Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

Archive for the ‘1. Sermon Essays’ Category

Who Dares To Alter God’s Word

If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet 4:11).

An Oracle of God is an utterance of God. The utterances of God are recorded in the sacred writings we call the Holy Bible.

According to the foregoing scripture, the one who professes to speak for God has the right and authority to speak only what God has authorized Christ and His apostles to speak. Jesus Christ did not dare say anything His Father did not give Him commandment to speak (Jn 12:49,50). Jesus had no liberties in this matter. The apostles of Christ did not dare to speak or preach anything the Holy Spirit did not inspire them to say (Acts 4:19,20 cf; 5:29). Furthermore, the Holy Spirit could inspire them to speak only the words God gave him to reveal (Jn 14:26 cf; 16:13).

The apostle Paul disclaimed any right to take liberties to use words he might, in human wisdom, choose. “Which things we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Spirit teaches; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1 Cor. 2:13). God did not leave it to the whims of men to express His personal thoughts. “. . . And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully” (Jer 23:28).

If the Word is not in the Scriptures, the thought is not there. If the thought is not there, we have no business doing that which God’s Word did not authorize according to New Testament doctrine. If Jesus or his apostles did not preach it or do it, neither should we. We would all be well advised to measure our preaching and our belief accordingly.

Who is there so bold and audacious as to even suggest that God does not know how to adequately communicate with man? How often do we hear preachers telling us that this is what God meant and they go to prove their opinion by the writings of man. “Who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him”(1 Cor. 2:16)? “Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it” (Job 40:2).

It is only when one is so impressed with their own human superior wisdom, educational attainment, is wise in his own eyes (Rom. 12:3,16), and has grown presumptuous, that man becomes guilty of “great transgression” (Psa 19:13). Such men receive the praises of men, and with their “good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:18).

Conclusion: We are allowed and have a right, yea are commanded, to preach only that which was preached by Paul and received by the Galatians (Gal 1:7-12 f; 2 Tim 2:2). Paul made it known that as preachers and teachers of the Word of God we are not to go beyond that which was written (1 Cor 4:6). If The apostles didn’t go beyond what they received from the Holy Spirit; If Jesus only spoke what he received from the Father; If the Holy Spirit revealed only what he received from God, then who are we to add to or subtract from the Word of God (Rev 22:18,19)?

By What Authority Are You Doing These Things?

Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority” (Matt 21:23)?

That is a very imperative question that needs to be answered for every generation of teachers and preachers of the Word. Jesus had no intention of answering his critics at that moment in time but his answer would have been clear: It was God the Father who gave him the authority to say and do the things which he was doing.

For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (Jn 12:49-50).

Jesus declared earlier that the doctrine He was teaching was not his doctrine but belonged to the Father. “Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority” (Jn 7:16-18).

Jesus never once spoke without the authority of God. This is the perfect example for each of us to follow today.

Jesus revealed that the Holy Spirit did not speak of his own authority but by the authority of the Father. “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (Jn 16:13).

The apostle Paul declared the very same thing when writing to the Galatians. He said, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:11-12).

It was Jesus who told his disciples before his impending death that the Holy Spirit would teach them all things. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (Jn 14:26).

Denominations teach the doctrine and commandments of men. Catholics follow the Pope. Baptist follow their man written manual. The Seventh Day Adventist follow the teaching of Ellen White. The Mormons follow the teaching of Joseph Smith, etc. They do not speak with the authority of God but of man. Therefore, there is no power in their words to deliver man from sin or to reward his righteousness. Paul said, “And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Cor 2:4-5).

The gospel of Christ comes with power to save. Paul in writing to the Romans said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

If we as Christians teach the doctrine of the apostles, then we are verily teaching the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and the doctrine of God. Why? Because they all derived from the Father. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).

The doctrines and commandments of men are nothing but vain worship to God. “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt 15:8-9). The doctrines and commandments of men turn us from the truth of God, not toward the truth of God (Tit 1:14). Paul warned us all when he wrote to the Colossians, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2:8-10).

Therefore I ask you, by whose authority do you teach and preach? Even as the demons once asked, “Jesus I know and Paul I know, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). The gospel of Christ was not taught by the Fathers and Prophets of the Old Testament. If you are tithing, who told you to do so? If you are using instrumental music in your worship to God, who commanded you to do it? “The law (of Moses) and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it” (Lk 16:16).

If you are doing anything that is not contained within the doctrine of Christ and His apostles, you have not God nor the promise of eternal life. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn 9 f; Acts 2:42).

Are You Ashamed Of The Gospel Of Christ?

The apostle Paul made one of the  greatest distinctions between the saved and the lost when he wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (1:16). Paul wanted all ages to know that he was not ashamed of the gospel which was first preached first at Pentecost (Acts 2) and subsequently unto all the world (Col 1:23). Many are the times when he exhibited his stand for the truth against error, even in the face of opposition and persecution.

The beloved apostle Paul should be an example for all of us to follow, not only in this but in a number of other things in his faithful service to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 4:16 cf; 11:1). One should be ashamed to be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, yet such seems to be the case with many in the world today, and even in the churches of Christ. The various ways the church attracts a crowd, instead of the simple and powerful gospel of our salvation, proves that some have lost respect for the gospel and its power.

Paul’s love for the truth and the souls of men led him to not be ashamed of the “power of God to save.” This is the way it should be with men of every generation. This is the way it is with those who have the proper love and respect for both the truth and the souls of mankind. This love will prompt men to stand for the truth at every opportunity and will cause them always to appeal to truth, not to human prejudice nor the devices of men. They will also welcome the opportunity to defend the truth which they proclaim.

Truth has nothing to fear when it is investigated. As a matter of fact, truth welcomes scrutiny. “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:21). Thus, where there is any difference, doubt, or question, truth will deal with it openly instead of trying to conceal it. In contrast, lies and deceit will attempt to hide from the eyes of scrutiny in fear that their evil deeds will come to light and be punished. “For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn 3:20). The very fact that people try to conceal the truth is evidence that they are in doubt about the matter for which they claim to stand, and are afraid it will not stand the test of the Scriptures.

When a man’s aim is to know and abide in the truth, he is willing to hear any truth and is also willing to have his teaching examined and discussed openly. His desire is for everyone to have all the truth, for he knows that only the truth will make men free from sin (Jn 8:32).

Whenever anyone refuses an honest study or open debate of biblical teaching, especially of the gospel, they are by their actions saying they are ashamed or afraid of the truth.

Are you ashamed of the gospel of Christ? Remember, it is the power of God to save and, thus, the only means by which one can be saved from sin. Are you willing to learn the truth? You can by studying and investigating the word of God.

There is literally no excuse for any person to not obtain the truth of God in this generation. You can find it in your printed Bible, in Bible software, online Bible websites, on CDs, DVDs, and various electronic devices. Fact is, you don’t have to trust your soul to the rhetoric of highly paid, highly educated, and highly deceitful preachers and teachers (Rom 16:17,18). Just like the Bereans, you can prove what you are being taught is either factual or false by searching the scriptures daily (Acts 17:11).

Why not resolve yourself to study it, learn it, obey it, and stand for that which is the will of God (2 Tim 2:15 ff; Matt 11:29; Jn 14:15; Rom 12:2)?  Remember, Christ will be ashamed of anyone who is ashamed of Him. “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My Words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels” (Lk 9:26). This is the same Word which shall judge all men come the day of judgment (Jn 12:48 f; Rom 2:16). Let us never be ashamed of the gospel, God’s truth, for it will stand forever (1 Pet. 1:25).

Prepare Your Heart To Seek The Lord

Rehoboam and Ezra were totally different in this respect: Regarding Rehoboam, the Scripture says, “And he did evil, because he prepared not his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:14). Concering Ezra, the Scripture says, “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments” (Ezra. 7:10).

Rehoboam was the son of Solomon, the grandson of the psalmist David. His background was steeped in royalty. He had every advantage when it came to learning and knowledge. His father was blessed with wisdom. A wealthy and powerful lineage prepared him for the world, but, “He prepared not his heart to seek the Lord.”

