Month: November 2016

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) “Let Another Man Praise You” (R.J. Evans)
2) Born (Again) to Serve (John Thompson)
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1cor1_31

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“Let Another Man Praise You”

R.J. Evans

“Let another man praise you, and not your own mouth; A stranger and not your own lips”  (Proverbs 27:2).

Is it safe to say that most of us have difficulty from time to time in heeding and obeying the words of wisdom in our text?  I’m sure we have all been guilty of doing a little bragging and boasting at times.  In fact, generally speaking, it appears that boasting has become an accepted practice in our present culture.  Just think about politics or the social media, and you realize how common it has become.

The boaster is the individual who wants other people to think of him as a great doer of many things.  He is the type individual who likes to talk about himself, and is not bashful about bragging about all his accomplishments.  There is an old saying that is associated with this kind of person: “If you want to know how great he is (or members of his family), just ask him, and he will tell you.”  Then there are those who do not have to be asked; they constantly boast about themselves, whether others want to hear it or not.

We just mentioned that boasting has become a part of our present culture.  We can also observe that this practice is addressed in God’s word.  In Romans 1, the Apostle Paul described the many evil characteristics of the Gentiles, one of which consisted of “boasters” (v. 30).  In writing to Timothy, he stated, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy”  (2 Tim. 3:1-2).  These sins are running rampant today, and most certainly, boasting is no exception.

The Apostle Paul did engage “in a little folly” — a type of foolish boasting in order to expose his opponents who were false apostles — taking advantage of the brethren at Corinth (2 Cor. 11).  However, he had already established the fact that acceptable glorying or boasting is to be only in the Lord — “He who glories, let him glory in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17).  Likewise, he told the Galatians: “But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14).

There are many admonitions throughout God’s word against being proud and boastful.  Jesus taught that when we do our good deeds, don’t “sound a trumpet” but let it be in secret to the extent that — “when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing” (Matt. 6:1-4).  In other words, don’t be telling others and bragging about what good deeds you have done.  The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector teaches against self-righteous boasting and pride (Lk. 18:9-14). The Apostle Paul stated, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).  In planning for the future, James said “you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.’  But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (Jas. 4:15-16).

Boasters are proud, which is totally against the humble spirit that should characterize the faithful child of God.  James said, “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6).  The boaster is one who thinks he is better/smarter/more important than others.  But the Scripture teaches that “in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).  The boaster often makes others feel bad about themselves, and become discouraged over “falling so short” of all the braggart’s alleged accomplishments and abilities.  But the Lord says, “Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, leading to edification” (Rom. 15:2).  And there are other problems associated with all the damage a boaster causes.  Thus, boasting is an attempt to belittle others, while seeking to elevate self above everyone else.

It has been said that no one likes to be around a boaster — having to constantly hear him brag about himself.  No doubt about it, that is so true!  Who wants to hear and see actions of someone essentially saying: “Look at me and see how great I am”?  Never let it be said or observed that the faithful child of God is a boaster.  May we at all times heed the words of our title: “LET ANOTHER MAN PRAISE YOU.”

— via the bulletin for the Southside church of Christ, Gonzales, Louisiana, October 16, 2016
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2cor4_5

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Born (Again) to Serve

John Thompson

Jesus entered Jerusalem about six days before He was to be crucified. One evening at supper with His apostles, he did an unusual thing.  Ever the master teacher, he arose, removed his outer garments, tied a towel around his waist, put some water into a basin and began to wash the feet of his disciples. He had a reason for doing this most humbling act of servitude.

12“When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, ‘Do you understand what I have done to you? 13You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. 14If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you. 16Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him’” (John 13:12-16).

Jesus not only humbled himself, taking on the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7), but he performed one of the more disgusting tasks of washing dirty, dust-encrusted feet.  Furthermore, he washed the feet of those under his authority: the teacher washing the feet of his students. Finally, he washed the feet of his enemy, his betrayer, for Judas had not yet left to carry out his plan.

Do you remember the story of young Samuel, how he was leant to the Lord by his mother and reared by Eli? After some misunderstanding who was calling him, Samuel was finally advised by Eli to respond by saying, “Speak Lord, for your servant hears.” Can you think of a better way to respond to the Lord? There is so much contained in that short response: a recognition of Deity; an attitude of servitude; and the willingness to learn and carry out the Lord’s will.

