promiscuously together,” but then “had arranged themselves in the order of the letters composing the Aeneid [of which a paperback edition by Vintage is 442 pages]”; and if anyone would say to him he has forgotten the number of chances that would make such a combination possible, his reply would be, “I , who see only the one, must conclude that there is an infinite number against it, and that it is not the effect of chance. …hence life and organization can never result from a blind concourse of atoms…” (ibid.).  “How absurd the attempt to deduce this wonderful harmony from the blind mechanism of a fortuitous jumble of atoms! … It is impossible for me to conceive that a system of beings can be so wisely regulated, without the existence of some intelligent cause which effects such regulation.  It is not in my power to believe that passive inanimate matter could ever have produced living and sensible creatures,–that a blind fatality should be productive of intelligent beings,– or that a cause incapable itself of thinking, should produce the faculty of thinking in its effects. I believe, therefore, that the world is governed by a wise and powerful Will.”  And that “Will” is what Rousseau refers to as God, who wills with intelligence and power (ibid., p. 260).

For those who know the passage, how can we not be reminded of it, as we read these previous thoughts, where David so gloriously declares of God, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You” (Psa. 139:13-18).

Yes, in that sense, God is the Father of us all.  As we can see in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3, which traces it back through the many ancestors mentioned, and all the way back to “the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (v. 38).  So just as Seth was a son of Adam, Adam was a “son” of God.  When Paul preached to the men of Athens in the midst of the Areopagus (Mars’ hill, KJV), whom he noted as being a very religious people, though wrongly caught up in idolatry, he then spoke of the “unknown God” to whom one of their altars was dedicated and to whom they had “worshiped in ignorance” (Acts 17:23).  He spoke of Him as being the one who “made the world and all things in it,” who is “Lord of heaven and earth” (v. 24), and “gives to all people life and breath and all things” (v. 25).  Paul also pointed out that God “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they should seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist, as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we also are His children [offspring, KJV].’  Being then the children [offspring] of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, an image formed by the art and thought of man.  Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (vv. 26-31).

So even though everyone’s ancestry can be traced back to God, who created Adam and Eve, yet all of us who reached an age of accountability had soon become guilty of sin (cf. Rom. 3:9,10,23) and, thus, severed ourselves from that spiritual relationship with the Lord (cf. Isa. 59:1,2) and brought ourselves to a need for repentance and meeting God’s conditions for salvation to not only be forgiven, but to also be able to enter into a spiritual union with God, in which He truly is our Father.  For though God blesses even the atheist with rain and sunshine (cf. Matt. 5:45) and has brought “fruitful seasons” to all, thus, “satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17), yet these blessings pertain to just this physical world and are, therefore, temporary; but the spiritual blessings of God, for those who have entered into a harmonious relationship with Him, are eternal!

If it be that our sins have not been blotted out by the precious blood of Jesus, then we are still spiritually “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1).  And, if that be the case, then we are still in “the domain of darkness” (Col. 1:13), do not have God the Father and Jesus in our lives (2 Jn. 1:9), and have Satan for our father (cf. Jn. 8:42-44; Acts 26:16-18).  So our connection with God must come through the gospel.  For “it is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16), and that which brings us into a spiritual relationship with our Creator.

As mentioned, just our realization from the creation that God exists is not enough to save a soul.  It is only through the New Testament, which is “the faith” that was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:3), that one can acquire saving faith and see the way of salvation.

So may the knowledge of God, which we can each acquire through observing the creation, motivate us to want to examine that holy book He has given us, and to not only come to a much deeper understanding of Him, but to also submit to His commands, so that His message will save our souls and become a way of life for us, with the Lord daily on the throne of our hearts, and as we journey to that ultimate goal of heaven, from where our Creator keeps a constant and compassionate watch on each one of us and forever reigns.
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Led By Whom?

Boyd Sellers

Some claim that the Holy Spirit is still speaking to them in a direct, miraculous way IN ADDITION TO what He recorded in the Bible. However, the Holy Spirit Himself tells us that His revelation, the New Testament of Jesus Christ, is “perfect,” “complete,” and “final” (See Jas. 1:25; 2 Tim. 3:16717; Jude 3). The New Testament is the Word we must live by because it is the Word we will be judged by (Jas. 2:12; Jno. 12:48). It is the ‘ONLY’ way God speaks to men today.

It would be interesting to know just what the Holy Spirit would say to these men that He has not already said in the Bible. If He said the same thing as the Bible, it would not be necessary, and if He said something different, one would be “accursed” if he taught it (Gal. 1:8-9).

