Year: 2017 (Page 2 of 6)

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) Barnabas (Tom Edwards)
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Gal2_9

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Barnabas

Tom Edwards

His name is actually Joseph when first mentioned in the Bible, but he was given the name “Barnabas” by the apostles because names often had descriptive meanings that matched the one so named.  And for Joseph, they selected a name that well described him.  For the name “Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36, NASB), “Son of exhortation” (ASV), and “Son of Comfort” (YLT).

It is also in that context that we are made aware of his generous nature. For he “owned a tract of land, sold it and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:37). The previous verses show why he did this: “And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.  And with great power the apostles were giving testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and abundant grace was upon them all.  For there was not a needy person among them, for all who were owners of land or houses would sell them and bring the proceeds of the sales and lay them at the apostles’ feet, and they would be distributed to each as any had need” (vv. 32-35).

Many Jews, “from every nation under heaven,” had been in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:5).  For during the Mosaical Period, which lasted about 1,500 years, God’s word had instructed all Jewish males to observe Pentecost in the place where He would make His name to dwell – and for most of that period, it was in Jerusalem (Exod. 23:14-19).  It had only been less than two months prior when Jesus had “nailed” that Old Law “to the cross” (Col. 2:14); but Pentecost was still being observed.

Little, however, did many of these visiting Jews know, prior to that day, that they would end up staying longer in Jerusalem than they had originally planned.  For on that day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit had fallen upon the apostles (Acts 2:1-4); and they began declaring, in languages they did not know, “of the mighty deeds of God” (v. 11) and preached of Jesus Christ (vv. 21-39).  As a result, 3,000 souls responded to the gospel message and became Christians (vv. 36-41).  Soon thereafter, others were converted so that “the number of men came to be about five thousand” (Acts 4:4) – and it did not stop there.  For “all the more believers in the Lord, multitudes of men and women, were constantly added to their number” (Acts 5:14); “…and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many priests were becoming obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7).

Due to all these conversions, there were probably many recent converts that prolonged their stay in Jerusalem in order to learn more of the gospel message before making their long journeys home.  As a result, the funds of some would become depleted from this long extended stay that they had not initially planned for.

Nowhere, however, does the Bible say that the brethren were to sell their property and houses to help the needy; but this was what some were choosing to do.  As Peter had said to Ananias in Acts 5:4, concerning his property and what he sold it for, “While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own?  And after it was sold, was it not under your control?”  In other words, God had not commanded that His people were to live in a communal society in which all things were common and mutually shared without anyone having any private ownership of anything.  The apostle Peter shows that Ananias’ property had been his own and of which he had the right to do with as he pleased.  So in most cases, one who would sell property or houses to help another was showing a great act of love, such as Barnabas who truly was a “Son of Comfort” to others.

In thinking of Barnabas as being that “Son of Encouragement,” perhaps you are reminded of the time when he put that good word in for the apostle Paul.  For when Paul had come to Jerusalem for the first time as a Christian, “…he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple” (Acts 9:26).  And why would they have such trouble in receiving Paul?  Why were they afraid of him?  Apparently, they knew how he had been an intense persecutor toward Christians – and they had doubts about his conversion.  For he was one who had been “ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women” whom “he would put…in prison” (Acts 8:3).  After having been “in hearty agreement with putting him [Stephen] to death” (Acts 8:1), Paul continued “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord” (Acts 9:1).  He had acknowledged after his conversion that, prior, “I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons” (Acts 22:4). He also testified elsewhere, saying, “…not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them.  And as I punished them often in all the synagogues, I tried to force them to blaspheme; and being furiously enraged at them, I kept pursuing them to even foreign cities” (Acts 26:10-11).  Is there any wonder why those Christians initially had trouble in receiving Paul?  Were they thinking it might be just a scheme he had going to entrap them?  Was he waiting for more of their number to show up?

We, of course, know that Paul was genuinely converted and became a great servant of the Lord.  We have the benefit of looking back over wonderful portions of his life to see of his dedication to God and willingness to continue in serving Him regardless of the persecutions and other difficulties that it had led to.  But the Christians in Jerusalem, in their first meeting of Paul, could only think of how he had been – and “they were all afraid of him.”

But who was it who helped allay their fears?  Who was it who put a good word in for the apostle Paul to verify that he had been genuinely converted?  Who had those encouraging words for the brethren that led to their acceptance of Paul as one of their own?  It was that “Son of Encouragement” — Barnabas.  As Acts 9:27 goes on to say, “But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that he had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus.”  After they heard this, Paul was then able to be “with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem” (v. 28).  And while he was there, he was “speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord” (v. 28).  But when the brethren learned that some Hellenistic Jews “were attempting to put him to death” (v. 29), “the brethren…brought him down to Caesarea and sent him away to Tarsus” (v. 30).  So now they were truly concerned for Paul, as one of their own; and it was Barnabas who helped toward their doing so, which also exemplifies another meaning of his name — and that is, “conciliatory” (Thayer on the word “Encouragement” in Acts 4:36).

In regard to Barnabas’ name also meaning “Son of exhortation,” consider what he and Paul were doing in their preaching in various cities.  They were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22).  Or as the KJV translates that one part: they were “exhorting them to continue in the faith” (emphasis mine).  So, again, Barnabas was living up to his name!

Barnabas was “a Levite of Cyprian birth” (Acts 4:36).  So he was from the island of Cyprus, which is the third largest in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea.   It is approximately 150 miles long and 50 to 60 miles wide at its farthest points, with its two main cities of Salamis on the east side and Paphos on the western edge.

Salamis was Paul’s first stop on his first missionary journey after boarding a vessel in Seleucia, and Barnabas was the one who had accompanied him (Acts 13:4-5).  In the Old Testament, Cyprus is sometimes referred as “Kittim” or Chittim.”  Notice, too, whose idea it was for them to go together on this: “…the Holy Spirit said, ‘Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them’” (v. 2).

John Mark had also started out with Paul and Barnabas on that first missionary journey, but “had deserted them in Pamphylia” (Acts 15:38), which would have been after they had left the island of Cyprus, having set sail at Paphos (Acts 13:13).

Some time after completing that first missionary journey, Paul wanted Barnabas to return with him to all the cities they had proclaimed God’s word to on that first trip.  But since Barnabas wanted to take along with him his cousin John Mark (Col. 4:10), it led to a “sharp disagreement” and the splitting up of Paul and Barnabas.  So Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus, while Paul took Silas and headed overland through Syria and Cilicia (Acts 15:36-41).

Even prior to that first missionary journey, there had been some Christians on the island of Cyprus.  For some had gone there during the persecution in connection with Stephen and preached to the Jews alone. But some of them who were of Cyprus and Cyrene came to Antioch and preached Jesus to the Greeks also; and a large number became Christians (Acts 11:19-21).  When the church in Jerusalem heard about that, they sent Barnabas to Antioch (v. 22).  And what did he do there? When “he arrived and witnessed the grace of God, he rejoiced and began to encourage them all with resolute heart to remain true to the Lord” (v. 23). The KJV uses the term “exhorted” instead of “encourage,” so here again we see that matching up with the meaning of his name.  And notice, too, what else we learn about Barnabas in this passage: “for he was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.  And considerable numbers were brought to the Lord” (v. 24).  What a great worker Barnabas must have been for Jesus!

Barnabas then went in search of Paul at Tarsus (v. 25); and after finding him, brought him to Antioch where they met with the church for an entire year “and taught considerable numbers” (v. 26).  It was also from Antioch that Barnabas went with Paul in taking the contribution to the needy saints in Jerusalem, which they gave to the elders there (v. 30); and where they also returned again sometime later when dealing with the matter of those who were wrongfully teaching the need for circumcision and keeping the Law of Moses (Acts 15:5,36). Some from Judea had first come to Antioch of Syria about this matter; “And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue” (vv. 1-2).  So they did so.  There also had been “much debate” there in Jerusalem (v. 7).  But the account then goes on to say, “All the people kept silent, and they were listening to Barnabas and Paul as they were relating what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles” (v. 12).  We can also see in this another meaning of the name “Barnabas” that he was living up to — and that is, “persuasive discourse” (Thayer).  For after hearing him and the others, the Jerusalem brethren were in total agreement and determined to carry out the right course of action.

Barnabas is listed among the gifted prophets and teachers of Acts 13:1.  He was a great worker in declaring God’s message.

When going on that first missionary journey with Paul, Barnabas and he went to these following places that are mentioned in connection with their preaching: Salamis and Paphos (on the island of Cyprus);  Antioch of Pisidia; Iconium; Lystra and Derbe (the cities of Lycaonia), and the surrounding area (cf. Acts 13:4-14:20). On their return, they again went to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch of Pisidia, “strengthening the souls of the disciples” (Acts 14:21-22).  They also preached the word in Perga on their way back to Antioch of Syria (v. 25).

It was in Lystra, where after healing a man who had been lame from birth, the crowds cried out, “…’The gods have become like men and have come down to us.’  And they began calling Barnabas Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker” (Acts 14:11-12).  The priest of Zeus had also come with sacrifices to offer with the crowds (v. 13), but this all led to Barnabas and Paul tearing their robes and saying to the crowds, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, WHO MADE THE HEAVEN AND THE EARTH AND THE SEA AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM” (vv. 14-15).

