Index by Subject

Scripture Studies: The Purpose of the Church

Those who believe the Bible accept the fact that the church is part of God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9-11).  It was not an accident or aberration from His will.  The church was planned and purposed before time began, because it is integral to the plan of salvation (Gen. 3:15; Eph. 5:25).  It consists of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ and is destined for heaven (Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:20; 15:24).  Yet, few men respect the church.  They view it as an institution established and governed by the whims of man.  It even serves their basest desires.

The purpose of the church is to save souls.  It is the pillar and ground of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15).  As such, it supports the gospel in the world, spreading the faith to the lost (1 Thes. 1:7-9).  By teaching this truth, it provides men the opportunity to be set free from sin and death (Jn. 8:32).  In other words, the church teaches the gospel which is God’s power unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).  When men obey it, they turn from being slaves of Satan to servants of God (Rom. 6:16-18).  However, some do not honor the purpose of the church.

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Scripture Studies: Seek and Destroy

"But thus you shall deal with them: you shall destroy their altars, and break down their sacred pillars, and cut down their wooden images, and burn their carved images with fire" (Deuteronomy 7:5).  This is what the Lord commanded of Israel as they were about to enter the promised land.  All substance and shadow of idolatry was to be found and annihilated.  If it was done, blessings would follow.  If not done, Israel would be cursed.  We know from reading the history of Israel, they failed to do their duty, were afflicted by their enemies, as well as internal trouble, and ended up in captivity.

The Lord gives Christians the command to seek and destroy as well.

"For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.  For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in god for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

This is a command to attack error.  The Spirit also commands, "And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them" (Ephesians 5:11).  There is to be no sharing in evil, but that is not all.  There is no position of neutrality, nor mere avoidance of evil.  Rather, it must be confronted and exposed.

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Scripture Studies: Does Your Preacher Lie to You?

The Old Testament tells us about a preacher (prophet) who lied to a younger man (1 Kings 13).  The lie was told in all good conscience.  It was told with the intent of helping the young man (1 Kings 13:11-19).  The young man believed the lie, benefited in an earthly way, but ended up losing his life (1 Kings 13:20-28).  Thus, we know that religious leaders will sometimes tell a lie with the best intentions.  We also know that religious followers will sometimes believe a lie.

How could the young man have avoided being killed by the lion?  He could have rejected the lie.  How could he know the lie was a lie?  If he had stopped to consider that he knew what God revealed to him and what the old prophet said was contrary to it — let God be true and every man a liar (cf. Romans 3:4).

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Scripture Studies: A Better Understanding

Since 1995, I have understood Bob Owen put matters of sin in Romans 14.  That year I received tapes of the sermons he preached on fellowship and Romans 14 at Concord, NC.  It seemed obvious he justified ongoing fellowship with those in sin, including men like Homer Hailey.  I understood this because, in the question and answer period, he said, "And there are some people who have been very critical of brother Hailey and I agree with those people who are critical of him on the Bible teaching with regard to divorce and remarriage.  But I differ with them on their interpretation and application of the fellowship issue" ("We Differ, Can We Fellowship?" Feb. 19, 1995.  Concord, NC).  The complete sermon transcript is available at:

On September 9, I was invited to Bryan, TX, to talk to brother Owen.  A member of the Twin Cities Church of Christ invited Lanny Parish (preacher at Pioneer Park,  Nacogdoches, TX), Wayne Moody (preacher at Twin Cities, Bryan, TX), and myself to talk to brother Owen.  Others were present as well.  After about two hours of discussion, I still understand brother Owen believes Romans 14 includes matters of sin.  However, I believe I have a better understanding of why he does.

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The Greek word (sumphero) translated “expedient” (KJV) is defined as: “to bring together…bear together…to help, be profitable, be expedient” (Thayer); “to bring together…advantage, profitable, expedient (not merely ‘convenient’)…” (Vine).  Sumphero is used by the Lord.  He said,

And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable [sumphero] for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell. And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable [sumphero] for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell (Matthew 5:29, 30).

