Sunday, May 21, 2023

God’s Word is Beyond Wonderful!

By Edd Sterchi


In Psalm 19:7-11, we can read of some of the incredible aspects of God’s



The law of the Lord is perfect, [a]converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
10 More to be desired are they than gold,
Yea, than much fine gold;
Sweeter also than honey and the 
11 Moreover by them Your servant is warned,
And in keeping them there is great reward.

1) It is from the LORD – God has given us His holy word.

2) It is perfect – there are no errors or flaws in it whatsoever.

3) It brings the words of salvation – in it we can learn how to be saved.

4) It is sure – it is fixed and will never change.

5) It brings wisdom – it helps us to be of sound mind.

6) It is right – it will never lead us down the wrong path.

7) It brings joy – it can delight our hearts to the fullest extent.

8) It is pure – it is unpolluted from the influence of the world.

9) It brings enlightenment – it puts everything into proper perspective.

10) It is clean – it is uncontaminated from men’s opinions.

11) It is eternal – it will never perish or fade away.

12) It is true – there is not even a hint of falsehood in it.

13) It is righteous – and it is where we learn how to live righteously.

14) It is precious – the treasures found in it are priceless.

15) It is sweet – it tastes wonderful to our soul.

16) It is instructional – it warns us of the consequence of not obeying it.

17) It is rewarding – it reveals blessings that come from following it.

    Maybe we should spend a little (or a lot) more time in it. What do you think?

- Edd Sterchi preaches for the Broadway Church of Christ in Campbellsville, KY. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Fled For Refuge

By Joe Slater


    The God we serve keeps His promises! Due to His holy nature, it is impossible for Him to lie. Yet, to help us in our weakness, He not only promised to bless the world through the seed of Abraham, but swore with an oath that He would keep His promise. Therefore, “We may have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18).

    These words call to mind at least two Old Testament practices with which the original readers of Hebrews would have been familiar. First, fleeing for refuge takes us to Numbers 35 where six cities were appointed as safe zones where a person who had killed another should flee. There he would receive a fair trial. If guilty of murder, he would be executed; but if the killing was justified or accidental, the avenger of blood couldn’t harm him. Nevertheless, the manslayer would have to remain inside the city of refuge until the death of the High Priest.

    Sinners flee to God for refuge through Christ, and the Lord adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47). Jesus is our High Priest forever (Hebrews 6:20). He will never die! Therefore, we must remain faithful within the body of Christ (the church) as long as we live.

    “Laying hold” of the hope set before us reminds us of another practice: laying hold of the horns of the altar. Solomon’s brother, Adonijah, and later the army captain, Joab, did so as a place of presumed safety. Unfortunately for them, both were guilty and therefore were executed.

    Rather than running to an altar, we lay hold of the hope we have in Christ. Hebrews 6:19-20 compares this hope to an anchor firmly secured in the presence of Christ in Heaven itself. Hope keeps us from being blown off course, as it were, by the trials and temptations we face.

    Stay in the city of refuge! Rejoice in your certain hope!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Can We Do More?

By Bill Brandstatter


    Often Christians feel bad because they are not able to do more for the church. Certainly, there are times when as individuals, we need to do more. That may include inviting others, encouraging others, attending Bible classes and worship, praying more for others. Sometimes phone calls, visits, or notes are great ways to help others to live better, be more faithful, and be encouraged. Others sometimes see the church in decline, or they notice more needs to be done. Sometimes we ask, “Can we do more?” The answer is YES; but to what extent is this possible?

    Everybody is not the same. Paul indicates in Romans 12:4 that every person in the body has a different function. God expects us to fulfill our function. Paul told Timothy, “Do the work of an evangelist.” Timothy had work to do. I am not expected by God to do what others are more capable of doing. God expects me to do what I can with the ability I have (1 Pet. 4:11).

    Everybody can do something. In Mark chapter 14, a woman with an alabaster box did something. She was criticized for not doing more. Jesus said, “She has done what she could do.” (vs. 8) Notice Jesus did not expect her to do what the critics mentioned. Mark records, “They criticized her sharply” (Mark 14:5). We don't know the reason that she couldn't do more; but Jesus accepted what she did and praised her for it. Sometimes people don't do anything because of criticism. Like the woman in our text, others will look at the work that ought to be done and criticize. Perhaps some think that their work is to criticize others. Because of criticism, or the possibility of it, some people won't do what they ought to be doing (John 12:42, 43). Let us not be criticizers, but encouragers and exhorters.

    Everybody has reasons they can't do more. Sometimes time constraints prevent a person from doing more. A mother with children is constrained by time. God expects a mother to take care of the home, her husband, and her children. If she can do more that is great. Many women do, but not all are able to do this. When Paul stated that a woman would be saved in her childbearing, he simply meant that a mother has a place that is important to God. (1 Tim. 2:15)

    In our day, there may be times a person can't do more because of health, transportation, or situations meaning that person can only do a certain amount. We should not be critical of those who can't do more, but rather encourage them in whatever area they are serving.