You know, some of the godliest people who have ever  lived were perfectly content to be servants of God.  When  Satan appeared before God, as reported in the book of Job, God expressed extraordinary confidence in His servant, Job: 8“And the Lord said to Satan, ‘Have you considered my servant Job, that there is no one like him on the  earth, a blameless and upright man, who  fears God and turns away from evil?’” (Job 1:8). Paul, who played such an indispensable role in the establishment and spread of the church, was just as prone to refer to himself as a servant of God as he was to call himself an apostle: “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Romans 1:1). “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons” (Philippians 1:1).  See also Titus 1:1.  James, Peter, and Jude also begin their inspired letters by identifying themselves as servants of God.

Paul makes it plain that being  a servant of God means serving others. 5“For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5).

In a time when entitlements are on everyone’s minds and people are quick to demand to receive what they believe they deserve, servitude will not be very popular.

When one becomes a Christian, he or she is born again, born again to serve Christ through service to others. Serving others is, very simply, the means by which the Christian serves God. 34“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ 40And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me’” (Matthew 25:34-40).

An article on servitude is appropriate at any time, but especially so at this time. Our brother, Garry Banks, was a servant of the Lord who did not hesitate to serve others. He is now at rest awaiting his final reward.  I believe God could have said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant, Garry Banks?” And I believe Garry will hear, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…. as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

— Via University Heights Messenger, August 14, 2016, Volume 8, Number 34
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“For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O LORD, You surround him with favor as with a shield” (Psalm 5:12).
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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, living for the Lord; 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 Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
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) Heaven: An Inheritance (Bill Feist)
2) “Keep Watch Over the Door of My Lips” (Greg Gwin)
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Heaven: An Inheritance

Bill Feist

Have you ever traveled a long ways and finally reached your destination where you have a reservation only to have a clerk, with a blank look on his face, after searching through some computer terminal, say, “I don’t see your name on the list”? It is shattering to think that your name is not on the list, even though you know you made a reservation. You can be sure of one thing if you are a Christian, you have a reward reserved for you. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Pet. 1:3-4). This is one reservation that is going to be honored. Each of us needs to be sure to get there and claim it.

Men are interested in and have a desire for a life beyond this one. Man longs for immortality. Paul expressed this longing in 1 Corinthians 15:19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” The children of the world have no inheritance awaiting them at the end of this life. The Christian can say with assurance, “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Cor. 5:1).

Scripture uses the word “inheritance” to refer to a settled and secure possession. Inheritance in the Old Testament Scriptures referred not only to an estate received by a child from his parents, but also to the land received by the children of Israel as a gift from Jehovah. To Israel the great inheritance was the “Promised Land” which “flowed with milk and honey.” God even identified Israel as a “people of inheritance” (Deut. 4:20).

The Christian’s inheritance is far greater than any physical heritage. The greatness of the Christian’s inheritance is most difficult to depict. This is due to the fact that our heavenly inheritance is so unlike our earthly existence that we have to be told what heaven will not be like. Thus, Peter uses three negatives to impress upon us the fact that heaven is not like anything which we know on this earth. No man has within his power the ability to alter the reality of what Peter states. Consider the comparable excellencies of the inheritance.

The heavenly inheritance is “incorruptible.” Observation informs us that the greatest achievements of man give way to the ravening touch of time. Many have returned to the old homestead only to find it in a state of decay and deterioration due to neglect and the passage of time. Scripture says that heaven is a place that shall never decay. Corruption is a change from better to worse. There will be no corruption in heaven. No destructive force can in any way injure this eternal inheritance as they do the inheritances of the earth. Rust, moth and thieves (Matt. 6:19) can harm this material inheritance. They can not touch the eternal one. Why strive to attain earthly rewards which must ultimately fade and perish, when there is within your grasp an incorruptible inheritance? This inheritance that God offers his people is alone incorruptible. In this respect it is like its Maker who is called by Paul in Romans 1:23 the “incorruptible God.” Heaven is without change, as it is without end.

