Thursday, May 28 2020
Many have not yet heard about it, but a movement has been spreading among independent churches to “congregational singing,” which means “singing together” in unison excluding concert formats. The movement emphasizes going back to the biblical form of worship in song. The apostle Paul wrote, “May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:5–6 ESV). The earliest Christians worshipped by singing with one voice as a congregation. There were no special groups, choirs, praise teams, or any other concert setting in the early churches. Singing in worship and for edification has always been about “one another.” Paul instructed, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16). Many churches have experienced that choirs, praise teams, and concert formats take away from congregational singing. Even the arrangement of seating in a church building can hinder congregational singing by taking the focus off edifying and encouraging one another to love and good works (1 Cor 14:6; Heb 10:24–25).
Is the “regulative principle” in the Bible? First Corinthians 11 and 14 are both chapters giving commands for edification, decency, and order in the assembly. Paul corrected the church at Corinth, “But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse” (1 Corinthians 11:17 ESV). Paul expanded and gave specific instructions for partaking of the Lord’s Supper together in the assembly (1 Cor 11:17–34). Furthermore, Paul taught, “On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation” (1 Corinthians 14:3). Paul also wrote, “What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Among most believers, the belief in the regulative principle has been lost. Churches host “praise and worship” concerts to engage various people and bring them to hear a portion of God’s Word, but a portion of God’s Word is what most will ever receive. They receive no instruction from Jesus’s words about true worship (John 4:20–24). New Testament Christians must stand for true worship and allow the Scriptures to give order to the most edifying assembly. The assembling of the church should not be boring. If a gathering is boring, individuals should first examine themselves according to the Scriptures, and then they can encourage the elders’ leadership of the congregation to seek out biblical precedents to increase edification.
The churches of Christ have kept the Scriptural order of the assembly. However, many have gone so far as to assume a stripped-down “Baptist” assembly that forgets the heart of worship. The Apostle Paul taught, “What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also” (1 Corinthians 14:15). The apostle also instructed being filled with the Spirit and “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:19–20 ESV).
Are you singing? Are you singing with one voice as a member of the congregation? Are you singing with your heart and your mind? Thank God that we can speak together with one voice the truth about God and give thanks to Him.
Monday, May 25 2020
How do you know when God is speaking to you besides the Bible? This is a common and a good question to address. Many people claim to get specific new revelations from God. Some even claim to be prophets and write prophetic texts. Some churches claim direct inspiration from the Spirit of God to alter traditions and much more. Are they all right? Are they mostly right?
Claiming direct revelation from God to deliver to others is different from claiming private personal revelation from God for one’s life. How can the individual Christian know the difference from having an idea and God giving them revelation?
Here are some biblical observations relevant to this subject:
1. God speaks to His people today by His Son — Jesus Christ (Hebrews 1:2; cf. 2:3–4).
2. God did not speak and give direct revelation to everyone throughout the Bible, but He spoke to the prophets who spoke to the people (Hebrews 1:1; 2:2).
3. God gave revelation by His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit as written in Scripture (Ephesians 3:3–5; cf. 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
4. Jesus promised to reveal all truth through His Spirit to His apostles (John 14:26; 16:12–13).
5. James promised that those who pray would receive wisdom from God (James 1:5–6).
How do Christians get that wisdom from God? Christians get wisdom from God’s Word and from experiences in life understood in the light of God’s Word. Believers certainly get such wisdom from the illumination of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:16–18). However, what is the illumination of the Spirit? The Apostle Paul spoke about the illumination of the Spirit, and he taught that the Spirit gave revelation through the apostles and prophets for Christians to read and know this mystery of revelation (Ephesians 3:3–5; cf. 2:19–22). Revelation from apostolic Scripture is certainly illumination from the Spirit. This writer may be wrong, but I am not aware of any independent personal revelation from the Spirit apart from God’s written Word. I think that I would be arrogant to assert that I got an additional revelation to “all truth” revealed by the Spirit to the apostles. If everyone had this revelation of all truth, then no one would need the Bible. Furthermore, Jesus heavily relied upon the Scriptures as the revelation of God when He taught others. Christians must do the same. The Apostle Paul taught that the Scriptures are all-sufficient for every teaching and good work (2 Tim 3:16–17).
