Much is being made lately about the reality that “good” men study the same information, given by God, and have exactly opposite conclusions. I have some concern about arbitrarily referring to us as “good” in ANY case, because only God is “good” (Matt 19) – and specifically with regard to reacting to information. Usually the scenario offered is extensive: honest, humble, obedient, intelligent, unprejudiced (?), only desiring to please God, etc. With a certainty that only God truly has, some are willing to grant that standing to MOST who engage in such study, and then on that basis look for flaws either in the information being given, our approach to understanding it, or the level of importance we must attach to the conclusions we draw.
To start with (and I hope this is true of ALL of us), let us take the first option off the table. As David said in the 19th Psalm, “the law of the Lord is PERFECT….the testimony of the Lord is SURE….the statutes of the Lord are RIGHT….the commandments of the Lord are PURE….the judgments of the Lord are TRUE and RIGHTEOUS ALTOGETHER…”
There are TWO things we must not forget:
The word of God is UNTOUCHABLE! It is “holy”. Rom 1:2 Its quality is a reflection of the quality of its Giver! Mishandling even a “jot or a tittle” is something that Jesus Himself would not do! Matt 5:17,18 Our every thought, and every action, must pass its test to gain approval from the Author….
God said EXACTLY what He wanted to say, in words of His own choosing…WHATEVER consequences obtain from human reaction to it are already factored into it and occur by divine design. As He says, “it will accomplish the purpose whereunto I have sent it” – Isa 55:11. (which does NOT mean that everyone who hears it will always be changed for the better.) If some fail to accept it, or reframe it to satisfy their own agenda, God has even promised to help them depart – 2 Th 2:10-12
Greater care should be taken by some in the language they use to define our problems – NONE of those problems come from God, and whatever misunderstandings we humans have do not come from an INADEQUATE or NON – UNDERSTANDABLE message. That is one thing I am going to “assume” that all will agree to – if there are those who do not, there is a need for a more fundamental study about the basic matter of evidences, which is not the purpose of these posts. We can even say that the WORD itself functions as a part of the “sifting” process. Often, with God, the direction toward which the word is designed to take us requires a high degree of humility, selflessness and sincerity to be carried out, and we reveal much about ourselves by the way we respond – Gen 22:12; 1 Cor 11:19
Is our sincerity REAL? Are we totally SUBMISSIVE to the divine Will? These are things our response will, over time, demonstrate – and that is what God intends! -Aubrey C. Belue, Jr., Facebook, 2013
Matthew 5:4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
This beatitude is a balm for many. It sets forward the concrete truth that God wants His people to have comfort. It promotes the idea of a God who will help us in times of need and want, and facilitate a solution to the hurt and grief we experience. Though this does communicate a true aspect of who God is, we also understand that this is a decidedly shallow way to completely understand this beatitude.
To know Christ’s words, we must consider what we are supposed to “mourn” over. Remember the framework of the beatitudes! These are elements of what the Christian is supposed to be. They are not unreachable ideals, but understandable concepts, and they are meant to show us an accurate picture of a citizen of the Kingdom of Christ. These are not what the Christian seeks to be, but what the Christian simply IS. The beatitudes work counter to the established order of men – regardless of the time period or cultural makeup. What Jesus says here runs counter to our most base tendencies.
A Kingdom citizen will mourn over their sins. This is “Godly sorrow” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Sinners do not mourn over sins, and in fact will often gloat and boast about them. Many Christians who have fallen away rejoice in their new-found "freedom" to ignore the restrictions of a life with God, and embrace the sin that snared them in the first place. Paul wrote of these: “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
With the Kingdom citizen, sins are a source of anguish. Their presence means that something must be done to stop them, and the solution of cleansing by the blood of Christ must be sought. If we do not truly mourn the sin, we will skip right past that and seek comfort concerning that sin.
Before I became a Christian, I would justify my life by essentially saying, “I’m not that bad. I’m not murdering anyone or stealing anything. I’m not hurting others with my life.” My parents sought to help me understand my need to change, but I also had friends who would pat me on the back and tell me that I was a good person. I wanted the comfort without the mourning. The reality is, whatever “comfort” I got was not true comfort.
