Wednesday, July 1, 2020

A Timely Comment on a Timeless Passage

By Jim Faughn
    Brother James Burton Coffman was – among other things - a preacher for local congregations, an educator, a lecturer, and an author.  Many have in their libraries his commentaries on both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
    Recently, while doing some work on a sermon, I came across an interesting statement in brother Coffman’s commentary on Matthew.  In reality, it was not directly related to the particular lesson on which I was working.  At the same time, it is directly related to everything I need to be as a Christian. 
    The passage under consideration was this portion of what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire (Matt. 5:21-22, ESV).  
    Brother Coffman penned the following words (and more) about that passage:

When it is considered that a derogatory or uncomplimentary remark about a Christian brother is subject to punishment in the ‘hell of fire,’ and when it is considered that much of the journalism so widely received by ‘churches of Christ’ is filled with uncomplimentary, and even false and vicious statements about brethren, the true followers of Christ must stand in awe of the penalties which divine justice shall certainly execute against evil doers.  O God, be merciful to thy people!
    It seems to me that the words spoken by our Lord about two thousand years ago and the comments written by brother Coffman in 1968 need to be considered today.  The words of Jesus and a proper understanding of those words are both timeless and timely.
    A person does not have to be mean in order to be sound.  He/she should not try to build up by tearing down.  Blowing your candle out does not make mine shine any brighter. 
    May those of us who attempt to preach and teach God’s Word, as well as all who call ourselves Christians keep the following two principles in our minds and do our best to exemplify them:

A new commandment I give you, that you love one another: just as I (Jesus) have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35, ESV).
…speaking the truth in love (Eph. 4:15, ESV).

- Jim Faughn serves as an elder for the Central Church of Christ in Paducah KY.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

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