Posted in Apologetics, Logic/Philosophy

The Truth Is

All serious Bible students of the New Testament know that the concept of “truth” is of extremely high priority. Even in the Old Testament, Solomon once expressed that thought when he compared truth to something material that could be bought. He said, “Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding” (Prov. 23:23). It remains something we all must have and must never discard. But in the history of mankind, many strange things have been uttered in conscious or unconscious attacks on the very idea of truth. In its defense, let us offer a few thoughts descriptive of truth as it is.

First, the truth is that truth is something thought or declared as a declaration. We can think in images or pictures. I can think of a flower. There are truths about flowers thought and/or stated, but flowers do not partake of truth. If there is an eternal Mind, however, then truth has always existed. Some things we cannot know but not because they have not been revealed, but because we cannot comprehend them (Psa. 139:6). God’s thoughts are precious and many (Psa. 139:17).

Second, the truth is that if truth exists, then no category of information is exempt from it as a characterization. If science or history or geometry or religion or philosophy, etc. are actual legitimate categories of inquiry, then any real findings in each one must be described, if at all, by truth. We cannot make mental progress and cultural progress unless such is so. When Adam and Eve were told to have dominion, the implications were multitudinous (Gen. 1:28). The world was flung wide open for exploration of truth.

Third, the truth is that truth can be distinguished from fact. Fact has to do with existing conditions, circumstances, states of affairs, etc. We observe facts such as a tree that is falling. It is a fact that it is falling. It is a truth stated when I, observing the fact, declare the truth of the fact, “The tree is falling.” Truth is sometimes told of past facts, present facts, and future facts. God’s word is salvation truth in proposition form (John 17:17). Jesus was the personification of that salvation truth in human form (John 14:6).

Fourth, the truth is that truth is, as a concept, ontologically prior to falsity. A false statement cannot at all be made unless it is in conflict with an already existent truth. To say that I am not human cannot be false unless it is true to say that I am human. This is a very fundamental feature of reality of tremendous implication in the discussion of the existence of God and human ethics. The idea of “good” is ontologically prior to the idea of “evil.” There can be no objective evil unless already there is an objective Good. This means that the existence of God cannot be attacked on moral grounds (using the so-called “problem of evil”) without invoking the very existence of God in the first place! The so-called “problem of evil” is a little late in arriving for the discussion!

Fifth, the truth is that truth is in conflict with falsity. John said that “no lie is of the truth” (1 John 2:21). This is a matter of definition. The “law of identity” would dictate in this regard that if something is true, then by definition, it cannot be false. If something is false, then by definition it cannot be true. At times because people do not know or do not want to bow to truth, they begin to play concept games with truth in an attempt to show that truth is not “fixed” as a characteristic of declarations. But it is!

Sixth, the truth is that truth fits facts as facts are. As non-facts become facts, the declaration of truth regarding those facts accurately depicts those facts. If I was not sick yesterday, then if someone says that I was sick yesterday, then he would be declaring a falsehood. However, if today I become sick, then the truth (if thought or spoken of my current condition) would state that I am sick. The facts “changed” in the sense that what was once not a fact now is one. Truth in describing the situation does not change. The facts may change, but truth correctly describing facts as facts remains the same. Truth is a constant whereas the facts are variables. Truth is consistently and permanently in harmony with the facts. Given the illustration, I can truthfully say that I was not sick yesterday. I can also truthfully say that I am sick today. The two statements could both be affirmed as truth because of the change in my condition. This is why I can say that while I was not sick yesterday, I am sick today without being at odds with myself. This would be a truthful declaration of a changed condition or circumstance. But it is not an admission that truth changed.

Seventh, the truth is that truth cannot be simply invented or imagined or “made up” so as now to exist. Truth must correspond to reality. If it does not, it attacks itself in concept because truth to be truth must be accurate. To be accurate is for it to have a relationship with what it attempts to represent. If I say that God exists, and if God exists, then my affirmation is true, but not because I invent the truth. The truth accurately or correctly represents the fact of God’s existence. Truth is the same for everyone. It is impossible for humans to have different “kinds” of truth that are in conflict with one another. If something is true, it is true for all humans. To say that something is true for every one is not a view that has always been popular, but when anyone attempts to defend the view of “partial” application of truth to humans, he is bound to go down in self-defeat since he must attempt to bolster his “partial” theory with a universal principle. In other words, when someone says that such and such may be “true” for you, but certainly is not “true” for me, the only way he can attempt to rationally justify his conclusion is to reach for a universal principle that what he just declared is true for ALL of us!