    Everybody has a responsibility to do something for the Lord. Perhaps all I can do is make a phone call. Others may be able to send a card. The Lord only expects me to do what I can. Certainly not everyone can preach or teach a Bible class. Some can't lead singing. Others can't teach a children's class. Everybody can do something, however. We need to find our niche in the local congregation then do it to the best of our ability. We are not perfect. We will make mistakes. Christianity and service both involve growth, however.

    Everybody needs to try to do more. In Heb. 5:12, individuals are mentioned that should have grown in their Christianity. They should have been teachers; but they never got to that point. The writer indicates they need to be taught again the first principles. The implication here is that they should have grown more than they did. We all need to try to do more. We need to talk to more people about the salvation found only in Christ. We often put ourselves in a comfort zone and never leave. All of us need to look within and ask ourselves if we are growing. If we can do more, we should. If we are at the same place we were when we became a Christian, we need to grow.

Bill Brandstatter preaches for the Marion Church of Christ in Marion, IL. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Understanding How the Church Grows—Emulation

By Brian Mitchell


    One of the most important principles for the modern church to seriously consider is how to most effectively to grow. So, if the church is not growing as God designed it to do, then we need to ask ourselves what we are doing to hinder it. Thus, for the last 2 months we have been trying to identify certain marks of a healthy congregation (what they do, where is their focus, what are their priorities, etc?). So that we might be able to determine whether or not we are a healthy congregation and if not what we can to change that. Thus far we have seen that healthy congregations are congregations that: understand the need to help build one another up (edification) and place a high priority on the level of biblical education that is received by all of the members. They are composed of members who understand the need to eliminate worldly habits and worldly members from among their midst (sin in the camp). They consist of those who understand that nothing worth accomplishing comes easy and thus they understand the value of hard work and effort. And finally, they have a solid program of encouragement for all members of the church.

    Healthy churches have a strong emphasis on evangelism which we will discuss next week. And our lesson today, they are composed of members that are devoted to emulating the right examples, the right individuals, and the right qualities in their lives. To emulate means “to try to equal or surpass, to imitate a person or thing admired, to rival successfully.” When it comes to creating a healthy and thus growing church, it is the middle definition that we are particularly interested in.

    For churches to be healthy they must of necessity be composed of members that are healthy and healthy Christians are those who understand who it is that they are trying to become like. The problem that many churches are facing is that some Christians don’t know who or what they are supposed to be like. They are emulating people; their examples, their character, their dress, their speech etc.; but the problem is that the people they are emulating are not worthy of Christian emulation. Thus their dress, speech, character and examples are not worthy of Christian emulation.

    Who are you trying to imitate? If you are more worried about what your family, friends, co-workers, fellows students, friends think about how you look, act, and talk than you are about what God thinks about how you look, act and talk--You have got a BIG problem in your life. Most of which is due to the fact you are trying to impress the wrong people by acting like the wrong people.

    Who are you following? Who are you emulating? Is it the Lord and those who followed Him? Or is it the world and those who live according to the standards of this world? If we want this church to grow we are going to have to show the world that we truly belong to the Lord. And it is not until we do that, that they will have any reason for wanting to be a part of what we are doing.

- 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

Seeking God?

By Ron Bartanen


You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13).

    No one finds God by accident.   They seek in vain who would seek Him through the words of philosophers, cult leaders or even preachers that claim to speak for God apart from the word of God.  Trusting the various shallow wells of human wisdom would leave us void of the fountain of life.  Only God knows God’s heart and His purpose and plan for man.  The apostle Paul, in speaking of the “wisdom of men”  in contrast to “the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 2), writes, “For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man that is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11).  In verse ten he made it plain that this knowledge is not apart from the revelation of truth through Christ’s chosen apostles, such as himself: “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit.”  While a limited comprehension of God is through His creation, as Paul asserted in Romans 1:19-20, yet a fuller and clearer revelation of God’s truth was made in the giving of the Law of God in written form through Moses and the prophets, the completed body of knowledge  awaited the coming of Christ.  Hebrews 1:1-1-2a declared, “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son….”  Through Christ and His inspired apostles the gospel (good news) of Christ was to be proclaimed to “all the world” (Mark 16:15), resulting in the salvation of baptized believers (v. 16). 

    While the Lord’s apostles are no longer with us, the Holy-Spirit-inspired-message of reconciliation with God through Christ is not lacking but is recorded for us in the writings of some of the apostles and men associated with them in that book we call “the Bible.”  The inspired writings of both the Old and New Testaments are frequently referred to simply as “the scriptures.”  To what better source could we possibly go in order to seek and find God? They alone lead us to Jesus Christ, who declared, “…No man knoweth the Son, but the Father: neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and He to whosoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matthew 11:27).  One cannot bypass Christ and still find God.  He plainly made this known when He said to the apostles, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No man cometh to the Father but by Me” (John 14:6).  Christ and His message, as revealed through the apostles, are inseparable.  By that message man’s claim to truth must be tested.  Even those who questioned the apostle Paul’s preaching are declared to have been “noble” because “they searched the scriptures daily (to see) whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11).  True preachers of the word will not contradict Scripture, which was “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Satan is a master of deception, and he uses those who speak “contrary to the doctrine” the apostles taught, and “by good words and fair speeches deceiveth the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:16-18).  If you would seek God from the heart, we would urge you to read and heed your Bible, and let it lead you to God through His Son, Jesus Christ.