Please consider these obvious facts: FIRST, the Holy Spirit would not teach a doctrine that denied what He already said in the Bible. Yet, all who claim direct guidance today teach doctrines which conflict with the Bible. SECOND, the Holy Spirit would not teach conflicting doctrines. Yet, such as claim direct guidance (Mormons, Catholics, Pentecostals, etc.) teach opposing and conflicting doctrines. Who can believe that the Holy Spirit is the author of such chaos? CONCLUSION: Men who claim miraculous guidance today are frauds who teach THEIR OWN doctrines instead of God’s. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall NOT pass away.” Read your Bible and do what it says. It’ll make you perfect and thoroughly furnished (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

— via The Beacon, 5/26/15
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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).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) Voltaire and the Quaker (on the subject of baptism) (Tom Edwards)
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Voltaire and the Quaker

(on the subject of baptism)

Tom Edwards

In wanting to learn more about the Quakers, Voltaire once went to a prominent member of that group who lived not far from London, England, to inquire as to his particular beliefs and practices.  After having a meal together, which had begun and ended with prayer, Voltaire first asked, “My dear sir, were you ever baptized?”  To which the Quaker replied, “I never was nor any of my brethren.” That seemed to have astonished Voltaire who then bluntly responded by saying, “…you are not Christians, then.”  The Quaker, in a friendly and soft tone, then strove to justify his position by pointing out that “…Christ indeed was baptized by John, but He Himself never baptized anyone. We are the disciples of Christ, not of John” (Harvard Classics, volume 34, page 66).

Another argument the Quaker presented was that though he and his group did not condemn anyone for being baptized, yet “…those who profess a religion of so holy, so spiritual a nature as that of Christ, ought to abstain to the utmost of their power from the Jewish ceremonies” (ibid.).

Is that, however, what baptism is for today — a Jewish ceremony?  Is it just something pertaining to the Old Law and not the gospel of Christ?

While eliminating water baptism, the Quaker spoke of being baptized by the Spirit for the “ablution of the soul,” and quoted John the Baptist, “I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance; but He that cometh after Me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: He shall baptized you with the Holy Ghost and with fire” [Matt. 3:11].

In addition, the Quaker also pointed out that the apostle Paul states that “Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel” [1 Cor. 1:17], and to which the Quaker also added, “…that Paul never baptized but two persons with water, and that very much against his inclinations” (H.C. Vol. 34, p. 67).

Though Voltaire’s time was from 1694 to 1778, yet similar comments have been made in our day with regard to that of some of the Quaker’s, although not to justify the non-observance as the Quaker, but to assert baptism’s irrelevance toward salvation.

Let us, therefore, further consider the Quaker’s arguments, not as merely to refute his particular belief, but to better bring to the attention of all people, or any religious group, what God’s word really is saying on this subject.

First of all, what about the Quaker’s argument that though Jesus was baptized by John, yet the Lord baptized no one; and that “we are the disciples of Christ, not of John”?

Though Jesus did not directly do the baptizing, can we not infer from the fact that “His disciples were” (John 4:1,2) that the Lord was fully approving of their doing so — and just as much as if He were the One actually doing it?  God has often carried out needful tasks through His people.  Would not this baptism be the same as John’s?  For there was a need for those  Jews, at that time, to realize and repent of their sins and to look toward the soon coming Messiah and believe in Him (Acts 19:4).  Those who rejected John’s baptism were also guilty of having “rejected God’s purpose for themselves” (Luke 7:29).  Would that be something that Jesus would want to see people do?  So regardless of whether Jesus personally baptized anyone or not, it does not eliminate the need for it.

Let us also point out, however, that the baptism being performed prior to the Lord’s death was not regarded as the same which He commanded to be administered after His death.  But what is the difference?  They both are for the forgiveness of sins (Mk. 1:4: Acts 2:38); they both use water as the element (Jn. 3:23; Acts 8:36-38); and they both do it by immersion — which is implied in the “much water” (Jn. 3:23), and it being shown as a burial (Rom. 6:4).  Of course, the Greek word itself, “baptisma,” in either case, means “immersion, submersion” (Thayer’s Greek Definitions) — and not sprinkling nor pouring.  But would it not be that what makes the difference is in realizing the full purpose for it?  For Paul shows that it is by baptism that we “…have been baptized into His [Jesus’] death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3,4) — and we are “raised up with Him [from the baptism] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12).  How, therefore, could this baptism have been done prior to Christ’s death?