Eighth, the truth is that truth is information. This is so simple. It is so fundamental, and yet at times men fall over this truth. If God’s word is truth, then it is so because the information that God provides is correct. It is correct or accurate information, but it is information. Some brethren need to give further thought to this tremendous point. It is interesting that in 1 Corinthians 13, when Paul discussed the coming departure of the miraculous and the permanent arrival of “that which is perfect,” each of the three illustrations that he gave in verse 8 of the departing miraculous element had to do with information. God’s book is information (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

Ninth, the truth is susceptible to knowledge. Jesus declared that it is possible for us to know the truth (John 8:31-32). This is so because of the very nature of truth and because of the very nature of knowledge. Knowledge is not something floating around in the atmosphere. Knowledge exists, if it exists at all, in a mind.

Tenth, the truth is then that to deny truth as existent or as susceptible to knowledge is to engage in self-contradiction. The “law of contradiction” would govern this mistake. For someone to declare, “Truth does not exist,” is unintentionally affirming what he is seeking to deny. In effect, he is saying, “It is the truth that truth does not exist.” So, he is affirming explicitly that truth does not exist while implicitly affirming that it does. This is not rational behavior.

Eleventh, the truth is that truth is not abolished or eliminated by imprecise statements. Years ago brother Thomas Warren told of an experience he had once had in being invited to speak at a college. He was discussing “the laws of thought,” and particularly the “law of excluded middle.” He affirmed “Every precisely stated proposition is either true or false.” A professor objected, saying that such was not true. Brother Warren suggested that the professor give a proposition for consideration. The professor said that it would be easy to provide the illustration. He said, “What if I say that it is raining, when it is only sprinkling?” Brother Warren answered, “If it is raining when it is only sprinkling, your proposition is true. If it is not raining when it is only sprinkling, your proposition is false.” It is a matter of definition. The definition of “raining” would govern whether the statement was true or false. This is how extraordinarily fundamental the matter of “definition” is. This account also shows the absolute necessity of our being precise in our declarations. It is possible for a person to say, “It is raining,” when it is only sprinkling WITHOUT knowing how far the definition of “raining” extends. This is why we need to work on being precise in our own statements. The “law of excluded middle” as applied to propositions applies to “precisely stated” propositions and to none other!

Twelfth, the truth is that if anything exists, ultimately there is truth about that condition because for anything to exist, God must exist, and God is eternal Mind. And a mind thinks thoughts.

Thirteenth, the truth is that truth as obligation may be limited in time as to its application, but time itself cannot alter truth. This is why God can change his pure positive laws as contrasted in the Old and New Testaments. What some men were once obligated to do that we are not to do today shows the truth of what is here being affirmed. The fact that men today must do some things not earlier required of men again illustrates while (1) truth as accuracy does not change, (2) truth as obligation can and has. God doesn’t change (Mal. 3:6; Jas. 1:17). This is why moral law as such cannot change and remains constant throughout Scripture, but God’s pure positive law has changed (Col. 2:14; Heb. 10:9).

Fourteenth, the truth is that truth as statement of fact corresponds to fact (in accuracy), and if facts cease being facts, the statement declaring new facts is truth governing or applied to those new facts, but that statement declaring new facts is not falsification of the truth in its relationship to former facts. For instance, if a man told me yesterday that he lives at 222 Wildwood Street, and he tells me sometime later that he lives at 555 Brownwood Street, if he told me the truth both times, it was because, as earlier explained, the facts changed. The truth that he later declared regarding his new address does not attack or cancel or falsify what he earlier told me. Truth is incapable of attacking itself. Truth cannot be correctly used against itself. Truth is coherent in all its parts. No tension exists between any two truths—ever!

Posted in Christian Living

When All Is Said And Done

The title of this piece is familiar to the reader. He and I have heard it, used it, and perhaps reflected on it from time to time. Let us surgically see what we can find within that expression. Perhaps there is something to learn from an expression so briefly declared and so popularly received.

When all is said and done, there is usually more said than done. We have all heard this as well, and within the scope of our own personal experiences, it seems to have wide application. Much of the time as plans are made, plans are formed and stated, but the execution of plans is not always accomplished. Talk is cheap. Ahab was a rotten individual, and yet on one occasion he said something brilliant. When threatened by Benhadad, he responded, “Let not him that girdeth on armor, boast himself as he that putteth it off” (2 Sam. 20:11). At least once he stated something that was pure gold!

When all is said and done, all is rarely said. We do not know all, and so we cannot say all. And we do not have time to say all even if the interest of others allowed us to do so. It is interesting to observe that in court, when one promises to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, by selective questions, he is disallowed to say anything other than what is asked. The attorney at the moment does not necessarily want all known to be presently said! We recall that in Scripture the queen of Sheba had received a glowing report of Solomon’s court. She did not believe it. But after seeing Solomon’s situation for herself, she said “the half was not told me” (1 Kings 10:7; cf. Matt. 12:42).