- 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:

Sunday, May 14, 2023

Making Improvements To The Church

By Joe Slater


    For a few weeks now we’ve enjoyed meeting in our newly renovated facility. Many would say that with new flooring and cabinets along with ceiling repairs and a fresh coat of paint we’ve made great improvements to the church. I know what they mean, and I doubt that calling the meeting house a “church” is as huge a problem as some make it. Nevertheless, however desirable sprucing up our meeting place might be, we ought to be far more concerned about improvements to the church.

    Church properly means assembly. It includes, but isn’t limited to, the things we do when we’re together. The most obvious improvement would be for everyone to show up! Hit-and-miss attendance insults the Lord and drags the church down. When sports and recreation take a back seat to Jesus, the church will improve.

    We publish assignments a month in advance to let worship leaders know what to expect. The church improves when each leader prepares carefully and prayerfully, well in advance, to fulfill his role. Our God planned and prepared from eternity to save us. Can we not plan and prepare to honor Him in worship?

    The church, Christ’s spiritual body, improves only as each individual member improves. You are responsible to read and study God’s word, laying it up in your heart that you might not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11). You must deny ungodliness and worldly lusts while striving to live soberly, righteously, and godly (Titus 2:11). You must not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:2).

    This scarcely scratches the surface of what we need to do to improve the church. Let’s be thankful for a fine place to meet and commit ourselves to making improvements to the church!

- Joe Slater serves as minister of the Church of Christ in Justin, TX. He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Walking with Jesus Christ

By Jeff Arnette


    In today’s article, we’re going to start a journey that I hope will help each of us develop a closer walk with Jesus. We will cover topics where we consider our view of God versus who he really is, the problem of cultural Christianity, our relationship to Jesus, our motives, surrender, the struggles of life, how to develop our character, and our relationships with others.

    The problems facing the church isn’t culture, an ever increasing hostility toward our faith, or even the declining numbers in our buildings. The problem facing the church is that we’re not fully prepared to face the struggles because we are not fully surrendered to Jesus.

    James 4:6-8 tells us that we are to draw near to the Lord and in response he will draw near to us. But it also tells adds that we need to purify our hearts because our attention and focus can be divided easily. It’s not that we’re bad people or even bad Christians but that life is hard. Being fully surrendered to Jesus is not a destination that we can achieve and never have to travel that path again. Being fully surrendered to Jesus is something that ebb’s and flows like the tides. One moment it can be high and within hours it has retreated so far that the rocks are exposed to the air. This happens throughout a Christians life.

    As Peter says in 2 Peter 1:12-15, I am not saying that you’re not focused or unfaithful to Jesus. I am confident you know these things and are established in them. Yet, I also know how easy it is to forget them. As long as the Lord allows me to be with you and do my work, I consider it my aim to stir you up by way of reminder of these powerful truths.

    So, what does it mean to be fully surrendered to Jesus? It doesn’t mean that we have to become monks, hiding from the world and focused entirely on the Word and prayer. Instead of being a recluse we become family and group focused setting aside our natural desires to put our survival ahead of everyone else. Instead of being monks who read nothing but Scripture we learn to filter all of life through the teachings of Jesus. Christianity at it finest is lived among those who need to the light of God’s word.

    Biblical surrender is a thinking surrender, carefully carved out through thoughtful self-examination and submission to Jesus. It is to become so completely preoccupied with Jesus that you hunger and thirst for more of him, to become just like him. Biblical surrender, simply put, is to be conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29) and fully embrace the freedoms Jesus offers. It is uncomfortable and requires a lot of work, but the reward is basking in the light of the Son and transformation into the image of Christ through the abiding word implanted in our hearts and minds (Rom. 12:2; James 1:21-22).

- Jeff Arnette preaches for the Central Haywood church of Christ, Clyde, NC.  He may be contacted through the congregation's website:

Focus Your Eyes

By David A. Sargent


    Three boys were playing on the beach.  A man came along and said to them, "Would you like to have a race and the winner receive a prize?"

    The boys agreed.  The man told them that his race was to be different.  “I will go a little farther down the beach,” he said, “and when I give you the signal, you will start to run.  The one whose footsteps form the straightest line in the sand will be the winner.”

    The race commenced.

    The first boy kept looking at his feet to see if his steps were straight.

The second lad kept looking at his companions to see what they were doing.

The third boy just ran on with his eyes steadfastly fixed on the man at the finish line.