One’s ascent up the scale of Christ is not attained by heredity or opportunity. Just because your father was a gospel preacher and your grandfather was an elder of the church doesn’t mean you were born to seek God. Your relationship with Christ is an individual matter. No one can obey the gospel for you. No one can be faithful for you. No one can prepare your heart. Those duties are exclusively yours and yours alone. Your parents can drag you to church services every time the door is open but it won’t make you a Christian. It is like the old saying, “Sitting in a church pew doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a chicken house makes you a chicken”. As Jesus declared, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk. 9:23).

Preparation of the heart is a daily duty. It cannot be ignored from one day to the next. Satan attacks whenever the shield of faith is lowered. So, whoever you may be, do not neglect this day to equip your heart.

How To Prepare Your Heart

Ezra prepared his heart to “seek the law of the Lord.” One must develop a desire and a hunger and thirst for the word of the Lord. David possessed this gnawing hunger (Psa. 119). Neglect of daily, diligent study will leave one’s heart weak. It may not be able to withstand the strain of attack from every wind of doctrine (Eph 4:14). “Therefore, to prepare your heart, set aside time each day for reading, study, and meditation (1 Tim 4:13 f; 2 Tim 2:15). “But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
And in His law he meditates day and night” (Psa 1:2)

Neglect of prayer, daily, fervent prayer, is a certain sign of distraction (1 Thess 5:17). Challenge your own heart. Is your life empty of regular, sincere prayer? Don’t just pray in church or at home, but pray everywhere you go. “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Tim 2:8). A prepared heart is a prayerful heart.

If you walk in the counsel of the ungodly, stand in the way of sinners, and sit in the seat of the scornful, do not be surprised when you do evil. “Do not be deceived: “Evil company corrupts good habits” (1 Cor 15:33). Lot’s righteous soul was tormented by the evil deeds that were done in Sodom (2 Pet 2:8). To avert evil, you must avoid it. Practice purity. Sometimes all it takes is the switch of the channel or a turning of the head. Learn to avoid situations where temptations may be overwhelming (1 Cor 6:18).

When you hear and see good words and deeds, imitate them (1 Cor 4:18 cf; 11:1 ff; Philip 3:17; 2 Thess 3:9). “That you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises” (Heb 6:12). If you become strong in the faith, teaching sound doctrine, you can become the example worthy to be followed. “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you” (1 Tim 4:16)

Qualifications of the Elder’s and Deacon’s Family

In order to serve as elders and deacons in the local church, the apostle Paul writes, “Likewise their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things (1 Tim. 3:11). It has often been said that behind every good man there is a good woman. While that saying may be true in many cases, it absolutely must be true in the case of those who serve as elders and deacons in the Lord’s church. It would be easy to think of a wife’s behavior as irrelevant when considering whether or not a man is qualified to serve as an elder or deacon because after all, she is not the one who is going to be appointed to the work. However, in the wisdom of God, every elder and deacon should have a supportive, godly wife by his side. The scriptures reveal explicitly that a man may be disqualified from serving as an elder or deacon simply by the fact of having an unqualified wife.

No doubt, many good men have been held back in their service to the Lord by wives who did not share their level of commitment and faithfulness. According to 1 Timothy 3:11, in addition to meeting all of the other qualifications given in the New Testament, men who wish to demonstrate that they are qualified to serve as elders or deacons must have wives who are characterized by the following criteria:

Their Wives Must Be Reverent

The reverent woman conducts herself in a way that causes others to respect her. The kind of women who would be considered reverent are those who have learned “to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed” (Tit. 2:4-5). The wives of elders and deacons must submit to their husbands in everything (Eph 5:24). “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as is fitting in the Lord” (Col 3:18). As Christ is the head of the church, even so, the husband is the head of the wife (Eph 5:23). If members of the church must submit to the authority of elders, of necessity he must also have a submissive wife. Other members of the church will not respect a wife who shows a lack of interest in spiritual matters, who fails to manage her house well, who has obvious moral faults, or who otherwise displays immaturity. An irreverent wife disqualifies her husband from serving as an elder or deacon.