Though a good follower of Jesus Christ, Barnabas, like all of us, was not perfect.  Though it did not typify his life, we do find him falling into the same temporary hypocrisy that Peter had been leading others into.  For Paul says when Peter came to Antioch, “I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.  For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision.  The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy” (Gal. 2:11-13).

Mentioning in the Bible the faults of some of its great followers of God has been cited as another indication of its inspiration.  For the Bible doesn’t whitewash these individuals to make them look perfect: Noah got drunk (Gen. 9:21), Moses’ treated God as unholy by striking the rock and was not allowed to enter the Promised Land as a result (Num. 20:7-12), David committed adultery and deceitfully schemed the death of Bathsheba’s husband Uriah (2 Kings 11:2-15), Peter had also denied the Lord 3 times (Matt. 26:69-75).  But these wrongful acts are not what exemplified or summed up the lives of these men. And how soon Barnabas probably also turned from his momentary hypocrisy after hearing the rebuke of the apostle Paul to Peter, which was made before all who were present (cf. Gal. 2:14).

We can be thankful for God’s conditions of pardon that when met can bring His grace, mercy, and forgiveness.  And from what we read of Barnabas, he surely must have been one who would have immediately turned to the Lord, after having fallen — that he might arise and continue in his service to God.

We are not told in the Bible of where and when Barnabas passed away; but according to tradition, he was martyred in A.D. 61 at Salamis on the island of Cyprus of which he was from. Though it cannot be said with the assurance of the Bible, the Acts of Barnabas (which is an apocryphal writing that claims John Mark, Barnabas’ cousin, as its author) speaks of Barnabas being put to death at Salamis by a mob of Jews who had been roused by a person called Barjesus.

(All verses are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated.)
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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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) Not Realizing the Value (Tom Edwards)
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Not Realizing the Value

Tom Edwards

The story has been told about a poor, starving man in tattered clothes who entered a music shop in London on an extremely cold winter’s day.  With him was an old violin and the hopes of selling it in order to buy some food.

In hearing of the man’s urgent need, the store owner offered him a guinea for the instrument, which was the equivalent of about $5 back around 1820 when this story takes place.  With much thankfulness the shabby man accepted the offer and made his way back out into the chilly night.

Mr. Betts, the store owner, had bought this violin without even trying it out first or closely examining it.  But he then did so, after the seller had left.  And how overwhelmed the buyer now was when hearing not only the rich, mellow tones that the violin could produce, but also after lighting a candle to see the writing within the instrument, which said, “Antonio Stradivari 1704”!  It was that famous Stradivarius that had been missing for a hundred years and earnestly sought after throughout Europe.

This particular violin has been owned by different people down through the years and is still also given the name of “the Betts,” due to the story behind it. It has been referred to as “one of the four or five greatest violins in existence today” and is part of the Cremonese Collection in the Music Division of the U.S. Library of Congress, thanks to Mrs. Gertrude Clarke Whittall who had purchased five of Stradivari’s instruments in 1934 and 1935, including the “Betts.”  In addition, she also contributed the funding for the building of the pavilion wherein they are now kept and displayed.  It was completed in 1939.

Some of Stradivari’s instruments today are said to be valued at millions of dollars – which certainly would include the “Betts”!

So that poor, starving man who had entered that music shop, almost 200 years ago, did not realize the wealth he actually had in his possession.  And perhaps he never did find out the great worth of what he had parted with.  From our perspective, it was unfortunate he did not realize.  For though he was paid, how temporal that was – and especially compared to what he could have had (if he only knew).

Did he soon return to a destitute state after that money was gone?  And, if so, did he remain that way a long time?  For to live on the equivalent of $5 in 1820 would be like someone having only about $96 to live on in 2016.  That would not last too long, would it?

Even more unfortunate, however, than that lack of knowledge the poor man had about his violin, is when individuals do not see the great value in having Jesus Christ and God’s forgiveness in their lives.  For what could be more needful for our souls than that?

But what do so many “sell” their souls for? Only for that which is ever so brief when compared with eternity – yet can keep one out of heaven forevermore if God’s way of pardon is rejected — and Jesus wants us to realize this.  He, therefore, declares in Matthew 16:26, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”  That is certainly something worth remembering — the great value in having our souls right with God!  It should mean more to us than anything else!  And though some might think that sounds selfish, it is actually the exact opposite.  For to be right with God also involves unselfishly treating others the right way, out of a love and concern for them, as the Bible teaches!

This particular Scripture must have been in the mind of A.J. Hodge when he wrote in 1923 the following hymn, entitled, “Have You Counted the Cost?”  Here are its first two stanzas and chorus:

“There’s a line that is drawn by rejecting our Lord,
Where the call of His Spirit is lost,
And you hurry along with the pleasure-mad throng,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“You may barter your hope of eternity’s morn,
For a moment of joy at the most,
For the glitter of sin and the things it will win,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?

“Have you counted the cost, if your soul should be lost?
Tho’ you gain the whole world for your own?
Even now it may be that the line you have crossed,
Have you counted, have you counted the cost?”

In counting the cost, one should give serious thought to what really is going to be of greatest value in the long run.  And will it be worth striving for and paying whatever price is necessary to obtain it?  Will it be the way of sin?  Or the way of following after Christ?  And which way will ultimately lead to the best destination?  Perhaps when thinking of these things the choice will become easier to make.  And the Lord does want every accountable person to give earnest thought to it and to make the right choice, just as He did toward the people of Isaiah’s time, when saying,

“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD,
‘Though your sins are as scarlet,
They will be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They will be like wool.

“If you consent and obey,
You will eat the best of the land;
But if you refuse and rebel,
You will be devoured by the sword.’
Truly, the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isa. 1:18-20).

The allurement of sin, along with the pleasure some wrongdoing can bring, has kept many in its hold and also continues to lay its snare for others as well.  But let us be encouraged by people like Moses who “when he had grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to endure ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, considering the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt; for he was looking to the reward.  By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen” (Heb. 11:24-27).

Moses had the right perspective.  His focus was on God. For He was of much greater value to Moses than what this world had to offer — and even worth suffering for!  Would not the world be a better place if more were like him in having that same dedication to the Lord?

Notice, too, how sin is referred to in that passage as “passing pleasures,” or the “fleeting pleasures” (ESV), the “short-lived pleasures” (WNT), the “temporary pleasures (Darby), or “the pleasures of sin for a short time” (NIV, ISV).  For regardless of how long we could recklessly indulge in iniquity, it would always be a brief time compared to eternity.  And this “world,” as John writes, “is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17).

Folks sometimes don’t realize the great value of things that are available to them.  It really sounds ironic, but hear what the Lord said to some of those whom He addressed while on earth: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39, 40).  How blind they were!  That true life was right there in front of them, but they rejected Him — the One who was and is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6).  So Jesus is not just “a way,” but “the way” — that is, the ONLY way.  For He goes on to say in the same verse that “no one comes to the Father but through Me.”  In speaking to the rulers and elders of the people, Peter declared of Jesus that “He is the STONE WHICH WAS REJECTED by you, THE BUILDERS, but WHICH BECAME THE CHIEF CORNER stone.  And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:11,12).

Think of all the people who came into contact with Jesus and never realized that He was God in human flesh (cf. Jn. 1:1-3,10-11,14).  That, by far, is the worst thing one could be ignorant of.  For as Jesus declares, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24).

God’s word itself  is a treasure worth more than silver and gold!  Cf. Psa. 119: 72,127; Psa. 19:7-11.  And to ignore the word of the Lord is to “neglect so great a salvation,” which leaves the person in a situation of no escape from the penalty of God’s wrath upon the transgressor (cf. Heb. 2:1-3).

Let us, therefore, never forget the great value we have in Jesus Christ and His word — in having sins forgiven and being in a spiritual relationship with God.  For to forfeit our soul, as Jesus speaks of in Matthew 16:26, is to also lose out on these needful blessings of the Lord and of the eternal life in heaven that He would want all to have (cf. 2 Pet. 3:9). That’s why there is such tremendous worth in entrusting our souls to our Creator through our faith and obedience to His word – and may we never forget the supreme value of that!  For even though we might not have much money in the bank, there is no amount that can even come close to the great value of all we have and will have for all eternity, as God’s children, because of our Lord Jesus Christ!

(All Scripture from the NASB unless otherwise indicated).
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) Example and Influence (Tom Edwards)
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Example and Influence

Tom Edwards

Whether for good or bad, everyone is an example!  Even when not trying or realizing it, our influence can affect those around us in one way or another.  For none of us are invisible, and the way we communicate and act can have an impact on others.

But though someone once said, “No man is completely worthless. He can always serve as a horrible example,” I don’t think that many would want to be of that classification — but, rather, of a much better one!

In the Bible we read of a daughter-in-law named Ruth who, apparently, had been greatly influenced by Naomi, her mother-in-law.  Even after the death of Naomi’s husband and her two sons, Ruth felt compelled to remain with her – and even though Naomi had strongly advised her two widowed daughters-in-law to return to their own people in the land of Moab, while she would then head back to the land of Judah, since its famine was over.  But Ruth, who would not depart from her, declared, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge.  Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me” (Ruth 1:16-17).  Surely, Naomi’s good example and influence had much to do with Ruth’s feelings toward her –- and even toward Naomi’s people and toward her God!