Who won the race?

    The boy who kept his eyes on the man and ran toward him made the straightest path in the sand.  He was the winner.

    “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB).

    The Christian life is likened to a race.  The winner of the race receives eternal life in heaven.  The Good News is that there isn’t just a single winner.  All of those who run the race faithfully to the end will receive the prize (2 Timothy 4:6-8).

    The key to victory is to keep your eyes on Jesus.  The verb means to look away from all other things and focus on One: Jesus.

    Look to Jesus, for He is the One who made our salvation possible.  He died on the cross for our sins so that we can be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Ephesians 1:7; 1 Peter 2:24).  He “endured the cross, despising the shame” so that we can have an eternal home in heaven.

    Look to Jesus as the Supreme Example (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6).  Others may lead us astray, but Jesus won’t.  Seek to follow His steps, and He will lead you in the right direction.

    Look to Jesus, for He is “the way, the truth, and the life” and no one goes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).

    God will save 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 into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  This is how we enter the race.  Then, we must finish the race faithfully.  As we fix our eyes on Jesus and walk (or “run”) in the light of His Word, His atoning blood continues to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:7-9).

    Fix your eyes on Jesus and follow Him through your trusting obedience.  He will lead you to victory.

    On your mark… Get set… Go!

- 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:

Lessons From The Seventy

By Dan C. Bailey


    In Luke chapter ten, the Lord appointed seventy disciples to go out and preach that the kingdom of God was nigh. As he sent them out he gave them specific instructions. Let us carefully and prayerfully consider some of the lessons that he taught them as he sent them to preach the word of God.

    Jesus taught that "...the harvest truly is great" (Luke 10:2). Jesus knew that there were many who needed to hear the word of the coming kingdom. Jesus was not a pessimist. He saw a great harvest for God. Brethren, the harvest is still there. We can win souls for Christ if we prayerfully plant the gospel of Christ in the hearts of lost sinners.

    Jesus taught that "... the laborers are few" (Luke 10:2). We need more workers in the kingdom God. There can be no harvest without workers. Every Christian is commanded to be a soul winner for the Lord. The great commission which was given to the apostles, must be preached until the end of the world. "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world Amen" (Mathew 28:18-20).

    Jesus taught that his disciples should pray that "...the Lord of the harvest would send forth reapers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2): God will bless us with workers when we pray and trust absolutely in His word. The great providence of God could bless us with another man with a heart like Paul, but first he must be converted. We must work harder in order to reach more of the lost Brethren, let us pray about these matters.

    Jesus taught the seventy, "He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me" (Luke 10:16). In principle, when we teach the true gospel of Christ, we are acting on the commands of our Lord. If people hear God's faithful servants, then they hear Christ. If they despise God's servants, then they despise Christ. And if they despise Christ} they despise God the Father. Those who refuse to obey the Lord will " thrust down to hell" (Luke 10:15).

    When the seventy returned they rejoiced in that "...even the devils" were subject unto them through the name of Jesus (Luke 10:17). Jesus said, "Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven" (Luke 10:20). Brethren, their names were written in heaven because they were faithful disciples of Christ. That is what we are whenever we go out and do what the Lord said to do. Let us all work together in order to help reach the lost. With God's help, we shall have a great harvest. May God help us to be active in His service!

- Dan C. Bailey serves as a minister with the State Street Church of Christ in Bristol, VA. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at


By Al Behel


Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field” (Jeremiah 10:5)

    Those of us who grew up on farms are familiar with scarecrows. They were made to look like real people, standing in the fields to scare away the crows and other birds that might destroy the crops. Jeremiah compared the idols of his day to scarecrows. They were impotent, yet men bowed before them in fear.

    Their idols were made by men, cut from trees, hammered into place, and decorated by the goldsmith. Isaiah added his commentary, “They lift it upon their shoulders, they carry it, they set it in its place, and it stands there; it cannot move…” (Isaiah 46:7). It doesn’t speak or walk. It does no evil or good, because it has no more life than a scarecrow in a cucumber field.

    All the idols of men perish. Where are the gods of the ancient world? Apollo, Jupiter, Neptune, Juno, Nisroch, Chemosh, Dagon, Zeus, or Tammuz? Although men swarmed their temples and observed their ceremonies, they are gone forever. But the living God remains. He abides forever. He has no beginning, or end. He is not a dead block of wood. He is Creator. We are created in His image.

    Anything man-made will perish. Even churches and temples erected by men will perish. Modern man is little different from our ancestors who believed they could invent their own gods or temples of worship. When Christ promised to build his church he promised that the gates of hell would not destroy it. It is eternal. It is indestructible. Daniel said it would stand “forever”. The reason? It is of God’s doing.