Saturday, May 23 2020
How would you rate your level of understanding God’s Word from 1 to 10 with 10 being fully mature Christian capable of teaching others on more than the elementary teachings of the Scriptures? All Christians are growing, and the faithful will never stop growing in knowledge. Peter closed his last letter commanding, “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18 ESV). Many Christians should be concerned because have stopped growing and are falling behind.
The apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit answers many questions about Christian maturity and understanding the Bible in Hebrews 5:11–14. The apostle explained the implications of Jesus as the high priest in the previous verses and he noted that these are hard to explain to many Christians because they have become hard of hearing (cf. Heb 4:14–5:10). Paul expressed, “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing” (Hebrews 5:11).
How did they become hard of hearing? By the writer assuming the Pauline author of Hebrews is Paul, he observed previously that these Hebrew Christians were apostatizing. Paul warned, “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). Their problem was that they were hardened by the deceitfulness of sin (3:13). Paul urged these Christians to encourage one another every day and hold to the original confidence as they share in Christ (3:13–14). For this reason, the apostle warned them not to harden their hearts as the Israelites did in the rebellion against Moses (3:15–19).
If you struggle to understand, do not be discourage Peter noted that much of Paul’s writing was hard to understand (2 Pet 3:15–16). However, if you know that you should have matured to teaching God’s Word to others, then you should be concerned. You can progress quickly by constantly studying God’s Word and talking with others.
The apostle Paul expanded and observed, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child” (Hebrews 5:12–13). The lack of discipline and study has hurt the church as the faithful watch others give up and no words seem to persuade any change of their thinking. Jesus had good reasons for training His disciples constantly every day by example and teaching.
These Christians were not mature. Paul explained, “But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil” (Hebrews 5:14). The apostle is not talking about the mere judgment of right and wrong behavior but distinguishing “good from evil” teaching. Paul urged them, “Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity” (6:1). The apostle saw that they should not need to establish the foundation of elementary teachings any more (6:2–3). Paul saw that they needed again to be taught the foundation of repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on hands, resurrection, and the judgment day. These Christians should be studying and teaching these subjects in-depth and not needing someone to teach them again.
Can you teach foundational teaching from the Scriptures on these six subjects? Then you know that you are mature in teaching. Do not give up on the contemplation of God and His Word. The best help that I get is to listen to other brethren in conversations, books, articles, and recorded sermons and studies. We need each other. Wherever you are, stay close to God and return if you need to the contemplation of His Word so that you can confidently teach the truth.
Thursday, May 21 2020
There is no regret in turning your life to God. The apostle Paul taught that Godly grief leads to repentance unto salvation without regret (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance has no regret. Repentance means to change one's mind to change one's life away from sins (Acts 26:20; Romans 12:1–2; Hebrews 6:1). Do you feel shame and guilt for sin? You will not regret repentance. Some experts confront guilt as "degradation" and work to eliminate guilt but not the sin. Again, repentance leads to salvation without regret.
When Paul confronted the church of Christ at Corinth for their sins, his teaching caused great sorrow. However, that sorrow was from God by which they repented of their sins. In recognition of this repentance, the apostle taught that his causing grief in others was so that they repent (2 Corinthians 7:8). Paul rejoiced for them not because they were grieved but because they repented (7:9). Repenting is not sorrow but the change that comes from the humility of Godly sorrow. Upon this, Paul noted, "For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death" (7:10). Godly grief produces earnestness to clear oneself of sin through a number of emotions of anger, fear, longing, and zeal (7:11). These reactions all revealed this church's earnestness to repent in the sight of God (7:12).
Jesus revealed, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance" (Luke 5:32). If you are not a sinner, why would you need Jesus? Christians must accept the saying, "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost" (1 Timothy 1:15). That is why Jesus taught, "No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:3, 5). When Jesus resurrected from the dead, He taught, "that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 20:21). Repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18). Repentance is essential to have one's sins forgiven through baptism in Jesus's name (Acts 2:38; 3:19; 10:43, 47–48).
The faithful will repent unto salvation without regret. Jesus revealed, "Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). Thank God for those who repent and bring about rejoicing in heaven.
Sunday, April 26 2020
“The band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him” (John 18:12 ESV). Soldiers arrested Jesus of Nazareth under a full moon in the Garden of Gethsemane. Every Passover feast began on a full moon. The nation of Israel followed a lunar calendar starting each month with no light of a new moon and marking each week by a quarter moon so that the 14th day of each month was a full moon. The Jewish Scriptures commanded that the Passover take place on the 14th day of the first month, which is Abib (Exodus 12:2).
The smell of roasted lamb would have drifted throughout Jerusalem on the night of Jesus’s arrest. A few days earlier, Jesus entered Jerusalem near the 10th day of the month when God commanded Israel to select a first-year male lamb for the Passover feast (Exodus 12:3–5; cf. John 12:1, 12). They killed the lamb on twilight on the 14th day and put its blood on the doorpost and its crossbeam (Exodus 12:6–7, 21–23). This was lamb was a sacrifice to the Lord (Deuteronomy 16:2). They roasted the lamb and ate all of it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs (Exodus 12:8). They ate it quickly with belt and sandals on and staff in hand (12:11). The description of “Passover” comes from the LORD passing over Israel, but the LORD did pass through Egypt striking the firstborn by "the destroyer" (12:12, 23). God established this feast upon delivering Israel from Egypt by the tenth plague, which was the death of the firstborn of Egypt.
The Passover foreshadowed the coming of Christ. God saved Israel by the blood of the lamb and by water as they passed through the waters of the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:1–4). God already knew that Israel’s Passover would allude to the coming of Christ and His sacrifice. John the Baptist declared Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36). Just as the Passover lamb was to have no broken bones so Jesus did not break a bone in His death (Exodus 12:46; cf. John 19:31–37). The apostle Paul observed, “For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus made peace by giving His blood for one to receive by faith (Romans 3:25a). Paul noted, “This was to show God's righteousness because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:25b).
Before the night of Jesus’s arrest, Jesus commanded Peter and John to go prepare the Passover meal (Luke 22:7–8). On that Passover, Jesus spoke, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God” (Luke 22:15–16). Following this, Jesus blessed the bread, broke it, and blessed the cup to institute the Lord’s Supper (22:19–22). After Jesus’s resurrection, followers of Christ assembled on the first day of the week to break this bread (Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Cor 11:17–34).
Moses had specified that seven days following the Passover lamb was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Exodus 12:14–20). Followers of Christ eat unleavened bread every first day of the week because Jesus instituted the communion meal during the Passover just before His death (Acts 20:7). The Scriptures set the precedent for unleavened although without a direct command for unleavened bread in the Lord’s Supper. However, the Bible is specific about Christians partaking of bread in the supper (1 Corinthians 10:16; 11:23–26).
The Lord’s Supper is not all that remains of Passover for Christians. The apostle Paul specified that to live a holy life removed from evil is to celebrate the Passover. This includes not associating with anyone named a brother who is living in sin (1 Corinthians 5:6–12). Paul declared, “Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (5:8). The apostle also noted that the congregation is to assemble “in the name of the Lord Jesus” to disassociate from a believer practicing sin to restore them. They did this to remove the sin like leaven to celebrate Passover with sincerity and truth (5:5, 13).
Jesus’s death without the resurrection would be like the Passover sacrifice without Israel exiting Egypt. Therefore, assembling on the first day of the week to break the bread of communion makes sense also to recognize Jesus's resurrection. Jesus paid the price on the cross and was victorious by His resurrection to bring eternal life to the faithful. This time of the year was for the Passover that is another reminder to the world of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and encouragement for struggling believers to assemble every first day of the week to break bread together (Acts 20:7). Thank God every day of the year that Christ arose.
Sunday, April 19 2020
Christians know that we are to gather others to Jesus or we will scatter (Matt 12:30). When Christians think of sharing the gospel with others, we often reflect on Jesus's parable of sowing the seed and the types of soil. Some ground was hard, rocky, or thorny and so not ready to receive the seed that is God’s Word. Jesus taught, "As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15 ESV). However, we either are surrounded by hard hearts, restricted by social expectations and, or have limited connections. We are wise to get more info and ask others what they think.
An effective approach to evangelizing is to ask questions in a restrictive environment or a difficult circumstance to get others thinking. Anytime that someone comments on a current event whether you agree or not, you can ask, "Why do you think that?" to gather information about how they support their position. Another way to say this is: "How did you come to that conclusion?" If someone says that she does not believe in talking about religion, you can ask her, “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” Then you can start a conversation by asking her to clarify why she does not talk about religion and that can lead to a friendly discussion about faith.
