By Ron Thomas
The word sinner is used 12 times in the New Testament, while the plural is used 31 times (ASV). Is this word ever applied to one who is a Christian, that is, one who is living the life of Christ? It is not. If not, then why do Christians identify themselves as sinners? Perhaps there are a number of reasons, one of which may be something along this line: “If I say I’m not a sinner, does that not sound a bit arrogant?” Since it does in the mind of many, there is a term used to help in making a distinction. This term is “alien sinner”, that is, one who is not saved by the blood of Christ in contrast to sinner, one who is saved by the blood of Christ. Yet, if the word sinner refers to one who needs to repent, then Christians are sinners and lost with regard to salvation.
Think about the meaning of the word as it is used in varied contexts. Here is one: Even so, Isay unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth (Luke 15:10). A sinner is one who needs to repent. If you’re living the life of Christ, do you need to repent? Here is another: let him know, that he who converteth a sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins (James 5:20). In this reading, a sinner needs converting. As a Christian, do you need to be converted? If so, to what? Finally, Jesus said in Luke 5:32, I am not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance. Since you have been converted to the Lord, that is, you have repented of your sins and obeyed the gospel, identifying with the Lord in baptism, that means you have answered the call of Jesus to righteousness.
The passage that will get Christians to use the word sinner in relation to themselves is that which Paul said in 1 Timothy. Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief: Did Paul actually say he was the “chief of sinners” that is, he was guilty of sin more than anyone else at the time when he wrote these words to Timothy? If one presses the language, then yes, this is what he said. On the other hand, is that what he meant? It is not. Consider: 1) in 1:13, Paul was mindful of what he once was, that is, guilty of many things against God. If he was still the chief of sinners, then at the time in which he wrote these words to Timothy, he must have been guilty of the same things. If you say he was not, then what was he guilty of with the use of the word sinner? He certainly did not identify anything of which he was guilty. 2) Paul, however, said he was not that, but that he received mercy from the Lord in his state of unbelief, thus a sinner. 3) Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners of which Paul considered himself the chief, guilty of those things he mentioned in 1:13. 4) Because he was the chief of sinners, he obtained mercy (1:16).
I understand fully that we all struggle with sin; maybe for some it is worse than it is for others. Still, when the New Testament uses the word, it is in relationship to those lost in sin. If you’ve obeyed the Gospel of Jesus, you’re not lost in sin. You may struggle mightily with it, but in such circumstances, My dear children, I am writing you this so that you may not sin; yet if anyone ever sins, we have One who pleads our case with the Father, Jesus Christ, One who is righteous. And He is Himself the atoning sacrifice for our sins; and not for ours alone, but also for the whole world (1 John 2:1-2; Charles B. Williams’s translation).
- Ron Thomas preaches for the Church of Christ at Rio Grande in Bidwell, OH. He may be contacted at email@example.com
Sunday, March 26, 2023
By Edd Sterchi
According to the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms, the phrase “stand fast” means, “to be firm or unyielding.” It also reveals that: “This idiom, dating from the early 1600s, originally was applied to an army holding its territory against the enemy.” The phrase “stand fast” occurs in some translations of our English Bibles, as well. Actually it is translated from the Greek word “steko” which is defined as, “to stand firm, to persevere, to persist, to keep one’s standing” (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon).
With all this in mind, let’s examine a few of the “stand fast” passages in the New Testament and notice the different ways we are to “stand fast” in holding our territory against our enemy – Satan.
* Stand fast for the Lord. - “...so stand fast in the Lord, beloved” (Phil. 4:1). First and foremost, we must stand for the Lord. If we don’t stand for Jesus, then we stand for the world. Christ must come first in everything in our lives.
* Stand fast in your Christianity. - “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Gal. 5:1). Christianity is about maturing and moving forward. Standing fast in this mindset and lifestyle keeps Satan at bay.
* Stand fast with the brethren. - “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ...that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). Standing fast with the brethren in fellowship, worship, and work strengthens our ties and helps all.
* Stand fast on the Bible. - “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle” (2 Thess. 2:15). We must be those who stand upon the Bible and stand by its teachings. We must learn them, live them, and defend them. This keeps us safe.
* Stand fast through faith. - “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). It is only through faith and trust in God that we will do any of these. It is only by standing through thick and thin with our faith intact that we will persevere all the way to heaven.If we always stand fast in God’s ways, we will be in good standing with Him and He will make sure we stand in heaven forevermore. So Christian – stand up – stand fast – stand your ground – don’t let Satan get any headway.