Going along with this, consider those twelve whom Paul met in Ephesus that did not know about this baptism that Jesus commanded, but only that of John’s.  In finding that out, Paul taught them more thoroughly; and “they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:4).

It, therefore, does make a difference in being baptized for the right reason.  Children playing in a pond could dunk each other under water, for instance; but that in itself would not make it a Bible baptism.

So we also see in this that the baptism Jesus commanded to be carried out after His death was not part of a “Jewish ceremony” that is no longer to be observed.  For it pertains to the gospel and is for all people of every nation, and as long as time shall last.  Peter actually indicated this while inspired, though he probably didn’t fully realize the meaning, when he said, “…’Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off…’” (Acts 2:38,39).  The “all who are far off” includes the Gentiles whom were later to be preached to.

Another argument the Quaker made pertains to the Lord’s promise to “baptize with the Holy Ghost and with fire,” and which is seen in contrast with John being inferior and baptizing with water (Matt. 3:11). When looking at the context, the “Holy Ghost” and “fire” do not pertain to the same baptism.  For the “fire” indicates the punishment of hell.  As the previous verse states, “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (v. 10).  And verse 12 brings out that “His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clear His threshing floor; and He will gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”  So the “fire” is symbolizing hell.  W.E. Vine defines the Greek word for “fire” in Matthew 3:11 as pertaining to “…the fire of Divine judgment upon the rejectors of Christ, Mat 3:11 (where a distinction is to be made between the baptism of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the ‘fire’ of Divine retribution….”

In all the New Testament there are only two cases of individuals being baptized in the Holy Spirit, which pertain to the apostles on the day the church was established (Acts 1:26-2:16) and that unique case at the house of Cornelius, which was God’s way of showing that He had “granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).  For it was now about 10 years after the church had been established, and Cornelius and his household were going to become the first Gentile converts.  God even had to prepare Peter for this by giving him the vision of the sheet being lowered with various animals — clean and unclean under the Old Law — but now the Lord was pointing out that what was once unclean was no longer to be considered that way (Acts 10:9-16), which also symbolized how the Jews’ attitude was now to be toward the Gentiles, of whom they could not even lawfully associate with or visit under the Law of Moses (Acts 10:28); and which, apparently, was still part of their Jewish customs.  So what happened at Cornelius’ house with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit was a sign to Peter and to the six Jews he took with him, and to the others who later heard of it, that the way of salvation was just as available to the Gentile as to the Jew.

The Bible speaks of different baptisms.  As we have seen, (1) John’s baptism (Jn. 3:23), (2) the baptism Jesus instructed for the Gospel Age (Mark 16:16; Matt. 28:19), and (3) a baptism of the Holy Spirit (as we considered above).  But now hear Ephesians 4:5 in which Paul says that there is just “one baptism.”  Which baptism would that be?   The Ephesian letter was written about A.D. 62 or 63.  A couple years later, in 64 or 65, Peter declares, “…baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 3:21).  So here it is: the one baptism that is to continue is water baptism — and it saves!  For though the water does not literally wash away sins, yet through it (and when one has complied with the other requirements of believing in Christ, repenting of sin, and confessing faith in Christ), one then makes his “appeal to God for a good conscience,” as Paul also did through that same act of baptism (Acts 22:16).

Consider also that people were never commanded to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to be saved, but the penitent believer is commanded to be baptized in water in order to be forgiven and become a Christian (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38).  Of course, we are to “be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18) by letting “…the word of Christ richly dwell within…” (Col. 3:16), but that is not the same as being baptized in the Holy Spirit by Christ.

Lastly, the Quaker pointed out that the apostle Paul was not sent by Christ to baptize, but to preach; and that Paul only baptized two people and did so reluctantly.  Well, if Paul was not to baptize, did he not then sin by doing so?  Or is there some particular reason why Paul stresses the importance of preaching over baptism to these Corinthians?  For what good would baptism be, if people do not first obtain the proper understanding and response through the preaching?  And that is exactly what the Corinthians needed, who were already divided among themselves and with different groups of them saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ” (1 Cor. 1:12).  Paul, therefore, had to rebuke them of that. He then also went on to say, “Has Christ been divided? Paul was not crucified for you, was he? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one would say you were baptized in my name. Now I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized any other” (vv. 13-16, emphasis mine).  So Paul clearly shows why he did not baptize any other. These individuals had such a wrong inclination toward separating into cliques that Paul did not want to make matters worse by personally baptizing and having those wrongly claiming to have been baptized in his name — instead of the Lord’s (v. 15).  But let it also be pointed out that all who had become Christians at Corinth had first been baptized (Acts 18:8). And Paul teaches the need for it in various passages: Romans 6:3,4; Galatians 3:26,27; Colossians 2:12; and Titus 3:5 (compare with John 3:3-5).