When all is said and done, all is rarely done. There is not enough time and energy to get everything done that we might like to see finished. Furthermore, we would not be happy if we did not have something to do. We humans need something significant to occupy our time on this earth. Solomon long ago pointed out the human need for expended effort in work and also in doing good (Eccl. 2:24; 3:12, 13; 5:12).

When all is said and done, some things are done without much being said. At times there is not much talk that precedes the doing of deeds. There is a time for action. It should not be without thought, but it can be without talk. When the sinking Peter cried for help, Jesus immediately grabbed him, and words followed (Matt. 14:31). There are many times in life when immediate action is required. There is a time to think, there is a time to speak, and there is a time to act.

When all is said and done, some things that are said shouldn’t be. We can all identify, and we likely all regret several things said in the past. It is a sad fact that at times we have simply spoken without much preceding thought, and the words selected were not well chosen. It is also the case, that we at times have spoken, and we did think beforehand, but our thinking was in error. Job was like that. He once said, “…I have uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not.”

When all is said and done, some things that are done shouldn’t be. Of course, this includes all sin. John said that he was writing so that his readers would not sin (1 John 2:1). It also includes many mistakes in judgment carried out in practice. We all regret bad decisions carried into effect.

When all is said and done, regarding Christianity, saying is not enough. John also wrote, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither with the tongue; but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18). Jesus said that the Pharisees, as a group, were those who said and did not (Matt. 23:3). He had earlier affirmed that unless a person’s righteousness exceeded that of the scribes and Pharisees, he could not enter into the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:20).

When all is said and done, in some situations saying is an urgent matter. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus warned his fellow Jews to settle difficulties among themselves immediately. The failure to do this could lead to the escalation of tension and to increased complications. “Agree with thine adversary quickly,” he said (Matt. 5:25).

When all is said and done, in God’s case, there are two levels of things said. Sacred history records the fact that on some occasions God says things that are intended to evoke human response. He has used questions (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13). He has used declarations (Num. 14:11-20). The declaration made to Moses was a threat intended to be carried out only if there was a failure on Moses’ part to plead for the people. So, we can say that on this level, God declared something he would do, if the desired response was not effected, while knowing that the desired response would, in fact, come. So, on the first level, we could describe some of God’s sayings not as settled sayings or unconditioned statements, but as temporary causes to produce permanent effects. On the other hand, the second level of God’s speech involves his definite, settled declarations without the divine intention of simply effecting a response (Psalm 19:7; Heb. 6:17; Titus 1:2; Isa. 40:8; 1 Pet. 1:25). These are unconditioned statements, and they are set.

When all is said and done, God does what he wants to do. Whatever he does is perfect (Eccl. 3:14). And what he wants to do is carried out in heaven and on earth (Psalm 135:6). What others do may not always please him, but what he does pleases himself fully. God is never dissatisfied with himself or his actions.

When all is said and done, Jesus both said and did. In beginning his second book, Luke reminds Theophilus that in his first book he had written “concerning all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). John the baptizer spoke, but performed no miracles (Mark 1:4; John 10:41), but Jesus spoke and performed miracles as well. After witnessing a miracle that the Lord performed, some said, “He hath done all things well; he maketh even the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak” (Mark 7:37). Peter would later in Caesarea say that Jesus went about doing good (Acts 10:38).

When all is said and done, we will be judged on what we say and what we do. Jesus said, “For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by they words thou shalt be condemned” (Matt. 12:37). He had already stated that a person’s words indicate the condition of his heart (v. 34). And regarding resurrection and judgment, he declared that all the resurrected would be judged based on whether they had done good or had done evil (John 5:28-29).

Posted in Doctrine

Abusing Cornelius

Members of the Lord’s church have in Bible class abused Cornelius time and time again. And, too, he undergoes false accusation as well in sermons. How many times have you listened to someone trying to explain (1) how Cornelius received the Holy Spirit while (2) being a sinner? Imagine, the Holy Spirit entering the heart of someone presently practicing sin and thus bound for hell!

It is absurd. Cornelius was no sinner. How many times does Luke have to describe Cornelius for us until we finally admit his righteousness? See Acts 10: 2, 4, 15, 22, 28, 31, 35. Luke made seven attempts to describe Cornelius for us so that we would see that he was a righteous Gentile when the gospel reached him. How could he be? He was answerable to God through “Gentile-ism” or “Patriarchy” or “moral law-ism” (Romans 2:14-15). Remember the then Bible (law of Moses) had been given to Jews only (Psalm 147:19-20). The Gentiles up into the first century were answerable to God through moral law only. Had Cornelius died the day before Peter came to his house, he would have been bound for glory. Cornelius was a righteous Gentile just as much as Abraham in his own day had been.