Only God can truly comfort us! If we try to give or receive comfort outside of forgiveness, we fight a losing battle. There is a great need in our souls to be cleansed by God, free of every sin. God can do this. Again Paul writes, “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14).
This is our great spiritual sufficiency. If we ignore this, we sweep aside the real solution, and settle for a fake one. We ignore our needed mourning and embrace a false comfort when we say, “I know this is wrong, but God knows my heart. It will be okay”, or “I know the Bible tells us this is sin, but God knows I need to be happy”, or “I can’t imagine that God would hold me accountable for this.” We can live in this delusion only as long as it takes for the judgment day to arrive, when “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10).
Jesus said, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30). Bearing the yoke of Jesus means rest for our souls. No longer are we burdened with sin that destroys us, but we are freed to serve a God who comforts us. It is amazing to consider our God’s salvation, and the comfort found in it! -Steven McCrary
Ps 50:21 “These things hast thou done, and I KEPT SILENCE; thou thoughtest that I was altogether such an one as thyself: but I will reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.”
Every once in a while, some “wise” man tackles it again, and speaks with certainty about things he cannot possibly know!
1) Fact #1 – When He is silent, it is because He has His reasons NOT to speak! He “KEEPS” silence (or not). God’s silence is no accident, nor is it a a”spur of the moment” thing. He KEEPS silence, and He BREAKS silence, in a way consistent with His nature and purpose.
2) Fact #2 – The fact that we have no current record of God speaking to a certain matter – especially of matters which occurred thousands of years before --does not mean that He had NOT spoken on that matter. By inspiration (2 Sam 23:2); by dreams (Gen 37); by visions (Dan 9); by lot; by Urim and Thummin – He DID reveal His will. Not every such expression of God’s will (especially since it did not pertain to us) is recorded. To unequivocally state that God did NOT speak to allow or deny certain things in times past, in view of this fact, is the height of arrogance. We need to be reminded: De 29:29 “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
3) Fact #3 – For US, God has determined that we live by His WORDS, not by His SILENCE. “Man shall live by every WORD…” (Mt 4:4). We must “SPEAK as the oracles of God”…(1 Pet 4:11). Our souls are purified in obeying the “truth” (in itself, “silence” reveals NO truth) (1 Pet 1:22-25); He holds us to “what has been written (revealed, not withheld)” (1 Cor 4:6).
At the conclusion of the latest article I read which sought to neutralize God’s silence, human judgment (not God's word) grants to us the choice to respect God’s silence, so long as we do not expect others to do so, and receive them regardless. But, as far as I can see, there are no grounds for compromise – we either respect it when God does not express His will, and act only when He reveals it to us, or we do not. And only those who have that mutual respect for the will of Almighty God should receive our respect and endorsement. -A.C. Belue, Jr.
Romans 16:16 Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you.
Names are Important. Corporations are extremely insistent upon their product name being emphasized correctly in advertising. They want the correct name to be displayed so that consumers buy the correct product. The names of the inheritors of a will must be correct in order for that inheritance to properly apply. If someone uses a derogatory term to describe us, our reaction is usually hostile. Many are brought into court on the charge of public slander because the name of someone has been defamed. Names matter. What we call others, and the terms we use to describe things, are important. Without names, there is confusion.
We must consider whether it truly matters what a church calls itself. On the one hand, I intend to show that what we call our local congregation is important. On the other hand, I intend to point out that names do not always define us unless we are living up to that name.
God holds names as being important. He named Adam (Gen. 5:2), and renamed Jacob to Israel (Gen. 32:27-28). God even prophesied the name of His Messiah (Is. 9:6). Names were important among the Christians of the 1st Century, though sometimes for the incorrect reason (1 Cor. 1:13).
I am often asked “what kind of church” I go to. When I mention that the congregation I worship with has “church of Christ” on its sign and is known by that name, it seems that many lump that into the denominational designation. Because those among what I would call the Faith do not organize themselves as a denomination (primarily meaning a central man-made organization that claims to be a part of a bigger whole), to say that the “church of Christ” is a denomination is a misuse of the term.
The church I worship with uses the name “church of Christ” to describe themselves. This is more utility than tradition, however. It succinctly describes what we are all about. We seek to be the Church that Christ built (Matt. 16:18), but “Church of Christ” is not the only name we could use. In various places throughout the New Testament, it is called “My Church” (Matt. 16:18), “The Church” (Acts 8:1), “Church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2), “The body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12), “The church of the living God” (1 Tim. 3:15), “Church of the first born” (Heb. 12:23), and “Churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16). We would suggest that any other names of identification are simply inaccurate, and not descriptive of the Body.
Are there churches calling themselves “church of Christ” who act as a denomination? Undoubtedly. Congregations of brethren who use the treasury to fund human institutions and universities are essentially “denominations” without using the term. Their doctrine is often “handed down” in many ways as the Baptists or Methodists.
Again, we seek to be the Church that Christ built. The reason for this is that there is only one Church that we want to be identified with. The Bible Emphasizes that One Church. Paul writes, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” (Eph. 4:4). There are actually multiple bodies in the religious world, composed of many different spirits. Some - even among those I would call brethren and saints - would have us believe that the denominations are just the same as we are, when their faith and practices are different from what the Bible teaches. This confusion should not be so (1 Cor. 14:33). We should listen to our God.
Further, we can find that many of the names used by the denominations are only partly descriptive of the One Body. For example, the Baptists use a term that focuses on baptism – a necessary component of the plan of salvation (Mk. 16:16); this, however, does not completely describe the Church. Methodists traditionally believed in a method of biblical interpretation, doctrine, and practice. While we certainly see a method to God’s plan in Scripture, this also is not completely descriptive. Even still, Presbyterians emphasize in their original teachings of the need of “Presbyters”, essentially Elders of the church. This again only describes in part concerning the church that Jesus died to build (Acts 20:28).
Someone might say, “The Bible mentions ‘churches’ in the plural form!” Indeed it does. However, when the plural form is used, it does not refer to different denominations, all teaching different doctrines, offering different plans of salvation and diverse in their practice and worship; but rather to congregations who have obeyed the same Gospel (1 Cor. 15:1-4). We are not born so that we can be just “part of a Church”, but we are born again to see and enter the Kingdom of God - His rule (John 3:3-5)!
To claim that the plural form of “churches” in the New Testament references bodies of saints who believe and practice all sorts of different things is a woeful misunderstanding and misuse of the text. The different churches in the New Testament were similar in their uniform faith and practice, and the Apostles pressed them to become increased in their unity. Paul writes, “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (Phil 3:16). Yes, we have different congregations, but the model is for all of us to be unified in doctrine and practice - not different doctrines and different practices! Paul appealed to the brethren in Corinth to be truly joined together: “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.” (1 Cor. 1:10)
Christians need to be clear to the world. Some suggest that we abandon all names and just call ourselves “the Church”. This would not be unscriptural, yet we have to ask, would it be honest? We cannot be ashamed of the name of Jesus (Mk. 8:38). Further, we need to be open and honest about what we believe and practice (Rom. 12:17). Certainly we can use other names than “church of Christ”, but I would suggest that no other name would be so completely descriptive of the beliefs, teachings, and practices of those saints who stand for the Lord daily, and sacrificially give themselves to His service. Of course, what we are called means nothing if we are not standing for Him in the first place (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16, 22-25). -Steven McCrary
We live in a society of increasingly subjective truth. On social media outlets, opinions and beliefs are shared, often without ever considering the reasons behind such opinions or beliefs. We have come to a stage in human history where truth is of our own making. Whomever seeks to tell us of a different way, or point out where our truth becomes deficient, can become our hated enemy. Deceit gnaws away at the efforts of good disciples to stand in the way of truth, and God’s people become more and more enamored with the ways of men than the pure word of God.