Their Wives Must Not Be Slanderers

The wives of elders and deacons must not behave like the devil by engaging in the spreading of false statements that are harmful to the character or reputation of another. She cannot be one who is known to engage in the spreading of gossip (Prov. 26:20), or in backbiting (2 Cor. 12:20). If a man’s wife does not control her tongue, then that man is not qualified to serve as an elder or deacon.

Their Wives Must Be Temperate

The elders’ wives must be able to control their temper even as their husband is required to do so (1 Tim. 3:2). An unstable woman who is prone to lose her temper and say vicious things in a fit of anger would disqualify her husband from serving as an elder or deacon.

Their Wives Must Be Faithful In All Things

This qualification demands that these women display faithfulness to God in all areas of life. A woman who dresses immodestly (1 Tim. 2:9-10), refuses to submit to her husband as head of the family (Eph. 5:22-23 f; 1 Tim. 2:12), who doesn’t regularly attend the services of the church (Heb. 10:25), or who otherwise fails to behave like a Christian (Gal. 5:19-23), is the type of woman who will disqualify her husband from serving as an elder or deacon.

Must Have Obedient Children

God does not trust His church to be ruled by single men or to married men without children. It is not enough that a Christian man have all the personal qualifications of becoming an elder or a deacon. It is not enough that his wife also have all the above listed personal qualifications. In addition to all of these, God requires that they also be parents of obedient children. “One who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?)” (1 Tim 3:4-5). “Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well” (1 Tim 3:12). Anything less than obedient children makes him unqualified to become an elder or deacon.

Conclusion: It is clear that many good Christian women meet these qualifications. However, their husbands do not meet the qualifications required of either an elder or deacon. On the other hand, it is also sometimes the case that good Christian men meet all of the qualifications required of either an elder or deacon, only to be prevented from serving due to an unqualified wife. It is also apparent that both husband and wife can be qualified but they don’t have obedient children. It is important to understand that both husbands and wives must live up to the Lord’s expectations in order to fulfill God’s plan for the local church with regard to elders and deacons. It goes without saying, you can’t have the church without Christ as its head (Col 1:18), you can’t have local churches without faithful members (1 Cor 12:27), and you can’t have elders and deacons without faithful and obedient wives and children (1 Tim 3 f; Tit 1).

The Longevity of Heaven and Hell

There are many passages which discuss the subject of hell and how long it shall exist. Here is some biblical evidence that shows that hell is eternal punishment. In Jesus’ parable of the separation of the sheep and the goats at the final judgment, he says to the goats, “Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). In this passage, the place to which the wicked are sent is the place “prepared for the devil and his angels.” The destiny of wicked angels is the same destiny of wicked men. In the intervening time between the sin of the wicked angels and their eternal punishment, these angels are reserved in a place of torment described as follows: “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4). “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6).

Already the angels who sinned have suffered for thousands of years as they await the final judgment. They are not in a state of unconscious existence but in a place of torment. Wicked men who pass away are placed in this place along with sinful angels. Peter described the wicked dead as “spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19). This picture is remarkably similar to the intermediate state of the wicked dead as described in Luke 16:19-31. The final end of the Devil is described in Revelation 20. After his thwarted attempt to oppose God’s will, the Devil is ultimately defeated and cast into torment. The text says, “And the devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are, and shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). The devil verily “shall be tormented.”

What does the Bible teach is the ultimate destiny of the devil and his angels? They will be “cast into the lake of fire and brimstone” and “shall be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). Its use in Revelation is particularly important: The phrase is used of the angels ceaselessly praising God around his throne (Rev. 4:8), of the righteous who serve God day and night in heaven (Rev. 7:15), of the uninterrupted accusations that the Devil makes against the saints (Rev. 12:10), and here of the uninterrupted torment given to the devil (20:10). The uninterrupted (“day and night”) torment shall continue “forever and ever.”

The scriptures speak of eternal salvation and eternal damnation. Concerning eternal salvation, we find: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have ‘everlasting life'” (Jn 3:16). “And having been perfected, He became the author of ‘eternal salvation’ to all who obey Him” (Heb 5:9-10). “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained ‘eternal redemption'” (Heb 9:12).