Yes, but an objector replies that I am forgetting that Peter preached to him words whereby he would be saved (Acts 11:14). Indeed, but the salvation he received is not what most of us have taken it to be. He was saved in that he was delivered from “Patriarchy” which no longer for him would be operative as the divinely arranged system of religion for his people. Brother A. J. Freed, like most of us in the past, did not understand Holy Spirit baptism, but he did understand Cornelius’ condition. He correctly denied that Cornelius was an alien sinner, and he wrote, “He is told words by which he is saved from the sinking ship of patriarchy” (Sermons, Chapel Talks, and Debates). Amen! When the apostles, following Peter’s explanation of what happened at the house of Cornelius, concluded, “Then to the Gentiles also hath God granted repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18), that was a summation statement regarding the general condition of the Gentile camp which was usually one of sin (cf. Acts 17:30-31). It was not a description of Cornelius, his household, nor his friends. This is proved by Luke’s description of Cornelius and by the fact that Cornelius and the other Gentiles with him were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:44-48; 11:15; 15:8). The first Gentiles to enter the kingdom were already living up to their spiritual obligations before the gospel reached them. Therefore, they were in a clean spiritual condition which allowed the Holy Spirit to enter them. After that they submitted to water baptism (Acts 10:47-48), but it was not for remission of sins in their case. It was, however, as per the words of Jesus in John 3:3-5, an absolute requirement (as was Holy Spirit baptism) to kingdom entry!

If, dear reader, you think I am abusing the word “saved” as applied to Cornelius (Acts 11:14), remember that we have to consider biblical words in their contextual use. Noah’s family was also “saved,” and it was even a salvation through water, but it was not salvation from sin (1 Peter 3:20). According to Paul, the unbelieving mate is “sanctified” in the believing mate, but the sanctification has nothing to do with the unbeliever’s salvation (1 Corinthians 7:15). We cannot impose a presupposed definition gleaned from other contexts onto a word in its own context that forbids the application of the presupposed definition. We have sadly done this in Acts 11:14, and abused Cornelius unmercifully!

Posted in By Mac Deaver, Christianity and Culture, Doctrine

What are we to do?

Several months ago I wrote an article entitled “Can A Church Cancel Services During A National Emergency?” (available here). I discussed at that time ten points:

  • Each of us is under obligation to preserve his own life.
  • While a person’s own self-preservation is inherent in nature and obligated in Scripture, it has never been the ultimate obligation.
  • God has established the implementation of authority within three realms of responsibility: the home, the state, and the church.
  • If government requires what God disallows, or if government prohibits what God demands, all men should obey God rather than man.
  • Human government is to be viewed as a minister of God.
  • Just as personal and domestic conditions may vary, just so in the state conditions may vary, too.
  • God does not view all situations in the same way.
  • God treats disruption differently than He treats routine.
  • God manages His world including the use of disease that has entered it.
  • The nature of emergency may obscure the clarity of one’s obligation.

I supported my conclusion by two arguments that I won’t repeat here. What I want to do here is to respond to two points that some writers have made in their criticism that religious services ought to be closed for a while. Remember that my article was written to establish the point that in an emergency such as we have found ourselves in with the Coronavirus, that government has a right and obligation to protect its citizens, and that Christians have the obligation to submit to civil authority.

Objection One:

It has been suggested that we should just go ahead with our services as usual and let the sick stay at home from services as has been our normal policy. Furthermore, the idea has been presented that we should not cancel services because spiritual welfare is more important than physical welfare. But I suggest that to argue in such fashion is self-contradictory. Why? It is because the spiritual welfare of any sick person who stays home from services with our approval is also equally more important than is his own physical welfare. In other words, the truth that one’s spiritual welfare is more important than is his physical welfare applies with equal application to the sick who already stays at home as normal policy. So, (1) to approve one sick person’s staying at home (as normal policy would dictate) with the approval of the rest of the congregation, and (2) to disapprove the rest of us staying at home (closing the services) for health purposes on the basis that the spiritual is more important than the physical makes no sense. The principle that the spiritual is more important than the physical applies equally to a sick person staying home already with approval or the rest of us staying home with disapproval. If there is legitimate criticism of the right of an eldership to suspend services temporarily for health reasons, it has to be based on some other route of argumentation.

Objection Two:

It has been stated that religious services should not be closed because the government does not run the church. Yes, it is true that the government does not run the church, but we Christians do submit to it in other ways anyway! The government does not run marriage. God does. And yet we must go to the government to get a marriage license. We do submit to government requirement regarding marriage because the New Testament obligates us to do so. And yet, as we do this, we still clearly understand that God rules marriage—not the state. So, to argue against service closure on the basis that the state does not rule the church is a misguided effort.