By Joe Slater
Six times in the Psalms, once in Isaiah, and twice in Revelation, Scripture speaks of “a new song.” Invariably it has to do with deliverance or salvation of some kind.
Psalm 33:3 exhorts, “Sing to Him a new song.” Why? Among many other reasons, “the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him . . . to deliver their soul from death, and to keep them alive in famine” (vv. 18-19.
David had salvation from sin in Psalm 40:3 – “He has put a new song in my mouth.” What prompted this song? “My iniquities have overtaken Me . . . they are more than the hairs of my head . . . Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me” (vv. 12-13).
A more temporal “salvation” resulted in a new song in the other psalms. “Sing to the Lord a new song . . . Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day” Psalm 96:1. “O sing to the Lord a new song . . . His right hand and His holy arm have gained the victory. The Lord has made known His salvation” (Psalm 98:1-2). “I will sing a new song to You, O God . . . the One who gives salvation to kings, who delivers David His servant from the deadly sword” (Psalm 144:9-10). “Sing to the Lord a new song” (Psalm 149:1) is followed by a call for the destruction of Israel’s enemies.
Isaiah’s call for a new song (Isaiah 42:10) anticipates the spiritual salvation that Jesus would provide in the Messianic age. That salvation has become a reality in Revelation 5:9 as the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders “sang a new song” praising Jesus the Lamb for being slain, redeeming us by His blood, and making us a royal priesthood. Innumerable angels and all of creation join in this song in 5:11-13. The great body of the redeemed in Revelation 14:3 is also said to sing a new song.Salvation naturally results in singing praise! Do you have a new song in your heart?
By Bill Brandstatter
My birthday is March 2nd. You may be reading this before or after that day. It causes me to think about life and my status with God. The reflections cause me to look backward and forward. I have realized daily the expression “time flies.” The writer James told of life and stated, “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NKJV) Reflection is good for the soul. It causes us to look at where we are and where we ought to be. The Psalmist stated regarding life, “For it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psa. 90:10)
Where have I been? My past life is gone. The present is now. Whatever mistakes I made in the past I need to forget and move on. The apostle Paul had to remind himself to do that. He stated he was “forgetting those things which were behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Phil.3:13). I can’t change the past. I can make the present better.
Where am I now? God is concerned about where we are now. The urgency of the moment is expressed in several Bible passages. Paul wrote, “Now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). We should be “redeeming the time” (Eph. 5:16).
Where will I be in the future? I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future. The best way to prepare for the future is to prepare now. The future happens with the dawn of every new day. As one person stated, “Today is the start of the rest of your life.” My entrance into heaven depends on what I do while here on earth. I have the chance now to do what I must to enter heaven one day. What a difference a day can make. We must obey Jesus today, so that we can see Him tomorrow. (Mark 16:16; Heb. 5:8, 9)
By Jeff Arnette
The letter of Jude and the person are not well known to modern readers of the Bible. Most have no idea who he was or why his unique letter is even considered Scripture. I call his letter unique because of its contents. In the letter Jude refers to a book called “The Assumption of Moses” and one called “The Book of Enoch.” Do not let this cause you to think they are inspired or even worthy of your time to read them. Jude is simply referencing books that were well-known in this time to make a point about faithfulness and the danger of rebelling against God.
By including these quotes, he is saying that they are correct. I know this sounds strange but truthfully, he is not the only writer in Scripture to include outside sources in his work. Paul does it in Acts 17 when he was preaching on Mar’s Hill to the Greek philosophers. In Acts 17:28 he quotes two well-known Greek philosophers the first being “Epimedes of Crete” and then one by Aratus called “Phainomena.” Neither man is saying these writers are inspired or that what they wrote is always true. They are simply saying that this specific reference is true.
The person “Jude” is a brother of James (Jude 1) which would mean that he is also a brother of Jesus Christ. In the Greek, his name is “Judas” and in the Hebrew his name would be “Judah.” In Matthew 13:55 Judah is mentioned as a brother of Jesus. From the gospels we know that both James and Jude doubted Jesus’ claims as the Messiah. However, both men because devout believers after the resurrection and went on to be leaders in the early Church. Jude and James were likely in the “Upper Room” in Acts 1:12-14. Beyond this we do not know much about Jude which says that he did not leverage his family connection to Jesus to grab for power or influence. As he says in verse 1, he was a servant of Jesus Christ and that was enough.
In his letter, Jude says he was eager to write about their common salvation but after finding out about their struggles with false teacher he decided it was more important to encourage them to “Contend for the Faith.” He says that these false teachers had crept in unnoticed and were perverting the gospel and grace of our Lord Jesus causing some to indulge their sinful desires and by doing so were denying Jesus Christ.
Do not miss this point! Jude is saying that giving into your sinful desires is an act that denies Jesus. He wrote to warn them of the dangers these false teachers were creating for them. To listen to them could cost you everything, even your own salvation.
The purpose of Jude’s letter encourages them to earnestly “Contend for the faith” as delivered to the saints. Note that the message of Jesus was fully delivered to the saints. By extension this means that it did not need anything more added to it and anything that is added to it is to be rejected as false. Jude encourages his readers to remain faithful to Jesus and our faith by rejecting such false teachings and living godly lives. He gives us 6 examples to remind us of the dangers of rejecting or rebelling against God. He says that we should not follow the example of Israel coming out of Egypt, the angels who tried to have more authority and power, and the people of Sodom and Gomorrah who indulged their sexual desires. He also reminds us of Cain who killed his brother, Balaam who was greedy for more money, and Korah who rebelled against Moses because he wanted to be in charge.
Indulging your sinful desires and rejecting God’s words never works out well. The little letter of Jude, although small, carries a big punch and teaches us that faithfulness is always the right path to follow in life. Let me encourage you to read again this little letter and contemplate it great lessons.
- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://centralhaywoodcoc.com/
Sunday, March 19, 2023
By Edd Sterchi
It has been said that you should never fall in love with a tennis player – to them, love means nothing. Love should mean something to us. Love is an important concept to God and it should be to us, as well.
A common phrase we use is “in love” meaning that we are in a state of strong emotional attachment with someone. Well, I believe that Christians should be “in love” with one another. Doing a search of the phrase “in love” in our English Bibles reveals some interesting things concerning Christians’ relationship with each another (note: the following verses are based upon the NKJV).
* “bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). This means that we are patient with one another – that we are always there for them.
* “edifying...in love” (Eph. 4:15). To edify means to “build up.” We should always be endeavoring to uplift and encourage our brethren.
* “walk in love” (Eph. 5:2). What is meant by walking is a way of life.
Our way of life ought to be that of caring for and expressing love for one another.
* “esteem...very highly in love” (1 Thess. 5:13). We should prefer one another and honor one another because we love one another.
If we properly operate “in love” with one another, we can see some benefits, as well.
* “Being knit together in love” (Col. 2:2). We will grow closer together with the special love bond we have in Christ.
* “abound in love to one another” (1 Thess. 3:12). Our love will grow in intensity and be so abundant that it will literally know no bounds.“And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:16)
By Adam Faughn
There is an old sermon illustration that I have heard used a handful of times, but I have never been able to run down where it originated. So, please know that the following is a summary of ow I remember it being told. If you know where it is originally from, I would love to find out because it drives home a powerful concept.
One day, a man decided to fish. He got a simple pole, line, and hook and went to a local creek. He was not successful at first, but he enjoyed the time in nature, so he went again. After a few trips, he caught his first fish. A few trips later, he had caught more.
After a time, the man had gained quite a reputation for knowing how to catch fish, so people came to see him do it. While he did not catch fish every time he went, he was usually successful, plus he loved to talk about fishing. It had become a passion for him. People started wanting to hear him speak about the techniques he used and where the best fishing spots were.
Time passed and the man became truly renowned in the fishing world. He was asked to speak at fishing seminars. He wrote books and articles on fishing. He even offered an online class on the modern techniques of fishing. His knowledge was impeccable, as he stayed up-to-date with the latest innovations in fishing gear, fishing technology, and fishing techniques. He was basically unparalleled in the fishing world for giving people information on fish.
Amazingly, the man created such a furor that an entire fishing university was created, and people filled their minds in courses such as "Angler 101" and "Line-Baiting Symposium." They graduated with degrees in fishology and were now filled with all sorts of information.
But, through it all, there was one thing that was no longer happening. The man who was such an expert on fishing simply did not have the time anymore...to fish. He had not been in years. He had the information and stayed up to date, but he had not put a hook in the water for a long, long time. Thus, he had not even attempted to actually catch a fish in many years.
So, while the world was now full of people who knew the information about fishing, what was missing? People who fished.
ThatBut if all we ever do is talk about it, we are not doing what we are talking about.
Go fishing! Even if you do not "catch" a soul, your loving effort is what God blesses. Who do you need to talk to, even today?
"Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation." (Mark 16:15)
By Bill Brandstatter
Suppose someone were to tell you that if you cut off your little finger, you could have everything you could possibly want or need? If you need a new car, you could have it. If you need a new house, pick one, there is no price limit. Whatever you want in this world could be yours, if you just cut off your right finger. Would you do it? Suppose the offer was extended to include your right arm, your eyes and your ears, would you still do it? Many would say “no” at some point, yet there are many people that are giving up something more valuable for a whole lot less. Jesus poses this question: “For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matt. 16:26 NKJV)
Our soul is the most valuable item we possess. There is no price tag attached to it. It is valuable because it goes on beyond the grave. We cannot take our material possessions with us. (1 Tim. 6:7) We will take our souls with us. So, the value of it is far greater than anything this world has to offer. To lose our soul would be worse than losing our material possessions in a fire, earthquake, or storm.
Our soul is valuable because of its source. Man has given us many things; God has given us our soul. Ezekiel, acting as a spokesman for God stated, “Behold all souls are mine.” (Eze. 18:4) Our material possessions belong to us. Our souls belong to God. Paul adds to this by stating, “Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Cor. 6:20) God breathed life into man, and man became a living soul. (Gen. 1:27) Since that time every soul belongs to God.
Our soul is valuable because each of us are of the same value. Material possessions differ with the individual, but each of us has a soul. The value of each soul is the same. The value is not determined by gender, education, or ethnicity. Where we live makes no difference. In Christ, the soul of each person has the same value. (Gal. 3:26-29)
Let us consider how valuable we are to God, not man. Man’s value is based on looks, money, prestige, and class status. God’s value is placed on our soul’s relationship with Him. Let us make sure we have the right relationship with God, and the soul’s value will be clearly seen when Heaven is our home.
By David A. Sargent
Jim Corley met his friend, Alex, at the dealership where Alex worked.
“Jim, I feel like a hypocrite every time I go to church because I fail to live for Christ so often.”
“Alex, what do you call this part of the dealership?” Jim asked, nodding to the area outside his cubicle.
“You mean the showroom?”
“Yes. And what’s behind the showroom, past the parts counter?”
“The service department,” Alex said confidently.
“What if I told you I didn’t want to bring my car to the service department because it was running rough,” Jim asked.
“That would be crazy! That’s the whole point of service departments — to fix cars that aren’t running right.”
“You’re absolutely right,” Jim replied. “Now, let’s get back to our initial conversation. Instead of thinking of church as a showroom where image is everything, start thinking of it as God’s service department. Helping people get back in running order with God is what the church is all about.” *
We are all in need of repairs, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
But God loves us and wants to “fix us” – from the inside out. The finished product will resemble His glorious Son. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
In order to cleanse us and make us whole, God sent His one and only Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).
God will cleanse, make whole, and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7-9).
When we rise from the waters of baptism in the new birth, God adds us to the church, His family (Acts 2:41). In God’s family, we find encouragement, correction, forgiveness, and other components of a needed support system to keep us “running” well.
“Bring Christ your broken life
So marred by sin.
He will create anew
Make whole again.”
-- Thomas O. Chisholm
Remember, the church is not a showroom; it’s God’s service department. Come to Christ and into His church so that He can make you whole.
- David A. Sargent, minister for the Church of Christ at Creekwood in Mobile, Alabama, is also the editor of an electronic devotional entitled "Living Water." To learn more about this excellent resource contact David via their website: http://www.creekwoodcc.org
* Source: Choice Contemporary Stories and Illustrations For Preachers, Teachers, and Writers, Craig Brian Larson as quoted by www.ministry127.com.
By Joe Slater
“Strait is the gate and narrow is the way which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matthew 7:14, KJV).
The expression “strait and narrow” has become proverbial in reference to careful compliance with the rules given by parents or by God. However, most mistakenly understand it as “straight and narrow.” The spelling difference is subtle, but the change in meaning is radical!
A “strait” (without the g-h) is seldom straight. Look at the Strait of Magellan or the Strait of Hormuz on a map. They’re anything but straight! Guiding a ship through those straits takes plenty of zigzagging along a difficult and narrow route! They’re called “straits” because they’re difficult, not because they go from point “a” to point “b” without deviation.
Many other Scriptures teach us not to deviate from God’s word, but “strait” in Matthew 7:14 isn’t making that point. The path to eternal life is narrow and difficult! By contrast, the way to destruction is wide and easy (7:13). Most people find wide and easy to be appealing. Comparatively few put forth the effort to travel the narrow, difficult path.