The question that Christians should constantly ask those who differ is "Why?" to draw out the person’s thinking and reasoning (if they have thought about why they believe what they believe). Whatever the discussion in any environment even if others expect you not to talk about your faith in God and Christ, you can sincerely ask this question of others and then listen without being confrontational.
Immediately after Jesus fed the 4,000, some Pharisees came testing Jesus asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus replied, "Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation." What fruit would come from Jesus asking that question? They did not understand that they just missed a sign from God. After this occasion, Jesus's disciples were discussing not having bread other than one loaf while traveling on the sea (Mark 8:14–16). To get them to think, Jesus asked, "Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?" (Mark 8:17–19). A simple goal is to get others thinking about God, Christ, and their actions.
Jesus was always asking challenging questions turning the tables over on those challenging His authority. Likewise, Christians can follow His example and ask others to explain their position. Jesus responded to unbelievers, “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:46–47; cf. John 8:43; 14:9).
You can also start a conversation about salvation with a believer by asking, "How were you saved?" and listen. Then, you can respond if there is disagreement, "I wasn't saved that way," and most likely open the door to tell them how God saved you by raising you from baptism. If someone claims that baptism is not the essential moment of salvation, then we can ask, "Why do you believe that?" They may assert that baptism is a work. Again, we can ask, "How did you come to conclude that […baptism is a work]?" This is really repeating the same question. The Christian can follow this with "Can you clarify what you mean by that?" and eventually come to ask an ultimatum like, "You say baptism does not save, but Jesus and Peter say baptism does save. Who is right?" When the chief priests demanded an account of authority for Jesus cleansing the temple, and Jesus responded, "I also will ask you a question. Now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (Luke 20:3–4). A question as an ultimatum is a good conclusion to leave someone thinking.
As the church, we can imitate Jesus by asking questions that will draw out the thinking of others or cause them to pause and reconsider. Furthermore, Christians should sincerely ask for the reasons for what others believe and listen so that we all honestly seek and find the truth that God has revealed.
Friday, April 17 2020
Actions have consequences. Deuteronomy may make that more clear than any other text of the Bible. After Moses delivered God’s Law to Israel, the prophet continued by God’s guidance to warn of Israel of the blessings and the curses that await those who do not obey God. The conclusion of God’s Law to Israel is the conclusion of a brief study of observations about the nature of God from Deuteronomy.
God promised to set Israel high above all nations of the earth if they obey God’s voice and carefully did all that God commanded (Deut 28:1–2). Moses described in the details of blessings for obeying God in this life and in the God-given land granted to Israel (28:1–6). Moses relayed that God will bless Israel on the battlefield, in the farmland, and give great prosperity (28:7–14). The prophet revealed, “And the LORD will make you abound in prosperity, in the fruit of your womb and in the fruit of your livestock and in the fruit of your ground, within the land that the Lord swore to your fathers to give you” (Deut 28:11 ESV).
In contrast, God warned that if Israel did not obey God’s voice, then all the curses will overtake them (Deut 28:15–18). God promised the coming of curses, frustration, and confusion on those who do not obey His words (28:20). God would allow pestilences, diseases, and droughts (28:20–24). Moses described maddening curses as the people become helpless with no one to saved them because they abandoned God (28:25–35). Israel will become a horror among the nations for rejecting their God (28:45–47). The events become so appallingly disastrous that another nation will besiege this wicked Israel and they will survive by eating the fruit of the womb — their sons and daughters (28:51–57).
In the Book of Revelation, the apostle John revealed, “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Rev 22:18–19). In the Christian Testament, God is still the God of just wrath. Paul taught, “For those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom 2:8; cf. Eph 5:6). Furthermore, Jesus taught, “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt 13:41–42).
The actions of many parents today devour their own children. Blessings of prosperity exist for married parents for their children (2 Cor 12:14b). Obeying God’s commands keep profanity out of the home and words of hate out of the ears of children. The apostle Paul taught, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph 4:29). Believers who diligently follow God do not provoke their children to wrath by passing on prejudice (Eph 6:4). Children need homes filled with a father’s love for the children’s mother, and the mother’s respect for her husband (Eph 5:33).
God’s commands are not arbitrary. God’s commands are for the good of everyone. When God gives His people commands, they should do everything they can to obey Him. Thank God for His instructions that are for our own good! Great blessings come by submitting to the One who created you.
Moses concluded, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days,” (Deut 30:19–20b).
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