Setting forth the right example can be motivational.  It is said that when Benjamin Franklin wanted to see his city of Philadelphia start using street lighting, he did not merely talk about it.  Rather, he placed a beautiful lantern on a long bracket in front of his own door.  He kept the lantern polished and its glass clean, and every evening he lit its wick.  Soon, his neighbors were doing the same; and not long after that the entire city took enthusiastic notice of its benefit.  Today, Franklin is regarded as the one who introduced street lighting to the entire U.S.

Examples can be helpful – and Jesus often used them.  He spoke of people (Noah, Abraham, Lot’s wife, Moses, David, etc.); of places (Sodom and Gomorrah, Chorazin and Bethsaida, Capernaum and Jerusalem, etc.); and of things (the temple, the sparrow, the seed, the lily, etc.).  Are not the parables of the Lord also examples? They compare one thing to another – an earthly thing to a spiritual principle.

The Scriptures have much to say about examples – and sometimes refers to them as “ensamples” and “patterns.”  The Bible gives examples of not only those who lived righteously, but also of those who lived to the contrary, that we may learn how and how not God wants us to be.

Hebrews 4:11, for instance, says, “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall through following the same example of disobedience.”  Some of these examples of disobedience can be seen in 1 Corinthians 10: “Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, ‘THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.’ Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (vv. 6-11).

These examples go back to the period of the Exodus and the early Wilderness Wanderings.  But we can still learn lessons from them of what we should not do in our time.  For we should not “crave evil things,” “be idolaters,” “act immorally,” “try the Lord” (in the sense of testing and exhausting His patience), and “grumble.”

The Lord wants us to consider these examples of the past and others as well: “As an example, brethren, of suffering and patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful” (James 5:10,11).  And the greatest example of all is that of our Savior, Jesus Christ (cf.  1 Pet. 2:21).

The Bible is silent when it comes to most of the years that Jesus was on earth, prior to his three-year mission.  But one thing we do know – He was always obediently pleasing His Father!  For when God said of Jesus at His baptism, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt. 3:17), God did not say this because of His Son’s triumph in the wilderness over Satan — for that was still to come!  Nor did He have reference to Jesus’ determination in Gethsemane or His supreme sacrifice at Calvary – for they were also future events!  But this must have been said with regard to Jesus’ earlier days on earth, while growing up.  Luke sums up that rather silent period of the Lord’s life by simply stating that “Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

We know that during some — and probably many — of Christ’s silent years He had worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3).  For that was what His earthly father Joseph had been (Matt. 13:55); and it was common for the Jewish father to teach his son the same trade.  For to grow up not having been taught a trade was actually a shameful thing.  So Jesus was a good example in this aspect of his life as well.

As we think more of the kind of influence we might have on others, I imagine you’ll easily understand why this following poem by C.C. Miller is entitled “The Echo”:

‘Twas a sheep, not a lamb, that strayed away,
In the parable Jesus told;
A grown-up sheep that had gone astray
From the ninety and nine in the fold.

Out on the hillside, out in the cold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd sought,
And back to the flock, safe to the fold,
‘Twas a sheep the Good Shepherd brought.

And why for the sheep should we earnestly long,
And as earnestly hope and pray?
Because there is danger, if they go wrong,
They will lead the lambs astray.

For the lambs will follow the sheep, you know,
Wherever the sheep may stray;
When the sheep go wrong, it will not be long
‘Till the lambs are as wrong as they.

And so with the sheep we earnestly plead,
For the sake of the lambs, today;
If the sheep are lost, what a terrible cost
Some lambs will have to pay!

Note some of the things in which Paul specified to Timothy to be a good example in: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).

To some, our heart has been viewed as a pulpit. Our life is the message. The world is our audience, and every day we are giving a sermon to it.

What does the world see in our lives?  If we are the pattern to them of what other Christians are like, are we giving them the correct impression?  Do they see us standing for the right things?  Does our lives bring honor or reproach upon the church of our Lord and His worthy name?

May it be our desire to always set the proper example for others around us.  For as the song tells us in the lyrics written by Annie Johnson Flint, “We are the only Bible the careless world will read.  We are the sinner’s gospel; we are the scoffer’s creed; we are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word, What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?”

Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, in which he instructs them about many of their spiritual problems, apparently, helped them change for the better.  Notice, for instance, what he later wrote to them: “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men; being manifested that you are a letter of Christ, cared for by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts” (2 Cor. 3:2-3).

May we always be the right example for the cause of Christ and for the good of others — and may that kind of influence be contagious toward all!

(All Scriptures from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) How Vivid were Visions from God? (Tom Edwards)
——————–

Ezekiel 11_24

-1-

How Vivid were Visions from God?

Tom Edwards

Have you ever wondered how clear and lifelike visions from God must have been? It was one of the “many ways” (Heb. 1:1) in which the Lord spoke to the prophets in time’s past.

The term itself is first seen in Genesis 15:1, in which the account declares that “…the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision…”  It is also seen with regard to Jacob (Gen. 46:2), Nathan the prophet (2 Sam. 7:17), Iddo the seer (2 Chron. 9:29), Isaiah (Isa. 1:1), Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:1), Daniel (Dan. 2:19), Amos (Amos 1:1), Obadiah (Obad. 1:1), Nahum (Nah. 1:1), Habakkuk (Hab. 2:2), Ananias (Acts 9:10), Paul (Acts 9:12), Cornelius (Acts 10:3), Peter (Acts 10:17), and the apostle John (Rev. 9:17).  All of these received visions from God, and how many more there must have also been!  For the Lord had “spoken to the prophets” and “gave numerous visions” (Hos. 12:10).

Consider Samuel’s experience with visions when still a boy (1 Sam. 3:1-15).  During one night, God had called him three times by name; but Samuel thought it was Eli calling instead.  The voice was that  real!  On the fourth time, Samuel then responded, for Eli had told him to do so; and the Lord, who “came and stood and called as at other times…” (v. 10), then spoke His message to young Samuel, which is all referred to as a “vision” (v. 15).

The book of Isaiah begins by saying, “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning Judah and Jerusalem, which he saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isa. 1:1). Later in the book, Isaiah declares that “A harsh vision has been shown to me…” (Isa. 21:2).

Ezekiel, while in Babylonian captivity, mentions in the first verse of his book that while he was “by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” Some of the visions Ezekiel received were most strange in appearance, outlandish: “As I looked, behold, a storm wind was coming from the north, a great cloud with fire flashing forth continually and a bright light around it, and in its midst something like glowing metal in the midst of the fire.  Within it there were figures resembling four living beings. And this was their appearance: they had human form. Each of them had four faces and four wings. Their legs were straight and their feet were like a calf’s hoof, and they gleamed like burnished bronze. Under their wings on their four sides were human hands. As for the faces and wings of the four of them, their wings touched one another; their faces did not turn when they moved, each went straight forward. As for the form of their faces, each had the face of a man; all four had the face of a lion on the right and the face of a bull on the left, and all four had the face of an eagle” (Ezek. 1:4-10).  He then goes on throughout the rest of the chapter to vividly describe more of what he saw in this vision. But notice especially the last three verses: “Now above the expanse that was over their heads there was something resembling a throne, like lapis lazuli in appearance; and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man. Then I noticed from the appearance of His loins and upward something like glowing metal that looked like fire all around within it, and from the appearance of His loins and downward I saw something like fire; and there was a radiance around him. As the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking” (vv. 26-28).

Not only did Ezekiel hear and see visions from God, but he was also “transported” by them. He writes: “….as I was sitting in my house with the elders of Judah sitting before me, that the hand of the Lord God fell on me there. Then I looked, and behold, a likeness as the appearance of a man; from His loins and downward there was the appearance of fire, and from His loins and upward the appearance of brightness, like the appearance of glowing metal. He stretched out the form of a hand and caught me by a lock of my head; and the Spirit lifted me up between earth and heaven and brought me in the visions of God to Jerusalem, to the entrance of the north gate of the inner court, where the seat of the idol of jealousy, which provokes to jealousy, was located.  And behold, the glory of the God of Israel was there, like the appearance which I saw in the plain.  Then He said to me, ‘Son of man, raise your eyes now toward the north.’ So I raised my eyes toward the north, and behold, to the north of the altar gate was this idol of jealousy at the entrance. And He said to me, ‘Son of man, do you see what they are doing, the great abominations which the house of Israel are committing here, so that I would be far from My sanctuary? But yet you will see still greater abominations” (Ezek. 8:1-6).

Ezekiel had been in Babylonian captivity.  Babylon was about 500 miles straight across from Jerusalem.  Of course, travelers would follow the Fertile Crescent NW, arching over at the top, and coming down south into the land of Israel for about a 900-mile journey, instead of going straight across the desert.  But Ezekiel was transported in a vision by God, so physical distances are irrelevant.

Notice, too, that not only did Ezekiel see visions, hear God, and be “transported,” but he also could touch, feel, and interact with what he saw in the vision!  For look what he goes on to say: “Then He brought me to the entrance of the court, and when I looked, behold, a hole in the wall. He said to me, ‘Son of man, now dig through the wall.’ So I dug through the wall, and behold, an entrance.  And He said to me, ‘Go in and see the wicked abominations that they are committing here.’  So I entered and looked, and behold, every form of creeping things and beasts and detestable things, with all the idols of the house of Israel, were carved on the wall all around.  Standing in front of them were seventy elders of the house of Israel… each man with his censer in his hand and the fragrance of the cloud of incense rising” (vv. 7-11).  So much imagery!  And all of which he could see, touch, feel, hear, smell, interact with, and experience!  These visions were way beyond mere vague notions or foggy impressions!  And since Ezekiel could move around in them and interact, these visions must have been at least three dimensional!   How real they were!

Ezekiel then relates other things God declared and revealed to him by a vision. Following that, the prophet then writes of his “return” to Babylon: “And the Spirit lifted me up and brought me in a vision by the Spirit of God to the exiles in Chaldea.  So the vision that I had seen left me. Then I told the exiles all the things that the LORD had shown me” (Ezek. 11:24-25).

How real that vision was!  But would Ezekiel have had any less trouble in explaining exactly how all that was happening to him than the apostle Paul when saying, “…but I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago – whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows – such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man — whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows – was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses” (2 Cor. 12:1-5).  Paul is speaking in the third person about himself in this passage. He knows this miraculous event happened to him, but he can’t fully explain the process of how it took place.  For he knew not whether he had actually left his own body or remained in it when he was caught up to that heavenly realm.  But how vivid and beautifully real it must have all been to him — and even though it is referred to as “visions and revelations of the Lord” (2 Cor. 12:1)!

Like Ezekiel, the apostle John was also given some very unusual visions by God for the Revelation letter, which are highly figurative and symbolic to the reader (cf. Rev. 9:17-21).

But now consider even more of just how real in appearance these visions must have been to those receiving them.  In Acts 12, “Peter was kept in prison, but prayer for him was being made fervently by the church to God” (v. 5).  “Peter was sleeping between two soldiers, bound with two chains, and guards in front of the door were watching over the prison. And behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter’s side and woke him up, saying, ‘Get up quickly.’ And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, ‘Gird yourself and put on your sandals.’ And he did so. And he said to him, ‘Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.’ And he went out and continued to follow, and HE DID NOT KNOW THAT WHAT WAS BEING DONE BY THE ANGEL WAS REAL, BUT THOUGHT HE WAS SEEING A VISION” (vv. 6-9, emphasis mine).

Peter knew about visions.  He had received one prior when on the rooftop of Simon the tanner’s in Joppa.  In that vision, Peter “saw the sky opened up, and an object like a great sheet coming down, lowered by four corners to the ground, and there were in it all kinds of four-footed animals and crawling creatures of the earth and birds of the air. A voice came to him, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat!’  But Peter said, ‘By no means, Lord, for I have never eaten anything unholy and unclean.’  Again a voice came to him a second time, ‘What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy.’ This happened three times, and immediately the object was taken up into the sky” (vv. 11-16).  This is referred to as a “vision” (Acts 10:19; 11:5).  So, yes, Peter was well aware of how real a vision could appear.

But now Peter was seeing an actual event, which wasn’t a vision, when an angel of the Lord had come to him in prison (whom he had seen), had struck him on his side to awaken him (which he had felt), with the chains now falling from his hands miraculously (which he could also see and feel), and his obeying the angel’s instructions to gird himself, to put on his sandals and a cloak, and to follow the angel (which he could see and experience himself doing).  Peter was involved in all that.  It was all really happening — but Peter thought it was just a vision! Doesn’t that indicate how real visions from God must have been?!  They were certainly not just a hazy awareness, or some type of foggy image that cannot be clearly seen. For in that jail, Peter was seeing reality; but it was so far from a normal event that it seemed to him like a vision!  So the vision he had seen at Simon the tanner’s must have been vividly real with lifelikeness — like seeing reality!  And would not the same be also so for the many others — from Abram on down — who had also received visions from God?  How amazingly real and clear it must have been for them!

(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) “Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!” (Tom Edwards)
——————–

Mark9_24

-1-

“Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!”

Tom Edwards

The account from which our title is taken is also seen in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43; but only Mark, who brings out more concerning it in Mark 9:14-29, includes the above statement (v. 24).

Imagine, if you would, being the parent of just one son, but who was severely afflicted with illness. Matthew refers to him as “a lunatic” that was “very ill” and “often falls into the fire and often into the water” (Matt. 17:15). Luke shows that this was brought on by “a spirit,” which “seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves” (Luke 9:39). Mark’s account includes that the boy was “possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out” (Mark 9:17-18). Ever since childhood, this is what the boy had continually been experiencing (v. 21). How concerned you would probably be if he were your son.

The boy’s father then said to Jesus, “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v. 22).

Jesus responded, “’If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23).

After hearing this, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (v. 24, NKJV).

This man appears to have been humble, honest, sincere, and truly seeking the Lord’s help.

Would not his request to the Lord also make a good prayer for every believer today? “Lord, I believe; but help me in those areas where my faith is lacking – or is not at all.” For Paul also prayed for the Thessalonians “night and day…most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:10).  Do we not all have a need to increase in faith — to improve in those areas in which we are lacking?

Faith, like the various good virtues that make up the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), can be at different levels. For Jesus spoke of some who had “little faith” (Matt. 6:30), and of those whose faith was “great” (Matt. 8:10; Matt. 15:28). So faith can also be anywhere in between. We, therefore, need to strive to make our faith greater.

This was also a concern for the apostles. They asked the Lord to “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5), and how did the Lord answer them? He first told them, “If you had faith like a mustard seed [which is one of the smallest of seeds], you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you” (v. 6). But that was not yet the answer to their question. So look what the Lord then goes on to say: “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (vv. 7-10). So what do we infer from this as to the answer of their question concerning how to increase their faith? First of all, do we not see that an increase of faith is not something that comes suddenly? There is a need to grow in the faith through humble service unto the Lord, by doing those things that are required of us.  For faith needs to be exercised, and it should be a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).  Faith is a foundation for the soul to build upon and be soundly supported throughout life.  For we are to “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” (Col. 1:23).

But how can faith be increased? What is the source for it? It is true that the creation “testifies” toward the reality of God (cf Rom. 1:19-20; Psa. 19:1), which helps us to believe in Him; but the faith that saves from sin requires more than that kind of belief through creation. For Paul shows that it is the gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). We, therefore, must first hear it – for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). But we must also be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).  Brethren were being strengthened in the faith by conforming their lives to the message that Paul and Timothy spoke to them (Acts 16:4-5).  We have also seen that the gospel is referred to as “the faith” that we are to “contend earnestly for” (Jude 1:3), and which “a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to” (Acts 6:7). For as food is to the body, even more so is God’s word to the soul. Therefore, as Jesus states, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD” (Matt. 4:4). When Jesus told His disciples, who were concerned that He should eat, “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” they were thinking of only physical food (Jn. 4:31-33); but the Lord then explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (v. 34). Jesus was a doer of His Father’s will, and we must be likewise.  For since He had a need to receive the nourishment of spiritual food by obeying His Father, then how much more do we have that need toward doing the same?

To grow strong in the Lord involves increasing in faith. Peter closes his second epistle by exhorting the brethren to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). And Paul’s final words to the Ephesian elders also pointed them in that same direction: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:31).  What better advice can one give than encouraging others toward learning God’s word, obeying it, and continuing in it?

So in all this, we see the connection in obtaining a knowledge of the Scriptures, acquiring faith, and growing strong in the Lord. Our faith is based on God’s word – rather than on personal feelings. And corresponding with that, John declares, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). So, yes, we are to look to God’s word for faith and increase in our knowledge of that message and put God’s word into practice in our lives so our faith will also grow — along with the assurance it brings.

As pointed out, the man in Mark 9:24 was humble to indicate that there were areas in his life in which he lacked faith, but he sought the Lord to help him in that. May we each also do the same, and by using those sources of His word (Rom. 10:17) and the avenue of prayer (2 Cor. 13:9) that God has provided for the Christian.

Paul told Timothy that by his teaching the word he would “be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you are following” (1 Tim. 4:6).  Was that merely a special privilege for Timothy to be able to be “constantly nourished on the words of faith”?  As we take the time to teach the gospel to others, it also helps us to grow in the faith.  For we are then doing what God has commanded and find it rewarding in doing so.  In addition, our studying and researching to prepare to teach has us focusing on the Scriptures and filling our hearts and minds with it, which is good meditation for the soul.

We must also increase in faith because some have wandered from it (1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Tim. 2:18; 1 Tim. 6:21); and we need, therefore, to be on guard against that. One of Paul’s exhortations to Timothy was that he would “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). Faith is to be “kept” (2 Tim. 4:7). It is to be lived by — rather than shrinking back from (Heb. 10:38). For faith preserves the soul (v. 39), and its outcome is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet. 1:9).  So we must “contend earnestly for” it (Jude 1:3).  And, to do so, as we have seen in this lesson, requires a faith that is accompanied with obedient action.  For “…faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).

Let us remember that humble, honest, and sincere man who, after talking with Jesus, “Immediately…cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24).  And may we, like him, also desire to have our faith increased and seek to accomplish that by expanding our knowledge of God’s word, putting it into practice in our lives, and spending time with the Lord in prayer.  For then, what a great comfort faith can be!  Not only is it then the saving faith that leads to heaven, but also it is “…the assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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 Marc 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).
——————–

Contents:

1) The Receiving of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ House (Tom Edwards)
——————–

Acts11_18

-1-

The Receiving of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ House

Tom Edwards

The receiving of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius and his household is thought by some as an indication that one can be saved without the need to first be baptized.  For Cornelius and his household miraculously spoke in tongues, which implies they had been given the Holy Spirit, prior to their being immersed in water (cf. Acts 10:44-47).

But were they really saved at that point or was there some other reason for this unique case?  Let us give it some thought.

In time’s past, the Lord miraculously conveyed His message to others.  The Hebrew writer begins his letter by saying, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and IN MANY WAYS, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2, emphasis mine).

What were these “MANY WAYS” that the Lord had imparted His message in the long ago?  Sometimes it was through prophecy (cf. Acts 3:21; 1 Cor. 13:2), or through dreams (1 Kings 3:5; Matt. 1:20; 2:12-13), or through visions (cf. Gen. 15:1; 46:2; Num. 12:6; Ezek. 1:1), or through audible utterances (cf. Num. 7:8-9; Deut. 4:12; Deut. 5:22-24; Isa. 6:8; Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5); or through angels (cf. Jdgs. 6:12; 13:3; Gen. 16:7-10; Gen. 22:11-12), etc.

Speaking of those dreams, God gave some important, prophetic dreams to Pharaoh when Joseph was in the land of Egypt and interpreted the ruler’s dreams as pertaining to seven years of plenty, which would be followed by seven years of a severe famine (cf. Gen. 41:1-8).  But does that indicate that Pharaoh must have been a faithful child of God, in a right relationship with Him, since the Lord had imparted these dreams to him of conditions yet to come?

The same can also be said about King Nebuchadnezzar to whom God gave a prophetic dream (cf. Dan. 2:1-2), which Daniel then gave the meaning of (vv. 37-45) and proved the accuracy of the interpretation by first telling the king what his dream was (vv. 31-36).  In chapter 4, the king is also given another prophetic dream, which Daniel interprets for him.  Was King Nebuchadnezzar a true worshiper of God, a loyal follower, to receive such dreams?  To the contrary, Nebuchadnezzar believed in many gods (v. 47).   In chapter three, the king had a golden image that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide that all people were to “fall down and worship” as soon as they heard the various instruments playing music.  So Nebuchadnezzar was commanding these to be idolaters!  And those who would not comply were to be thrown into the fiery furnace!  In seeing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego miraculously protected from those flames, Nebuchadnezzar came to acknowledge the true and living God, but also still believed in various false gods (cf. Dan. 3:27-30).  The point, however, is that Nebuchadnezzar was not a faithful follower of the Lord, yet God still gave this king of Babylon prophetic dreams.

Furthermore, according to Number 22:27-33, God enabled even Balaam’s donkey to speak!  But that certainly doesn’t indicate that this animal was some type of faithful servant of the Lord in “righteous” standing with God — and as opposed to a donkey that might be in “unrighteous” standing!  The donkey spoke because the Lord wanted it to in response to Balaam.

In John 11:49-53, Caiaphas declares, “…it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”   This high priest, who was the son-in-law of Annas and appointed by the procurator Valerius Gratus, was one in favor of killing Jesus (Matt. 26:3-5).  But what Caiaphas had not realized was that “he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

And what about those who had miracles worked upon them in spite of their unbelief?  According to John 9:25, the blind man did not even know if Jesus was a sinner or not when He healed him! Does one truly believe in the Lord if He is regarded as a sinner or possibly one? It was after the blind man was healed that Jesus later returned to him and asked in verse 35, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the one who could now see replied, “…’Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’  And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him” (vv. 36-38).

Elymas the magician, also known as “Bar-Jesus,” was a Jewish false prophet who was perverting the right ways of the Lord and sought to turn Sergius Paulus away from the teaching of the apostle Paul.  But Paul, after rebuking Elymas, commanded him to become blind for a while – and it was done (Acts 13:6-11)!  Did that miracle happen to Elymas because he believed it would? Does it indicate he had been a Christian who had faith in the power of God?  Is being made blind something that Elymas even wanted to happen to himself?  Yet, it was accomplished!

So these examples of God, miraculously enabling or imparting to those that were not His faithful people, show that it could be done; and that it does not, therefore, necessarily imply that they were in a saved or right relationship with the Lord.

So why did God give the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household — prior to their being baptized?  This miracle at Cornelius’ house was preceded by one that Peter experienced while at the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa and on the rooftop (Acts 10).  For there, Peter “fell into a trance” (v. 10) and saw a large sheet coming down that contained some creatures that were “unclean” and unlawful to eat during the Mosaical Age; and Peter heard a voice telling him to “Get up, Peter, kill and eat” (v. 13); but he had always refrained from eating anything “unholy and unclean” (vv. 11-14).  The voice then came to him the second time, saying, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (v. 15)  “This happened three times…” (v. 16).

While Peter wondered as to the meaning of that vision, the three whom Cornelius had sent had arrived at Simon’s house and asked for Peter.  These were sent because an angel of the Lord had told Cornelius to do so (v. 22).  And the Spirit then told Peter, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself” (vv. 19-20).

Why did the Spirit say, “accompany them without misgivings”?  It was because, up to this time, Jews had little or no dealings with the Gentiles.  For on his arrival at Cornelius’ house, Peter declared, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for…” (vv. 28-29).  Yes, Peter learned a great lesson!  He acknowledged, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (vv. 34-35).

Keep in mind, too, that this event at Cornelius’ house took place about 10 years after the church was established; and Cornelius and his household became the first Gentile converts to Christ.  They had not been proselytes to Judaism in previous years, like “Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,” who later became one of the seven (Acts 6:5).  Rather, Cornelius and his household were Gentiles who were now coming to Christ to become Christians.  And to witness that wonderful event, there were also six Jewish Christians that Peter had brought with him (vv. 23, 45; 11:12).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household was God’s way of showing that Gentiles need to also be reached with the gospel.  For the Lord wants them to be saved, just as much as He wants the Jews to be, by submitting to His plan of salvation.  So this miraculous event at Cornelius’ house indicated that the door of redemption was open for the non-Jews as well — and all the Jewish Christians needed to not only realize that, but also accept it.

That this was something that the Jewish Christians had to learn, with regard to the Gentiles, is also inferred from the fact that Paul had referred to it as “the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:4-6).

Peter had actually preached on the day the church was established that the blessings which the Holy Spirit promised were not only for “you and your children,” which would be the Jews converted to Christ, but also for “all who are far off [the Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39).  But it appears that Peter, though he spoke this by the inspiration of the Lord, did not understand all of what was meant in that statement.  For he is also the very one that God, about a decade later, had to give the vision to that signified the Lord’s approval toward preaching to and converting the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:9-16).

Note, too, that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not an every-day occurrence nor something that would happen to every person who was converted, as some wrongly assume today.  For rather than likening it to some similar event a week before, or a month before, or several months before, Peter, in seeing what these Gentiles were doing, reflects back about 10 years to liken it to that time when God had given him and the other apostles the Holy Spirit on that day that the church was established (Acts 10:47; Acts 2).  He then also repeats that likeness when relating the account to the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 11:15-18).

That makes sense because the baptism of the Holy Spirit that the apostles received (Acts 2; 11:16) and now this outpouring of the Spirit upon those at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10,11) are the only two examples in the New Testament of receiving the Holy Spirit in that manner, which was directly from God.  All others, in the early church who had miraculously received the Holy Spirit, did so through the laying on of the hands of an apostle — and only the apostles had the ability to do that (cf. Acts 8:5-6, 12-18; Acts 19:5-7).

So just as that day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was a special day of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit and the church being established, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ house also made it a special day for the Gentiles!  For the way of salvation through Christ was now offered to them and would continue to be for any Gentile who would want to enter upon that pathway to glory by meeting the same conditions any other person would have to, in order to be forgiven, to become a Christian, and to continue in living for the Lord.

When Peter had later journeyed to the church in Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians “took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them’” (Acts 11:2-3).  But after Peter explained to them all that had happened and how God had even given the Holy Spirit to those Gentiles, the Jewish Christians then “…glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life’” (v. 18).

You see, that was the reason God gave the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles and had them speak in tongues — even before they were saved from their past sins — so that all could know that God’s desire to save is not just toward the Jews, but towards all people!  And all those who were Jewish Christians needed to adjust their thinking and acceptance toward that fact!

Therefore, God’s giving of the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles was not an indication that they had already been saved; but to show they could be, and that the Lord makes no distinction between them or the Jews when it comes to salvation.  As Paul also writes: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).  And this was also true for those at Cornelius’ house who had their sins forgiven, after they obeyed the command to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48).

For those who understand the purpose for water baptism, it is easy to see that Cornelius and his household could not have been saved prior to their being baptized.  So after those Jews who had come with Peter had witnessed with amazement the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and heard these Gentiles speak in tongues, Peter then declared, “’Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” (Acts 10:47-48).

Baptism is always seen as that last step that leads to being put into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), that one may obtain the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:1), rise up to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12-13), and be saved from past sins (1 Pet. 3:21).  So these verses make it clear that it was not when or before their speaking in tongues by the Spirit that these Gentiles were forgiven and became Christians; but, rather, it was after they were then baptized in water for the remission of sins. And their having received the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues prior was a unique case to serve as a sign to all that “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

(All Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated.)
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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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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) The Christian’s Spiritual Armor (Tom Edwards)
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Armor of God

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The Christian’s Spiritual Armor

Tom Edwards

We see of a promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that should give us comfort during times of trials and temptations.  The verse says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

We believe this promise to be true.  However, we are not told in this particular verse just how God will go about providing this victory for us.  But one thing we can see in the context is that it also involves our working together with the Lord.  For notice the very next verse: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (v. 14).  The implication being: if we want victory in Jesus, we then must turn from sin and turn to the Lord.