- Al Behel served the Great Smoky Mountains Church of Christ in Pigeon Forge, TN, for many years prior to this death in April 2022. The congregation may be contacted through their website -

Sunday, May 7, 2023

The First Marriage (Part One)

By Clifton Angel


    They did not have the book His Needs, Her Needs by Willard F. Harley. They did not have the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. They did not have the book You’re Singing My Song by Glenn & Cindy Colley. They did not have the book Living Together in Knowledge by Don & Jane McWhorter. They did not have the motivating movie, Fireproof. But, they had the Word of JEHOVAH. Their names? Adam & Eve. What are some lessons we can learn about marriage from the first marriage?

    It was male and female.

    "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them" (Genesis 1:27). Unfortunately, the world says marriage does not have to be male and female. Such a claim is a departure from God’s wisdom and design. By inspiration of God, Moses gave record:

“And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him ... And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:18, 21–23).

Later in the record of the Book of Genesis, we read, “This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him; Male and female created he them; and blessed them, and called their name Adam, in the day when they were created” (Genesis 5:1–2).

    Fast-forward to the days of Jesus. Concerning marriage, Jesus asked, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19:4). Mark’s account records Jesus’ words in the form of a statement: “From the beginning of the creation God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6). Some, today, claim Jesus did not explicitly condemn same-sex marriages. First, to heed the words of Jesus, we must heed the whole of Scripture and, particularly, the whole of Christ’s doctrine in the New Testament. God’s disdain for homosexuality is seen under every dispensation: Patriarchy (Genesis 19; cf. Genesis 1:27; 2:21–23), Mosaic (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13), Christian (Romans 1:26–27; 1 Corinthians 6:9–10; Galatians 5:19–21; 1 Timothy 1:9–11). Finally, an honest examination of Jesus’ explicit words at Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 reveals that He does condemn same-sex marriages by authorizing and endorsing marriages between male and female, only.

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Part Two)

By Clifton Angel


    What are some lessons we can learn about marriage from the first marriage? We considered, first, how that it was male and female. In this portion of our study, let us consider that it was united.

    “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). The world says marriage does not have to be united. Many times, he and she have separate bank accounts, separate beds, separate rooms, sometimes separate churches, and even separate lives. Following the guidelines of the Manufacturer of marriage, we find unity is vital for a marriage to survive and be pleasing to God.

    Jesus said, “Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:4–6). Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, “Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:3–4).

    To the church at Ephesus, Paul penned a reciprocal recipe for unity in marriage and the church:

“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Ephesians 5:22–33).

Following these Divine directions will lead to united marriages which also will avoid the negative detail we will note in our next section of this study. May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Part Three A)

By Clifton Angel


    In the history of mankind, the first marriage was: (1) male and female, (2) united. A third needful detail about Adam and Eve’s marital bond is that it was not disposable.

    Jesus said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder” (Matthew 19:6). Sadly, the world says marriage is disposable, and divorce in our society has become as easy an option as trading in a used car. Malachi proclaimed God’s message concerning divorce in this manner:


    “For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously” (Malachi 2:16). God hates “putting away” (divorce). Why? It is not according to His design for marriage. It is rending what He has united. It means that sin has been committed by at least one spouse —oftentimes, both. He describes such as covering one’s garment with violence (cf. Malachi 2:16). I suppose the majority of divorces, especially those that involve children, breed turmoil and division for both spouses and their families for years to follow. Divorce is detrimental physically, mentally, emotionally, and most important, spiritually.

    In two very different contexts, the apostle Paul penned an everlasting principle which applies to husband and wife. “The wife is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth” (1 Corinthians 7:39a). “The woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth” (Romans 7:2a). When might one be released from their spouse and the law that binds them together? “If her husband be dead, she is at liberty to be married to whom she will; only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39b). “If the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband” (Romans 7:2b). God designed marriage to be between one man and one woman for the endurance of their physical lives. And so, the godly statement found in many marital vows is fitting: “’Til death do us part.”

    After divorce, what happens? Most often, the divorced will seek another partner. Thereby, many enter into relationships which God calls adultery, and the only way to resolve this sin of adultery is to dissolve the adulterous relationship. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9). Herein, God grants the remarriage of an innocent spouse that has divorced one guilty of fornication. Even in such instances, God’s first desire would be for the guilty spouse to repent, the two spouses to reconcile, and their marriage only grow stronger for the endurance of their lives. However, God grants permission to the innocent spouse for this one reason. This is not easy to accept. Jesus even notes this in the context (cf. Matthew 19:9–12). However, it is what is right.

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Part Three B)

By Clifton Angel


    Adam and Eve’s marriage was: (1) male and female, (2) united, and (3) non-disposable. Before advancing, let us expound on number three because divorce is prevalent. God’s laws on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are not to be negated or contradicted (cf. Malachi 2:16; Romans 7:2; 1 Corinthians 7:39; Matthew 19:9). That said, what about circumstances of domestic violence? What if my spouse is keeping me from being a faithful Christian? What if I’m already divorced for reasons other than sexual infidelity (cf. Matthew 19:9)? What if I was the guilty spouse that was put away because I committed fornication?