Thus, “expedient” has an inherent meaning of “profitable,” helpful, beneficial.  It is strange then, that “expedients” in the church have had such devastating effects.   Many practices introduced and organizations formed based on expediency have caused a number of divisions, great heartache and bitterness.  Expediency was used as the reason to kill Christ (John 11:50).  This shows the danger in justifying our action because it is “expedient.”  Hence, we need a proper understanding of Bible expediency.

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Scripture Studies: Letters from Asthenes (A Satire)

To Paul from Asthenes

Dear Paul,

Peace and grace to you from our God and Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  I want to commend you for your wonderful work of preaching Christ and Him crucified.  Your compassion and concern for the jailer at Philippi was inspiring.  I also appreciate your comment, "I have been crucified with Christ…who loved me and gave Himself for me."  What wonderful words of comfort.  Thank you.

I have a concern though; a concern that you may not have noticed, but others have.  I know this to be so because I have discussed it with them and they feel the same way I do.  I want you to be aware of it so your service to Christ may be even more effective, more fruitful.  My concern is this, your poor attitude and actions toward others on some occasions — not all — but some.  It seems to be driving people away from Christ instead of drawing them near.  This cannot be good under any circumstances, can it?  Let me give you specific cases.

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Scripture Studies – Preemptive Action

Many are aware of the debate over preemptive action in relation to Iraq. The president made the case for it and won many supporters. Still some protested and tried to stop any real action. Now, on this side of the war, level-headed people can see the president was and is right. Acting before a dangerous enemy can do harm is the intelligent way to go.

A similar debate over preemptive action exists among brethren. One idea is that whatever goes on elsewhere is none of our concern. It matters not what is happening on the west coast or east coast, in Florida or Kentucky, or even across town. Just mind the local work and leave everything else alone. (Of course, in giving this advice they violate their own precept by telling others what to do). The other idea is that what happens elsewhere will eventually affect the local brethren in one way or another. Therefore, addressing it is the wise course of action. The former is wrong, the latter right.

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Easter Traditions

Many religious people throughout the world celebrate Easter traditions. These traditions vary from culture to culture, and religion to religion. Pagans celebrate fertility rites, while those claiming to follow Christ celebrate His resurrection. In either case, Easter traditions are not Bible traditions.

Easter’s Origin In Paganism

A man called “St. Bede” (672-735 A.D.) believed the origins of Easter to be connected to “Castre, the Anglo-Saxon name of a Teutonic goddess of spring and fertility, to whom was dedicated a month corresponding with April. Her festival was celebrated on the day of the vernal equinox; traditions associated with the festival survive in the Easter rabbit, a symbol of fertility, and in colored Easter eggs” (Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001). This same goddess is known in other cultures as Aphrodite (Cyprus), Astarte (Phoenicia), Ishtar (Assyria) and Ostara (Norse).

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Voices from the Past: Narrow-Mindedness (Luther Blackmon)

The Gospel Guardian, December 8, 1949

Do not feel insulted when someone tells you that your religion is narrow. Maybe he is right. If he is right, you should feel complimented. Your critic may be confusing narrowness with bigotry, in which case he is the one out of step, not you. Bigotry the Lord condemned; narrowness (in the scriptural use of the term) he commended: "…narrow is the way that leadeth unto life, and few there be which find it."

The Narrowness of Truth

Truth is always narrow. Five plus five equals ten; this is true from kindergarten to college and everywhere else in the world. It isn’t ten because the arithmetic book says so, but it is ten because it cannot be anything else. If in a class of 100 students, only one gave ten as the answer to five plus five and all the other 99 agreed on a different answer, the one would be right and all the others wrong.

Historical truth is narrow. The Battle of San Jacinto was fought in Texas; Valley Forge was in Pennsylvania. These are facts which are understood alike by all students of history. If a student in a ‘history class gave any other answer concerning the location of these spots, he would be incorrect. No one would think the teacher was "narrow" in telling him so.