Remember that our former article and this one have to do with a temporary and emergency situation. It is not a discussion of submission to governmental decree to close services either as (1) a permanently required condition or as (2) a punitive measure. If the government requires permanent closure of public religious services and enforces such, then we will all of necessity become worshipers “underground” (or prisoners who will be unable to congregate as usual in governmental custody) or in private. If government forces the shutdown of public religious services as punishment, we will be forced to congregate in private so as to continue our services. I know that we have brethren right now in a Muslim controlled area of the world who have to worship in secret. May God help them, and may God help Christians everywhere to be faithful in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.

Posted in Church History, Doctrine

Three New Arguments (on the Instrumental Music Question)

The churches of Christ and the Disciples of Christ have been formally recognized as two groups of people at least since 1906. The division occurred over the formation of the American Christian Missionary Society and the introduction of mechanical instruments of music into public worship. D. S. Burnett played a prominent role in the establishment of the society, and L. L. Pinkerton of Midway, Kentucky was involved in the innovation regarding music. Pinkerton, in a letter to Ben Franklin, said, “So far as known to me, or, I presume to you, I am the only ‘preacher’ in Kentucky of our brotherhood who has publicly advocated the propriety of employing instrumental music in some churches, and that the church of God in Midway is the only church that has yet made a decided effort to introduce it” (Earl West, The Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. I, p. 311).

In passing years as more and more brethren demanded the change in worship, much discussion, disagreement, aggravation, tension, and separation followed. It was a sad time for the church.

Over the years many debates have been held on the music question. One of the greatest debates on the issue of scriptural music in worship was between N. B. Hardeman and Ira M. Boswell held in 1923 in Nashville, Tennessee. Boswell contended that the Greek word, “psallo,” used by Paul in Ephesians 5:19 and translated in our ASV as “making melody,” permitted the use of a mechanical instrument in worship. In his first affirmative speech he declared that he was attempting to prove that “To sing with or without instrumental music is scriptural” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 29). Neither Boswell nor any other disputant of whom I am aware ever committed himself to the position that the New Testament obligates worshipers to worship with a mechanical instrument of music in the song service.

Hardeman admitted that some instrument inhered in the word “psallo.” He took the tack that “psallo” did demand some kind of instrument. But in the passage, the particular instrument that Paul named is “the heart.” Boswell resorted to much lexical evidence for the Greek word which indicated that some instrument of some kind inhered in the word, but then he would not draw the conclusion that Christians today must use that instrument, whatever it was. In his second speech, Hardeman said, “It seems to me that Brother Boswell is in this kind of a predicament: First, God demands it. The word means it, and you cannot do what ‘psallo’ means without the use of the musical instrument. That is Brother Boswell’s contention, as from the lexicons to which he has referred; and then the next part is, notwithstanding the word means that and notwithstanding that idea inheres in it, yet I can leave it out” (Hardeman-Boswell Debate, p. 56). This was a fantastic moment in the history of the discussion!

In the debate Boswell’s weak position was completely routed, and Hardeman took the correct position on the music issue including proper handling of the word “psallo.” Hardeman’s effort was masterful. And when he took the position that the Greek word, “psallo,” did, in fact, demand an instrument, his approach was a complete surprise to Boswell. Boswell did not expect it!

In Hardeman’s biography we learn that Hardeman viewed his debate with Boswell as his best (James Marvin Powell and Mary Nelle Hardeman Powers, N. B. H., p. 195). We also learn the following:

Some twenty years after the debate, Hardeman met Boswell in Louisville, Kentucky. He told Boswell that he had heard that Dr. Carey Morgan, who at the time of the debate was pastor of Nashville’s Vine Street Christian Church, and J. J. Walker had stayed up nearly all night after the first session of the debate, trying to answer Hardeman’s argument, and revamp their own arguments. Boswell said that was true. Hardeman and Boswell remained friends through the years, though their paths did not often meet. There was mutual respect though their views were poles apart” (N. B. H., pp. 195, 196).

The issue has been debated much, and the history of the debates has revealed that on the polemic platform, mechanical instrumental music in worship has never been proved to be authorized by the New Testament, while singing without the accompaniment of any mechanical instrument of music in worship has been conclusively proved to be authorized.

Our preachers have defended the truth on the issue for years. Sadly, too many brethren now alive have become ignorant of history and are completely out of touch with Bible authority and, therefore, find mechanical instruments in worship harmless, appealing, and acceptable. How tragic!

Finally, let me by way of three new arguments, add to the history of the defense of the truth regarding scriptural music in worship. Consider the following:

First Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorized both singing and playing, then the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.
  2. The Old Testament authorized both singing and playing (Psalm 149:1; Psalm 87:7).
  3. Then, the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing.

Second Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament distinguished singing from playing, then the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.
  2. The Old Testament distinguished singing from playing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150).
  3. Then, the authorization to sing by itself did not authorize playing anymore than the authorization to play by itself authorized dancing.