    If divorced for reasons other than your spouse committing fornication, God does not permit remarriage. The same principle applies to the one who is put away for the cause of fornication. Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” It is not easy, but it can be done. I know of many who know these principles, yet refuse to keep them. I also know of several who seek to be faithful to God, remaining unmarried because they recognize God does not grant them permission to remarry.

    What if I am a victim of domestic violence? Or, what if my spouse is preventing me from being a faithful Christian? A study of 1 Corinthians 7 is pertinent to such situations. This chapter is a response to specific things asked of Paul (cf. 7:1). Some of his exhortations of remaining single pertain to the “present distress” in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 7:26). That said, consider 10 and 11: “Unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife.” In circumstances of domestic violence, it may be necessary to “depart” (separate) to protect one’s own life; this does not grant divorce and remarriage, as Paul clearly states.

    Furthermore, Paul states, “But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace” (1 Corinthians 7:15). The context is marriages of Christians to non-Christians (cf. 7:12–16). A principle here applies to the question of a spouse trying to prevent one from being a faithful Christian: “A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases.” Paul is NOT saying you are now free to divorce your non-Christian spouse and remarry. He is saying Christians are not called to leave Christ to follow after an unbelieving spouse. Don’t leave the Lord to please your unbelieving spouse. You are not under bondage to leave the Lord, ever. “God hath called us to peace.” Verses 10 and 11 still apply. Malachi 2:16, Romans 7:2, 1 Corinthians 7:39, and Matthew 19:9 still apply.

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Part Four)

By Clifton Angel


    We have learned that Adam and Eve’s marriage was: (1) male and female, (2) united, and (3) non-disposable. Let us consider a fourth lesson from the first marriage: It was not perfect.


Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be like God, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat (Genesis 3:1–6).


God is not at fault, but man and the adversary. They sinned. The wife superseded her role. The husband receded from his role. The husband is to be the head of the wife (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:23), not the other way around, and yet there will still not be perfection because we have our moments of weakness. This is not a license to sin. However, sin is universal. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1 John 1:8). Even the FIRST marriage was not perfect, and we need to tell ourselves the truth in understanding that our marriages will not be perfect, either. Yet, the world presses into our minds that marriage has to be perfect in order for it to last. So many today want the "perfect" family. They feel they are so different from others when their children do not follow in their footsteps. I wonder how many times Eve cried, "I just wish my family was normal!" In a decaying, dying world filled with sin, what is "normal"? There are absolutes, and those belong to God. In a world where it is inevitable that we age, what is perfection? Let’s stop striving for physical perfection and strive for spiritual perfection. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle you.”

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Part Five)

By Clifton Angel


    Male and female, united, non-disposable, and not perfect—four lessons taken from the first marriage. A fifth principle from the holy matrimony of Adam and Eve is this: It was not easy.


Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee. And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return (Gen. 3:16–19).

The world teaches us that marriage has to be easy in order for it to be right—any difficulty may mean the two are “just not meant for each other.” Such is in direct opposition to God’s divine directives.

    Consider the difficulty Adam and Eve experienced according to Genesis 4:1–16. I believe Adam and Eve taught their children the Word of God. And yet, they lost a son—not by disease, and not by accident, but by cold-blooded murder at the hands of their other son. Therefore, essentially, they lost a second son because of Cain's expulsion (like someone’s son being sent to prison for life today). Even the very first marriage was not easy. They had already faced temptation (3:6). They had already fallen prey to the enticement and lies of Satan (3:1–5). They had sinned (3:6–7). They faced the major/serious consequences of sin:

(1) shame (3:7),

(2) separation (3:8-15),

(3) sorrow and suffering (3:16-19, 22-24), and

(4) the need for salvation (3:21, 15).

They lost an amazing son, Abel, to tragedy. Their firstborn, Cain, chose pride, disobedience, envy, and murder. They likely trained him correctly, which in no way negates the general truth of Proverbs 22:6 — “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Every parent should live by this principle; yet, grown children must answer for their own actions, also. Notice that Adam and Eve did not make excuses for Cain’s actions (Genesis 4:25–26). Later, they were given a third son who would be a godly leader: Seth. Truly, even the first marriage was not easy.

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

The First Marriage (Parts Six & Seven)

By Clifton Angel


    What guides your marriage? What directs the decisions you make as husband and wife? What is your standard for right and wrong, which you can then pass down to your children? The first marriage was not perfect, nor easy; yet, it was guided by God. Truly, the guidance of God has been seen in the previous sections of this study; however, consider how that God guided Adam and Eve by His standard. At Genesis 2:15–17, we read:

And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

    How were these principles relayed to Eve? Was she present when God gave the initial instruction to Adam? Did God remind Adam at a later time when she was present, which would provide the information for her? Did Adam inform her of God’s guidance, as any godly husband would do for his wife (cf. Ephesians 5:25–27)? Either way, we do know Eve was guided in the same; for, she later says to the serpent: “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die” (Genesis 3:2–3).