Something else that helps us gain the victory is by putting on the spiritual armor that the Lord has made possible for us, which is referred to in Ephesians 6:10-17.   For this is truly one of the ways that the Lord can provide us with a means of escape – by being well-protected from the onslaught of the evil one and even have a weapon — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” —  to fight back with.

In this passage, Paul begins by exhorting the brethren to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness….” (vv. 10-12).

Paul, therefore, then urges the brethren to “Stand firm” by “HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH…” (v. 14).  The literal act of girding one’s loins involved  pulling up one’s long, flowing robe and fastening it with a belt to the waist, so that it would not get in the way when engaging in battle or some other physical activity.  From that meaning, it is also easy to see its figurative usage of preparing oneself.  But we also note that what we are to prepare ourselves with is the “truth.”  So being a good soldier of Jesus Christ involves studying God’s word.

In the same verse, we also see the next instruction of “HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  You probably also notice a logical order in this. For we must first study God’s word so we can know and prepare ourselves with it.  Then we are to put it into practice.   As we have seen in the Old Testament, all of God’s  “commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172).  So this is also true of the Lord’s commands for us today in the New Testament.  Furthermore, John shows in 1 John 3:7 that to be righteous one needs to practice righteousness; and, in verse 10, he states that “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…”  So having the “breastplate of righteousness” also involves our being doers of the Lord’s word – “…and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (Jms. 1:22).

The next instruction Paul gives for the Christian is that of “having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE” (v. 15).  When we think of feet in connection with the gospel, it evokes a picture of taking God’s message to others, which is an important part of being a Christian.

These first three instructions — which pertain to 1) acquiring a knowledge of God’s word, 2) obeying it, and 3) teaching it to others — might also remind us of the great example that Ezra sets forth: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, emphasis mine).

Again we also see a logical order in these instructions.  For after one begins studying God’s word and putting into practice what he learns, he is then to teach it to others. And would we not think that by his doing the first two steps, he will also then, as a result, have better success with the third?

But let it also be pointed out that one does not need to know all of the Bible before being able to instruct others with what one does know about it.  For how much did that woman at the well know before she went into the city to tell others about the Christ? Her testimony led to “many of the Samaritans” believing in Jesus (John 4:39) – and they also came out to hear the Lord for themselves, and then believed based on His message to them (v. 42).  This can also be said about Paul who began preaching in Damascus, soon after his conversion, and before he spent about 3 years in the Arabian Desert where he was then instructed by God and obtained a fuller knowledge of His truth (cf. Gal. 1:11,12, 15-18).

Paul then exhorts the brethren in Ephesians 6:16 to take up “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Again we see the logical order in this. For the one who studies God’s word, puts it into practice, and is teaching it to others, truly does have that kind of saving faith that the Bible speaks of.  For it is an obedient faith, a faith that pleases God; and a faith that will save one’s soul – rather than being merely a mental acceptance toward the Deity of Christ.  As Jesus declares in Luke 6:46, “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  And “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).   James also teaches that “faith without works is dead” (Jms. 2:26).   And the objective faith, which is the gospel itself (Jude 1:3; Acts 6:7), protects like a shield from the poisonous darts of false teaching.

The one who studies God’s word, strives to live according to it, teaches it to others, and as a natural result is increasing in the faith, is also the one who can have great assurance in his salvation.  Or as Paul metaphorically speaks of it, this is the person who has truly put on that “HELMET OF SALVATION.”  Being sure of one’s salvation can give a person great confidence, a positive outlook, and the zeal to endure the most difficult circumstances or trials, which is just what a person needs when facing and engaging in spiritual battles.  And this assurance is not based on mere feelings; but, rather, on God’s word.  As John declares: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).

All these components that we have briefly considered will help protect us from the enemy; but, as soldiers of Christ, not only are we to be protected, but we are also to fight back.  So the Lord, in addition, provided us with a spiritual weapon — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).  This is what Jesus used, following his 40-day fast, when He was tempted by Satan three times in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11).  For to each of those temptations, the Lord responded with an “It is written…”  He quoted Scripture, and we must look to it as well and use it.  The need to do more than to merely protect ourselves can also be seen in Ephesians 5:11: “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”  Paul had warned Timothy of the “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers…who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:10,11). So just as soldiers have often fought the enemy in order to protect others, we as soldiers of Christ are to similarly engage in these spiritual battles – not only for our selves, but also for the safety of others.

Seeing the sword being mentioned last is also in logical order.  For before we go into battle, it is important that we do have on the proper armor that will protect us while we strive to fight in confronting the foe.

Notice, too, that — even after we have prepared ourselves by putting on this spiritual armor and taking the Spirit’s sword — there is still another important thing to help us through, and that is prayer!  As Paul writes, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:18-20).  Yes, we need to pray for ourselves — and we need to pray for one another!  And as we see here, even the apostle Paul wanted the brethren to be praying for him!  So if someone as devoted as Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do we?

May we each realize the importance of putting on the Christian’s spiritual armor, which the Lord is providing, and not neglect the power of prayer.  For through these means, the Lord will lead us into victory as we engage in whatever spiritual battle we encounter!

(All Scripture from NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)

I appreciate the interesting 3-D scene that Sherri Crews made for the young people’s class, as seen in the above picture for this article.  She makes a different one every quarter.
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) Armageddon (Tom Edwards)
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Rev16_16

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Armageddon

Tom Edwards

To the premillennialist, Armageddon will be where the final decisive battle of the world will take place. According to their doctrine, it will occur when Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation to set up His kingdom on earth for a thousand years. Of course, if it were to be a literal warfare, as they teach, would not a weaponless ant, in comparison, have more probability in defeating a mighty herd of stomping elephants than for the forces of evil to have any success in triumphing over Christ in this final conflict between good and evil?

Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Bible: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16, KJV).

It is rendered in the New American Standard Bible as “Har-Magedon.” “Har” is a Hebrew word used in 497 verses of the Old Testament and translated as  “mountains” (161), “mountain” (156), “mount” (118), “hill country” (91), “hill” (18), and “hills” (6), to mention most of them. “Magedon” is referring to “Megiddo.” So together it can mean the “hill of Megiddo.”

Some archaeologists today refer to the “tell of Megiddo.” For a “tell,” as Daniel Webster points out, is “an artificial mound consisting of the accumulated remains of one or more ancient settlements (often used in Egypt and the Middle East as part of a place name)” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary).  And at Megiddo, 25 layers of settlement, which have been built atop each other over a period of many centuries, have been discovered!

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The city of Megiddo…ceased to exist after the Persian invasion of Palestine some 2,300 years ago and, today, nothing is left but the ruins of what once was a regional administrative and military center during the reign of King Solomon.”

So though the city of Megiddo no longer is, yet the area still remains; and it is being used symbolically in Revelation 16:16 because of what that region, down through the centuries, has been noted for.  For it is where many armed combats and deaths have occurred. “In the history of Israel it had been the scene of never-to-be-forgotten battles… These low hills around Megiddo, with their outlook over the plain of Esdraelon, have witnessed perhaps a greater number of bloody encounters than have ever stained a like area of the world’s surface” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

Interestingly, if you do a Google search for Megiddo, you might first of all find mention of the “Battle of Megiddo” way back in the 15th century B.C., which involved Pharaoh Thumose III and his army against “a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states led by the king of Kadesh.” It is said to be “the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail.” The HistoryChannel.com not only mentions of it being the first in that, but also “the first recorded battle with a body count, and the first use of the composite bow.”

Megiddo, Jezreel, Esdraelon (which is the Greek rendition of “Jezreel”), and Mount Gilboa are all places near the same area.

Other battles fought in that area:

* The King of Megiddo was one of the many kings that Joshua and the children of Israel had fought against and defeated (Josh. 12:7,21), and that latter verse is where we first see mention of “Megiddo” in the Bible.

* The judge Deborah, along with Barak, had defeated Canaanite kings “near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:1,19).

* It was in the area of Megiddo where Gideon, with just 300 of his men, had defeated the large Midianite army (Judges 7).

* Israel’s first king, Saul, and three of his sons (Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua) were all killed in the area of Megiddo (1 Chron. 10:6; 1 Sam. 31:1-3, 8).

* Ahaziah, the 6th king of Judah, and a wicked one at that, had fled to Megiddo, after being struck by an arrow; and there he died (2 Kings 9:27).

* The archers of Pharaoh Neco had mortally wounded Josiah, a good king of Judah, at Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:22-23), who had come out to battle against him (vv. 21-22); and all Jerusalem and Judah mourned, and Jeremiah chanted a lament (vv. 24-25).  (The account in 2 Chronicles indicates that the “death” of King Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings 23:29, must have been a fatal wound he received in Megiddo that led to that death, though not immediately.)

The great mourning that was coming to Jerusalem is likened to “the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo” (Zech. 12:11), which is referred to as the national mourning over the death of King Josiah.

It has been said that there were no fewer than 34 wars that were carried out in the area of Megiddo, much which had to do with the invading army’s attempt to control the plain of Jezreel for their own financial gain.