Though not every conversion example in the book of Acts specifically states all of what was necessary to become a Christian, such as hearing God’s word, believing in Christ, repenting, and acknowledging faith in Christ, yet they all include the baptism!  Why, therefore, do so many people today leave it out?  It also must be included.  For it is very much a part of God’s plan of salvation for our time.

Though we might not know of all of what to make of the purpose of Voltaire’s inquiry, for he often made attacks against the Bible and spoke with tongue in cheek, yet we should all accept the truthfulness and sincerity of the Gospel that shows us the way of salvation.  For regardless of what men would ever say about God, our chief concern should always be in that which God is saying to us!  If we truly listen to His voice, through His written word, we will not be led astray, but led, rather, toward that glorious place of heaven above and find the path to there a much better journey to take.
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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).
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Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
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Contents:

1) Voltaire’s Understanding of God (Tom Edwards)
2) The Silent Killer (Mike Johnson)
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Voltaire’s Understanding of God

by Tom Edwards

Francois-Marie Arouet is a name that you might not recognize; but if I mentioned his pen name of “Voltaire,” you most likely have heard of this French philosopher and historian, who is said to have “produced works in almost every literary form, including plays, poems, novels, essays, and historical and scientific works” — actually having written “more than 20,000 letters and more than 2,000 books and pamphlets” (Wikipedia).  He often attacked organized religion; yet he, as a deist, accepted the idea of a Supreme Being; but this, to him, was not based on faith; but, rather, on simple observation and reason.  He states, “It is perfectly evident to my mind that there exists a necessary, eternal, supreme, and intelligent being.  This is no matter of faith, but of reason” (A Philosophical Dictionary, by Voltaire, section 1 on Faith).

Perhaps this reminds you of what Paul declares in Romans 1:20, that God’s “invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are with excuse.” And why the one who would say there is no God is, therefore, defined in the Bible as being a “fool” (Psa. 14:1; 53:1).  Yes, the evidence of God’s reality is seen in all creation.

Of course, if the creation is the only means whereby an awareness of God is obtained, then it lacks in the ability to save the soul.  For salvation is based on more than merely the realization that there is a God, a Supreme Being.  It also requires looking into the gospel, which is “the power of God unto salvation” (Rom. 1:16), and believing in Jesus as the Son of God, as Deity, and as the only Savior of the world (Jn. 8:24; Acts 4:12).  The gospel, of course, also shows of the need to repent (Luke 13:5), to acknowledge faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38), and to be baptized if we want to be forgiven and become a Christian (Mk. 16:16; Jn. 3:3-5; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; Col. 2:12; 1 Pet. 3:21).  Through the gospel, one not only has faith instilled, but also the plan of salvation revealed, along with the additional needed truth of how we are to live unto God as His faithful people who are pressing on to that ultimate goal of eternal life in heaven.  And, as the Hebrew writer informs, “For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).  So just accepting everything factually, without proceeding down that highway to heaven, will never enable one to reach the desired destination and have a relationship with God along the way.

Similarly, accepting Satan and the demons, as referred to in the Bible, factually does not make one a follower of Satan nor put one in league with him and the demons.  But does our faith in God go no more beyond that type of awareness — or is it a faith that has led us to hear and follow the word of the Lord, thus changing our lives for the better, and striving to continually do so?

Voltaire acknowledged the reality of a Supreme Being — and that is a good start.  But let us each look to the Bible to acquire that thorough understanding that God Himself wants us to have of Him and be willing to submit to that which His word nstructs — and do so — so that our faith will truly be a saving faith (cf. James 2:17-26; Matt. 7:21).  For Jesus Christ “…became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Heb. 5:9).
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The Silent Killer

by Mike Johnson

High blood pressure is sometimes referred to by doctors as “the silent killer.”  It is referred to in this way because people often do not even know they have high blood pressure until it has already done its damage. This is not an article about high blood though, but instead, about another silent killer condemned in the Scriptures —  “bitterness.” Bitterness might be called the real silent killer.  Like high blood pressure, bitterness may go unnoticed by others, and sometimes the person who has bitterness may not fully realize it.  Thus, it is important for us to “put on the cuff” from time to time and check our “bitterness level.”