    God’s initial commandment was simply: “thou shalt not eat of it;” however, Eve had an additional principle included with her response to the serpent: “God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it” (Genesis 3:3). Was this a contradiction? In short, No. Reasonable inferences include: (1) Eve revealed further details that had not been revealed by Moses’ writing of Genesis 2:17; or, (2) Adam and Eve restricted themselves out of godly wisdom, that they might not be tempted to eat of the forbidden fruit. Binding on others where God does not bind can be dangerous and sinful; however, it is not sinful for one to restrict himself out of godly wisdom to prevent temptation of sin. Many try to get as close to sin as they can without “technically” sinning, and in so doing, they may make unwise decisions which eventually lead to sin.

    We know Adam and Eve went on to give into temptation and sin, despite knowing better. However, God did not leave them there. He essentially came and took them by the hand (3:8–9), guided them with discipline, further informed them of the consequences of their sins (3:9–13, 16–21), and punitively and mercifully removed them from the physical tree of life (3:22–24).

    The first marriage was guided by God, and it was blessed by God. Let us consider a few of their abundance of blessings.

    They were given numerous resources (see Genesis 2:8–17). They were given responsibility: “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it” (Genesis 2:15). We could consider also the responsibility that was given to Adam to name the animals in preparation for the creation of and reception of his bride (see Genesis 2:19–20). We could consider the responsibility given to Eve to be Adam’s helper (Genesis 2:18). Furthermore, they were given a relationship, which has been the foundation of every study concerning the first marriage:

And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him ... And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh” (Genesis 2:18, 23–24).

    A fourth blessing—which the worldly do not understand—was repercussions. God mandated consequences for sins (Genesis 2:17; 3:1–24; 4:1–16). Many claim such negates God’s love, but that is because they do not know God. The closer we get to God and His Word, the more we understand that being held accountable for our actions is for our own good. Our final consideration of their blessings will be the revival given them. We touched on this point when we considered God’s guidance; however, consider further how that God came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Genesis 3:8–9; cf. Luke 19:10). God gave them the scheme of redemption (Genesis 3:15). He set a precedence for the foreshadowing sacrifices of animals (Genesis 3:21; cf. Hebrews 10:1–5). Therein, He also provided a sufficient covering for them. Fast-forward to after they lost Abel, and Cain was expelled—God revived the first marriage with the blessing of Seth: “And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew” (Genesis 4:25).

    May these truths bless your marriage and glorify our God.

- Clifton Angel preaches for the Coldwater Church of Christ in Coldwater, MS. He may be contacted through that congregation's website:

Friday, May 5, 2023

Understanding How the Church Grows—Elimination

By Brian Mitchell


    Understanding how the church grows can be difficult because sometimes it forces us to face difficult situations. Sometimes we have to go backwards before we can move forward. Sometimes the church grows through the subtraction of ungodly and immoral members. God neither approves of, nor blesses, congregations of His people who wink at or overlook the glaring existence of sin among the lives of its members--1 Cor.5:9-11. Thus, healthy congregations are those which take seriously God’s call to practice discipline among its own members (including withdrawal of fellowship when necessary), however painful it may be.

    The discipline of disorderly Christians serves several purposes: it serves as a warning to other Christians living in sin. It expresses love for the soul of the one disciplined. And it shows a congregation’s faithfulness to all of God’s Word, not just the parts that are easy. When done properly—in the right spirit, with the right intentions, and with great patience—the practice of church discipline will lead the church to grow in strength, if not in number.

    Sometimes the church grows through the subtraction of ungodly and immoral characteristics. The local church will also experience growth when its members seek to rid themselves of the cumbersome weight of sin which the Bible says “so easily ensnares or entangles us” (Heb.12:1). The act of pruning a rose bush is done so that that which is dead and actually hindering the growth of the roses can be eliminated.

    That same act is also needed in the individual lives of Christians. There are personal characteristics and traits that must be eliminated from the lives of Christians before they will experience the kind of personal growth that God intended for them to experience. Thus, we must be ever committed and vigilant in our efforts to cull out the sins in our lives that are hindering us from growing personally.

     Sins like what? Immorality and worldliness, jealousy and envy and doctrinal impurity. As we examine each of these areas it will become readily apparent why they must be eliminated if we are to have a healthy growing church full of healthy growing Christians. These are characteristics which ought to be extinct in God’s church. Thus, again growth comes by the elimination of worldly members that will not walk in the light and the elimination of ungodly and immoral characteristics in the lives of those who belong to the local church.

    Why must we do this? Part of the mission of the church is the act of being a positive influence in the world we live in. This becomes impossible to do when we have lost our flavor and extinguished our lights by tolerating members who live in sin and by being composed of members that are no less worldly than those around them. How can worldly Christians influence others to give up the world? Thus, again we grow in part through our commitment to actually live the Word of God and taking appropriate measures to correct the behavior of those who do not.

