Asa was the third king of Judah in the divided kingdom. The two kings before him, Rehoboam and Abijah, exemplified the way of error. The inspired writer summed up the reign of Rehoboarn by saying, "He did that which was evil, because he set not his heart to seek Jehovah" (2 Chron. 12:14). Of the life of Abijah, the Bible says that he walked in "the sins of his father" and "his heart was not perfect with Jehovah" (1 Kgs. 15:3). Yet, Asa did not follow the path of apostasy, but "did that which was good and right in the eyes of Jehovah his God: for he took away the foreign altars, and the high places, and brake down the pillars, and hewed down the Asherim, and commanded Judah to seek Jehovah… and to do the law and the commandments" (2 Chron. 14:2-4).
Continue reading » "What is Written … How Readest Thou?": Whether Small or Great
Should a Christian Be There?
Most large cities have a section with a reputation for the lewd and ribald conduct frequently present after dark. In Paris, it is the Bois de Boulogne section of the city. In New Orleans, it is the Bourbon Street area. By day, these places may have good restaurants, museums or parks to visit, but decent people should know to stay clear from those areas by night. The phenomena is not peculiar to those cities. Most people around the country can tell you what neighborhood or section is of the same nature in their community. When our children are allowed to drive on their own, godly parents lay down the law that driving to those areas is absolutely forbidden.
Continue reading » "What is Written … How Readest Thou?": Ybor City Night-Life
We see the signs on the highway. We hear about it on the late news twice a week. We are faced with it up close with every visit to a convenience store. But we rarely think about it unless the jackpot gets high enough to make the news — the lottery. This article will not engage in a discussion regarding the political implications of this question concerning the lottery and its relation to state programs financed. However, it will examine the moral implications of gambling for the gambler and provider, including the sanitized and legitimized forms like the state sponsored lottery.
The word "gamble" is sometimes used so loosely we must define the word before we begin, so limiting the scope of our study. We will discuss this word in the sense of "to stake or risk money, etc., in the hope of great gain in a game in which success is solely dependent on chance" (see Webster and Oxford American Dictionary). When that gain takes place, it is at the expense of one or more who lose money without receiving any legitimate benefit or service of commerce.
Continue reading » "What is Written … How Readest Thou?": You Bet You Lose!
Let us suppose that a member of the congregation of which you are a member was seen almost daily jogging publicly in skimpy shorts. Let us say that this same member openly advocated abortion as an acceptable solution to unwanted pregnancy and actively worked to take money from fellow brethren to help fund abortions. Let us also imagine that this same member aggressively implemented programs in schools designed to teach tolerance of unmarried sexual partners and homosexuality as alternate lifestyles. Let us further assume that those programs provided birth control devices to children with graphic descriptions of how to use them. Let us also theorize that this member intentionally employed some militant, homosexual rights advocates to advance the homosexual rights cause. In fact, let us pretend that this member had such a massive influence that he ordered his international business concern, consisting of several million people, to accept homosexuality as an equally legitimate lifestyle. If all of these things were true with a member of the congregation, would you agree to continue fellowship with the man? Should you tolerate this brother due to his power and influence or should you recognize his evil influence and withdraw from him if he refused to repent?
Continue reading » "What Is Written … How Readest Thou?": Learning a Lesson from the Baptists
Have you noticed the increasingly common practice of publicly criticizing people who publicly criticize others. Politicians do it repeatedly. Does something about that strike you as a little inconsistent? It reminded me of listening to the terrorists who repeatedly try to justify the killing of innocent people in another country to protest the killing of innocent people in their country. I never could figure out the basis of that reasoning. Simply stated, the problem is that some people live by one rule, but judge others by a more stringent rule than that imposed upon themselves. The Bible speaks of such a practice and clearly condemns it. Notice this warning given by the apostle Paul in Romans 2:1-3:
Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?