Our inheritance is also identified as being “undefiled.” Being “undefiled” our inheritance is not subject to contamination. The things that spoil our world or mar its beauty will have no place in heaven. Sin, misery, death, separations, loneliness, physical handicaps, mental pains and all tears will be gone. Nothing impure can enter it. Deterioration is thus impossible. It is pure and lofty. It is an inheritance we can desire without any reservations. Material inheritances may corrupt the heart (Lk. 12:13-15). They may tempt us to extravagance, covetousness or lust. The heavenly inheritance will never tend in any means to defile. Heaven is like our great High Priest, even Jesus, “who is holy, harmless, undefiled” (Heb. 7:26).

Peter’s final negative describing our inheritance is that it “will not fade away.” The word translated here is properly applied to that which does not fade or wither, as a cut flower. It denotes that which is enduring. Our inheritance will not lose anything as a result of age, illness or familiarity. It will not be marred by impurity or through damage by our enjoyment. Such suggests our inheritance will be kept in its original brightness and beauty. In view of this thought, the figures used in Scripture to describe heaven would roughly translate into these thoughts: the streets will lose none of their luster, the crown of life will not need elbow grease to polish it up, nor will the flowers on the banks of the river of life ever fade. Man has searched for the fountain of youth where all things are able to remain in their prime. This picture of our inheritance offers a perpetual fountain of youth.

Here is an inheritance appointed for us who are kept by one who cannot lie and can bestow all that he has promised. It is not available in this life. The people for whom this heavenly inheritance is reserved are described, not by name, but by character: “for you” or “for us.” It is for those who have been begotten again to a lively hope (1 Pet. 1:3) and have remained faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10). The inheritance is reserved for such as these. All others will be shut out forever (Matt. 25:10). This inheritance is reserved in heaven and is not to be expected on this earth (2 Pet. 3:10-13). Our inheritance is in heaven where Jesus has gone to prepare us a place (Jn. 14:1-3). He keeps it safe. Earthly inheritances may be lost by careless or unscrupulous guardians. Our inheritance is as sure as the God who offers it.

Having an eternal inheritance gives us perspective. Perspective is what helps us determine what is really important in life. This is illustrated, without the use of the word inheritance, in Hebrews 10:34, “For ye had compassion of me in my bonds, and took joyfully the spoiling of your goods, knowing in yourselves that ye have in heaven a better and an enduring substance.” This is what gives direction in our lives. This is our hope for when this life is completed.

Going to heaven is not the natural result of simply having lived. It involves a choice. When Jesus taught concerning the foolish virgins (Matt. 25:1-13), he was trying to impress upon our minds that everybody who anticipates going to heaven isn’t going to go there. The foolish virgins were not foolish because they were immoral, they were virgins. They were not foolish because they were in the wrong company, they were with the wise. They were foolish because they had a vain expectation of seeing the bridegroom. They had not been willing to prepare for him. They counted on others to have their preparation for them. Finally it was too late. They were on the outside looking in, as the door was shut. To go to heaven takes time, prayer, thought, planning, discipline and perseverance.

1 Peter 1:3-4 combines the beginning of our spiritual life with its consummation. Daily life lies between these two extremes. Living in a world that is often hostile to us, our hearts ought to be filled with longing for the inheritance set before us. What a weighty incentive to faithfulness is our eternal inheritance!

The “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,” is an appeal to the aspiring. Why seek earthly distinctions which must pass away, when within your reach is the unfading inheritance of God? This is stimulus to endure the combat of daily life. Why grow weary, why sink fainthearted in the strife, when there is stretched forth before and above you, the Divine and imperishable inheritance of heaven?

— Via Guardian of Truth XXXV: 20, pp. 611-612, October 17, 1991
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“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
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proverbs21_23

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“Keep Watch Over the Door of My Lips”

Greg Gwin

Our  words  have  powerful  potential  for  good  and  for evil  –  to  help  or  to  harm.   Knowing  this, we need to exercise great caution concerning the things we say.

Have  you ever been hurt – seriously  wounded – by the words of another?  Has  a brother or sister  spoken  something  that  seemed  to  cut  like  a  knife?   And  then,  when  you  responded,  they replied: “Well, that’s not what I meant.”  Or, “you took that in a way that was not intended.”

Okay,  we  accept  that  explanation  if  sincerely  offered,  but  we  would  warn  to  be  ever  more careful  with  your  words.   Even  when  not  intended,  words  carelessly  chosen  can  do  much damage.   And,  who  knows  how  often  we  might  have  said  things  that  unknowingly  hurt  another and they suffered silently, never mentioning how painful our words were to them.  Be careful!

Know that your words can cut like a sharp sword (Psalm 57:4).  Make sure that what you say will build up and not tear down (Ephesians 4:29).  By taking great precautions with our words we will keep ourselves out of trouble (Proverbs 21:23).  Let  us  pray  as  the  psalmist  did:  “Set  a  guard,  O  Lord,  over  my  mouth;  keep  watch  over  the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).  Think!

— Via bulletin articles from the Collegevue church of Christ, November 13, 2016
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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, living for the Lord; 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)
Tuesday: 7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 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) Marionettes, Robots, and the Human Being (Tom Edwards)
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puppet_robot_human

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Marionettes, Robots, and the Human Being

Tom Edwards

00100010 01001001 01101110 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100010 01100101 01100111 01101001 01101110 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01000111 01101111 01100100 00100000 01100011 01110010 01100101 01100001 01110100 01100101 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01101000 01100101 01100001 01110110 01100101 01101110 01110011 00100000 01100001 01101110 01100100 00100000 01110100 01101000 01100101 00100000 01100101 01100001 01110010 01110100 01101000 00100010 00100000 00101000 01000111 01100101 01101110 01100101 01110011 01101001 01110011 00100000 00110001 00111010 00110001 00101001 00101110

As I imagine you know, the previous paragraph is in the binary code, which a computer uses.  But what you might not know is that the above contains only 11 words, along with punctuation marks and numbers, which declare the following:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

Even though the binary code uses only two different digits, what are the odds of each one being the right one in its own place to write this simple, short sentence from Genesis 1:1, if each of those 568 digits had to be selected from a vast number of them and then put in the right places while blindfolded?  Would we not think of that as an impossibility?

Similarly, in thinking of the wooden marionette in the above picture, would I be able to convince you that given enough time — such as billions or trillions of years — that such a puppet could simply evolve on its own to form all the right parts with all the right shapes in all the right places, including the strings and the necessary bendable joints with their needful pins to allow movement?  I imagine you would think me to have no more mind than a marionette when it comes to even suggesting such a thought.

But why is that so seemingly impossible for a lifeless and mindless piece of wood to develop into a marionette without an intelligent source to design it, but not so in the thinking of many people today towards the existence of every different living creature, with its own brain and needful parts, that inhabits our planet on land or in water?

We, of course, are far more advanced than any simple, inanimate marionette, and regardless of how skillfully it has been made. For it exists without knowing, without experiencing, with no sense of being, as if it never was.

While we, on the other hand, have been designed with wondrous complexity of exactly what is needed – the many parts with their individualized and special functions which all work together to make one body.

And think, too, of not only the five senses we have been given of sight, hearing, smell, touch, and taste; but also of the senses of balance, of hunger, of thirst, of physical attraction, of motion, etc.  So much we can experience, and we have also been provided with a free will “to pull our own strings.”

But have you ever imagined yourself as being some type of advanced robot — or, more precisely, instead of being some kind of cybernetic organism, you were simply developed as just an organism with only biological parts and without any mechanical or man-made substance? Is that rather far-fetched?

When we think of all in which man has been able to invent, why should we think it so strange that there is a Superior Being much greater than man who also has the ability to have ideas and bring them to reality?  But unlike man, God can even give life to that which He makes!

Recently, I watched an interesting 60-Minutes documentary, hosted by Charlie Rose, that originally aired October 9, 2016, on the subject of Artificial Intelligence and focused on “Watson,” a super-computer built about 5 years ago, which actually, unlike other computers, has been reading and learning on its own and has even been used to diagnose cancer patients and suggest proper treatments.  Watson can read the equivalent of 1 million books in 1 second, which makes it easy for it to keep up with the 8,000 medical research papers that are published every day; and, therefore, able to base cases on the latest findings, rather than using that which might be a year or two old.  In 1,000 patient-cases, Watson suggested the same treatment for 99% of the patients as the physicians had.  But, in addition to that, it also suggested treatment, which the physicians had not known about, for 30% of the other patients, thus helping 300 more.  After spending a week in initially being taught to read medical literature, Watson then read 25 million papers in a following week, plus scanned the web for more clinical information.  Watson also reads medical charts and can spot abnormalities (http://www.cbsnews.com/news/60-minutes-artificial-intelligence-charlie-rose-robot-sophia/).