We speak of something being literally bitter when it has a sharp or unpleasant taste.  Mentally, however, bitterness is an ongoing pain, hurt, and mental anguish which is felt by people due to past events or circumstances.  Bitterness has been called “resentment  which has been held on to.”  It is resentment which has become rancid and rotten.  It has also been said that “bitterness is loss frozen in resentment.”  Bitterness grows out of our refusal to let go when someone or something is taken from us.  People get hurt because of difficult circumstances, events, or other people; they hold on to that hurt, and it turns into bitterness.

Naomi, from the Old Testament, serves as an example of a person who became bitter due to various setbacks in life.  In the book of Ruth, we learn that Naomi, along with her husband and two sons, went to Moab to live because of a famine in Judah.  Her sons married two women — Orpah and Ruth.  In the course of time, her husband died, and then her two sons died.   Naomi’s losses made her bitter.  She said, “. . . Call me not Naomi, call me Mara:  for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.  I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty: why then call ye me Naomi, seeing the Lord hath testified against me, and the Almighty hath afflicted me” (1:13. 20-21).  The name Naomi signifies “pleasant” or “amiable”; the name Mara, which she wanted to be called, signifies “bitter.”  Note above the number of times that she blamed God for her misfortunes.  Naomi allowed her losses to cause her to become bitter. Often, people allow difficult circumstances to cause them to become bitter today against others and, sometimes, even against God.

Hannah is another Old Testament example of bitterness.  She was married to Elkanah who had another wife besides her.  Hannah was unable to bear a child and was very sad as a result.  Also, Elkanah’s other wife was able to bear children, which seemed to cause resentment between the two women.  Although Elkanah treated Hannah very well and loved her dearly, she was deeply grieved.  Her husband could not console her.  According to I Samuel 1:10, she was in “bitterness of soul.”  This is another example of the circumstances of life causing bitterness. To Hannah’s credit, however,  she turned to the Lord during this very difficult time.  She asked God for a child, which she would give to the Lord, and God granted her request.

Hebrews 12:15 is one of several New Testament passages which warns against bitterness. It says, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.”  A “root of bitterness,” like the root of a tree, can be below the surface and not detectable by others.  Eventually, it will show itself, producing the fruits of bitterness such as evil speaking, anger, and hatred.  Bitterness, as the text says, can defile others, as well.  It can hurt relationships and can even cause disunity within a congregation.

Colossians 3:19 speaks of the danger of bitterness within a marriage as it says, “Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them.”  Instead of having bitterness toward his wife, the husband is told to love her.  When bitterness exists, proper love is lacking.  Problems often occur between a husband and a wife and when problems are not settled,  ill-feelings can fester into resentment and bitterness.  Some disagreements need to be discussed and resolved.  Trivial disagreements  should  simply be forgotten.  Many couples need to learn how to “forget about it” or to “get over it.”  If not, bitterness can develop which can destroy any relationship, especially a marriage.

Bitterness is a sin, and it must be put away.  Ephesians 4:31 says, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice.”   Sometimes a person will say, “With what has happened to me, I have a right to be bitter.”  The Biblical answer is, “No you don’t.”  Some people, for example, say that they can’t stop gambling, committing fornication, or drinking.  It may be difficult, but people can stop these sins.  In the same way, although it might not be easy, people can get rid of bitterness.  God does not require the impossible.

How do we put away bitterness?  Ephesians 4:32 makes it clear that bitterness is to be replaced with kindness and compassion.  We need to have enough kindness and compassion in our hearts so that there is no room for bitterness.  Verse 32 also points out that we are to forgive one another “even as God for Christ’s sake” has forgiven us.  Sometimes it is very difficult to forgive, but we must.   Even if a person will not repent, the Bible teaches that we are to love our enemies (Mt. 5:43-44), and that we are to overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:17-21).  Finally, we must repent and pray (Acts 8:22) in order to be forgiven.

Many of life’s dealings can cause bitterness: the deaths of loved ones, sickness, difficult circumstances, people hurting or mistreating us in some way.  We must realize that life is full of hurts; it always will be.  We must never allow ourselves to be the “victims” of other people’s offenses.  Bitterness has been called “the nest that the devil digs into our soul.”  It must, for our own good and for the good of others, be put away.

— Via Biblelist, March 31, 2015
——————–

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).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) Why Forgive? (Joe R. Price)
2) What If I Am A One Talent Man? (Marc Gibson)
——————–

https://thegospelobserver.files.wordpress.com/2015/05/forgiveness-2.jpg

-1-

Why Forgive?

Joe R. Price

The world is an unforgiving place. Worldly people view compassion as weakness and vengeance as strength. The opposite is true. On the cross the great Son of God said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Lk. 23:34). Far from being weak, Jesus showed great strength of faith and character in this extreme moment of pain. He calls on us to follow His example (1 Pet. 2:18-24).

And, we can. It is not easy to forgive those who sin against us (Matt. 6:14-15). Yet, faithful Christians follow the example of Jesus by faith, putting on a heart of forgiveness and “forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Col. 3:13).

To forgive (aphiemi, Matt. 18:21; apoluo, Lk. 6:37) means “to send away, to let go, to keep no longer, to release” (Thayer, Strong’s).

Understanding why we must forgive will help strengthen our resolve to be like Jesus. Why should we forgive?

We forgive because God commands us to forgive. Then Peter came to Him and said, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:21-22). We cannot be faithful disciples of Jesus and yet refuse to forgive sinners. We are living proof of God’s loving forgiveness. Shall we be so unlike Jesus as to refuse to have forgiveness in our hearts and actions toward those who sin against us?

The fact that God commands us to forgive does not mean God is pressuring us to forgive. Far from it. It means forgiveness is an act of loving faith in Jesus: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jno. 14:15). And again, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome” (1 Jno. 5:3). We obey the command to forgive because we love Jesus.

We forgive in order to be like God. God is “the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deut. 7:9). God’s loving kindness (grace) prompts Him to forgive sinners (Eph. 1:7; Titus 3:4-5). (Truly, sinners must repent in order to receive His forgiveness, Lk. 17:3; Acts 8:22; 1 Jno. 1:9. Here we are discussing forgiveness from the giver’s point of view.) Unless there is grace in the heart, forgiveness will never be extended to others.

We forgive those who sin against us because we want to be like God. We intend to forgive in the way He forgives us. The parable of the unforgiving servant teaches that our heavenly Father forgives us out of compassion, and we must do the same (Matt. 18:21-35, 27, 33). Paul wrote, “And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32). It is the calloused person who refuses to have compassion and forgive “from his heart” (Matt. 18:35). This person will not be forgiven. We are able to forgive by devoting ourselves to being like our Father in heaven.

We forgive so that we can be forgiven. Jesus was very plain about this. Unless we forgive others we will not be forgiven:

“Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Lk. 6:37).

“And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses. But if you do not forgive, neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses” (Mk. 11:25-26).

When teaching how to pray, Jesus said to ask God “to forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors” (Matt. 6:12). If we do not, then we will not be forgiven (Matt. 6:14-15). This is a clear and unambiguous standard by which to assess our own forgiveness as disciples of Christ.

It is a sin not to forgive! Christians who will not forgive others like Jesus on the cross can only expect the eternal torment reserved for sinners (Matt. 18:34-35).

We forgive because it is also good for us. Not only does forgiveness bless the one being forgiven, practicing it also frees one’s heart from bitterness, malice and anger (Eph. 4:31-32). Forgiving others rejoices the heart through obeying the Lord (Psa. 19:8). Forgiveness engenders restoration and renewal, and brings refreshment to the soul.

God’s forgiveness is offered to all in His Son, Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14). Christ calls on us to forgive as we have been forgiven. “Be imitators of God” and forgive one another when complaints arise (Eph. 4:31-5:2; Col. 3:12-13).

— Via The Spirit’s Sword, August 31, 2014, Volume 17, Number 14
——————–

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-2-

What If I Am A One Talent Man?

Marc Gibson

Jesus taught the Parable of the Talents to His disciples to teach them the need to be productive in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 25:14-30). Talents were measures of money, and a man delivered these talents to his three servants. To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one. Talents were given to each “according to his own ability” (v. 15).

Obviously not all the servants had the same ability because they each received a different number of talents. While one servant could work with five talents, another could only work with two, and another only one. It is a fact of life that everyone possesses different abilities. Some might be a five talent person, or perhaps a two talent person. I might be just a one talent person. What if I am a one talent man?

1. If I am a one talent person, I should not feel inferior to anyone in the work of the Lord. The servant who received one talent was expected to use his ability to work with what he had been given just like the two talent and five talent man. Everyone has work that they can accomplish in the kingdom of God, and no labor is insignificant in the eyes of the Lord.

The church is pictured as a body with parts that are considered as weaker and unpresentable (1 Corinthians 12:20-25). On these we bestow greater honor because they are just as necessary as any other part. Everyone has a vital place in the kingdom of heaven, even the one talent man!

2. If I am a one talent person, I should not “bury” my talent. This was the mistake of the one talent man in the parable of Jesus (v. 25). He said he was afraid because he knew his master to be a demanding man. He should have known that doing nothing would be the worst possible choice he could make. Perhaps he was afraid of losing his one talent. There is no shame or loss in giving every effort to do good with what we have.

A buried talent does no one any good. Our Father in heaven provides blessings and abilities for us to use, not to bury in fear or self-pity. There are things each of us can do to further the cause of the kingdom. Let us do it with one or five talents!

3. If I am a one talent person, I should not forget the reward that awaits the faithful servant. The master told the faithful servants that had gained more talents, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (vv. 21, 23). No matter how many talents you start out with, if you strive to be faithful and fruitful for the Lord, a joyous reward awaits!

No reward awaits those who do nothing. If the five talent man had done nothing he would have heard the same condemnation of the unfaithful one talent man: “You wicked and lazy servant…cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (vv. 26a, 30). The joy of reward is worth every effort, every hurdle, and every sacrifice.

Conclusion. You and I may be one talent folks. There is no shame in that. Use that talent to the glory of God. Great good will be done in His service and an eternal reward will be yours!

–Via The Knollwood Messenger,  July 2014
——————–

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).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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” (Matthew 28:19-20, NASB).
——————–

Contents:

1) The Parable of the Elder Son (H.E. Phillips)
2) Am I Honest? (Gary Henry)
——————–

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-1-

The Parable of the Elder Son

H.E. Phillips

Jesus was the greatest teacher who ever lived upon earth. He taught his disciples by many different parables, and often made the application for them. The fifteenth chapter of Luke contains three well known parables: the parable of the lost sheep — verses 3-7; the parable of the lost coin — verses 8-10; and the parable of the lost son — verses 11-24. The point of these parables is the rejoicing over finding that which was lost and found. Those things that were lost were of such value that when they were found there was great rejoicing.

Turn now to Luke 15:25-32 and read of the elder son who would not rejoice at the restoration of his brother. He was also alienated from his father.

The account of the elder son is a part of the parable of the prodigal son who took his inheritance and went into a foreign country where he wasted it in riotous and evil living. When all of his money was gone, and he found himself in great need, he “came to himself” and resolved to return to his father and seek forgiveness. He repented of his sins and returned home. His father saw him coming and ran to meet him and welcome him home. He rejoiced because “this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.”

Now the elder son was in the field. As he came to the house and saw the celebrating because of the return of the younger son, he called a servant to find out why his father had made a feast. When he learned of the return of his younger brother, he was angry and would not go into the house. No doubt this elder son represented the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ lesson. They were angry at Jesus for receiving sinners who repented. They were envious of all who did not stand with them in their attitude toward Jesus.

There are five things about the elder son to which I want to call attention:

1. He was angry. Verse 28: “And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him.” He was angry because his lost brother was found and had been restored to his father. Anger expresses resentment. It also indicates selfishness in most cases. The elder son had a bad attitude toward both his father and his brother: he did not want his brother to receive the blessings of his father, and he did want his father to rejoice at the return of his brother. He was envious of his brother, and therefore was angry because he was received home with joy.

2. He was self-righteous. Verse 29: “And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends . . . . ”

The younger son who repented said: “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son” (verse 21). The elder son said: “Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment . . . ” (verse 29).

A self-righteous person will not obey the righteousness of God. They go about to establish their own righteousness. Romans 10:3 says: “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God.” The elder son did not consider himself a sinner, and he did not seek any favor from his father.

3. He was ungrateful. He said to his father: “…and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends” (verse 29). But his father told him: “…Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine” (verse 31). His father said he had anything the father had, but he was so ungrateful that he did not consider himself to have anything. Ingratitude is a terrible sin. It hardens the heart to the manifold gifts of God and the blessings available every hour of the day and night to his saints. We must “. . . let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Col. 3:15).

4. He hated his brother. He was envious of his brother and did not want him to receive anything from the father. Verse 30 says: “But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.”

The New Testament teaches that we cannot hate our brother and be saved. 1 John 3:15: “Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” 1 John 4:20 says: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?” We must love our brother if we want to be saved.

5. He was not happy. He would not rejoice because his brother had quit his sinning and returned to his father. His father said unto him: “It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:32).

Those who have the attitude of the elder son must look at themselves and repent as the younger son did, if they want to be received and be blessed of the Father in heaven.

—  Via hephillips.org
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-2-

Am I Honest?

Gary Henry

Generally, we wish to get correct answers to the questions we ask. The more important the questions are, the more we would like to feel were on track in getting the right answers to them. It would seem obvious that correct answers are nowhere more critical than with respect to the general question of religion. And when we are confronted with the religious claims of Jesus of Nazareth — not only that a right relationship to the Creator should be our ultimate concern, but that such a relationship is possible only through Jesus Himself — we have a specific set of questions that we ought to want to have answered with nothing less than the full truth.

But getting the right answers to the questions of religion in general, and of the gospel of Jesus Christ in particular, is not a mechanical process. We cant assume the truth is going to yield itself up automatically to anyone who pushes the right logical buttons, regardless of what his character or his intentions might be. To the contrary, this happens to be a subject in which getting the right answers depends largely on whether we are a certain kind of person and whether we are asking for a certain kind of reason.

To put it more bluntly: whether we are able to get at the truth about Jesus Christ and His church depends on what we intend to do with the truth. Before we can be in a position to ask questions about the thing called Christianity, there is a more fundamental question we are required to ask about ourselves — and that is whether we are really honest inquirers who intend to do what is right about the truth, whatever it may turn out to be. Jesus went a good deal farther than merely saying we must be “intellectually honest” folks who are willing to weigh the evidence objectively. While the Bible certainly does talk about loving the truth, Jesus explained exactly what that means — and how essential it is — when He said, “If anyones will is to do Gods will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own authority” (Jn. 7:17). What that says is simply that if I don’t have the integrity and honesty to do what I know I ought to do about the right answers I say Im looking for, then I may not even recognize those right answers when I come across them.

There is really no more sobering text in the New Testament than 2 Thess. 2:11,12, which asserts that God will actually lead those away from the truth who are not honestly looking to obey it: “Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” The armchair religionist is bound to get tangled up; he may even go astray on the fundamentals of his subject, let alone the more difficult questions. No matter how diligent and scholarly his pursuits, his investigations will be skewed by the fact that he is merely looking for curiosities to think about. But the fellow who waits only for a reasonable assurance that the truth is really the truth before he is ready to render obedience to it, that is the individual who is going to get the information he is seeking.

It is of utmost importance, then, that we be honest about the truth. The trouble is, we are often not willing to be honest about whether we are honest. As a person claiming to want the truth about the questions of religion, how can I know whether I am honest or not? And if I’m not willing to search for, accept, and act on the truth about myself, would I do any better about other truths?

One good place to begin testing our own honesty is asking what we are doing about the religious truth we already possess. The person deserves no additional light who is wasting what he presently has, and if we are avoiding dealing with obligations that have been in plain view for quite some time, there is little point in debating the finer points of the law.

But there are some other tests that may help us focus on our honesty. Am I, for example, capable of being persuaded, or is my mind basically made up already? Am I a person who decides questions on the basis of evidence, or am I guided by prejudices and preconceptions? Do I tend to believe that the truth is whatever I want it to be? How hard am I willing to dig for truth? How careful am I in approaching weighty issues? Am I fair? On the question of God, do I harbor any reservations about how far I’d be willing to go in accepting the implications and consequences of the truth? Questions like these ought to tell us some significant things about the level of honesty at which we approach the issues of life.

Jesus taught on one occasion that His word germinates in the “honest and good heart” (Lk. 8:15). Deciding to have just that sort of heart has got to be the beginning point for any serious quest for truth. It is, as Jesus said elsewhere, the truth that will make us “free” (Jn. 8:32) — but the truth is a maiden who will not be wooed by just anybody. Anything less on our part than a bona fide commitment to be faithful to truth — whatever that may entail, at whatever cost — and truth will disguise herself from us. If we are serious about getting at the right answers to the questions that pertain to life’s deepest meaning, then we can ill afford to have anything other than the attitude of the Psalmist: “Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long” (Psa. 25:4,5). It’s that kind of honesty that gives us a chance to make progress. Without it, we are as lost intellectually as we are spiritually.

— Via WordPoints, January 2, 2015
——————–

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).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 281-9917
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (older version of the Gospel Observer website, but with bulletins going back to March 4, 1990)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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