But wait! Doesn’t the majority rule? That sounds very American! How can the majority of people be wrong? Isn’t it arrogant to say that?
Well, we didn’t say it – Jesus did. A majority of Jesus’ own people (the Jews) rejected Him. Despite the thousands who became Christians in Acts, vastly more rejected the gospel. This is nothing new; God has always operated with a remnant.
Are you on that narrow way? It’s difficult, but the destination makes it more than worth the effort!
Thursday, March 16, 2023
By Andrew Beasley
I am sure that most can relate to the feeling in the pit of your stomach that arises when you are driving down the road and maybe you have not checked your speedometer or paid close enough attention to it, at least not until you zip past a police officer and see them pull out behind you a few moments later. There is a sense of unease as you look in your review mirror as you wait for those flashing blue and red lights to turn on. In the same moment you likely find yourself glancing to make sure your speed had dropped to where it always should have been.
Those feelings of anxiousness are likely undergirded by guilt, or potential guilt, at the fact that maybe you did break the law and are going to be facing the consequences of doing so. There is never anything pleasant about being disciplined or punished. In the case of speeding the end result may be a hefty fine depending on how fast one was going, and the annoyance of increased car insurance because of the mark against your record.
If only the world, and in many ways Christians, had the same fear of the consequences of sin. The truth of the matter is that with many crimes committed against human governments, the criminal can get away with their wrong doing if they are careful enough not to get caught. With spiritual crimes there is no escaping the governing authority that is God. There is nothing that escapes the view of a being so great that He is aware of even the number of hairs growing on each one of our heads (Luke 12:7).
As Christians we should always be working to make sure no one is facing the flashing lights of God’s judgment on that great day.
- Andrew Beasley serves as a minister with the Northwest Church of Christ in Greensboro, NC. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: https://nwchurchofchrist.com/about/
By Al Behel
“These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14)
John the Baptist referred to Jesus as the Lamb of God (John 1:29, 36). The book of Revelation tells us that the Lamb that was slain is worthy to receive honor and praise (Revelation 5:12). He is worthy because His blood cleanses us and makes us free from sin. He is worthy because He overcomes our enemies. He is worthy because He is “King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
As the church of our Lord we await His return as a bride waits for her wedding day. Therefore, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife has made herself ready” (Revelation 19:7). Sometimes we lose heart. Sometimes we become discouraged and are impatient. But, the wedding is coming. The Lamb will return and He will be victorious over all the enemies. Our battle is not ours, but His. We win because He wins.
Although church bells had not been heard in the freedom-starved nation of Czechoslovakia in 45 years, at noon on November 27, 1989 every church bell in the country began to ring out as the atheistic and tyrannical governments of Eastern urope suddenly disintegrated. A sign placed on the front lawn of a church building in Prague said it all. It read simply, “The Lamb Wins.”
The gentleness and compassion of Jesus is portrayed as a Lamb. But, let us not forget that this same Lamb is Judge of all mankind. He is the ultimate conqueror of all who oppose Him. No enemy can stand before Him. Nations will rise and nations will fall, but the Kingdom of God stands forever. On the final day there will be no doubt. There will be no opposition. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father.God is not intimidated by emperors, kings or presidents. He is not the God of one nation, or one political party, or one ethnic group. He stands above the universe, over all, limitless, powerful. He is an awesome God, and He is our Father. And His Son, the Lamb without blemish, is our Redeemer!!
By Dan Bailey
It is good for us to study and meditate upon the memorial of the Lord's Supper. At one time in Corinth, the apostle Paul had to rebuke the brethren for intermingling the Lord's Supper with a common meal. God expects our worship to be according to His Word, and to be spiritual in nature. Paul wrote the church in Corinth saying: "When ye come together therefore into one place, this is not to eat the Lord's supper. For in eating every one taketh before other his own supper: and one is hungry, and another is drunken. What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God, and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not" (I Corinthians 11:20-22).
Paul was not condemning Christians for partaking of a common meal together, but he was condemning the intermingling of that meal with worship. Paul's purpose was to keep the common meal separate and distinct from the worship service. Sometimes Christians gather together for a common meal in a home, a restaurant, or somewhere on the church property. There is nothing at all sinful with this. However, it should be distinct from our worship services.
Paul went on to say, "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Corinthians 11:23-26).
When Jesus said of the bread, "Take eat: this is my body," He was not saying that the bread really, that is, literally, became His body. But rather that it was symbolic of His body, or represented or stood for, His body. The bread brings to our memory the precious body of our Lord that was suspended between heaven and earth upon the old rugged cross.
The cup mentioned in I Corinthians 11:25, meant the contents of the cup, or the fruit of the vine. There are some who believe that Christ meant for His disciples to use only one physical cup while partaking of the Lord's Supper. This is to confuse the container with that which is in the container. Whether we use one physical cup or many, does not effect the contents of the cup. Jesus said, "...This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me" (I Corinthians 11:25). The cup is not literally blood, but it represents, or is symbolic of the blood, of the Lamb of God.
When Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper, He said, "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matthew 26:28). When we partake of the Lord's Supper we do so in remembrance of His death. "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come" (I Corinthians 11:26).
To partake of the Lord's Supper "unworthily" has reference to the manner or disposition of heart while partaking of the supper. Each person is to "examine himself" and to "discern the Lord's body." To discern the Lord's body is to make the proper separation or distinction between the common meal, common things, and spiritual worship. If there is no separation of the two, then Christ is not properly set apart or honored in our hearts. Our worship needs to be as directed from God's Word.
The final thought from Albert Barnes enumerates reasons why one should examine himself before taking the Lord's Supper. --
By Brian Mitchell
Students in a psychology class at San Diego State College were asked to name their most valuable personal asset. 2 wrote down intelligence, both of them misspelled it. Winston Lord, former assistant Secretary of State and ambassador to China, told of a time when he and his wife were driving outside of Beijing. They came across a Buddhist temple and the head monk came out to greet him. His eyes lit up when he learned that Lord was an ambassador and that his wife Betty was a famous author. The monk then asked Lord if he would do this temple a great honor which would benefit future visitors, to guide and instruct them.
He then asked him to write something in English. Obviously, the ambassador and his wife were quite honored and the monk then handed them two wooden plaques and said, “Would you write in English on the plaque the word Ladies and on this plaque the word Gentlemen?” Many people like them think of themselves as being quite intelligent (and they are usually quite annoying to the few of us who are).
Many perceive themselves as quite intelligent and are often quite embarrassed to find out they either did not know as much as they thought they knew or that their perceived intelligence was not as important to others as it was to them. One of the greatest advantages of my studies is the fact that the more I learn the more I realize I have to learn.
The church at Corinth was undergoing a similar realization and they were having a difficult time coming to grips with this new reality. They, like many living in metropolitan areas of the 1st Century, prided themselves on their knowledge and felt as though they had everything figured out. Yet, here comes God in their lives and He is doing things in ways they just cannot comprehend. To them the ways of God are foolish because He was acting in ways that were contrary to what they believed to be the best of human wisdom.
Paul in this text demonstrates to them and us that there is nothing wrong with the wisdom of God, for it is infinite in nature. The problem is with man’s wisdom. Man and God think differently—Is.55:8-9. Thus, if man and God see things differently, the problem does not lie in the wisdom of doing things God’s way, it lies in our ability to understand the wisdom of doing things God’s way.
Paul concludes this passage by putting man in his proper place. How? By stating that even the foolishness of God is wiser than the wisdom of man and that the weakness of God is stronger than the strength of man. It does not matter how wise we become—God is wiser. It does not matter what man achieves in his own power—God is more powerful.
There is a day coming when those who have refused the wisdom of God will say, I should have chosen His way and not mine. I should have trusted His wisdom and not mine. The only question will be; what will you say?
- Brian Mitchell serves as a minister with the Jackson Church of Christ in Jackson, MO. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at https://www.jacksonchurchofchrist.netg
By Edd Sterchi
I don’t know how many times I have had someone come up to me and ask, “How much should I be giving?” That’s always a tough question to answer, for it is indeed dependent upon many things.
Under the Old Law, the tithe was the standard giving amount for the faithful child of God. This consisted of ten percent of the gross amount of one’s produce and/or earnings (cf. Lev. 27:30-32; Deut. 24:32). But the Old Law was nailed to the cross, and we are no longer bound by those regulations (Col. 2:14).
Under the New Covenant, Christians are to give, to make their offering to God, in an individual, regular, predetermined, and proportional manner (see 1 Cor. 16:2 as an example of all of these). But that still does not answer the question of how much of one’s income one is supposed to give. Is it 5%, 10%, 25%, etc.? In actuality, everybody’s situation varies so much that God has left it up to each person to determine the amount to give. But we also need to note this: God knows when we do not give the proper amount or with the proper attitude.