Third Syllogism:

  1. If the Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing, then the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
  2. The Old Testament authorization to sing did not by itself authorize playing or dancing (Psalm 87:7; Psalm 149:1; Psalm 150; Ezekiel 33:32).
  3. Then, the New Testament authorization to sing cannot by itself authorize playing or dancing.
Posted in By Mac Deaver, Doctrine, Uncategorized

How could we miss it so badly?

What we in the churches of Christ have done to Acts 1:5-8 is almost unbelievable. Of course, we simply accepted what was handed down from a generation of brethren who had been taught wrongly on the passage as well. And we thought the way we handled the passage was true to Bible teaching on the Holy Spirit in other passages, and our inherited view kept us from endorsing modern day miracles. It is hard to imagine now in the year 2020 that we could miss the correct interpretation of that passage so terribly.

How did we miss it so horrendously? (1) We took the baptism of the Holy Spirit to be miraculous and temporary, and (2) we took the “great commission” to be permanent and obligatory! And each interpretation is wrong.

Since the words of Jesus to Nicodemus were spoken in John 3:3-5, there has been only one way into the kingdom. I have had debate opponents admit this. Well, how did the first entrants enter the kingdom? If you look at Acts 1 and 2, you will find that the first disciples including the apostles entered the kingdom having already been baptized with John’s water only baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 1:4; Luke 7:29-30) when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). How did the apostles enter the kingdom in Acts 2? They had already been baptized in water for the remission of their sins which is baptism into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 8:12, 16; Acts 19:15). But they did not enter the kingdom until they were baptized in the Spirit (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4), which is baptism into the name of the Father and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18-20). Their kingdom entry entailed baptism in both water and Holy Spirit which is the one baptism of John 3:3-5 and Ephesians 4:5. If you and I entered the kingdom, we came in just as the apostles did. There has never been any other way into it. Their water only baptism was not enough to propel them into the church. When we concluded that Holy Spirit immersion was a miracle, we made a horrible mistake! The Greek grammar of Acts 1:8 shows that the power came “after” the coming of the Spirit, so that it did not come (1) before the Spirit came, and neither did it come (2) at the same time that the Spirit came.

Too, in our wrong handling of Acts 1:5-8, we concluded that the so-called “great commission” (to distinguish it from the “limited commission” of Matthew 10) was permanent and obligatory. Our false conception of the passage has over many years created (1) imbalanced preaching, (2) a great sense of spiritual insecurity, and (3) guilt-evangelism! Elsewhere on this site is an article, “The Great Commission Has Been Fulfilled,” that provides in-depth analysis of this point. The “great commission” was an assignment given to the apostles only (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:46-47), divinely managed to its completion (Acts 16:6-10; Colossians 1:6, 23), and entailed inspired preaching and miraculous signs (Mark 16:19-20; 1 Corinthians 2:12-13). This was God’s way of changing human amenability once and for all. The Gentiles were brought out from under their obligation to moral law only (cf. Romans 2:14-15; Acts 10), and the Jews were brought out from under their obligation to the Mosaic law which legally had died at the cross (Colossians 2:14). The announcement of (1) the passing of past obligation and (1) the creation of new obligation to Christ was made over a period of thirty years. The apostles and other brethren were involved, but only the apostles were given the specific assignment to see that the gospel went throughout the world. No other Christian ever evangelized because an apostle told him that he, too, was under the assignment of the “great commission”. While many helped in the work, only the apostles would stand before God as responsible to see that that assignment was carried out. The apostles alone were Christ’s ambassadors, a select group, who had been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-20; 12:12; Acts 10:40-43; 22:15; 26:16).

If we today were successful in carrying the gospel to every creature in the world, we still would not be “fulfilling” the “great commission” because we cannot now accomplish what its completion in the first century did. All men by it were made answerable to Christ (Acts 17:30-31). All men still are, whether we preach or not. Today our evangelism in based on the “great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-40) rather than the “great commission.”

Posted in Uncategorized

Can a Church Cancel Services During a National Emergency?

By Mac Deaver

We live in a unique moment in history. We have not seen anything like this in our country or world before. The world has experienced and/ or witnessed many calamities before our time, and we see some of these recorded in Scripture. But personally, none of us has ever been alive during a Pandemic, and it behooves us all to look at the universal event through the lens of Scripture to find our way.

Let me make several fundamental points that we learn in Scripture that help us to clarify how we are to look at our current responsibilities. How are we Christians supposed to act with regard to government decree in this crisis moment? Let me identify a few very fundamental truths relevant to our understanding of our duty during this crisis.