In this context, the hypocrisy of the Jews is being examined by Paul. The Jews would have shouted, "Amen" to the charges of sin Paul laid at the Gentiles’ feet in the first chapter. However, while they looked down their noses in disgust at the sinfulness of the Gentile world, the Jews were guilty of many of the same sins.
Continue reading » "What Is Written … How Readest Thou?": Is Our Judgment Righteous or Unrighteous?
A few weeks ago, the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled "that barring an individual from the protections, benefits, and obligations of civil marriage solely because that person would marry a person of the same sex violates the Massachusetts Constitution." On a 4-3 decision, four judges have taken it upon themselves to require the recognition of homosexual marriage as equally valid and deserving the same benefits as a marriage between a man and a woman. Their opinion is available to the public as a 75-page document. It is a textbook study of sophistry and the effects of institutionalized amorality. When one reads the whole ruling, it becomes clear how the pieces of our moral decline all fit together. Thanks to four judges overruling the origin of marriage, its legal definition for hundreds of years in English common law and common sense, we now face the very real possibility that "same sex marriages" may soon have the force of law to validate their acceptability. With this decision, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts has arrived at the end many have warned was coming — an attempt to form a fully amoral basis for law and ethics.
Continue reading » "What is Written … How Readest Thou?": An Amoral Basis for Law – It Won’t Work!
Examining Romans 7:7-25
To say that this passage has been the occasion for much debate is an understatement. The fact that it is a difficult passage, regardless of the interpretation defended, is a truth to which all serious students would readily agree. In this brief study, we cannot raise all of the questions posed about this text, much less take the space required to reason towards answering all of those questions. We will, however, try to lay a foundation needed to properly understand the main points. For a detailed study, Whiteside’s commentary gives an excellent examination of this text.
The apostle Paul began the epistle to the Romans by affirming that the Gospel is God’s power to save those who respond in faith to that message. He then shows that all are in need of that salvation because all have sinned beginning with the Gentiles and then concentrating on the Jews (Romans 1:18 – 2:20). The next two chapters emphasize the themes of faith and grace as they relate to the justification of the sinner through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. This point is also made with special emphasis to the Jews. Up to that point in the book, the writer stresses the need for, and nature of God’s action in salvation.
Continue reading » "What is Written … How Readest Thou?": The Inward Conflict – Who Is Described?
A Rejoinder to Marty Pickup
Editor’s Note: The following Rejoinder by Harry Osborne deals with a response by brother Marty Pickup to an article Osborne and Marc Gibson wrote entitled The Serpent That Was Not There, which appeared in the August 2003 issue of Watchman Magazine. As per the editorial policy of the Magazine, the rejoinder of brother Osborne closes the exchange.
Before reading this rejoinder, the reader is asked to read and carefully consider the original article, The Serpent That Was Not There, and brother Marty Pickup’s response. The search for truth is assisted by careful and prayerful consideration of all teaching while searching the Scriptures daily to see if the things said are so (Acts 17:11). The pursuit of truth is the purpose of this discussion and I appreciate Marty’s willingness to discuss the issues involved in an open and honorable manner. If further discussion on these issues is desired, the pages of Watchman Magazine have been offered to publish such.
Brother Pickup began his response by saying, “I apparently expressed myself very poorly,” further stating, “I greatly regret my choice of words seeing that those words have been read in such a wrong way.” While I appreciate and share Marty’s recognition that hindsight could improve our phraseology, our brother clearly stated his views both in his lecture manuscript and in his response. In the original article, brother Gibson and I understood him clearly the first time, understood him stating the same view to each of us in separate correspondence, and understood his re-affirmation in his response. Since brother Pickup regrets the words used in his Florida College lecture manuscript, it is unfortunate that he chose many of the same words and some synonyms to express the same thoughts in his response. Actually, it was not the “choice of words” that was the problem, but rather the content of the words.
Continue reading » Half Right on the Serpent and Satan
(Editor’s Note: The following articles was co-authored by Harry Osborne and Marc W. Gibson.)
Throughout history, the truth of God has been assaulted by those interpreting figurative symbols as literal history and by those interpreting literal history as figurative symbols. Premillennialists have advocated their theories by interpreting the figurative symbols of books like Daniel and Revelation as literal history. Those denying the literal, historical facts presented in the Bible have taken the opposite tack, interpreting literal facts as figurative symbols. Both have violated a simple and fundamental rule for interpreting Scripture:
“All words are to be understood in their literal sense, unless the evident meaning of the context forbids. — Figures are the exception, literal language the rule; hence we are not to regard anything as figurative until we feel compelled to do so by the evident import of the passage” (D. R. Dungan, Hermeneutics, 184).
This rule is not true because Dungan stated it in a book widely used by faithful brethren for many years, but because the rule expresses the way speakers and writers moved by the Holy Spirit interpreted the writings of others who were also inspired of God. For instance, in Jonah 1:17, the inspired writer related as literal, historical fact that Jonah was swallowed by a great fish and remained in its belly three days and three nights. When Jesus gave the God-breathed interpretation of this passage, He related the account as literally true in the details recorded. Another example of the literal facts of biblical accounts being interpreted literally in other passages may be seen in the account from Numbers 21:6 of “serpents” biting the children of Israel in the wilderness wandering which the inspired apostle interpreted as being literal “serpents” (1 Cor. 10:9).
Continue reading » The Serpent That Was Not There
A few years ago, Robert Bork wrote an excellent book entitled Slouching Towards Gomorrah. It chronicled the moral decline in America and the rapidly increasing rate of that decline. The book was written amidst the backdrop of the scandalous behavior of Bill Clinton while in the Oval office. Those defending Clinton’s disgusting behavior said that it was a "private matter" regarding "sexual conduct" as opposed to "public and official actions," hence, it was nobody’s business what one does sexually in a private setting. In his book, Judge Bork warned that the decline would continue and would become further ingrained in our society if such principles were consistently applied. While reading the book during that period, I must confess that I knew from a viewpoint of principle that he was correct, but I remember thinking, "How much worse can it get?"
Sadly, while on my recent trip to the Philippines, I found the answer to my question watching BBC News one morning. Having reluctantly listened to BBC News during trips to Lithuania in the 1990’s because it was the only news available, I knew their very liberal and anti-American bias. Official actions of the United States government are most often ridiculed, rarely commended and almost never made the lead story of the day. To my total shock, the anchor began the newscast with a broad smile and gave no attempt to hide the total joy felt in relating the news of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning the sodomy laws of Texas and, by implication, other states as well. They interviewed representatives from the ACLU and every other liberal group around, all beaming over the decision. I sat down in stunned disbelief and immediately remembered Judge Bork’s prediction. Yes, it could and did get worse.
Continue reading » What is Written … How Readest Thou?: The Fast Lane to Gomorrah
Feature editor’s note: This writer recently returned from an preaching effort in the Philippines. Brother Osborne’s article is timely, showing as it does the significance of current issues among brethren in the U.S. to faithful brethren in other countries and to efforts to take the gospel to the lost of the world. (Steve Wallace)
For several years, the South Livingston church of Christ has supported brother Domie Jacob in his work of preaching the gospel in the Philippines. We have been thankful for his faithfulness to the truth and have admired his diligent and effective work in service to the Master. Having just returned from a brief stay with brother Domie, I would like the members of this congregation to know a little more about the faith, diligence and effectiveness of this dear brother.
Continue reading » White Unto Harvest: Intolerant Attack of the Broader Fellowship Crowd
Paul’s letters to the church at Thessalonica were written in the midst of great concern among the brethren regarding death, the coming of Christ and the hope of those in Christ. When we read 1 Thessalonians 4, it is evident that some among their number had died while awaiting the promised hope at the Lord’s coming. Some wondered if the death of those saints separated them from that hope in Christ. No doubt, the thought of faithful brethren having been robbed of their hope by untimely death was discouraging and depressing to the saints.
When viewed in terms of the present reality of their severe persecution, the obvious concern existed as to the ability of evil men to take away their hope by killing them (1 Thessalonians 1:6). After all, martyrdom was a present fact in the first century (Acts 7:59-60; 12:1-2; et. al.). In the midst of affliction, the saints in Thessalonica needed strength and comfort to help them live with joy and hope. Where could they find the real, lasting and substantive encouragement they needed? What could be the source for such?
Continue reading » "What Is Written…How Readest Thou?": Source of True Encouragement
In the last issue, we showed that the gospel of Christ reveals a pattern for us to obediently follow if we are to fulfill our responsibility relating to salvation. We looked closely at Christ’s teaching about the subject. His instruction to us was left in terms of a will which He announced after His resurrection (see Matthew 28:18-20, Mark 16:15-16 and Luke 24:46-47). Gathering all the facts to determine the whole pattern revealed, we see both the responsibilities enjoined upon us and the blessings received when we meet the conditions given. Jesus commanded that we must hear the gospel, believe it, repent of our sins, be baptized and continue to do all things commanded by Christ through His apostles. All who meet these conditions are disciples of Christ, saved and enjoy the remission of sins.
This pattern was consistently followed when the apostles went throughout the world preaching the gospel. The book of Acts is the historical record of that spread of the gospel. Let us look at the events recorded there and see the repeated adherence to the pattern by those who desired salvation.
Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: The Gospel, Salvation and the Sinner – 2
The books of Matthew, Mark and Luke all record that Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness were followed by His earthly ministry. Each of the books then tell us about the events and work of that ministry. From the beginning to the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry, His actions repeatedly and consistently involved the preaching of the gospel.
Matthew said, "Now Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…" (Matthew 4:23). "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom…" (Matthew 9:35). The focus Jesus had in teaching the people was to introduce them to the principles of the gospel. That gospel was the means by which people were introduced to the kingdom. Hence, when we find Jesus preaching the kingdom, we know He is declaring the gospel.
Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: The Gospel, Salvation & The Sinner
While Jesus was in the days of His flesh upon earth, He talked with two men on separate occasions about the peril of riches. The cases show the pull of materialism from two very distinct directions. Though the events took place almost two thousand years ago, the truths presented are as relevant today as they were then. Greed was manifested then much as it is manifested today. Yes, the specific things which greedy people hoard today may differ in appearance from the things amassed in Bible times, but the nature of the process has not changed at all. Materialistic people are consumed with storing up the things of this world as the focus and priority of their lives. Let us all examine our lives to rid this evil from invading and overthrowing our souls.
The First Case — The "Wannabe" Rich
The first man experienced the pull of materialism as one who was trying to acquire wealth. He was not yet rich, but was seeking to gain through an inheritance. He came to Jesus saying, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." To this Jesus replied, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?" (Luke 12:14).
Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: Jesus on Materialism
One writer observed of modern society, "A commentary on the times is that the word honesty is now preceded by old-fashioned." Over the past few years, we have all seen diminished respect for the virtue of telling the truth in various quarters. The adjudicated finding of guilt on perjury charges brought against our last president was surely a disgraceful evidence of the pervasive presence of dishonesty in our modern world. The widespread use of falsehood is not consistent with the values and character expected in the world of my upbringing. My earliest remembrance of character education is the teaching to always be honest. Whether at home or in school, in Bible classes or in the community, honesty was a mandatory virtue in each person and it was commonly accepted that lying was the worst thing one could do. While still a teenager, I came in contact with several people who made a practice out of falsehood and deceit. Since that time, I have witnessed the same proclivity in those who sought power for themselves in various realms. Is it merely being "old-fashioned" to seek a return to a world where honesty is again viewed with the highest respect?