Concerning eternal damnation the scriptures reveal: “. . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with ‘everlasting destruction’ from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess 1:7-9). “He who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to ‘eternal condemnation'” (Mk 3:29). “As Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities around them in a similar manner to these, having given themselves over to sexual immorality and gone after strange flesh, are set forth as an example, suffering the vengeance of ‘eternal fire'” (Jude 7).

The torment of the devil and his angels is uninterrupted (day and night) and endless (forever and ever). Their punishment is not annihilation but “torment.” Remember that, if the torment of wicked men ceases, so also does the torment of the Devil. In the same context as Matthew 25:41, Jesus said, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal” (Matt 25:46).

It does most plainly and without any doubt follows, that if the Scriptures have not asserted the endless punishment of the wicked, neither have they asserted the endless happiness of the righteous, nor the endless glory and existence of the Godhead. The one is equally certain with the other. Both are laid in the same balance. Conclusively, eternal” punishment lasts just as long as “eternal” life.

Prepare To Meet Your God

Just before his crucifixion, Christ was at the mercy of Pontius Pilate, and Pilate said unto the crowd, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? “

In similar respects today, we also are deciding what we shall do with Jesus. If we have not obeyed him for the remission of sins, then certainly this should weigh heavily upon our heart, knowing that when the Lord comes again he will come “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1: 8).

Today, you get to decide whether or not you believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Today, you get to decide whether or not to confess him before men (Rom 10:9,10). Today, you get to decide whether or not you are willing to stop sinning and repent of your sins (Lk 13:3). Today, you get to decide whether or not you will have your sins washed away by the means of baptism (Acts 22:16). Today, you also get to decide whether or not to remain faithful unto death (Rev 2:10).

When you stand before God come the day of judgment you will no longer be in control. Every knee shall bow and every tongue will confess Jesus to be the Christ (Philip 2:10,11). You won’t have to believe come that day, for you shall see him face to face. There be no opportunity for anyone to repent of their sins or to have their sins washed away by water. You will be totally at the mercy of God.

Someday, the question will be reversed. He now stands before you, and you have the right to decide what you shall do with him, but the day will come when you shall stand before him and he will decide what to do with you.

As the apostle Paul declared, “For He says: “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.”Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor 6:2). And as Amos warned Israel, “I overthrew some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked from the burning; Yet you have not returned to Me,” Says the Lord. “Therefore thus will I do to you, O Israel; because I will do this to you, prepare to meet your God, O Israel” (Amos 4:11,12).

If You Truly Believe. . .

Wordly preachers will instruct you to place your faith “in the man, not the plan.” They want you to place your trust in the person of Christ and not in any pattern or system of faith. This is done in an attempt to escape the plain words of the Lord Jesus Christ which require that one be baptized in order to be saved (Matt. 28:19,20 f; Mk 16:16).

The scriptures instruct us that every Christian convert obeyed the gospel of Christ. They not only obeyed it, but they also obeyed it immediately. Every Christian convert believed Jesus to be the Christ and confessed such before men, but none of them was under the persuasion that belief alone was enough to be saved.

John wrote in John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” This truly is a belief in Jesus. However, just a few verses later we read, “But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (Jn 3:21). The believer in this context is the one who “does truth” (Jn 3:21). At the conclusion of the chapter, John says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (Jn 3:36).

Jesus compared his being lifted up on the cross with Moses’ lifting up of the serpent in Numbers 21. Those bitten by serpents had to come and look upon the serpent of brass before they could be saved. Those bitten could not simply say, “I believe Moses, I believe in God, He can heal me.” Yet, that was not sufficient for them to be delivered from the poisonous bite of the snakes in the wilderness. With faith in God and in the word of Moses, they had to act. They had to come and look before they could be healed. Likewise, it is not enough to envision the scene of the cross and to orally express trust in Jesus’ power to save. As bitten Israelites were not healed until they came and looked, so we cannot be healed of the bite and sting of sin until we “obey,” or “do truth” (Jn 3:21, 36 f; Heb. 5:9).