How helpful Watson can be!  But there are those with some reservations: Perhaps Watson will become too smart – and without caring for mankind.  He was still in just his “infancy” when winning on Jeopardy a few years ago and has advanced since then.

In some futuristic movies, robots, which of course, had to initially be made by man, had evolved into being able to build themselves.   Unfortunately, some of these ended up turning against man, viewed him as a threat, so sought to destroy all human kind.

I wonder where the sci-fi writers got an idea like that?

How many people today, who owe their very existence to God, are actually in rebellion toward Him, their Creator?  How many have closed their ears to His beckoning?  How many are running away from Him?  Ignoring Him?  How many of His prophets, who came to declare God’s message, were persecuted and killed for doing so? How many today try to destroy even the thought of God from the thinking of others, to strive to turn them away from Him, too?  And how can we ever forget what man had done to God’s Son, Jesus Christ (through whom we have been made – – John 1:1-3), whom they severely scourged and torturously put to death by nailing Him to a cross — thus killing their Creator!

Perhaps why it is easy to liken our body to some type of machine is because of all the intricate and interrelated parts that make our bodies what they are –- nerves, arteries, veins, all running where they need to go; heart, lungs, brain, stomach, kidneys, intestines, liver, etc., needful organs with their own special functions for our very existence; eyes, ears, mouth, nose, fingers, toes, hands, feet, legs, arms, skin, etc.  You truly are a marvel when you take the time to ponder these things!

Though it can be interesting to imagine ourselves as some type of advanced biological robot that has been given a mind that can be developed, still we find the most meaning of all in our existence when facing the reality of it and realizing that we are what we are because “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Gen. 1:27). So man is not an animal, nor a machine, nor just some meaningless entity; but, rather, a human being who has been given dominion over all that God has made on earth (v. 26).  And even more wondrous than our physical body is our eternal soul, for that is the part of us that has been created in God’s image.  For “God is Spirit…” (Jn. 4:24), but “…a spirit does not have flesh and bones…” (Luke 24:39).

Yes, we are each truly marvels when we take the time to really consider all that makes us what we are, as David did when he declared, “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” (Psalm 139:13,14).

And as we think of the contrast between us and a marionette, will there not be even more of a contrast between the earthly body of man and that which the redeemed will have in heaven?  For as Paul writes, “Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. ‘O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O  DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?’ The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:50-57).

In view of this wonderful change that is coming for the faithful child of God, let us take heed to what Paul goes on to say: “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord” (v. 57).

The apostle John also writes of this, by saying, “Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.  And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).

If a mindless puppet required someone with intelligence to make it, how much more should we realize the need for our Creator in making us what we are?

In creating man, God also provided us with a free will and the ability to develop intellectually, socially, and spiritually.  He made it possible that we can strive to fulfill our primary purpose for being here, which Solomon declares in Ecclesiastes 12:13: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: For this is the whole duty of man.”

Yes, God could have made various puppets and pulled their strings to do whatever He chose; but those puppets would never be able to show love to God, commune with Him in prayer, have spiritual fellowship with Him and enjoy and be thankful for His blessings.

But we, who have been created in God’s image, can.  By our faith and obedience to the Lord we can honor, submit to, worship, and love God, thus also enjoying and being grateful for the blessings He has made possible for us in His Son Jesus Christ! (cf. Jn. 14:21; Jn.15:10; 1 Jn. 5:3).

Though there are those who believe that humans have descended from a single-celled organism that had first come into being in some mud pond more than 3.6 billion years ago and went through many evolutionary changes, over long periods of time to become what we are today, that is not the account that our Creator gives in His Divinely Inspired word, the Bible.  And how much more comforting God’s truth is — to know that we are a part of His doing!  Our bodies, as well as our eternal souls, were made possible by Him!  And those who have been redeemed, through that wonderful atonement that Jesus made by His death on the cross of Calvary for every sinner (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18,19; Heb. 2:9; Rom. 5:6-10), will one day come to see what even greater things God can do for them in eternal glory, if they remain true and faithful to Him while here on earth.  For now Jesus rules over all, from the right hand of God (cf. Matt. 28:18); and to whom we willingly and gladly submit, as we await that great day when all the saved will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air and ever be with Him in glory (cf. 1 Thess. 4:13-18).  Oh, what a day to be ready for — a day of great change from the earthly to the heavenly, from the mortal to the immortal!  What great design God will have for us there!  For He is the Designer of that as well.  As we see in the Lord’s promise to His apostles: “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I GO TO PREPARE A PLACE FOR YOU.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Jn. 14:2,3, emphasis mine).