The truth was extremely important to Jesus. He said, "If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (John 8:31-32). Jesus knew and taught that the truth is the most powerful and important aspect of life. No earthly power or government can provide the freedom that the truth can. No one who honestly seeks the truth can be held back from knowing it.
Yet, we often set the importance of truth behind a multitude of distractions. If we are uncomfortable with the consequences of our actions, we can rationalize away any necessity to change. Instead of looking honestly in our spiritual mirror, blame is thrown elsewhere on a normal basis. This leads to a poisoned existence wherein truth is not a priority, and our shortsighted embrace of our basest desires makes us damaged and sinful beings.
Even if we are honest with ourselves, we may face a problem: we must properly understand and apply the truths of God to our lives. But before we can make truth a priority, we must consider what kind of truth we are dealing with. God’s truth is an objective truth. The greek word used in the New Testament is “aletheia”, defined as “The reality lying at the basis of an appearance; the manifested, veritable essence of a matter”(1). There is not much variation upon this definition. We must put precedence upon what is real, as opposed to what is fake. There is no place where we can take the truth and call it something else, unless we want to end up opposing God.
Knowing that God’s truth is objective, definitive, and plain, we can now work to make it a priority in our lives. The reason this is such a challenge is at least twofold.
Sometimes, we reject definitive, plain truth out of a resistance to change. We desire things to stay the way they are, and when someone approaches us with a different idea, we might react in a very hostile way.
Another possibility is that we might realize that our situation is not good, and that we need to change it, but refuse the method of change. For example, someone caught up in a sin that is destroying them will refuse help to truly combat the problem.
In each case, we resist truth, and the core of the problem is the lack of our own will. To put it plainly, we just don’t want to do it! Just as when our Lord shared His desire to have treated Jerusalem like a hen gathers her chicks, the problem was, “…you were not willing!” (Matthew 23:37).
The Apostle Paul wrote, “Have I then become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16). When we embrace Man’s truths, we embrace a lack of foundation. Failing to make truth the guiding role within our lives makes anyone who carries that truth an enemy to us. Man’s subjective truth will become whatever we want it to be. When that happens, and God’s truth takes second place, we will give in to sin continually, and there will be no hope for us in eternity.
The true solution is stated by Jesus. “If you abide in my word...” (John 8:31). To understand what the truth is, it means we must abide, or live, within the construct of the words of Jesus. What are the words of Jesus? He says, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.” (John 8:28). Jesus’ words are the Father’s words. The Word of God is what we need to live in.
To know what it means to abide, let us reflect upon our own homes. Where someone lives is typically very important to them. It will reflect who they are, and usually those who own a home do their best to maintain it and care for it.
Abiding in the word requires so much more than even doing a short daily bible reading. It requires more than making it to church services each week. It requires even more than going to numerous Bible studies. Those who abide in the Word of God have a complete passion for their life in Christ, and continually want to know more about their Savior and King. In their zeal, they seek to find others who want to live in the Word as well.
If we are abiding in the Word, the promise that Jesus gives is, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32). Knowing that truth should build within us such a great love and importance for it! Living within the Word of God makes it such that one cannot consider any alternative. They must live in such a way that harmonizes with the nature of God, the teachings of Christ, and the walk of the Holy Spirit.
Making the truth our primary focus will ultimately lead to our freedom. Primarily, this is freedom in our salvation from sin. Furthermore, this freedom from sin allows us a positive freedom to do right. Even though we may do good things as sinners, and God can see and remember those things (Acts 10:1-4), we must remember that all we do as sinners only leads to death (Romans 6:20-23). Becoming a Christian makes us not only free from sin, but free to truly and profitably do right. We must settle for nothing less.
There are many stories of saints who were once in denominations, ignorant of the fact that they were not a Christian. Their search for truth ended in understanding and obeying the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and their life of faith in God. If we all made such a priority for truth, consistently and completely, the world would possess many more convicted, genuine Christians. -Steven McCrary
(1) Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, W.E. Vine, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1966