First, each of us is under obligation to preserve his own life. No one else could possibly be under obligation to help save my life if I am not first of all under obligation to save it myself. Personal survival is revealed as an obligation both in nature and in Scripture. We do not breathe as a choice. We breathe naturally, and we do what is necessary to get oxygen into our lungs. We may have to struggle, but struggle we will for life-sustaining air. From the moment of the first intake of air after coming forth from the womb, we strive for that air until the moment of death. We do so as a matter of inherent self-preservation. Hence, the Bible will base our attitude toward our neighbor on our attitude toward our self (Matt. 22:37-40; Eph. 5:29). No one can carry out his other duties on earth without first seeking his own survival.

Second, while a person’s own self-preservation is inherent in nature and obligated in Scripture, it has never been the ultimate obligation. The Bible teaches that all men have always been under obligation to be faithful to God regardless of consequences (Eccl. 12:13-14; Rom. 2:14-16; Rev. 2:10). This is each person’s ultimate priority.

Third, God has established the implementation of authority within three realms of responsibility: the home, the state, and the church. The home is the oldest, historically (Gen. 2:18-25). Next came the state (Gen. 10:8-10). And while the church was eternally in the mind of God (Eph. 3:8-11), it was the last of the three divinely appointed institutions to be established on earth (Mark 9:1; Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:1-8; Acts 2:1-4). Parents are over the home (Eph. 6:1-4), government is over the state (Rom. 7:1-13; 1 Pet. 2:13-17), and elders are over the local church (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17).

Fourth, if government requires what God disallows, or if government prohibits what God demands, all men should obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). All Christians should defy any demand (from government or any other source) if the demand requires disobedience to God. This demands conviction and courage, and we appreciate and admire the willingness of anyone to die for right conviction. The Bible records the death of some of these heroes. We should strive to have and pray for faith and courage necessary to ultimate sacrifice if the situation requires (Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:6-8, 18).

Fifth, human government is to be viewed as a minister of God. Paul informs us that all authorized power comes from God (Rom. 13:1). Too, to resist government is to withstand the ordinance of God Himself (v. 2). Further, such resistance will eventuate in condemnation (v. 2). Rulers are designed by God to be a terror to the evil only (v. 3). The principle of submission tends toward government approval (v. 3) like the principle of obedience to parents tends toward a long life (Eph. 6:1-4). A principle as such is not the equivalent of a law. While childhood obedience tends toward longevity, developing cancer or being seriously injured does not. The principle may not always find application due to other matters that are involved in any given situation. Some governments have persecuted good, and some good children have died young. Yet, the principle in its application in human life tends toward a desired result (cf. 1 Pet. 3:13-14). Preachers are not the only ministers. Rulers of the state are God’s ministers, too.

Sixth, just as personal and domestic conditions may vary, just so in the state conditions may vary, too. For example, personally a person may move from immaturity to maturity, from ignorance to knowledge, from poverty to wealth or from wealth to poverty, from health to sickness or from sickness to health, from not being employed to finding employment, etc. Domestically, he may change by leaving home, having lived with parents, from being unmarried to being married, from not having children to having children, etc. So, clearly, personal adjustments are necessarily required as one’s circumstances are altered. State conditions may move from many people to few or from few to many, from wealth to poverty or from poverty to wealth, from peace to war or from war to peace, from expansion of territory to loss of territory or from loss to expansion, from general well-being to non-well-being, etc.

Seventh, God does not view all circumstances in the same way. For example, there are many purposes served in this life by the way that God has arranged reality. Solomon long ago affirmed that there is a season, and there is a time to every purpose under heaven (Eccl. 3:1-8). There are various purposes in the mind of God (cf. why God provides various kinds of weather [Job 37]). Job also told us that because of this circumstance, human misery is great (Job 14:1 cf. Eccl. 8:6). God sanctions some things in war that he does not sanction in time of peace (Eccl. 3:8; cf. 2 Sam. 22:35; 1 Kings 2:5).

Eighth, God treats disruption of routine differently than he treats routine. That is, at times people simply cannot do what they in normal times can and must do. We all know this, but at times we may forget the principle. Who among us rightly criticizes someone for staying home from church services because of his illness? Who among us rightly criticizes his fellow Christian for missing the morning service on Sunday because he stopped to help someone injured in a car accident? Imagine a Christian hurrying past the injured with the thought in mind that “I’ve got to get to the service! I hope a non-Christian comes by shortly who will help the victim!” Whoever thinks this is Christianity is devoid of reason and Scripture (Luke 10:25-37; Matt. 22:37-40).

Furthermore, even in regard to matters of routine, who among us rightly criticizes someone who misses the assembly on Sunday because he had to work? Imagine doctors and nurses refusing to work on Sunday because of criticism from one of our preachers. In such an event, we should see that the Lord’s lesson against such reasoning has been lost on the critic (cf. Matt. 15:1-9). The sick must have care even on Sunday! And since all men now live under the authority of the Lord’s new law, if non-Christians can serve the sick on Sunday, then Christians can, too! The Lord taught the necessity of some activity even on the Sabbath (Luke 13:15; Matt. 12:1-8). We must not become critics of good by reclassifying the good as “evil.” There are some things that must be done on Sunday. No one has a right to force a Christian to give up his work because he can’t be at all the services. All of us should work (2 Thess. 3:10), and the time for it is not in all cases an option available to us. Each of us will give account for our own decisions regarding how often we had to miss services. And we should not be unwisely critical of any brother (cf. Rom. 14:1-12). Remember, we will be judged as we have judged others (Matt. 7:1-5).