Our Example of "Old-Fashioned" Honesty
In John 8, there is a clear contrast presented between Jesus who told the truth and the leaders of the Jews who lied. At one point, the leaders of the Jews claimed, "We are Abraham’s seed, and have never yet been in bondage to any man" (John 8:33). The fact is that Abraham’s seed, the Israelites, had been in both Egyptian bondage and Babylonian captivity. The Jewish leaders’ lying attempt to bolster their own importance was at variance with the truth. This was not the first time they had lied, nor would it be their last. They had lied about their respect for Jesus while trying to harm him. They would ultimately get men to testify falsely against Jesus to give a false veneer of justice to cover their murderous act. When Jesus arose from the dead, the same people would conspire to lie in a vain effort to conceal His resurrection. Jesus well summarized their character by noting their moral parentage:
Continue reading » In the Steps of the Savior: Old-Fashioned Honesty
Proposition: “The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.”
Brother Sheridan’s difficulties with the words “the Scriptures teach” continue. He has produced no Bible text proving that “biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society.” He asserts that Romans 13 sustains his proposition, but fails to make any argument from the text. There is no disagreement about the need to obey civil law. Our disagreement regards whether human law binds God’s judgments and defines divine precepts regarding marriage and the sundering of marriage. Terence would have us reinterpret and redefine the Scripture by ever-changing human law throughout history rather than interpreting and defining the Bible term “put away” by principles given in Scripture. Yes, we must obey civil law where it does not conflict with God’s law (1 Peter 2:13-17). But Scripture must take precedence in spiritual principles taught in God’s word (Acts 5:29).
Furthermore, Terence has not shown where “the Scriptures teach” that “the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry.” In fact, his second affirmative resorted to ambiguous terminology replacing his explicit claim that an innocent Betty in a divorce for fornication needed to act “before” guilty Bob. Terence denies believing in the “race to the courthouse,” but affirms that “a putting away occurs only when the spouse’s intent is fully realized and civil government has officially recognized that intent.” When and where does Terence claim that official recognition of divorce occurs? He has plainly stated it is in the courthouse when the judge grants the divorce to the party filing the petition. No, this attempt at obfuscation does not help Terence. In a no-fault divorce state where the guilty husband filed first and that petition is granted by the judge, Terence would deny that an innocent wife could put away that guilty party despite any counter-suit filed, protest of the real cause before the court, renouncing of the guilty party for fornication before the elders or the church, a finding of fault in the child custody case following the divorce action, or any other action taken showing the true cause for the sundering of the marriage.
Continue reading » Second Negative – Harry Osborne
Proposition: "The Scriptures teach that biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil procedure for divorce in one’s respective society and that the innocent one must secure that civil divorce in order to have a right to remarry."
Before directly refuting brother Sheridan’s affirmative, let me clarify the subject of this debate. Simply put, Terence plainly states that an innocent party in a marriage sundered for the cause of fornication must beat the guilty spouse to initiating the civil divorce and obtaining the court’s ruling. His position requires that human law, procedure and judicial decree establish law binding God’s judgment in this matter. He urges brethren to make a test of fellowship out of who wins that civil race and what the judge rules. Those are my points of disagreement with Terence.
In contrast, it is important to understanding what is not being disputed. There is no disagreement over the fact that a marriage may be sundered against the will of one spouse. We agree it may. Neither disputant contends that one may lawfully remarry following a marriage sundered for a cause other than fornication regardless of who later commits fornication. Though Terence attributes the "mental divorce" view to me, I do not believe it. A marriage is not sundered by merely mental means, nor may one spouse mentally put away the other after the marriage has already been sundered. The order must be fornication, putting away, then remarriage if the innocent has a right to remarry. Neither is this discussion about the need to comply with civil law in divorce. A civil divorce must be obtained when a marriage is sundered and the two people depart from one another. Our difference regards whether that civil divorce procedure is synonymous with biblical putting away, whether the innocent must initiate that civil action, and whether the court must grant the civil action in favor of the innocent party.
Continue reading » First Negative – Harry Osborne