We often give recognition and praise where it is due.  Artists, sculptors, inventors, writers, musicians, etc., are often acclaimed for their great works.  Isn’t it sad that so many see the many wonders of creation, but know of no one to whom they can acknowledge as the Designer of it all to give praise and thanksgiving toward?  But just as seeing a marionette or a robot reminds us that someone made it, seeing the wonders of creation, should cause us all to do likewise, in realizing our need, as well as all other created things, for an Intelligent Designer.
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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, living for the Lord; 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) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 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) Who Are the “Captives” of Ephesians 4:8? (Tom Edwards)
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Who Are the “Captives” of Ephesians 4:8?

Tom Edwards

In the above passage, Paul states, “There it says, ‘WHEN HE ASCENDED ON HIGH, HE LED CAPTIVE A HOST OF CAPTIVES, AND HE GAVE GIFTS TO MEN.’”

But just who were these who were led captive?

Though some people view this as pertaining to those who had formerly been in bondage to Satan and sin, but were now set free by Christ, it appears to rather be speaking of not the redeemed, but of those who are the conquered enemies of the Lord.

So though it is true that Christ came to this world “to proclaim release to the captives” (Luke 4:18) — that release is for just those who will submit their lives to the Lord.  For if we do not, we will remain in bondage.

In the Bible in Basic English and the Contemporary English Version, these captives are referred to as “prisoners.”  And also in the Holman Christian Standard Bible, which words it as, “…He took prisoners into captivity….”

That certainly doesn’t sound like a deliverance in being set free; but, instead, an imprisonment.

The language, especially in the New International Version, is reminiscent of the long-ago custom by triumphant armies to victoriously return from the battle with a train of chained prisoners following behind them, and, thus, manifesting the enemies’ defeat and the victors’ triumph. The NIV uses this term “train” in our passage under consideration, by saying, “When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train….”

In the song of Deborah and Barak, it is said, “Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song! Arise, Barak, and take away your captives, O son of Ahinoam” (Judges 5:12, emphasis mine). As Adam Clarke writes, “the conqueror was placed in a very elevated chariot. … The conquered kings and generals were usually bound behind the chariot of the conqueror, to grace the triumph.” Tacitus writes of the capture of Caratacus as “an incident as glorious as the exhibition to the Roman people of Syphax by Publius Scipio, or Perseus by Lucius Paulus, of other manacled kings by other generals” (annals, XII, 38, emphasis mine).

Part of this ancient custom of the train of chained prisoners following their conquerors in procession is said to have also involved the giving of gifts, which was the plunder taken from the enemy and now distributed to the triumphant army and their people, after returning from the victory.

So the language pertaining to Christ in the above passage appears to be an allusion toward that ancient military custom. And the “booty” He gave are the gifts mentioned just three verses down, where Paul states, “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11,12).

How needful these “gifts” were to the early church to be led in the way of truth, while the gospel was still being revealed, part by part; and men, at that time, were seeing as if only “in a mirror dimly” (which was just polished metal in those days), since the completed New Testament, which would enable them to see clearly, as if “face to face,” was not yet all revealed (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-12 — “the perfect” is the gospel in its entirety).

And did not Jesus have to first conquer Satan, sin, and death before those “gifts” could truly be given? For though the apostles were apostles even prior to the Lord’s ascension, yet at that previous time they were lacking in knowledge and power. Therefore, Jesus said to them, with regard to the promise of the Holy Spirit, “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come” (John 16:12,13, NASB). This is why, following His resurrection and prior to His ascension, Jesus “commanded” His apostles “…not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised, ‘Which,’ He said, ‘you heard of from Me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now’” (Acts 1:4,5).

This is also why, in comforting the apostles about His soon departure, Jesus told them that “…It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you” (Jn. 16:7).