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Voices from the Past: Students and Today’s Issues (C.G. "Colly Caldwell, III)

Gospel Guardian — June 1, 1975

I suppose students have always had a bit of what our Tennessee grannies used to call "devilment" in them. During the last twenty-five years of his teaching life at the College of the Bible in Lexington, Kentucky, J.W. McGarvey became increasingly deaf and therefore was compelled to use a rather awkward ear-trumpet to hear his students. The ear-trumpet was a kind of goosenecked horn approximately the size of a small teacup attached to a rubber tube about three feet long. Brother McGarvey put the tube into his ear and the students recited their memory work for the day into the ear-trumpet at the teacher’s desk. That, of course, suggests all kinds of possibilities for fun-making and nearly all of them were apparently tried by brother McGarvey’s students who nonetheless loved him dearly.

One day McGarvey asked Hiram Brown to recite. Brown was in the back of the room and noticing that McGarvey did not have his ear-piece in place stood up and said, "Good morning, John." All laughed loudly but were quickly quieted when John McGarvey said in return, "Good morning, Hiram." The students were amazed to realize that their wise old professor had somewhere along the way become quite adept at reading lips. Thereafter they were more careful to cover up their pranks.

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Voices from the Past: Why Do You Want to Preach? (J.W. McGarvey)

Chapel Address — No. 4
J.W. McGarvey, Chapel Talks (1956)

A considerable number of you expect to preach tomorrow. What for? It will cost some labor and anxiety on your own part and some trouble to the audience which you expect to come and hear you; and what for? On your own part, what is it for? Just to fill an appointment? Well, that is very important. If a man has an appointment he ought to fill it, especially if he is a preacher. I have felt this duty pressed upon me all my life as a preacher. I recollect that I had an appointment once thirty miles from home and I expected to reach the place on horseback. When Saturday morning arrived the thermometer registered eighteen degrees below zero. Then the question arose whether I ought to risk being frozen by going to that appointment. But I mounted my horse and went. When I was within a half-mile or so of the village I met with a number of brethren who had been gathering ice for their icehouses. They told me that they were not looking for me. I answered, “Whenever I have an appointment, you look for me”. That has been the rule of my life, and I mention it so that it may help any of you who have been just a little careless. It is very important to always be prompt in filling your appointments. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Why Do You Want to Preach? (J.W. McGarvey)

Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Each Christian should have a life filled with joy. However, it is not something that is automatic. Rather, effort must be put forth to bring about joy. The Holy Spirit revealed joy, part of the fruit of the Spirit, comes about as the result of a “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 22).

Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines joy (chara) as “joy, delight.” Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament says it is “joy, gladness.” These are somewhat vague definitions. And, sadly, joy has been redefined by men. Many today believe that joy in the life of a disciple of Christ involves nothing more than a superficial feeling of giddiness. They believe it derives from a “church” baseball game, a “fellowship” dinner, or a “religious” retreat. That is, many have a shallow view of what joy in the Lord truly is. The Spirit said, “for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Joy is deeper than what men would lead you to believe. It is more concrete than the fleeting, fleshly things of this world. Joy in the Holy Spirit is, as He defined it, walking in the Spirit. To walk in the Spirit is to abide by the revelation of the Spirit (Romans 8:1, 2). Continue reading » Fruit of the Spirit: Joy

Voices from the Past: The Autonomy of the Local Church (W. Curtis Porter)

The Gospel Guardian (November 1972, reprint from 1956)

To have the proper background to enable us to understand the “autonomy of the local church,” we must have an understanding of the New Testament uses of the word “church.” By an investigation of the word of the Lord it will become evident that the word “church” is used in two senses by divine writers. First, it is used in what may be called the “universal” sense. This simply means that the word “church” is used to include all of the saved in all of the world. When Jesus said, in Matthew 16:18, “Upon this rock I will build my church,” he certainly did not refer to any particular local congregation, for if he did, then all other congregations would be without divine origin. The word was used in the institutional, or universal, sense. The same is true of the statement made by Paul in Ephesians 5:25, as well as in many other New Testament references. However, in the second place, the word is used in a “local” sense. By this use of the word reference is made to all the saved in some particular locality, as “the church of God” at Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:1, 2), or “the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). The “local” sense of the word is also found in such expressions as “the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2), “the churches of Judea” (Galatians 1:22), and “the seven churches which are in Asia” (Revelation 1:4). The first, or “universal,” sense of the word refers to the people of God in the aggregate, but the second, or “local,” sense of the word has to do with “local congregations.” With this proper meaning of the word in mind, as used by New Testament writers, let us consider the “autonomy of the local church.” Continue reading » Voices from the Past: The Autonomy of the Local Church (W. Curtis Porter)

Works of the Flesh: Outbursts of Wrath

There are many sins of which men may be guilty. As you know, some of these are listed in Galatians 5:19-21. Among the sins listed, there are ones people view as “major” and others as “minor.” Some believe “uncleanness” and “lewdness” to be minor, while “idolatry” and “sorcery” are major. Yet, God lists them in the same category of works of the flesh. Another sin that is viewed as minor is “outbursts of wrath,” though it is listed with “hatred,” “envy,” and “drunkenness.” Nothing could be further from the truth, as we shall see.


The “outbursts of wrath,” of Galatians 5:20, is defined as “passion, angry heat….anger forthwith boiling up and soon subsiding again” (Thayer). Vine states that the Greek word “thumos,” the root of “outbursts of wrath,” means “Hot anger, passion.” E. Huxtable, in The Pulpit Commentary, states “wrath” in Galatians 5:20 “denotes violent ebullitions [boilings] of passionate anger.” An examination of various uses of this word in the New Testament will further “define” this work of the flesh. Continue reading » Works of the Flesh: Outbursts of Wrath

Voices from the Past: Identifying the Gospel Preacher (Bond Stocks)

Gospel Guardian, May 5, 1949


(Gospel Guardian Editor’s note: Bonds Stocks, preacher for the Central Church of Christ in Jackson, Mississippi, has created no little stir in that section by his plain spoken preaching over a Jackson radio station. Refusing to accept the usual denominational designations for a preacher, he was called upon to offer an explanation. Here is a digest of the answer he gave over the radio.)

I am a preacher, a minister of Christ, and an evangelist; but I am not a pastor; I am not a clergyman; I am not a “Father”; and I am not a “Reverend.”

I am a gospel preacher in exactly the same sense that Paul was; I preach the same gospel he preached; I preach no other. Paul declared that he had been appointed a “preacher” of the gospel of Christ (1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11). I am a minister of Christ in the same sense that Timothy was a minister of Christ (1 Timothy 4:6). The word “minister” literally means “servant”. Every one who serves Christ is actually his “minister.” It is a mistake to think of the gospel preacher as the only minister of Christ in any given church; all true servants are his ministers. I am an evangelist in the same sense that Philip was an evangelist (Acts 21:8). An evangelist is a herald or a proclaimer of good tidings. When I preach the gospel of Christ, I am an evangelist–a proclaimer of good tidings. It matters not whether I preach it from a thousand pulpits or preach it a thousand times from one pulpit; so long as I preach the good news of Christ I am an “evangelist”. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Identifying the Gospel Preacher (Bond Stocks)

Voices from the Past: The Real Meaning of Love (H.E. Phillips)

Searching the Scriptures, Vol. VIII, No. 7, July 1967

(The following article is a reprint from Searching The Scriptures, May, 1962 in explaining the scriptural view of love as it applies to those in error.)

Denominational views are generally known by the subjects that are discussed in pulpits and papers, and the subject of love occupies a top place in nearly all religious groups. I would like to search the scriptures with you on the Bible meaning of love in an efforts to see if this subject is any more accurately represented by denominational teachers than many other subjects with which they deal.

Love is one of the key words in the word of God. The fact that God loves man is again and again stressed by every inspired man who was used by the Spirit to reveal the will of God. 1 John 4:7-21 is an example of the importance placed upon love by the word of God. Several facts are given in these verses which show that love is indispensable to fellowship with God. John says that “God is love” and that “love is of God.” Since God loves us, we are instructed to “love one another”. “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us.” “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” This is the theme of John in this section of his epistle, and he concludes the chapter by saying: “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also” (1 John 4:20,21). Continue reading » Voices from the Past: The Real Meaning of Love (H.E. Phillips)

Voices from the Past: The Christian and Controversy (Clinton Hamilton)

Truth Magazine, October 1956 (Volume 1, Number 1)

There is an attitude in the hearts of some Christians that regards debating as beneath the dignity of the followers of Christ and as detrimental to the spread of the Kingdom. The world regards debating with suspicion. This almost universal disapproval of religious debating outside the church has had its effect on the members of the church. For this reason it is good to examine the Scriptures to learn the true attitude one should have toward such matters.

Truth is in constant conflict with error. In view of this situation, what should be our disposition and action amid such a conflict?

A Clarification
Some of those who find debating obnoxious remonstrate with us when we try to reason with them by saying that “debating” is condemned in the Bible. They then quote Romans 1:29 and 2 Corinthians 12:20 from the King James Version: “Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers…,” “For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults.” The words debate and debates in these passages are pounced on to condemn religious discussion. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: The Christian and Controversy (Clinton Hamilton)

Voices from the Past: As One Ought to Preach (Cecil Willis)

Truth Magazine, Vol. XV, No. 46, September 30, 1971

From a prison cell into which he had been cast because of his preaching, the apostle Paul requested the prayers of the brethren that he might “speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:20). The apostles, Peter and John, after being threatened, yet “spake the word of God with boldness” (Acts 4:13, 29, 31). Because of his hope of heaven Paul said he was constrained thereby to “use great boldness of speech” (2 Cor. 3: 12). Further he told the Corinthians, “Great is my boldness of speech toward you” (2 Cor. 7:4). Though he suffered and was shamefully treated for so doing, Paul said he “waxed bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God in much conflict” (2 Thess. 2:2).

These statements indicate that New Testament preachers were bold preachers. A careful study of the content of their sermons will also indicate they were bold preachers. Peter, on Pentecost boldly declared to the murderers of Christ, “ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay” (Acts 2:23). Those depraved enough to kill God’s Son were not above trying to kill one who would charge them with their crime. In Acts 5:33 we read of some who were so cut by a gospel sermon that they “were minded to slay them.” But Peter boldly made his charge in spite of danger. The evangelist Stephen so preached that the multitude rushed on him, gnashed on him with their teeth, and then beat him to death with stones (Acts 7:57). Paul so preached against idolatry in Ephesus, a center of idolatry and idol making, that the people protested against his preaching loudly for two hours. His preaching caused an uproar in the city. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: As One Ought to Preach (Cecil Willis)

Voices from the Past: “The Perfect Law of Liberty” (Cecil Willis)

The New Testament writer, James, said, “But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing” (James 1:25). There are several important lessons to be learned from this passage.

(1) IT IS A “LAW.” This body of truth which is the source of all pure religion is here called a “law.” There are some who would have us to believe that the Old Testament had law, but no grace; and that the New ,Testament has grace, but no law. They therefore teach that we should preach “the Man” but not “the Plan,” else we become legalists.

However, a law is simply a “rule of action.” If there is no prescribed rule of action (i.e., no law), then it would be impossible to sin, since sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4). The body of truth that guides us is elsewhere called the “law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21), the “law of the Spirit of life” (Romans 8:1,2), and here it is called “the law of liberty” (Jas.. 1: 25; 2:12). It is true, however, that we are not under the law of Moses (Romans 6:14), but this does not mean that we are under no law at all. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: “The Perfect Law of Liberty” (Cecil Willis)

Voices from the Past: Trouble Makers or Truth Tellers (Larry Ray Hafley)

[The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 19, No. 38, February 1, 1968]

“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord…” (I Kings 18:17, 18) Ahab was infamously wicked, (I Kings 16:30) and Elijah refused to let him forget it. Thus, when Ahab saw Elijah he condemned him as a troublemaker, though the genuine cause of strife and confusion then, as now, was a forsaking of God’s commands. Christ rebuked the hypocritical traditions of the Jews and urged a return to his Father’s will. Those undeniably shown to be of their father, the devil, accused the harmless Lamb of God of offending them. (Matt. 15:12) Their rejection of God’s law for the teaching of men left them void of acceptance by the Spirit of God, and when this was manifest they labeled the world’s Truth-teller a troublemaker. Continue reading » Voices from the Past: Trouble Makers or Truth Tellers (Larry Ray Hafley)