Too many times we may look at giving as determining the smallest amount we can get away with, or possibly discovering what spare change or small bills we can find in our pocket, purse, or wallet. Maybe we should look at it as determining how much we can give back to God. Given that thought, here are some guidelines for generous giving:
* Give as much as you want to receive back from the Lord. In Luke 6:38, Jesus told His disciples that they would receive back from God in direct proportion to how much they gave (see also 2 Cor 9:6). So look at giving to God as a “down payment” on the blessings you will receive from Him.
* Give as much as you love the Lord and His people. The Macedonian brethren are set forth as an example of generous giving in 2 Cor. 8:1-5. Even in their poverty, they gave abundantly, because they loved God and knew that their giving was a part of fellowshiping with His people. So look at giving to God as a demonstration of your love and appreciation for Him and what He has done for you.
* Give as much as you want to see the Lord’s church do. In 2 Cor. 9:8-14, the Corinthian Christians are commended for their generous giving which helped the work of the church, specifically in the spreading of the gospel and in benevolence to the needy. So look at giving as a declaration of what you would like to see this congregation of the Lord’s church do in His name.
It is also important to note that we can and should give of our time and talents as well as of our treasure to the Lord. But when it comes down to the giving of our means that the Lord has blessed us with, remember that our giving is a down payment on future blessings from God, a demonstration of our passion for Him, and a declaration of how influential we want His church to be.“So let each one give as he purposes in his heart, not grudgingly or of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor.9:7)
Sunday, March 5, 2023
By Lance Cordle
People who saw the animated feature film “Beauty and the Beast” will undoubtedly remember the song with the same title as the movie, performed by Peabo Bryson and Celine Dion. Since that time, the name of Celine Dion has been related to great music and her voice has been admired by many people. She has performed concerts throughout the world and sold millions of records. It has not been unusual to hear her name in the news over the past few years as well. In December of 2022, Celine announced she had been diagnosed with the rare disorder known as Stiff-Person Syndrome. It is a painful neurological disorder and there is no cure for it. Celine is fifty-eight years old and her career is in jeopardy because of this condition. In fact, numerous concerts she had planned for the coming months have had to be cancelled.
What is interesting to observe is the fact that most people would easily describe Celine Dion as a privileged and successful person, and have been shocked to learn that she is dealing with such a serious disorder. However, what this situation reveals is that everyone, including celebrities, deals with some sort of serious personal issue on a daily basis. As you greet the first person in your list of encounters of the day, it would not be unheard for that person to have a serious illness, a death in the family, or an emotional or physical handicap. Many other possibilities could be given and various ones with whom you come into contact daily would be dealing with them.
Job is of course correct in his assessment of the human condition “Man who is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1). No doubt, we are aware of our own issues and troubles, and want people to be kind to us in their interactions with us. Why not return the favor and assume that everyone you meet is in the process of dealing with emotional or physical trauma and treat them with kindness?
If you knew the cashier at the grocery store had just experienced the death of a loved one, would you not treat them with courtesy and consideration? If you knew that your supervisor or employer had just been diagnosed with cancer, would you be as quick to criticize them? If you knew your coworker was in a troubled marriage, would you be cruel in your treatment of them?
Long ago, Jesus gave us the perfect way to deal with people who are facing personal crises. It is “built” for the possibility of encountering someone who is hurting. Here is the formula: “So, whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them . . .” (Matthew 7:12)
We call it the Golden Rule and it still works . . . for everyone.
- Lance Cordle preaches the Calvert City Church of Christ in Calvert City, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.calvertchurchofchrist.com
By Edd Sterchi
In Acts 18:24-28, we are introduced to a Christian names Apollos. He was a great example in spreading the word of God. We can certainly learn from His ways. Notice for example:
* He was mighty in the Scriptures (v.24). He knew the Word of God, but it is also important to note that he was always willing to learn them more accurately (v.26).
* He was eloquent (v.24). He spoke in a manner that people wanted to hear what he had to say.
* He was fervent in spirit (v.25). He was always excited about telling God’s truths.
* He spoke boldly (v.26). He was courageous in presenting the Word of God. He never backed down from the truth.
* He always proved his point (v.28). He used the Scriptures to establish that what he was speaking was from God.
By Bill Brandstatter
Some investigations are going on about classified documents. One investigation concerns former President Donald Trump. The other one concerns current President Joe Biden. Both claim they did nothing wrong; however, others are claiming they did. What is the truth?