So all of this adds to the symbolism of the area of Megiddo and should not be thought of as the specific geographical location where a literal, physical battle will take place, sometime in the future, between Christ and those opposed to Him.  For much in the Revelation letter is highly symbolic. This can also be inferred from the word “signified” in Revelation 1:1. The verse says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (KJV). Daniel Webster shows the primary meaning of “signify” to be “1. to make known by signs, speech, or action.” So those signs are the symbolic imagery often used in the Revelation letter to convey God’s message. And note, too, that God revealed to John things that “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1).

The Revelation letter was written mainly to help Christians at that time who were undergoing an intense persecution for their faith. Life was difficult for them. Some were boycotted and no longer able to make a good income from their businesses; some were being persecuted in other ways; some were being imprisoned; some were being tortured; and some had even died as martyrs for the cause of Christ. But the message of the Revelation letter was to bring hope to all of them. That they could know that regardless of what they would have to endure for the Lord – even if it meant losing their own lives – they would ultimately be the victors! And their victory, because of Jesus, would eventually lead to its fullness in heaven’s glory for all eternity!

The battle of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:16 is seen more of in Revelation 19:11-21: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

This quote from Revelation 19 is not referring to the time of the final judgment. Rather, it pertains to many centuries ago, when Rome, the “beast” of Revelation 19:19, was still that ruling empire that was bringing persecution upon the Lord’s people.  As Rodney M. Miller writes, “Thus, the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 represent God’s judgment on this wicked empire that has single-handedly sought to destroy God’s people. …the bowls of wrath described not an end of the world scene, but a coming of Christ on the Roman Empire. … The meaning of the battle is a decisive conflict between truth and evil. The Judgment of Christ on a pagan empire who sought to remove the force of Christianity from the world will in truth be a decisive struggle. …Revelation 19:1-10 shows the rejoicing of the saints when the truth has triumphed and the cause of the Lord has been vindicated.  Rome has been brought down” (The Lion & the Lamb on Planet Earth, pp. 200, 201).

To an intensely persecuted people of that day, God’s word gave hope — and it can do the same today!  As Paul writes to the Romans: “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).

The Christians of John’s day could receive encouragement through the Revelation letter. Its principle of the Lord triumphing over evil and, thus, enabling His people to also have that victory because of Him, is still true for all of God’s children today!

(All Scriptures from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) Premillennial Concepts Refuted by the Bible (Tom Edwards)
——————–

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Premillennial Concepts Refuted by the Bible

Tom Edwards

In seeing what the Bible says about the kingdom having already come (Mark 9:1; Col. 1:13), Jesus already reigning over it (Acts 2:29-36; Eph. 1:20-23), and the universal resurrection for all on the “last day” (Jn. 5:28-29), we are also seeing how the Bible today disproves popular and particular beliefs concerning Premillennialism.

For Premillennialism teaches that as we near the second coming of Christ, it will be preceded by a “rapture” that will take place at the beginning of the 7-year Great Tribulation (though some premillennialists teach that the rapture will occur during the middle of that time; while others, at a time closer to the end of that 7-year period). In the rapture, according to the theory, all the Christians living and deceased will be snatched up to meet Christ in the air.

Though we might normally think of this word “rapture,” which is actually not used anywhere in the Bible, to mean “ecstatic joy or delight,” as Webster defines its primary definition, yet he also gives lastly its archaic meaning as “the act of carrying off.” It stems from Middle French, from about A.D. 1600.

But how and when did its premillennial meaning, with all that pertains to it, come about? The doctrine of the pre-tribulation rapture is said, by various authors, to have begun in the 18th century by two Puritan preachers by the name of Increase Mather and his son Cotton; and was popularized in the 1830s by John Darby and the Plymouth Brethren; and eventually gained popularity in the U.S. in the early 20th century through the widely used Scofield Reference Bible (Wikipedia).

It appears that this idea of just the Christians being in the rapture is based on 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, which speaks of the Lord’s return when “the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” This is how Paul, by divine inspiration, had answered the Thessalonians’ concern about their loved ones who had passed away as Christians. So that is why his focus is on just them, instead of everyone in general. He even concluded the thought, by saying, “Therefore comfort one another with these words” (v. 18). Yes, the believers can have comfort when their loved ones pass away as Christians, knowing that their spirits have not only gone to a better place, but that they will also be resurrected and caught up first when the Lord returns, and then immediately followed by those Christians still living at that time! The Greek word for “caught” (harpazo) in verse 17, in the phrase “caught up together,” means “to snatch out or away” (Thayer’s third definition). So though that is the archaic meaning of “rapture,” yet it has no reference to the premillennial rapture theory.

Concerning that time when the dead in Christ and the living Christians will be caught up together to meet the Lord in the air, that will also be the same time when all people – regardless of whether they are saved or lost — will be caught up.  For as we saw recently, that will all happen for the righteous and the unrighteous within the same “hour” (Jn. 5:28-29) on that “last day” and regardless of how long one has been deceased (Jn. 6:39-40; 12:48).

If there were to be a rapture, followed by seven years of the Great Tribulation, which would end by the Lord’s second coming, then what would virtually anyone be able to do – and without the use of even a calculator? For those who missed the rapture, they would then be able to easily pinpoint the day that Christ would return by merely adding 7 years to the date of the rapture!  But what does the Bible say?  It shows that when the Lord comes again, it will be “like a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:2). In other words, He will come unexpectedly. Yet, through the years, many folks have predicted what they believed to be the exact time of His return — which turned out to be incorrect.  It would seem they have either not read the Scriptures concerning this or have disregarded it.

This might answer a question that has arisen while reading up to this point: As you might have also guessed, the premillennialist doesn’t view Christ coming back for the Christians in the rapture as His second coming. They just want to call it the “Rapture” and have His second coming later on.

But another thing the Premillennial view makes more of — than what the Bible teaches — is on the resurrection. For instead of there being just one universal resurrection (as cited above), they have 1) a resurrection of the deceased Christians for the rapture; 2) a resurrection at the end of that 7-year period for those who had become Christians during that Great Tribulation, but also had died during that time; and, included with them, all the saved people of the Old Testament Times; and 3) a resurrection at the end of the Lord’s 1,000-year reign on earth that will be for all the lost souls of all time. So, according to this view, there is not one, nor not two, but three resurrections yet to come! And note, too, that there will be 1,007 years between the first resurrection and the third! That sure doesn’t sound like the “hour” of which Jesus said all would be raised – the saved and the lost (Jn. 5:28,29; Acts 24:15)!

Concerning the idea that the future Great Tribulation will be the worst time this world has ever known, Jesus had said that about the time pertaining to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70: “For then there will be a great tribulation, such as has not occurred since the beginning of the world until now, nor ever will” (Matt. 24:21).  He then spoke more concerning that time and also pointed out the nearness of it, by saying, “…this generation shall not pass away until all these things take place” (v. 34).

Some believe that during that 7-year Great Tribulation it will also be a time of the greatest work of evangelism ever carried out. In his book, The Late Great Planet Earth, Hal Linsday, a premillennialist, writes, “After the Christians are gone, God is going to reveal Himself in a special way to 144,000 physical, literal Jews, who are going to believe with a vengeance that Jesus is the Messiah.” These will evangelize, and “…the earth will never know a period of evangelism like this period” (p. 110).

It will be at the end of that 7-year tribulation that Jesus will return, according to the Premillennial belief. He will then fight His enemies in the battle of Armageddon and defeat them. It will also be at that time when He will establish His kingdom on earth and sit on the throne of David to rule for a thousand years from here on earth.

As we have seen, however, Jesus is already sitting on the throne of David and ruling over the kingdom (cf. Luke 1:31-33; Acts 2:29-36; Dan. 7:13-14). And, note, too, the prophecy concerning this in 2 Sam. 7:12-16. Though this prophecy has a dual fulfillment in pertaining to Solomon as well as to Christ, it is in Acts 2:29-36 that we see that it was to the Christ that David had looked to be the ultimate fulfiller of it. The prophecy states: “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed from before you. Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established for ever.”

With that prophecy in mind, now notice Acts 2:29-36: “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says, ‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD, “SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND, UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”‘ Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified.”

So Jesus who built the church (Matt. 16:18), which is also referred to as “the house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15) and the Lord’s “kingdom” (Col. 1:13), is now ruling over that (Eph. 1:20-23).  For “…God has made Him both Lord and Christ…” (Acts 2:36), which indicates that Jesus is an “anointed ruler,” since “Christ” literally means “anointed”; and “Lord” can mean “ruler.”  So the promise that God the Father would give Jesus “the throne of His Father David” (Luke 1:32) has been fulfilled.  And going along with that, to help you understand it better, David’s throne is sometimes referred to as “the throne of the LORD.”  For Solomon “sat on the throne of David his father” (1 Kings 2:12), yet it is also said that “Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king instead of David his father” (1 Chron. 29:23).  It is called “the throne of the LORD” because God had anointed David to reign as king over the Lord’s people and do so as the Lord instructed.  Solomon was then to continue in that when he succeeded his father to the throne.  And how perfectly Jesus Christ is now doing so!  Therefore, Jesus being on the throne of David is not talking about a literal, physical throne, which the Lord would have to sit upon here on earth; but, rather, just as it was to be God’s rule through David and Solomon as they reigned over His people, it is God’s rule now through Jesus Christ, God’s anointed, who is not just a king of a kingdom, but also “a King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16) who rules over all (with the exception of God the Father)!

