In our previous article, we briefly considered the importance of life itself, and how God regards that life. It is the focus of this article to Biblically define abortion and propose solutions to avoid or mitigate violence. Defining abortion requires answering this question: when does life begin? We can find many opinions, but very few real answers. What does the Bible say?
The Bible suggests that life begins at conception, or very soon afterwards. Psalm 139:13-14 says, “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.” Jeremiah 1:5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations.”
Further, we find abortion condemned among God’s People. In Exodus 21:22-23 we read, “If men fight, and hurt a woman with child, so that she gives birth prematurely, yet no harm follows, he shall surely be punished accordingly as the woman’s husband imposes on him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. But if any harm follows, then you shall give life for life” - Here the Septuagint specifies the baby as the one receiving the harm. Many of the early church "fathers" wrote strongly against the practice of abortion (Didache, Basil, Augustine).
God says that life is GOOD, and that violence is EVIL, so we must conclude that something that takes life away from a human being is not a good thing! So, what can we do about it?
Many will suggest to simply abstain! This is indeed Biblical, as Hebrews 13:4 states, “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.” We could let the Scripture say it, and expect others to comply, but we must be realistic. The world will always be worldly. We will always have our physical desires, and many will give in to that temptation, especially those who have not been taught. We must accept that there is no perfect solution except what God intends and gives.
In Malachi 2:15 we read, “But did He not make them one, Having a remnant of the Spirit? And why one? He seeks godly offspring. “Therefore take heed to your spirit, And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.” Every child is intended to have a home that rears him/her toward Godliness. God not only wants us to LIVE, but live to be like HIM! And thus, the babies who are born need to be cared for by those who will encourage him/her to a life of Godliness.
God has given us an alternative to abortion: adoption. Will this totally fix the problem of abortion? No. Remember - abortion is only the symptom of the bigger issue of sin and violence. We will never save every child - but this author believes we should save the children that are able to be saved!
The basic concept of adoption is that NO child is "unwanted". God wants ALL of us. Consider Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” Adoption is not "giving up" a baby, but ensuring that that baby is provided for, physically and spiritually. Of course, most children will not have this blessing. However, Christians have a duty to help those in need, and a refusal to provide that help is going to negatively impact our souls, because we are willfully disobeying the commands of God (James 1:27).
Many brethren understood the problem in the 1950s and 1960s. In seeing the opportunities to help children who did not have homes, they pushed to use the local church treasury in order to provide these homes. The simple problem is that they constructed an apostate solution for it in the orphan home business model. Dealing with this topic in full is not within the purview of this article, but suffice it to say, nearly every adoption agency today recognizes that the orphan homes are NOT a solution to the issue. Often, children grow up in these institutions without the particular love and care that they need which can only be found in a real, loving home with parents who are faithful Christians.
Thus, not only did Christians misuse church funds for what is an individual responsibility, they truly did not help the situation, and in some ways have made the situation worse. Adoption is inherently superior to what these Christians have done, and continue to do. This author is blessed to have grandparents who were willing to adopt two children, welcome them into their home, rather than creating some organization to do the work that individual Christians ought to be doing.
Again, there is no perfect solution for abortion, but if you oppose abortion, you are automatically obligated to support adoption. This does not necessarily require that you adopt a child, only that you find some way to support adoption. Consider donating to Sacred Selections, or supporting a yard sale to raise funds for Christian parents to adopt. There are many ways to help!
When I mention adoption here and in the following statements, I want us to assume this is adoption to the type of home that God wants children to be raised in - a home of Christians. When a woman lacks the resources to care for her baby, adoption is the most effective answer. The young woman who is raped never asked for the child. If such happened to our daughter, we might decide she cannot raise this child on her own. In such situations, adoption can be the best solution. Consider also the older family who already has a multitude of children and cannot financially provide for the new baby’s care. Adoption is the best solution.
For proper motivation for the help we can provide for adoption, we must be willing to plead for the fatherless and the widow. Read Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 24:17; Job 6:27; Psalm 68:5; Isaiah 1:17,23; James 1:27. Think about how God views these children who are born into horrible conditions and situations. Can we go before God in judgment after having never done anything to help them?