If you believe in Jesus, then hear the words of Jesus. Jesus said, “These things I say, that you might be saved” (Jn 5:34). What was the purpose of Jesus’ word? It was “that you might be saved.” Later, when they did not believe his word, he said, “you believe ‘me’ not” (Jn 5:38), “And you will not come to me, that you might have life” (v. 40). So, his words were the source of eternal life which he spake to save them (John 6:44, 45, 63, 68). But they would “not come to ‘him'” that they might have life. To come to the person of the Son is to believe his word. To disobey his word is to reject His person.

Preachers came to Antioch, “preaching the Lord Jesus . . . and a great number believed and turned to the Lord .. . and much people were added unto the Lord ” (Acts 11:20-24). Collectively, these “Christians,” constituted “the church” in Antioch (Acts 11:26 f; 1 Cor 12:27). How does one become a member of the Lord’s body or church which He is the head thereof (Col 1:18)? He is “baptized into one body,” and added to the church (1 Cor. 12:13). So, these believers in Antioch, those who turned to the person of the Lord Jesus, were obedient, baptized believers. At the instruction of the Spirit through those who came “preaching the Lord Jesus,” they were baptized into the church, the body of Christ. In this way, they “turned to the Lord,” and were “added unto the Lord.”

The Philippian jailer and his household “rejoiced, believing in God” (Acts 16:34). When was he described as a believer in God? It was after he heard the word, the plan, of God for salvation. It was after he was baptized (Acts 16:30-34). Not until he had heard, believed, and obeyed the word, was it said that he believed in God.

Cornelius and his household were “granted repentance unto life,” were “saved” “through the grace of the Lord Jesus,” and had their hearts purified “by faith” (Acts 11:17 cf; 15:7-11). Denominational doctrine say they did not `obey’ a `plan of salvation’, they did not have to be baptized, they simply trusted in Jesus, and he saved them `by grace through faith.”‘

Truly we are saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8, 9). That is a biblical fact. Every Christian heart is purified “by faith.” However, they must include all that the Bible says with respect to salvation. First, Cornelius was to hear “words, whereby you and all your house shall be saved” (Acts 11:14). Secondly, it was by Peter’s preaching that Cornelius “should hear the word (the plan) of the gospel, and believe,” for “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” the gospel (Acts 15:7 f; Rom. 10:17). Thirdly, Cornelius was told, “he that fears him, and works righteousness is accepted with him” (Acts 10:35). Fourth, Cornelius was commanded … to be baptized, in water, in the name of the Lord (Acts 10:47, 48). Fifth, what is the purpose of baptism “in the name of the Lord”? It is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Finally, after Cornelius heard the word, after he believed the word, after he feared the Lord, after he repented and was baptized in the name of the Lord “for the remission of sins,” his soul was purified by faith and he was saved by grace.

“Crispus . . . believed on the Lord with all his house, and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Nothing is here directly stated about Crispus being baptized, but it does say he “believed on the Lord.” Later, however, Paul said, “I baptized . . . Crispus” (1 Cor. 1:14). Paul says nothing about Crispus’ faith in Christ. Luke says nothing about Crispus’ baptism. As his baptism presumes his belief in Paul’s preaching of Christ, so the summary statement of his believing assumes his obedience in baptism (Mk 16:16).

Paul assures the Romans that justification is by faith in Christ (Rom. 1:16 cf; 5:1). But “when” did this justification take place? “But God be thanked, that you were the servants of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, you became the servants of righteousness” (Rom. 6:17, 18). The Romans were justified by faith in Christ when they obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine, that gospel plan of salvation (Rom. 1:16, 17 cf; 10:1-3, 16).

This lesson is not designed to speak of all who having first believed were baptized into the death of Jesus Christ (Rom 6:3,4). Yet, these are enough to reaffirm the words of the apostle Peter who declared: “The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). This coincides with the teaching of the apostle James who declared,  “The demons also believe and tremble” and “faith without works is dead” (Jam 2:19,20). He concluded the matter by saying, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (Jam 2:24). Having “heard this,” all of those who truly “believe on him . . . that is, on Christ Jesus,” on his divine name and his glorious person, will be “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” “for the remission of sins” (Acts 19:4 ff, 5; 2:38). All those who believe not will not be baptized and thus be condemned to an eternity of “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and the glory of his power” (Mk 16:16 f; 2 Thess 1:7-9).

A Christian’s Rights In The Lord

Each of us has certain unalienable rights in the Lord. God has confirmed in the New Testament that each of us can expect these rights to be honored and respected. They can also expect that no one will infringe upon their rights.

A man and woman may choose either to marry or not to marry. While single, each has rights which are not present after marriage. The joining together of man and woman in marriage (not gay marriage) – Rom. 1:24-27) is God’s ordained law (Gen. 2:24). “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). When two people marry, they must readjust their rights to be compatible with each other. “Let the husband render unto his wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife has not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband has not power of his own body, but the wife” (1 Cor. 7:3-4). After marriage, the husband has the right to expect his wife to submit unto him (Eph. 5:22). The husband has the right to be head over the wife (Eph. 5:23). The husband has the right to have his wife reverence him (Eph. 5:33). The wife has the right to have her husband love her and not be bitter against her (Col. 3:19). The wife has the right to expect honor as the weaker vessel (1 Pet. 3:7). The wife has the right to expect her husband to provide for her and defend her, even unto death (1 Tim 5:8 f; Eph 5:25). Yes, the husband and wife have rights, but neither has the right to infringe upon the rights of the other.

God said to the first man and woman, “Be fruitful, multiply, and replenish the earth . . .” (Gen. 1:28). When children are born, the parents must sacrifice their rights so as to consider the rights of the child. The child must be loved and provided for. The mother does not have the right to forsake her child (Tit. 2:4-5). Such is not the mother’s right. The father is charged with the proper training of the child (Eph. 6:4). He does not have the right to neglect this responsibility. Each parent is required to sacrifice his rights if they conflict with the rights of their child. Children do not have the right to disobey or disrespect their parents (Gal. 6:1). “Children, obey your parents in all things: for this is well pleasing unto the Lord” (Col. 3:20).

We each should be aware that an alien sinner is lost and without hope while in sin. Paul declared that all were sinners (Rom. 3:23). Isaiah said that sin separates man from God (Isa. 59:2). Paul wrote that the wages of sin is (spiritual) death (Rom. 6:23). God has made provisions for the sinner to remove himself from sin and enter into the church (Col. 1:13 f; Acts 2:47). In order for sins to be forgiven, the practice of sin must be stopped. He does not, after he has obeyed the plan of salvation, have the right to continue in sin (Col. 3:1-11 f; 1 Cor. 6:9-11).

The command to “repent” (Lk. 13:3) means that one has a change of heart which leads to a change of life. If one stole before, he steals no longer (Eph. 4:28). If one lied before, he no longer lies (Eph. 4:25). If one were a fornicator before, he no longer engages in such lust (Col. 3:5).

Before the sinner obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, he walks in sin while he serves Satan. After his conversion, he no longer has the right to serve Satan. Before the sinner obeys the gospel, he does not have the privilege of prayer (Jn. 9:31 f; 1 Pet, 3:12) nor can he enjoy any of the spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3). Every right the sinner thought he had to pursue his own selfish pleasures and lustful desires must be given up in order to please God.

Once the sinner obeys the gospel of Jesus Christ, God has the right to demand obedience (Matt. 7:21 ff; Rev. 2:10; 2 Jn. 9). If God’s requirements are not met, then God has the right to punish that person and He surely will (Rom. 11:22 ff; 2 Pet. 20:22; Lk. 9:62). When the sinner obeys the plan of salvation, which consist of faith (Jn. 8:24), confession (Acts 8:37), repentance (Lk. 13:3), and baptism (Acts 2:38), his rights are then different from what they were before his conversion. This saved person has the right to worship God in song (Eph. 5:19), prayer (Acts 2:42), preaching (Acts 20:7), giving (1 Cor. 16:2), and observing the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7). Not only does he have this right to worship, but he has no right to forsake the worship (Heb 10:25).

The child of God has the right to contend for the faith (Jude 3), to bear fruit for Christ (Jn. 15:1-6), to add the graces (2 Pet. 1:5-11), to let his light shine for Christ (Matt. 5:16), to abstain from all works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21; 1 Jn. 2:15-17), to practice pure religion (Jas. 1:27), to control his tongue (Jam. 1:26), to seek first the kingdom of God (Matt. 6:33), etc. Not only does the child of God have this right, but he does not have the right to neglect these things.

God has assigned each of us rights, but our rights are to be regulated by the word, the New Testament law of Christ (2 Pet. 1:3 f; 1 Cor. 4:6). What a person may consider to be his rights may or may not be his rights in the Lord. The rights of husband and wife, parents and children, and Christians, when governed by divine instructions, will make for peace, unity, happiness. They will bring glory to God, honor, and respect to Christ, and help the Lord’s church be what God wants it to be.

Spiritual New Year’s Resolutions

With the coming of a new year comes those New Year’s resolutions all try to achieve. Many are made only soon to be broken. This time of year does serve a good purpose of considering some spiritual resolutions which would be good for all of us to make and keep.

No Longer To Linger

There is a song we all have sung many times called, “I am Resolved” and contained within its lyrics are some good resolutions for each of us to ascribe to achieve in the coming year. If you are a sinner, it is a good time to be resolved to become one. Stop wasting time, stop procrastinating, and do it this year for sure! Don’t be charmed by this world’s delight. Be aware there are things nobler. As Ananias said to Saul of Tarsus, “Why do you tarry? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

Go To The Savior

Each of us would do ourselves a great service to go to the Lord in the coming year. Why? Only Jesus “has the words to eternal life” (Jn 6:68). Eternal life is obtained by our obedience to the gospel of Christ (Mk 16:16). Once one has become a confessed believer who has repented of their sins and had them washed away by the means of baptism, they are added to the Lord’s church (Acts 2:47). Jesus, who is the head of the church is also the Savior of the body, the church (Col 1:18 f; Eph 5:23).

To Follow Jesus

The scriptures instruct us to follow in the steps of the Savior. The apostles followed Jesus and they instructed us to follow them even as they followed Christ (1 Cor 4:16 cf; 11:1). Peter said in 1 Peter 2:21, “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps.”

To Enter The Kingdom

There is no greater achievement one can attain than being a citizen of heaven. The Kingdom is often referred to the Lord’s church (Matt 16:18). We can only enter into the Kingdom by being born of the water and the Spirit (Jn 3:3-5). This is accomplished when one is baptized into Christ (Gal 3:27).

To Be More Faithful

Way too many of the Lord’s church has chosen not to be faithful members of the Lord’s church. They must have bought into the false doctrine of “Once saved, always saved”. If it is our expectation to hear the Lord say come the day of judgment, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant” (Matt 25:21) we must cease to forsake the assembly (Heb 10:25).

To Be An Exemplary Example

This world is in great need of someone who is worthy to be followed. Your friends and family need it, your neighbors need it, and every church member needs it. As Christians, we all must “Shine as lights of the world” (Matt 5:14-16). As Paul commanded a young Timothy, “. . . Be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12).

To Study More

Most every Christian hears the word of God preached each week, but how many of them actually read and study the Word of God for themselves? Paul reminded Timothy to give attention to, “. . . reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim 4:13). In his second epistle, he commanded, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim 2:15).

To Teach More

Even if we have learned all that there is to learn concerning the Word of truth, it will all go to waste if we neglect the gift that is in us and refuse to teach the world. We must teach the word when it is popular to do so and when it is unpopular to do so. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Tim 4:2-4).

Conclusion: There are many things we can seek to do more of in the coming year. Let us be more forgiving, more charitable, and more compassionate. If we haven’t obeyed the gospel, do it now. If we haven’t been faithful, let us repent now. If we haven’t been attentive to reading and studying the Word of God, let us get to it. If we haven’t been preaching, teaching, defending, proving, and contending for the faith, let his year be the year we do. Above all things, never wait on a New Year to begin serving the Lord. Any day is a good day to strive to do better in Christ Jesus.