The “Helper” is the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:16-17,26; Jn. 15:26,27; 16:7-15), whom the apostles received on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2), ten days after the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:4,5, 9-11). So the Holy Spirit was that “power from on high” (Luke 24:49) that they were to receive in Jerusalem, in order to be effectual witnesses of Christ, empowered and led by the Holy Spirit and enabled to work miraculous signs to confirm the divinely inspired word of which they proclaimed (cf. Mark 16:20; Acts 4:9,10; 2 Cor. 12:12).

The very fact that the Holy Spirit was outpoured on the apostles in Jerusalem, and made evident by their speaking in tongues (Acts 2), is also an indication that Christ truly did ascend back to God’s right hand in the glories of heaven to fulfill that promise! For it was also at that time of His arrival that he received “dominion, glory, and a kingdom” (Dan. 7:13).

In Acts 1:9-11, the apostles saw the Lord ascend into a cloud that went toward heaven; but Daniel’s prophecy in Daniel 7:13,14 is from the perspective of heaven, and seeing Jesus COMING UP  “with the clouds of heaven…to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him” (NASB, emphasis mine).

Ephesians 4:8 is suggestive of Psalm 68:18, which is spoken of as being a triumphal psalm. Paul is using it to indicate the Lord’s triumph over sin, over death, and over all the dark forces of wickedness.

By his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, Jesus triumphed over all his enemies; and that is what Ephesians 4:8 is expressing with the phrase “he led captives in his train.” Corresponding with this, Colossians 2:15 states, “When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him.”

Though Christ had come to “preach the gospel to the poor…” and “to proclaim release to the captives,” the “captives” of Ephesians 4:8 are not the redeemed. Rather, they are the enemies of the Lord whom He has taken “captive” and made “prisoners” out of. Vincent Word Studies refers to these “prisoners” as being “Satan, Sin, and Death.”

Destroying the works of the devil was one of the reasons why Jesus came to earth.  As John writes, “the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8, NASB). To accomplish this, the Lord had to become flesh so that He could be put to death and, thus, make an atonement by that death for every sinner. The Hebrew writer states, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).

Christ was not made lower in rank, but simply lower in form by taking on a human body in place of his heavenly one. But, again, this was not only so that He could make that atoning sacrifice on our behalf, but also so that He could take away the power of Satan. As the writer goes on to say, “Therefore since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (vv. 14,15). As Paul also writes, “having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them through Him” (Col. 2:14,15).

So Jesus had “disarmed” these “rulers and authorities.” In some versions, they are referred to as “the principalities and the powers” (ASV) and “all powers and forces” (CEV). To “destroy the works of the devil,” Jesus had to bind Satan; and that was truly accomplished. As the old preacher used to say, “Satan now has no more power over you than what you give him.” The Bible tells us, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lusts” (James 1:14); and James goes on to show the remedy in James 4:7: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

In Mark 3:27, Jesus says, “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.” The Lord said this after being wrongfully accused of being possessed by Beelzebub and casting out demons by the ruler of the demons. Jesus then declared, “How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. … If Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but he is finished!” (vv. 23-26).  But it was the Lord who out-powered the “strong man” (Satan) and brought him down, making him powerless.

The phrase, “led captive” (Eph. 4:8) is from just one Greek word (“aichmaloteuo”), which, according to Robertson Word Pictures, means “captive in war.”

The phrase “a host of captives” (in the same verse) is also from just one Greek word (“aichmalosia”) and is used in just one other place in the Bible: “If anyone is destined to captivity, to captivity he goes…” (Rev. 13:10).

Jesus truly did ascend to glory, as we just saw in the prophecy of Daniel 7:13,14, and where He was also made “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).  His dominion is over all (Matt. 28:18). Paul declares, “which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:20-23).

Jesus triumphed over Satan, over sin, and over death. By His conquering of these, and, in a manner of speaking, leading them away as His captives, we can now have the victory of Christ’s accomplishment, so that we are no longer under the power of evil, when we submit to God’s plan of salvation and strive to live faithfully, in fellowship with the Lord. For as Paul declares: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

Jesus fully obeyed His Father and triumphed over all evil; and because of that, we can now also have the victory in Him if we truly do hear His word and follow (cf. John 10:27-29)!
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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, living for the Lord; 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 Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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