We considered earlier that at Christ’s second coming, according to the Premillennial view, the Lord will put an end to the Great Tribulation; will raise all the Old Testament saints from the dead and those who had become Christians during the Great Tribulation and died; that the Lord will defeat His enemies in the Battle of Armageddon and set up His kingdom on earth where He will reign over it for a thousand years. But what did we just read in 2 Samuel 7:12 concerning the time that God would set up His kingdom? The Lord told David, “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers…” In other words, when David was deceased, all this was to happen. But the Premillennial view has David resurrected and alive when God would set up His kingdom on earth.

Think, too, about Christ having to come back to earth to literally dwell on it again, sitting on a physical throne in Jerusalem, as the Premillennial view teaches. Would this not be some type of demotion for the Lord – rather than an exaltation to a glorious position?! But where He is right now at the right hand of God, having all authority and power in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18), having been given “dominion, Glory, and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations and men of every language Might serve Him…” (Dan. 7:14), being exalted over all creation (cf. Col. 1:15-18), and having all things in subjection to Him with the exception of the Father (1 Cor. 15:27), how could Jesus ever have more dominion, be more glorified, or be more exalted than that?!  Nothing can top what He already has!

Let us be sure that the religious doctrines we believe and follow are of God and not merely of men.

(All Scripture from the NASB.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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).
——————–

Contents:

1) “What About the Kingdom?” (Tom Edwards)
——————–

Col1_13

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“What About the Kingdom?”

Tom Edwards

In last week’s bulletin we saw that when Christ returns, several major events will take place – and all on what is referred to as the “last day.”  For on that day, all will be raised from the dead (Jn. 5:28,29; Acts 24:15; Jn. 6:39,40,44,54; 11:24); all will be judged (Acts 17:30,31; Jn. 12:48); the earth and all the universe, along with time itself, will cease to be (2 Pet. 3:4, 10-12; Gen. 1:14-19); and every person, from the first man Adam on down, will end up at one of two destinations where to spend an eternity.

So some might wonder, “What about the kingdom that Christ is supposed to set up here on earth?”  This question is asked because the kingdom is what many premillennialists are still waiting for.  They believe that because of the Lord’s rejection by the Jews, He was not able to establish His kingdom; so the church was then set up as a “substitute” until the kingdom would come; and that the church was not a part of God’s eternal, predetermined plan; but, rather, a mere afterthought in the mind of God.  This is also referred to as the “Parenthesis Theory,” with the church being the “Parenthesis” that fills the gap.

The Bible, however, shows that not only was the establishment of the church a part of God’s plan before the world began, but that it is also that “kingdom” that was to come!  Notice, for instance, in Ephesians 3 that Paul says: “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be MADE KNOWN THROUGH THE CHURCH to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.  THIS WAS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE ETERNAL PURPOSE which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (vv. 8-11, emphasis mine). So the church was a part of God’s “eternal purpose” and, therefore, that which had been in His mind before there was even a universe — and not a mere afterthought or last-minute substitution for the kingdom!

The coming kingdom is first seen in prophecy, way back during Old Testament Times.  Daniel, for instance, shows a succession of world-ruling empires in Daniel 2, as he interprets King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  These kingdoms are Babylon (vv. 37,38 – which reigned as a world-ruling empire for 70 years), the Medes and the Persians (v. 39 – about 200 years), Greece (v. 39 – about 130 years), and Rome (vv. 40-43 – about 500 years as an undivided kingdom).  All these kingdoms ruled in succession as world-ruling empires, but it would be during the days of the Roman Empire that God would set up His spiritual kingdom on earth (vv. 44, 45).

Jesus was born into this world during the time of the Roman Empire, and His message was “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  John the Baptist also preached the same (cf. Matt. 3:2).  That coming kingdom was so near that Jesus was able to say in Mark 9:1, “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”  Though some folks today would say the kingdom has not yet come, should we believe them or what Jesus and John the Baptist said about it?

Though Isaiah does not use the word “kingdom” in Isaiah 2:2-4, yet he is referring to it and shows that it will be in the “last days” that it would be established.  Note here that he does not say the “last day” (when Christ comes the second time), but the “last days,” which is referring to the Gospel Age that began after the Lord’s death on the cross (cf. Acts 2:15-17).  For His death did away with the Old Covenant and established the New Covenant of the Gospel Age (cf. Col. 2:14; Heb. 8:6-13; 2 Cor. 3:6-18; Heb. 9:15-17; Heb. 10:1-10, 16-22).  Isaiah declares:

“Now it will come about that
In the last days
The mountain of the house of the LORD
Will be established as the chief of the mountains,
And will be raised above the hills;
And all the nations will stream to it.
And many peoples will come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
To the house of the God of Jacob;
That He may teach us concerning His ways
And that we may walk in His paths.’
For the law will go forth from Zion
And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem”
(Isa. 2:2,3).

That prophecy came to pass in Acts 2 on the day that the church (kingdom) was established.  For it was there in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit fell upon the apostles, and they miraculously preached (with the gift of tongues) in the languages of those Jews who were “from every nation under heaven” (v. 5).  For they were in Jerusalem to observe the annual feast of Pentecost, and what they heard was “of the mighty deeds of God” (v. 11).  As a result, 3,000 souls were converted that day when they believed and obeyed the gospel plan of salvation (vv. 36-38, 41).  In their doing so, the Lord Himself then added them to His church (v. 47).

“Mountain” is sometimes used in the Bible to figuratively refer to a “kingdom” (cf. Dan. 2:35,44-45).  So here in Isaiah 2:2, God’s kingdom is shown as being superior to all other kingdoms.  For it is a “mountain” that is “chief of the mountains.”  The word “kingdom” in the New Testament, from the Greek word “basileia,” refers primarily to “1) royal power, kingship, dominion, rule 1a) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom” (Thayer).  But Thayer also goes on to show that it can mean in addition: “1b) of the royal power of Jesus as the triumphant Messiah” and “1c) of the royal power and dignity conferred on Christians in the Messiah’s kingdom.”  And, secondarily, “2) a kingdom, the territory subject to the rule of a king.” And “3) used in the N.T. to refer to the reign of the Messiah.”  So we see God’s kingdom first of all pertains to His royal power and rule, and then of those whom He is ruling over who have become a part of His kingdom.  With these thoughts in mind, notice, too, that upon the Lord’s “mountain” there is also a “house of the LORD” (Isa. 2:2).  So the Lord’s house is built upon God’s mountain and identified with it — rather than with any of those inferior mountains of the world.  And just as Isaiah refers to “the house of the LORD” that is on “the chief of the mountains,” God’s church is also referred to as being “the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15); and it has been built by Christ and is established upon Him who is the foundation of it (cf. Matt. 16:16-18; 1 Cor. 3:11).

The church is also referred to as God’s “kingdom,” for those in it are those who have submitted to God’s rule.  And while Acts 2:47 shows that  “…the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved,” Paul also speaks of God being the One who has “rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13,14).  So the terms “kingdom” and “church” can be used interchangeably when referring to that body of God’s people during the Gospel Age. The apostle John also refers to himself as having been a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus…” (Rev. 1:9).

So, obviously, God’s kingdom has come — and it came almost 2,000 years ago — and still is!  It, therefore, has been around much longer than 1,000 years, and Christ has been reigning over it all the while (cf. Eph. 1:20-23; Col. 1:18; 2:10).  In His preaching to those on that day of Pentecost, Peter also declared, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ — this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).  “Lord” literally means “ruler”; and “Christ,” the “anointed” or “anointed one.”  Therefore, when we put the two together, we see Jesus as being an “anointed Ruler”; and, thus, reminding us of the anointing of kings long ago.  So this reference to God having sworn to David “to seat one of his descendants on his throne” is now being fulfilled by Christ whom David had looked forward to as being the fulfiller (cf. Acts 2:29-36).

So when Christ returns, it will not be to set up a kingdom; but, rather, to deliver God’s kingdom, that has long been on this earth, up to His Father in heaven: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:22-26).

Now is the time to become a part of God’s kingdom.  The instructions of how to become a member of the Lord’s church and live as a Christian are also the same for how one is to enter the kingdom and live as a member of that—since they refer to the same.

In addition, if Christ’s kingdom has not yet come, then how could we acceptably serve and worship God?  For are we not to do that from in His kingdom — or can we remain in Satan’s domain of darkness and worship God from there?  When Jesus ascended back to the right hand of God (following His death, burial, resurrection, and the 40 days He spent on earth, proving His resurrection and Deity), that ascension had already been prophesied by Daniel centuries prior, as seen in the following:

“…He came up to the Ancient of Days
And was presented before Him.
And to Him was given dominion,
Glory and a kingdom,
THAT ALL THE PEOPLES, NATIONS AND MEN OF EVERY LANGUAGE
MIGHT SERVE HIM.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
Which will not pass away;
And His kingdom is one
Which will not be destroyed”
(Dan. 7:13,14, emphasis mine).

Notice one of the purposes for that kingdom: “THAT ALL… MIGHT SERVE HIM”!  Unlike the Law of Moses, which was for only the Jews, the gospel is for all people of every nation; and all the redeemed become a part of the one body, the church, the kingdom; and, as a member, can serve and worship God acceptably.

So Christ is not a king without a kingdom.  For, as we have seen, God’s kingdom has come; and the concern of each of us should, therefore, always be to live in God’s kingdom as His loyal subjects, by living unto Jesus Christ as our great “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).

(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Wednesday:
7 p.m. (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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