The truth is what is known. Jesus stated, “You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) Every person can know that saving truth the same way. There can be no doubt about it. We have it in writing. God desires that all men be saved and come to knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim. 2:4). In our world of relative morality, we can know for certainty that there is a standard that is reliable. We must use the right authoritative standard in determining what is known.
The truth is what is proclaimed. Often, we don’t want to hear the truth. When Felix heard the truth from Paul, he trembled. Later Paul wrote, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16) Paul was just a messenger. Today we need to proclaim the truth in love. (Eph. 4:15) We need to love God and love our fellow man enough for the message of truth to reach their hearts.
The truth is what is written. This follows the other two points quite well. This is a well-known fact. “Put it in writing” is often a statement made to ensure security. When we buy anything, it is always good to put it in writing. I still request this today when I get a call of solicitation. God wanted His Word written down. Paul assures us of the veracity of that which was written before in Rom. 15:4. God had the Old Testament written for “our admonition.” (1 Cor. 10:11) Peter assured his listeners that what was written by the prophets was truthful and was being fulfilled. (Acts 3:24) Jesus mentioned that the prophecies written about Him were being fulfilled. In Luke 24:44 our Lord stated, “All things must be fulfilled that were written in the Law of Moses, and the Prophets, and the Psalm concerning me.” (NKJV). The written truth must be looked at and used correctly. Paul told Timothy the truth must be divided correctly. (2 Tim. 3:15) Often today the truth on any matter may be shaded to fit a particular platform or agenda. Could that happen with the Bible as well?
We can know the truth about our salvation and what God’s will for us is today. We need not trust any source other than the word of God. God wants us to know it. We don’t need to doubt it. It can save us and put us in eternity with Him. Jesus said “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.”
(John 17:17 NKJV)
By Ronald Bartanen
The Bible teaches that God made man in His own image (Gen. 1`:26-27), but man seems intent on making God into man’s image. We care less about agreeing with God and conforming to His laws than we are about imposing our own standards that are more politically correct.
The Bible presents God as the one supreme being, Creator of heaven and earth,, and all therein. He is the living God, with ears to hear and hands to help. This God is holy, almighty, all-wise, all-powerful, and ever present. See such scriptures as Acts 17:23-29 and 14:15; Mark 12:29; 1 Timothy 6:15; 1 Peter 1:15, 16 and 1 John 4:8.
Further, God is “Judge of all,” but also the Savior of men and women who come to Him through Jesus Christ (Romans 2:16 and Titus 3:4-6). He is the one God of both the Old and New Testaments. He may not be the God everybody feels comfortable with. Some dislike His laws. Some do not want to answer to anyone for their deeds, especially the One who knows their hearts. Some would prefer to serve a god tailor-made by denominational and cultic creeds and dogmas, rather than the true God whose truths are set forth by inspired apostles and prophets in holy Scripture (1 Timothy 3:16-17). Making God in our image is nothing short of idolatry.
Let’s cease making God in our image. It just won’t work!
- Ronald Bartanen is a retired minister who for many years served the Lord's church in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee. After the passing of his beloved wife, Doris, Ron has relocated from Illinois to Florida where he is near family. He may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org
By Joe Slater
Businesses may take inventory at the first of the year for tax purposes or to see if the company was profitable last year. What about you and me? How did we do last year? What adjustments do we need to make? Several matters call for an inventory:
1. Bible study (not just reading, but study). Both public and private study instill God’s word into our hearts. We ought to be known as walking Bibles! It can be so, but not without serious Bible study.
2. Prayer. “You do not have because you do not ask” (James 4:3). “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). Need we say more?
3. Attendance. Satan has used the pandemic to condition us into thinking in-person attendance is a mere option. For the truly ill, watching the service on an electronic device is helpful. I know that by experience! Nevertheless, when healthy, active people simply choose not to show up, Scripture calls it sin (Hebrews 10:26). Lame excuses, justifications, and rationalizations will never solve this!
4. Giving. God doesn’t “need” anything from us (Acts 17:25). Giving has always been an indication of love for God. The poorest Jew under the Law gave ten percent of his gross income (not what was left after paying the bills). Most Jews gave a good deal more. Under the New Covenant we are to give as God has prospered us (1 Corinthians 16:2). How would your income be affected if God prospered you in proportion to the generosity of your giving?
5. Good works. You can name dozens of bad things you haven’t done. That’s great? Now, what good works have you done? That’s one purpose God has for you in Christ (Ephesians 2:10).
It’s time to take inventory!