The sad fact is that nothing is likely to ever change concerning the practice of abortion; neither political party in America seems intent on bringing about a positive solution, and it is this author’s personal conviction that a national solution does not exist. Like Jesus told his disciples about feeding the multitude (Mark 7), we must ask ourselves, “What can I do to help?” We need not wait for governments to do what God is calling upon us to do now as individuals. Remember that if you are a Christian, the Lord adopted YOU! -Steven McCrary
At least since 1973, the issue of child abortion has been a point of division among Americans. It is a “hot-button” topic among many, inflaming hostility on every level of the political and religious landscape. In order to appreciate the threat of abortion and the fact that it is indeed a problem, we need to first see how God views life. This should be the starting point for any topic of import!
In Genesis 1:26-31, we find creation generally being spoken of by God as being “GOOD” (emphasis mine). Creation itself was an act of compassion. From a great void of darkness, God brought into being not just matter itself, but living creatures that can grow. It was an act that was completely full of His grace. Humanity was given everything they need to survive and thrive. No “work” was required for this provision.
The life that God created was then given a MISSION: (Genesis 2:15-17; 4:1,2,25,26)
It should be obvious to the Bible student that God cherishes Life. He wanted the life He created to thrive and be successful. Nature accomplishes this just as designed. Mankind must choose to embrace this success.
However, we now have a society that seems to embrace failure. At the very least, failure is robbed of its needed place as an impetus to grow and improve. At worst, failure is our M. O. and we lean on it as a crutch. In order to live up to the mission that God gave mankind at the beginning, we must seek to be successful! God sees life as GOOD. Do we?
Following the Creation, we find that God must punish the murder of the innocent (Genesis 4:8-12). Cain is given every possibility to STOP, THINK, and SUBMIT. He serves His own desires by slaying his brother. The rest of the Bible shows us that violence is something that God abhors, and that He will not relent from punishing the unrepentant instigator of that violence. Consider the sheer volume of evidence toward this fact!
Genesis 6:11, 13 NKJV - The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. ... And God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
Psalm 11:5 NKJV - The LORD tests the righteous, But the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.
Proverbs 10:6, 11 NKJV - Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked. ... The mouth of the righteous is a well of life, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked.
Jeremiah 22:3, 17 NKJV - 'Thus says the LORD: "Execute judgment and righteousness, and deliver the plundered out of the hand of the oppressor. Do no wrong and do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, or the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. ... "Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, For shedding innocent blood, And practicing oppression and violence."
Ezekiel 7:11 NKJV - Violence has risen up into a rod of wickedness; None of them shall remain, None of their multitude, None of them; Nor shall there be wailing for them.
Ezekiel 8:17 NKJV - And He said to me, "Have you seen this, O son of man? Is it a trivial thing to the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they commit here? For they have filled the land with violence; then they have returned to provoke Me to anger. Indeed they put the branch to their nose.
Matthew 11:12 NKJV - "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.
Those scriptures are not comprehensive. There are many more references we could focus upon. We hope that these verses will encourage us to think more about violence in the way that God thinks about it - with hatred and revulsion.
The core issue of the problem of violence is that we serve our own desires and lusts. Instead of loving others, being patient and kind, we will often inflict violence of one sort or another in a way of getting what we want.
Our actions reverberate. Ephesians 3:8-12 tells us plainly that our actions as Christians are not only being observed by the physical world, but the spiritual world (“principalities and powers in the heavenly places”). With every decision, we impact God, the heavenly host, and even the Adversary. There is a great responsibility to the station God has established for Christians.
In Genesis 4:23-24, we find the words of Cain’s descendant Lamech; they are characterized by vicious responses to small slights. This is the beginning of the world’s “dog-eat-dog” mentality. Many will claim justified vengeance over the smallest slight! In Genesis 19:5,9 we find Sodom being criticized for a general lack of RESTRAINT. In 1 Samuel 20:30-34, Saul is willing to kill his own son Jonathan from a lack of restraint and control as he begins to lose his mind.
We must learn from Matthew 21:28-32 - It is indeed a question of WILL! The reality is that abortion is not the MAIN problem in our society, but is a SYMPTOM of a lack of self-restraint. Think about the excuses a potential mother or father might use to support abortion:
“A baby would complicate things for me.”
“I don’t want it.”
“I just want to live my life.”
None of these statements say anything for the life being carried by the mother. At its basis, we must accept that abortion is an inherently selfish and self-centered action. We are fighting a world that continually embraces self-absorption. We must let God fight our battles and remind others with the Scriptures that God wants LIFE, not death (John 10:10)! -Steven McCrary
Ecclesiastes 7:8-10 ASV - Better is the end of a thing than the beginning thereof; and the patient in spirit is better than the proud in spirit. Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry; for anger resteth in the bosom of fools. Say not thou, What is the cause that the former days were better than these? for thou dost not inquire wisely concerning this.
We often look at what Solomon writes in an individual manner. What does this practically mean for the local church? There is much we can learn and incorporate into our work. When I mention our “work” within a congregation, that includes the work of elders, deacons, preachers, as well as individual members. Each one must do their part to make the local church what it is.
The Patient sees things to their end
Patience is needed to bring a project to its completion. Any work we enter into may not go the way we desire, yet that does not mean that we dismiss the value of doing that work. The same is true with our work in Christ. The Preacher writes, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol, whither thou goest.” (Ecclesiastes 9:10 ASV).
Certainly, there are matters that are beyond our direct control. Sometimes our work in a congregation ends not because of our own fault, but because a situation simply becomes impossible to work with. However, we must honestly look into our hearts and decide whether we are making this choice out of convenience or conviction. If we reach the end of our life and look back at a series of times where we simply “gave up” instead of worked through a problem as best we could, there is ultimately no benefit. The proud man gives up and leaves because things are not as he would desire them to be; the patient man waits upon the Lord, and when the Lord tells him to leave (according to his proper study of the scriptures), he leaves because there is no other alternative left.
The Patient is not quickened to anger because of the situation
If one works in retail, it does not take long before one notices that some people simply have “short fuses”, and are pushed quickly to anger over seemingly small offenses or inconveniences. In the world, we notice this and accept it. But such should not be so among the church. Paul wrote, “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and railing, be put away from you, with all malice:” (Ephesians 4:31 ASV).
Our attitude matters in situations that come up in the church. Attitude does not determine truth, yet it is obvious that hostility and tension do not help us in our Kingdom work. Quite the opposite, they will often destroy our relationships with others, and foster distrust and bitterness.
Yet someone says, “what I said was right!”. Let us assume that such is so. Is raising our voice against a brother in a disrespectful fashion that is dismissive of patience and tolerance truly going to help the cause of the Kingdom in the soul of that brother? There are indeed times when someone needs to be “snatched from the fire” (Jude 23), but let us also consider the need to be patient and careful with the truth (2 Cor. 6:4, 12:12; Col. 4:6). The word is a sword (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12); we should not wield it without caution. The proud man lashes out with quick, fierce anger; the patient man gives deference and only reacts with intensity when it will be a true help to the listener.
The Patient is not caught up by nostalgia
“Why aren’t churches full like they used to be?” “Why are younger generations giving in more and more to worldliness?” These questions push us to look at the past with “rose-colored glasses” and envision an ideal that may not even be fact. For example, many of the Victorian era did not tolerate their children defying their authority. Yet, it is often noted that they might have been too harsh and perhaps even abusive in their corrective measures. This does not mean that corporal punishment is wrong, but we might look back at such days and remark that children need to be handled in a similar fashion. “Spare the rod and spoil the child” has a biblical foundation (Prov. 22:15, 23:13,14), but many even today punish their children with such harshness that it provokes bitterness and resentment in the child.
While previous generations often have positive examples we can emulate, we need to have a generous amount of caution. Many Christians might even idolize the churches of the 1940s and 1950s. Certainly there is much good to emulate: Bible Authority, Church Discipline, and Reverence of God are all wonderful traits. Yet many in the churches of the 1940s and 1950s were also portraying spirits of intolerance, racism, and “party loyalty”. The solution to this is simple: appreciate what was good not because of who these people were - appreciate it because that good comes from God’s word!
Thus, the Preacher exhorts us to not hold to “better” days - it may be something I want for the church, but it may not be what is best for the church! Such is never wise, and betrays a spiritual immaturity. The proud man resists wisdom by dragging up the past as an ideal; the patient man trusts in the Word to do its work today, and while he may appreciate the good of previous times, he knows that the Scriptures can still work wonders today. -Steven McCrary
There are many different ideas about what comprises the Church. Some see a building as a church. Some see multi-organizational groups as a church. The Bible puts forward a clear, focused picture of the identity of Christ’s Church. We live in a climate of denominational ecumenism and anti-biblical fellowship. God wants us to understand the nature of the one, true Church, so that we can truly live with Him forever.
In this series of articles, we are considering what the Church is, what it is not, and its function. In these first three articles, we will see that the Church is “called out”, obedient, and those for whom Jesus died.
Obedience is a defining mark of a Christian. In Acts 2:1, 41-47 many are “added to the church” primarily because they received the word and were baptized. Romans 6:17 says, “But thanks be to our God that you were the slaves of sin, but you have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.” Part and parcel of being a Christian is involved in faith-based action.
The Word is the “Seed” of the Church. Mark 4:1-14 plainly states that the Word of God is a Seed. Because the Word is a Seed, there is to be an effect from that Seed. If you plant a Seed, and nothing grows, it is rarely the fault of the Seed itself. The fault is either the GROUND it is planted into, or the CARE of the ground in which the seed has been planted. In application, we learn that the different grounds are people, and the one sowing the seed is God. Thus, we can understand the parable of the Sower to contain the elements of God’s action as well as man’s action in the salvation process. There is God’s part (Grace, Forgiveness, Mercy, etc.), and there is Man’s part (Faith, Repentance, Baptism, etc.). Both of these elements involve an effort of “doing” that many seem to disbelieve. We are often encouraged not to hold to the standard of obedience that God has set. If only it was unbelievers alone who were encouraging such disregard for God’s authority and Kingship!
The effect of the Seed (The Word) upon us is dependent upon our hearts. Note which ground in Mark 4:15-20 is successful with the seed. One can be baptized, and be a member of a church, but still not be a citizen of the kingdom. Note also in Mark 4:11, “…Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God”. The Kingdom is the true existence for baptized believers. In 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14, Paul writes, “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Our salvation process is not hearing and believing only, but hearing, believing, and obeying! Being those who are “called out” implies a LACK of action; God has provided the inheritance, and we receive it. However, if I refuse to respond to the promise of this inheritance by obeying my King, it means I am not of the “called out” to begin with, and that I am still a sinner. -Steven McCrary
There are many different ideas about what comprises the Church. Some see a building as a church. Some see multi-organizational groups as a church. The Bible puts forward a clear, focused picture of Christ’s Church. We live in a climate of denominational ecumenism and anti-biblical fellowship. God wants us to understand the nature of the one, true Church.
In this series of articles, we will consider what the Church is, what it is not, and its function. In these first three articles, we will see that the Church is “called out”, obedient, and those for whom Jesus died.
The word “church” essentially means “assembly”. The Greek term used to describe “church” in the New Testament is ekklesia - a gathering of citizens called out from their homes into some public place, an assembly (STRONG’s). Considering this basic definition, there are many “assemblies” that could be considered churches. (Church of Satan, etc.) In fact, the mob in Acts 19:41 is called an "assembly"! Thus, we need to properly define the Bible context of this word according to the way we use it today.
The Bible uses this word “church” interchangeably. It can speak toward the Universal Church which encompasses all baptized believers. This can be a vague concept, but since the Bible can be read and understood all over the world, we can understand that many who read and study it will come to the same conclusion and undergo the same salvation process. The Bible also speaks toward the local church which encompasses a located assembly of baptized believers. It has been said that the Universal Church is God’s gift to the world, whereas the local church is God’s gift to the believer. The Universal Church shows the world that there is indeed a better way of life, whereas the local church specifically benefits the believer with a “support group” to gain strength from and to help them grow.
We must note that the Church, regardless of its usage is not a building – it is the people! In Acts 8:1-4, we find the “local” (“church at Jerusalem”) in the course of the passage becomes the “universal” (“made havoc of the church”). Nothing is said of buildings or anything of the sort. We should not allow ourselves to become confused, and think that there is anything spiritually different about where a church meets.
The Scriptures also teach us that local churches are autonomous, whereas the Universal Church is one. Paul writes in Ephesians 4:4, “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;” In the Universal sense, God alone rules over the Church, and decides who is a part of it and who is not. This is borne out in the book of Revelation, where Jesus is shown to be in complete control of the individual churches (Revelation 1-3). There is no biblical evidence of churches in the 1st century coming together as many do today in the support and promotion of human institutions. Furthermore, all churches in the book of Acts are independent of each other, with a plurality of elders.
The Church, as God defines it and as many people tend to think of it, “called out” for a purpose. Peter writes, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). The special quality of God’s people cannot be missed. Jesus commands, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16). We (as the Church) are not “called out” to live comfortably, but to show His glory. –Steven McCrary
One of the criticisms that I hear against most gospel preachers (including myself) in regard to their lessons and their writings is that we are too critical of others. Usually with this criticism comes the quoting of part or all of Matthew 7:1. There Jesus said, "Judge not, that ye be not judged." Many conclude this means that it is sinful to be critical of anything another says and does. A careful reading of the context of this passage (Matt. 7:1-5) will show that what
Jesus is condemning is HYPOCRITICAL CRITICISM and not criticism itself. For one
to make a criticism and be hypocritical in that is to sin. I am not saying the criticism made might not be correct and needed, but that the hypocrite sins when the criticism is made with simply a view of being critical and making little or no effort to live right themselves.
Many other passages show that there is a sense in which we must be critical of each other. We are not to judge according to appearance (Jno. 7:24) but to judge
righteous judgment. We may have problems deciding what "righteous judgment" is but this verse says we are to do it! When Paul gave Timothy instructions as to his preaching he told him to "reprove, rebuke and exhort" (2 Tim. 4:2). Certainly the reproving and rebuking is a form of criticism. This is to be done in love (Eph. 4:15) but it is to be done! When Peter sinned Paul withstood (rebuked, criticized) him to his face before the whole church (Gal. 2:11-14). When one sins against me personally and refuses to repent and apologize when I talk with him in a private way, I am to take witnesses with me and rebuke him before them. If that does not bring the desire effect then I am to tell the whole church about it (Matt. 18: 15-17). This has to be done just as Matt. 7:1-5 has to be
followed. We cannot pick which we will obey, we must obey both!
None of us are perfect! But that does not remove our responsibility of trying to help others (beside the effort to be put out to keep sin out of our own lives) live right before God. There is a difference in an imperfect person who is striving for perfection being critical of another and an imperfect person who is not trying to do better being critical of others. The statements of Jesus in Matthew 7 were directed toward that individual who was making less effort to please God than the person whom he was criticizing. The Lord was not talking about those who are honestly trying to live right pointing out mistakes in the lives of others. As we work with another we will see instances when people do not live up to the teaching of Jesus in the scriptures. When we do it is our responsibility to point out the failure and encourage them to make changes in their lives. This is a form of judging but it comes under the heading of judging righteously and this is not only allowed but it is commanded by the Lord in John 7:24. To fail to judge righteous judgment is to sin! To be a hypocritical judge is also to sin. Let us do neither! -J. F. Dancer, Jr.
The cross was only a few hours beyond the moment when Jesus prayed, “Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that the Son may glorify thee” (John 17:1). And then a few sentences later He continued, “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do. And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was” (v. 5). We raise the question: what was the glory that lay before Him, and of which He now prays?
First, there was the cross — in this Jesus was glorified, and in it He glorified the Father. There have been men in history whose true glory was revealed in their death; in their approach to death, and the cause for which they die, revealing their greatness.
In the cross Jesus demonstrated his own love for men, and His yearning for the souls of all men, including the very ones who would crucify Him. Also, He was manifesting the infinite love of God. God might have striven up to a point to redeem men, and then have said, “beyond this I will not go.” But not so; His love went all the way to the giving of His Son, His only begotten. In the cross Jesus found His glory.
Second, there was an accomplished task — in this Jesus had glorified the Father, and would glorify Him by going all the way. “I glorified thee on the earth, having accomplished the work which thou hast given me to do.” He would now manifest to the end that mind with which He had begun when He emptied Himself, “counting not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,” but would become “obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.” His glory was in an implicit obedience to the Father and to His will in all things.
Third, His glory was in the crown —the victory in the resurrection, ascension, and glorification on the throne of God: “Glorify me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” Herein the glory would be complete; but between Him at the time and that glory there was the cross. The emblem of shame became the symbol of glory.
And now, what does this mean to me? To the apostle Paul it meant everything as He wrote, “Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world hath been crucified unto me and I unto the world” (Gal. 6:14).
It was the glory of the great apostle. And so should it be to me: “And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” (Gal. 5:24). Jesus offers us a crown (2 Tim. 4:8), but before that crown there is the cross (Matt. 16:24). - Homer Hailey, 1973
EDITOR'S NOTE: From time to time, we reprint articles that were originally printed in the Columbus Dispatch in the 1970's. This series of articles was titled "The Bible, The Way", and were arranged by Aubrey Belue, Sr., a former elder of the East Columbus church of Christ, up until his death in the late 70's. As with our Retro Sermons Podcast, we believe these articles have just as much Scriptural relevance today as they did then. -SM
The teachings of our Lord during His earthly ministry had great significance 1900 years ago. Jesus taught men what they should do in order to please the Father. He indicated also how He knew that the things He spoke were pleasing: “as the Father taught. . . I do always the things that are pleasing to him” (See all of John 8:28-29).
We now live in the 20th century, and times have changed. Men devise their own plans for how to please God. The fact remains, however, that we please Him by doing only those things, in the realm of religion, which He has taught us, just as Jesus said.
Jesus described His standard of religious practice with regardto right and wrong when He said, “EVERY PLANT WHICH MY HEAVENLY FATHER PLANTED NOT, SHALL BE ROOTED UP…” (Matt. 15:13, emphasis added). Let us consider some of God’s “plants” with regard to His church, as opposed - to some of the popular “weeds” or traditions planted by men. It is proper to refer to man’s religious traditions which contradict God’s Word as weeds since Jesus said that God will root them up, being displeased with them.
The one church that Jesus built is neither a denomination nor a union of denominations. It is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), and Christ, being one Head, has but one body. (Eph. 4:4). This one church is also described in the book of’ Ephesians as the holy temple and the household of God (2: 19-22). There are many “stones” in the temple, but only one temple. There are many servants in the household, yet there is but one house.
The church is also likened unto the bride or wife of Christ. Certainly Jesus does not have hundreds of wives. For this reason, divisions in the Lord’s church are condemned (1 Cor. 1: 10-13).
Men, of course, have organized denominations. Religious names are by their very nature divisive. Members of various denominations admit that they form denominational bodies, and openly view themselves as segments of the body of Christ. And they trust that the approval of God rests peacefully on such division.
Some point out that there are different rooms in a large house, therefore making it possible for the “house of God” to have many denominations. The New Testament writers never made such an application. Indeed, they condemned it, as seen in 1 Cor. 1:10 where Paul said: “I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing....” The very reason for denominations is that people teach different creeds, not the one doctrine of the New Testament.
We read in the New Testament of independent congregations of God’s people. No other form of organization is spoken of, such as a “mother church” in authority over “daughter churches.” God never planted the “mother church” arrangement; men did. Christ is the only Head over the universal church of His people and over any one, congregation.
Remember, we learn how to please the Father by the things HE TAUGHT through Jesus and the New Testament writers. The traditions of men make void the Word of God (Matt. 15:6), and “every plant which the heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up.” The day of rooting up is surely coming! -Richard Copeland – “The Bible – The Way”, Columbus Dispatch, February 2, 1975
Every building that is meant to last and withstand the elements requires a foundation. Regardless of the materials, some form of anchor to the ground is needed. We note that such foundations are not always as strong as they could be, or are left to erode and break apart. Among the "anchors" of faith and righteousness is the need for the Christian to understand the Authority of God.
God's word tells us plainly that we are supposed to have proper and right foundations. As Paul speaks of in Ephesians 2:19-22, if we are Kingdom Citizens (citizens of the household of God), we are built on a solid foundation - that of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus as the "chief cornerstone"! Only when we honor and revere Jesus as that cornerstone will we truly be "fitted together", growing into the proper temple that God would have us be, and built together as a habitation for the Spirit of God.
Jesus used this basic principle as the backdrop of one of his most famous parables.
Matthew 7:24-27 "Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock. "But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: "and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall."
The houses pictured here could be our lives, our faith, and our very actions. The question, of course, concerns whether my "house" is built upon the Rock or not. If I am not "In Christ", I am in sin! In proper application and harmonization of this subject, however, it occurs to me that we must also be mindful of another aspect of our spiritual foundations.
We are clearly shown in the Scriptures that foundations can crumble and falter. The Psalmist writes, "If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do?" (Psalm 11:3). Again, "They do not know, nor do they understand; They walk about in darkness; All the foundations of the earth are unstable." (Psalm 82:5). In the New Testament, we see the foundations crumble in individual lives. People like Judas Iscariot, Ananias and his wife Sapphira, and Simon the Sorcerer all fail to have the proper understanding of God's Authority. We can fail in the same ways.
Someone say today, "if I cannot prove by Scripture that it is sin, I cannot call it sin." This attitude reveals a severe lack of understanding of the authority of God. The person saying it has no true foundations. The foundations of God's authority are never built with a study and consideration of sin, but of a true understanding of righteousness and goodness, as God has established it! Paul writes to Rome, "...but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil." (Romans 16:19).
Consider Galatians 5 and the Fruits of the Spirit vs. the Works of the Flesh. Which receives the longer list? If the Bible was meant to be used to prove specifically that everything that is sin is wrong, it would have to be a much larger volume. As such, we are taught by Scripture not to focus and learn what is wrong, but rather what is right! When Paul writes, "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Corinthians 3:11), he means that there is no other foundation. The Christian does not have to prove that other "foundations" are wrong. Again Paul writes, "As I urged you when I went into Macedonia--remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Timothy 1:3). The Christian does not have to prove that other doctrines are wrong, only that the Doctrine of Christ is right! I would also suggest that such would literally be impossible, since tracking down every false doctrine and every false messiah would waste a lifetime better served by simply proclaiming the true Word of God.
What happens when we become willingly ignorant of these foundations? Likely the same thing that happened to God's People. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children." (Hosea 4:6).
When we seek a different foundation than what has been laid down, we are working not only to fulfill our own desires at the expense of serving our King; in refusing the foundations of God's Authority, we establish our own sense of "righteousness" (Romans 10:2-4). We make excuses in order to glorify ourselves and worship ourselves.
Remember, we are patterning ourselves after Him! Anything other than what He has defined as "good" is either fruitless or outright sin. Let us be more like Noah - he did not prove that all the world was wicked, but "prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world" (Hebrews 11:7).Let us be more like Abraham - he did not seek out to prove that things were wrong, but to prove that the promises of God were right! "...for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." (Hebrews 11:10). Both these "heroes of faith" understood the Authority of God, and acted accordingly! -Steven McCrary
A lack of manifested evangelistic outreach can easily depress us. We often see a severe lack of interest in the word of God in our community. We see souls who need the Gospel, and we wonder how we can effectively present it to them. Some will simply refuse to be saved, according to their words and actions. They lack a spiritual appetite. We must remember that Jesus and His apostles could not reach everyone. Still, God has not given us an impossible task.
If someone is saved, they will be saved by the Gospel. Romans 1:16 speaks of the Gospel as the “power of God”; Luke 8:11 shows us that the Word is seed; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25 proves that some will not obey.
In the face of what is perceived as an ongoing evangelistic problem, many seek alternate methods to attract people. Ostensibly, their aim is to attract them to come to church services, then teach them the Gospel while they are there. However, in practice, it becomes all about the programs and gimmicks. They might build large and elaborate church buildings, concoct expensive recreation programs, or invite famous entertainers or sports figures. These are not legitimate means of garnering attention to the Word of God; the simple reason being that they are not scriptural in approach. These methods, instead of promoting or supporting the spread of the Gospel message, actually get in the way.
In 1 Corinthians 2:1-5 we learn that Paul avoided worldly skill and oratory. He could have used Man’s wisdom to impress people with his level of knowledge, but he didn’t. In the same way, we must never “sugar coat” our approach to the Gospel. It robs the Gospel of its power, and practically, it never works. Truth cannot compete with error with the general population. Men will never adequately search for truth without the urge to seek it.
The Roman Colosseum of the 1st Century was the “super bowl” of the day, where slaves were pitted against each other to the death, or fed to hungry animals. This was what the people wanted, and in some respects it is no different today. Many will be satisfied with the elaborate building and recreational programs. Even as we see today, many are leaving the denominations for “community churches”, places built up as supposedly serving the community, rather than serving the Lord. While leaving divisive groups is often a good thing, the question must be raised as to whether they are truly “leaving”. Many community churches, even while claiming a status of being “nondenominational”, nonetheless ascribe to (primarily) Southern Baptist creeds. The same things are being done and said, perhaps with some of the concepts and ideas shifted slightly, but ultimately there is no difference.
In many similar ways, Christians can get in the way of the Gospel even without these unscriptural activities. When we use too many examples about ourselves when teaching or exhorting, our appeal can become, “look at me!” rather than “look at Jesus!” When we seek the approval or appreciation of others instead of the glory of God, we can pride ourselves as being right rather than knowing and teaching that God is right. When we ridicule the beliefs or positions of others, we disparage our own cause and give no real reason for outsiders to become interested in the Bible. When someone hungers after the truth about life and seeks knowledge in the Word of God, honestly and intently, nothing will stand in their way, but let the Christian resolve to work hard to NEVER be a stumbling block. John writes, “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” (1 John 2:6). When it comes to understanding and practicing the truth, we are our own worst enemies. Thus, in seeking to tell others about Jesus, we must be proper adherents of what we claim to believe. We must “adorn the doctrine” (Titus 2:10).
Put simply, others must see Christ in us. The term “adorn” comes from the greek kosmeō, which means “to put in proper order; to garnish”. Thus, adorning is not adding or taking from the content; only enhancing it to others so it becomes more attractive. Some might think that “adorning the doctrine” means doctoring it up with a bunch of things that it doesn’t need. Others might assume that “adorning the doctrine” means taking out anything that might offend the hearer. We know that Jesus never did either of these things, and neither did any of the Apostles. “[adorning] the doctrine”, especially in the context of Titus 2, means that we are doing our best to live the life that we espouse to be the best way to live, as taught by God’s Word - His “doctrine”.
Anyone can “adorn the doctrine” The context of Titus 2:10 is toward “bondservants” (2:9), but there is much in the idea that we can all appreciate. The most important place to “adorn the doctrine” might be the home. 1 Peter 3:1-4 tells us that the wife is to be adorned not especially in the outward way, but the inward way, the “Hidden person of the heart”. The same could be said of the husband. Many have been saved through their spouse “adorning the doctrine”. 1 Corinthians 7:16 shows us a situation where the believing wife, in her action and character, can help save the unbelieving husband. Similarly, neighbors, friends, sons or daughters can be led to Christ through our “[adorning] the doctrine”.
To “adorn the doctrine” is to live a Godly life. We need to consider our habits (1 Peter 2:11-16). If our attitude is Godly, we will point others to God. Even in persecution, we can adorn the doctrine (1 Peter 3:14-17). Further, to “adorn the doctrine” requires true joy in our hearts. No one will be truly converted only because of how nice or happy we are. In fact, many can see through a fake smile. And even if the smile is genuine, just being happy will not by itself make a difference in the lives of many. If we read about the early Christians in Acts 2:47,5:41,16:34; Mat. 5:16, we learn how to be joyful despite a wicked world.
To “adorn the doctrine”, we require consistency. Ofte, the relationships we enter into in life suffer because of a lack of consistency in belief and practice. Ultimately, we should erect healthy boundaries in our relationships in order to work toward God’s pleasure. 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 tells us that “whether we are awake or asleep” we must seek God’s pleasure. If we fail to “adorn the doctrine”, we become the stumbling block by which others will falter. Our community must see Christians as people who are pure in lifestyle and speech, who are good parents, generous with others, loving, and kind. Read Matthew 18:1-5 and consider how we can have a consistent and genuine love for a broken world.
While this world is broken, WE ARE NOT, and we should never live in such a way. God has lifted us up to something better! May we all reach for that Godly goal. Are you adorning the doctrine of Christ? -Steven McCrary