    That kind of commitment makes an impression, not only upon the church, but also upon those in the world. The remainder of our lesson today will focus on the fact that if this church really wants to grow then every member must truly be committed. To the other things we have discussed in this series but also to eliminating those characteristics which are hindering our ability to personally grow as we should and which are destroying our ability to positively influence the world.

- 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

THE RESURRECTION: The Subject of Old Testament Prophecy

By Ron Bartanen


    The long-held Jewish expectation of the coming of the Messiah (Christ, Anointed One) was based upon the promises given in the Scriptures.  Beginning with the promise of the woman’s “seed” bruising the serpent’s (Satan’s) head (Genesis 3:15), other promises followed.  Of the sons of Adam and Eve, Seth was chosen of God to begin that lineage (Gen. 4:24-25).  Later, as God sought to bring destruction upon an increasingly wicked world, one of Seth’s descendants—Noah—“found grace in the eyes of the LORD” (Gen. 6:8), and was spared, with his family.  God made choice of his sons, choosing Shem to be the seed-bearer.(Gen. 9:26-27).  His descendants are identified as Semites—the Jews and Arabs.  From the lineage of Shem God called faithful Abraham, giving him promise that all nations would be blessed in him (Gen. 12:3).  Of his sons, one was the son of promise--Isaac (Gen. 17:`19; 26:4).  Isaac had twin sons, Jacob and Esau, and God chose Jacob (later named “Israel”) as the one through whom the seed would come (Gen. 27:29).  Of Jacob’s 12 sons, to be the heads of the 12 tribes of Israel, Judah was chosen to be ancestor to the coming lawgiver (Messiah) (Gen. 49:8-10.  Almost 600 years later David was established as king over Israel, and to his house (descendants) “for ever” (2 Sam. 7:8-16).  About 300 years later, and about 700 years before Jesus Christ was born, the prophet Isaiah was to prophesy of the birth of a child whose name would be called “Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” who would occupy the throne of David “even for ever” (Isa. 9:6-7).  The New Testament identifies that promised “seed” of woman, Seth, Shem, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah and David as Jesus Christ.

    While Jewish Scripture had been given by inspiration of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17), and so-recognized by the Jews, yet they failed to see that the Messiah (Christ) they were expecting must, “according to the Scriptures” , die for our sins, be buried and resurrected (1 Cor. 15:1-4).  The death of the Christ had been foreseen in the numerous blood sacrifices under the Old Covenant.  A few of the passages depicting His death are Psa. 22; Isa. 53:1-11; Dan. 9:26a; Zech. 12:10; 13:6-7.

    Not anticipating the Messiah’s death, they also overlooked scriptures that spoke plainly of His resurrection.  David had plainly indicated this in Psa. 16:10: “Thou wilt not leave my soul in hell (hades), neither wilt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption [decay].”  Peter was to later quote this passage as he preached Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:4).  Paul did likewise in Acts 13:33-35.  As the earlier verses (vs. 1-18) of Psa. 22 prophesied of the death of the Messiah, verses 19-21 has the suffering Savior praying for deliverance “from the lion’s (Satan’s) mouth”, which is then followed in verses 22-24 by a praise-hymn, thanking God for delivering Him.  The suffering Christ of Isa. 53, after being seen as “cut off” from the living, has His days prolonged (vs. 8 & 10).

    In the Old Testament Scriptures God also used symbols or types to prefigure things to come, including Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Isaac, as the promised son of Abraham, was typically, though not literally, offered by Abraham as a burnt offering on a mountain of Moriah, near Jerusalem, but his life was spared, which is seen as typical of Jesus being offered on Mt. Calvary in Jerusalem, and His life being spared in the resurrection.  The writer of Hebrews recognized this symbol, when he wrote that Abraham accounted “that God was able to raise him [Isaac] up, even from the dead: from whence also he received him in a figure” (Heb. 11:19).  The account of Jacob’s beloved son, Joseph  (Gen. 37-47) may, in many respects, be seen as a type of Christ.  Rejected by his brothers, (symbolic of  the rejection of Christ by the Jews, he was put in a pit (symbolic of death) and emerged from the pit (symbolic of resurrection), and goes into the far country of Egypt where he is enthroned, second only to the Pharaoh (symbolic of Jesus’ reign at the Father’s right hand in the far country of heaven).  There he became the savior of his people and others by providing grain for bread (symbolic of Jesus’ provision of the bread of life in His mediatorial reign).  Jesus made reference to “the sign of the prophet Jonah” as being typical of His resurrection from the dead, saying, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matt. 12:39-40).

    While many, including religionists, minimize the reliability of Scripture, and even treat the resurrection of Christ as a myth, His resurrection stands as a verification of Scripture and also of His being the Son of God (Acts 13:33; Rom. 1:3-4). Death, the enemy feared by all (Heb. 2:15), has been vanquished by Him who has “the keys of death and of Hades” (Rev. 1:17-18).  Have you been buried and raised with Him? (Rom. 6:3-4) 

- 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: