Issues seem to be more numerous among brethren today than they were two or three decades ago. Denominationalism and Institutionalism were the two main areas of concern when I began to preach the Gospel. Over the last few years, Divorce and Remarriage, the Deity and Humanity of Jesus, AD 70 Doctrine, Days of Creation, plus where to draw the line of fellowship regarding these subjects have become matters of importance that need to be resolved. As a young man in the Gospel, I was not being forced to say where I stood on a big list of controversial issues, nor was I being ridiculed for not taking a stand among some who had already thought out their position before I knew a position should be taken. The religious landscape is different today. Internet access quickly disperses information to people all over the world. People share their thoughts instantaneously with others over social networking sites. Today, a new issue can arise with a click of a button. “Where do you stand on this or that issue?” soon follows.
Some, desiring to rise above the clouds of controversy in search for a less disagreeable walk with the Lord, try either to ignore issues or at least downplay their importance. They may deflect a controversial matter with, “I fear we have become too issue oriented.” Is this more spiritual than resolving the matter in the light of God’s Word?
Continue reading » Are We Too Issue Oriented?
Love is a many faceted thing. The Greeks used specific words to communicate the various aspects of “love”. The Greek word eros conveyed merely sexual or “erotic love”. The word storge was limited to the “natural affection” in “family love”. Phileo focused one upon the intimate, warm, and tender relationship in “friendly love”. We see such tenderness in the love the Father has for the Son in showing Him all things that He does (John 5:20). This is also the tender love the younger women were taught to manifest towards their husbands and children (Titus 2:4). Then, there is agape, listed as one facet of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22. This is the “love” we manifest by actively seeking the well being of others.
While eros and storge never occur in the New Testament, agape hardly ever occurs in secular Greek. William Barclay quotes Richard C. Trench as saying it was “born within the bosom of revealed religion”(Flesh and Spirit, page 64). The verb and noun forms of this Greek word are found more than 250 times in the New Testament. While phileo does occur in the New Testament, and was the highest form of love among the ancient Greeks, it cannot sufficiently describe the love God demands of those who follow the teachings of the Spirit. The glowing feeling of love (phileo) one has by his or her attachment to a friend is not the feeling one has in interacting with a persecuting enemy. But God demands that we love (agapao) our enemies (Matthew 5:44). This love transcends what we are naturally “attracted to” or what we emotionally “fall into”. This is love we determine to manifest because of our attachment to God and the Spirit’s revelation. Continue reading » Fruit of the Spirit: Love
If you were to look out your window and see your neighbor run full speed and smash his head against a tree, you probably would be shocked. If he knocked himself unconscious against the tree periodically, your shock would probably escalate to questioning the neighbor’s sanity. What is wrong with this guy? Why does he harm himself repeatedly? He is acting like a fool! This is the same reaction that God has when commenting on those who get drunk. “They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not hurt; They have beaten me, and I felt it not: When shall I awake? I will seek it yet again” (Proverbs 23:35). From the more serious spiritual viewpoint, God also reveals that becoming drunk will cause one to forfeit his or her inheritance in the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).
The Greek noun, methe, is akin to methu– wine, and is translated “drunkenness” in the list of the works of the flesh. The Greek word ties together strong drink and its effect of intoxication. The noun, methe, occurs two other times in our New Testament, besides Galatians 5:21. Continue reading » Works of the Flesh: Drunkenness
To be “bound” is to be restricted or tied up. Herod physically “bound” John and put him in prison (Matthew 14:3). Figuratively, Paul was “bound in the spirit”, in the sense that apprehension of the unknown had him tied up (Acts 20:22). By contrast, to be “loosed” is to be set free from that which restricts us. The disciples were to “loose” the ass which had been tied up (Mark 11:2,4). In raising Jesus from the dead, God “loosed the pains of death”, for He was not to be “holden of it” (Acts 2:24).
The Scriptures speak of husbands and wives being “bound” and “loosed”. By whom or what is a husband and wife bound? How long are they bound? If two people are not married any longer, are they no longer bound? Can one mate be “loosed” while the other mate “bound”? Continue reading » Marriage Divorce & Remarriage: “Bound” and “Loosed”
Six times in the book of Ephesians the word “mystery” occurs. Phrases such as “the mystery of His will” (Ephesians 1:9), “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4), and “the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19) point to God’s plan of redeeming man from sin and death. Through “revelation”, Paul preached the unsearchable riches of Christ making known the “dispensation” or stewardship “of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:4, 8-9). The “mystery is great” as it emphasizes “Christ and the church” (Ephesians 5:32).
God’s great mystery speaks of relationships. The relationship of Christ with His church is one characterized by self-sacrificing love on the part of Christ and reverential obedience to Christ on the part of each member of the Lord’s church or body. (Ephesians 5:24-25). The Jew and Gentile relationship in the church of Christ is one of sharing in the same spiritual blessings, “to wit, that the Gentiles are fellow-heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel” (Ephesians 3:6). Being justified on the basis of one’s faith in Christ instead of racial distinctions unifies men and women as fellow-heirs in the hope of heaven. Continue reading » The Glorious Church Reflected in the Mystery of the Gospel Revealed
In the first century, one of the seven wonders of the world occupied prominence in Ephesus. It was the temple of the goddess Diana. One hundred seven columns, each sixty feet high, arose from a marshy bed to support the roof of the temple. What comparisons and contrasts must have crossed Timothy’s mind in Ephesus when he read, “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly; but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how men ought to behave themselves in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground for the truth” ( 1 Timothy 3:14-15). As the many columns provided support for a physical structure, the spiritual realm focuses attention upon God’s household or family (cf. 1 Timothy 3:5), the church, supporting the truth revealed by God. But what a contrast! The church upholds the “truth” of “the living God”, instead of the “lie” of “lifeless” pagan idolatry.
The church is a collectivity of people who are individually called out of the world of sin by the truth of the gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14), and purchased or redeemed from sin by the blood of Christ (Acts 20:28, Revelation 5:9-10). Therefore, each individual member of the church should be enthusiastically involved in offering helpful support to the truth of God. Is it not “the truth” of the gospel that gives each hearer eternal hope in heaven (Colossians 1:5)? Is it not “the truth” which each person can know that frees the individual from sin (John 8:32)? And , is it not “the truth” of the gospel that offers purification from one’s sins when he or she obeys it (1 Peter 1:22)? Continue reading » Pillar and Ground of the Truth: The Local Church’s Role in Supporting the Truth