The denominational world is filled with the teaching and conviction that the Holy Spirit personally and literally dwells within the Christian. Many of these people do not propose to know how this indwelling takes place, nor do they seem to care how it takes place. They are just comforted by the presumed “fact” that it does happen.
This belief in a literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit is not limited to individuals in various denominations. Some of our own brethren believe in a personal, literal indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This view is held by some who are sincere and very knowledgeable in the Scriptures, but it is a view with which I do not agree. Continue reading » The Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
The New Testament contains many passages that clearly show the limited nature of Christian fellowship. Consider a few examples:
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17).
“Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them” (Romans 16:17).
Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned” (Titus 3:10-11).
“In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus” (1 Corinthians 5:4-5).
“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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).
Two things become apparent as these verses are considered: 1) God does not accept every individual. Some, because of their own actions (sin), are not worthy of His fellowship. 2) God expects us to reject at least some of these who are unacceptable to Him. As such, it is incumbent upon us to determine who it is that God calls us to reject. Or, stated more practically, what are the factors that determine the limits of Christian fellowship.
Continue reading » The Ultimate Basis of Christian Fellowship
1 Kings 18 records a conversation between the great prophet Elijah, and Obadiah, the steward over the house of King Ahab. Despite his close association with the evil king, scripture describes Obadiah as a man who “feared the Lord greatly” (18:3).
Elijah gave Obadiah instructions to set up a meeting between him and the king. The two were mortal enemies, and Ahab had been searching for him ever since Elijah had instigated a drought in the land in response to Ahab’s evil practices. As Obadiah told him, “As the Lord your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,”’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you” (18:10). Elijah was now ready to reveal himself to the king, and recruited Obadiah to set up the meeting.
A number of lessons can be learned by becoming familiar with these two men, and examining the conversation they had on that eventful day.
Continue reading » Lessons to Learn from Elijah and Obadiah
The word “false Teacher” is found only one time in the Bible at 2 Peter 2:1. The apostle Peter wrote, “But there arose false prophets also among the people, as among you also there shall be false teachers…” Unsuspecting brethren are often amazed that the subject of false teachers is taught from the pulpit with regularity when it is only found this one time in the Bible. The objective of this article will be instructive regarding the actual frequency of this subject in both the Old and New Testament. The very words “false teacher” suggest a standard of teaching that is violated. Let us consider the identity, work, effects and the faithful Christian’s responsibility toward false teachers. Preventative measures are ordained of God that we be not infected with their error (2 Timothy 2:17).
Identity of False Teachers
The Greek word representing “false teacher” is pseudodidaskaloi which is defined as “a false teacher, one who inculcates (to teach by frequent repetition; to instill…) false doctrines” (Moulton’s Greek English Lexicon pp. 441). One who teaches or instills doctrines that oppose divine revelation is a false teacher. There are few books in our Bibles that do not deal with this subject in some form or fashion. To illustrate this point let us connect some associated words. Peter refers to false teachers as those who “deny the master” (2 Peter 1). The apostle John identifies those who deny the master as liars and antichrist who “hath not God” (2 John 2:22-23). Those who “hath not God” are those who teach doctrines that are opposed to divine revelation (2 John 9ff). Paul warned the Galatians (Galatians 1:6ff) and Timothy (1 Timothy 6:3ff) of those who would teach a different doctrine. Due to the frequent attacks against God’s divine revelation Paul pleaded with Timothy to guard the purity of truth (1 Timothy 6:20-21; 2 Timothy 1:12-13). These verses are all interconnected and reveal the actual frequency that the subject is dealt with in our Bibles.
Continue reading » The False Teacher
It’s a shame that Matthew 18:15-20 is one of the most misused and misapplied passages of Scripture: its true purpose is saving souls!
All verse references are from Matthew 18 unless otherwise noted
What kind of sin?
Verse 15 starts: “If your brother sins against you….” The sin in this passage is a personal sin one against another. In his follow-up question at verse 21, Peter understands the sin to be personal: “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him?”
Continue reading » The Truth About Matthew 18:15-20
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?
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
Editor’s Note: Brother Roberts edits the Forest Hills church of Christ Communicator, a monthly mail out bulletin. This article appeared in the May 2004 issue of that paper. While local references are made, the principles are timely and important for all Christians to note. As such, we appreciate the opportunity to give his article an even wider reading in this issue of Watchman.
“Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?”
Jesus, the wise and perfect Master Teacher was not gladly received by all who heard him. We must realize that Jesus always had the right attitude, chose the right words, expressed the truth, and spoke with clarity. But some resented the truth that he taught. “Therefore many of his disciples when thy heard this, said, ‘This is a hard saying; who can understand it?’ When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured about this, he said to them, ‘Does this offend you?'” (John 6:60-61). Without debate, we can conclude that the fault lay with the listeners, not the speaker. Jesus taught the truth and some hated him for that very reason. Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Have I Become Your Enemy?
A number of years ago, a popular series of articles ran in various bulletins and publications and were used in sermons which urged people in the denominational world to “Ask Your Preacher” where the Bible teaches….infant baptism, instrumental music, the doctrine of faith only, etc. The series was designed to raise awareness among denominational people that their preachers could not defend certain doctrines inherent in their beliefs and practices. It was an effective method of urging people to read their Bibles, examine their practices in the light of scripture, and question the preaching of those who could not provide book, chapter and verse for their doctrines.
Is the church of Christ immune to error? Should we not have the same attitude of urging our own brethren to read their Bibles, examine our own practices and question the preaching of those who do not provide book, chapter and verse for what we believe and practice? It was said of the Bereans that they “were more noble (fair minded) than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). Do we get a free pass to believe and practice whatever we want since we are “the church” and “our traditions” are beyond question?
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Ask Your Preacher
None So Blind As Those Who Will Not See
Even though you soberly warn people of the dangers which are down the road that they are traveling, even though you tell them over and over what the consequences of their doctrinal choices will be, even though you fervently plead with them to realize that they are being deceived, even though you remind them of the vivid history of digression that cries out for them to examine and evaluate the path which they have chosen to walk, it is clearly obvious that many will absolutely refuse to look at the evidence and refuse to open their eyes to the apostasy that they, without any hesitation, seem to have bought in to – hook, line, and sinker! Indeed they choose to remain blind and they willfully refuse to open their eyes to see! Our frustration is almost beyond bearing when we see our own brethren in Christ, many of them the loved ones of our own families, who are not willing to listen to warnings or open their eyes to see the precipice of sin and digression which is only steps away from where they are walking.
Continue reading » Unity in Diversity Error
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
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.
Continue reading » Scripture Studies: A Better Understanding
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
The assertion of this series of articles has been that the Lord’s teaching regarding marriage and divorce is straightforward, and easily understood. Simply stated, it is: One man, One woman, for a lifetime.
Further, it is asserted that the one exception to this rule regarding the lifetime nature of the marriage commitment is found when a spouse is guilty of the treachery of fornication. In this case, Jesus declared the innocent’s right to remarry. Note again the passage from Matthew 19, “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery” (vs. 9).
The right to remarry is extended only to the innocent party, and only in the one case of fornication. Otherwise, Paul indicated that the marriage bond is a lifetime commitment. (cf. Romans 7:2).
Continue reading » An Addendum
When error is taught religiously, history shows people to be divided into one of three groups. First, there are those who advocate the error. Second, there are those who combat the error. And, finally, there are those who seek to minimize the differences, thus compromising with the error. Issues in the past 150 years have shown this to be true with the battles over the instrument in worship, and with the institutional issues that troubled brethren in the middle of the last century.
The same circumstance can be seen in the division of brethren over what the Bible teaches concerning marriage and divorce. There are the false teachers who advocate the error, the faithful brethren who combat the error, and a sizable number of brethren who seek to maintain fellowship with those who teach the error. As is commonly the case, the compromisers have turned to the 14th chapter of Romans, abusing that text in an attempt to justify their compromise with the false teacher.
Continue reading » Fellowship and Controversy
Is it possible to have unity in doctrinal matters? It is increasingly proclaimed that we cannot all believe the same things and practice the same things in doctrine. Thus, the need for “unity in diversity.” What used to be a voice from ultra-liberalism has now become a common theme among more conservative brethren. “We cannot have unity in doctrine; the only unity we can have is unity in Christ.”
Years ago, there was a small core of radical brethren who tried to make a distinction between “gospel” and “doctrine.” Their “gospel” was defined to be 7 core facts about Jesus: birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, coronation. We were told that so long as one believed in the 7 facts about the deity of Jesus, salvation was assured. “Doctrinal” matters were not salvation matters. Thus, so long as one accepted Jesus Christ as the Son of God, it did not matter if one accepted premillennialism, instrumental music, the Lord’s supper on days other than the Lord’s day, etc. Doctrine, we were told (any doctrine), was not a salvation matter. We were urged to “accept into fellowship every believer in Christ, regardless of doctrinal beliefs.” If a belief was not a “salvation matter,” we were told, we should not make it a test of fellowship. One man taught that every believer in Christ was a “child of God in prospect and a brother in deed” (Carl Ketcherside). He finally gave up the “doctrinal” teaching on baptism and accepted as his brothers those who rejected baptism for the remission of sins.
Continue reading » The Simple Gospel: Doctrinal Unity
A “red flag” of warning should arise every time we hear some call for “unity in diversity.” Some have even said that the “only kind of unity is unity in diversity.” We need to be very sure we understand what this catch-phrase really means and how it is used.
It is understood that a local congregation is filled with people at different levels of faith and maturity. Some will be babes in Christ, newly converted and needing to learn a lot about New Testament Christianity. Some will be farther along the path to maturity, but still unsure about some doctrinal matters and personal issues. Some will be “perfect” (mature, full-grown, Ephesians 4:13), Christians who have a settled faith and manner of life. Among these members, there will be matters of personal opinion and personal judgment that differ from Christian to Christian. The Bible recognizes this fact and addresses it in Romans 14-15. In the apostolic days, Jewish and Gentile Christians (who came from different backgrounds) had areas of differences in applying their common faith. It should be noted that the differences were sharp and contentious, capable of dividing congregations. The word of God provides the solution to this problem.
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: Unity In Diversity
There is a current trend among some brethren to "broaden fellowship" who must accept a tolerance toward error before such broadening can be accomplished. We are told that since "everybody is wrong about something" (and we are!), we can be sure of nothing (which does not follow!).
In the past 2 John 9-11 has been used by brethren to show that there are limits to fellowship. I find nothing wrong with this and believe it to be a proper use of this passage. The "doctrine of Christ" makes proper allowance for one "growing in the grace and knowledge of Christ" as well as making provision for one’s mistakes. This matter of "growing in the grace and knowledge" (2 Peter 3:18) includes the fact that we do not know everything. Forgiveness includes the premise that we sometimes know and do not … thereby sinning. Both of these factors are built-in features of New Testament Christianity. God planned this when He set up the scheme of Redemption. However, while taking this into consideration, God still teaches that while we may not know everything, there are things we must know and things we are accountable for knowing. Simply because we do not know everything does not permit the theory that we cannot know anything! Such nonsense puts a premium on ignorance.
Continue reading » Associate Editorial: 2 John 9