After God moved Israel into Canaan and placed his name in Jerusalem, He required that the men go to Jerusalem three times a year to worship (Deut. 16:16). During their deportations, Israel and Judah could not comply for they had lost access to freedom and thus to Jerusalem. Such men as Daniel and his friends were still faithful during the time when this requirement could not be met (Heb. 11:33). During the wilderness wandering, the divine requirement for circumcision was neglected. But before God allowed the next generation of Jews to enter Canaan, he “rolled away the reproach” of the nation by requiring all the uncircumcized to receive it (Josh. 5:2-9). God could have reemphasized the requirement to Moses during the wandering period. But He did not. He waited until the new generation was ready to cross the Jordan. But notice that God’s law that governed the routine did not cease to exist simply by disruption. The two deportations of the Jews show us that even though their law remained in place, since they were not and could not be in the place where it could be obeyed, their faithfulness (cf. Daniel) was not measured by their failure to show up in Jerusalem. We can learn God’s attitude toward His people during this time when they could not get to Jerusalem (cf. Rom. 15:4).

Ninth, God manages His world including the use of disease that has entered it. God early on promised Israel that if she would be faithful, she would not have disease (Exod. 15:15; Deut. 7:15). But, as we know, she was not faithful, and the diseases moved into her national body. By the time the Lord came to the earth, he found much sickness and disease (Matt. 9:35-36). Just how much sickness and disease is attributable to natural law only and how much is attributable to God’s providential use of it, no one can comprehend (cf. Elihu’s remark in Job 37:5 regarding the weather). But God still determines whether or not sickness is unto death (2 Kings 20:1-7; Eccl. 8:8; Heb.9:27).

Tenth, the nature of an emergency may obscure the clarity of one’s obligation. If we all clearly perceived that a thief was going to break into our house, we would watch for it (Matt. 24:42-44). The emergency would be clear. And perhaps our own desperation would become clear. However, in some circumstances, the emergency or the desperation is not perceived. A man may not perceive his own desperation in spiritual matters while at the same time he is well aware of his current physical well being (Luke 12:20).

We are now in a national emergency situation. While God is in control, our government is the one in authority, and our government has the right and obligation to seek the good of this country. We are to submit to that authority for the Lord’s sake (1 Pet. 2:13). Here in Texas, when our governor decreed that citizens of our state should no longer gather in groups of more than ten, in order to help prevent the spread of a deadly and fast moving virus (in order to save lives!), we had no choice but to submit.

As I get closer to the end of this article, let me ask a few questions for your humble consideration:

  1. If someone is a carrier of a deadly disease (and he knows it), does he have the obligation to avoid contact with other people?
  2. If a person suspects that he is a carrier of a deadly disease, does he have the obligation to avoid contact with other people?
  3. Do Christians have any obligation to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  4. Since all men now live under the law of Christ, isn’t it true that if Christians do not have an obligation to prevent the spread of a deadly disease, then no one has the obligation to prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  5. Is a civil decree required before the church is obligated to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease?
  6. Shouldn’t the church desire to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease even in the absence of any civil decree?
  7. If a medical doctor were to tell me to stay home from church services until the threat of a deadly disease is past, should I heed his counsel?
  8. If a medical doctor advises a young mother to stay at home with her newborn infant for two months before going out into society, should she heed his words?
  9. If the government advises any and/or all of us to stay at home to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease, should we all comply?
  10. If a Christian stays at home to help prevent the spread of a deadly disease and he does so under either medical counsel or legal decree, does he thereby forsake the assembly?

Finally, let me put my conclusion into a series of syllogisms that will provide the thought process whereby we know that we are doing right to comply with governmental decree to stay at home or to refuse to gather in large groups or to comply with “social distancing.”

Argument #1

  1. If the government has divine authority to take life, then the government has divine authority to save life (which is the opposite of taking life).
  2. The government has the authority to take life (John 19:10-11; Rom. 13:1-7).
  3. Then, the government has divine authority to save life.

Argument #2

  1. If the government has divine authority to save life, and if its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is in order to save life, then its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is within the purview of that divine authority.
  2. Government has divine authority to save life, and its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is in order to save life (see Argument #1 and the above discussion concerning the routine and the disruption of the routine; also, note that the spread of the disease causes sickness and death).
  3. Then, its current temporary prohibition against public gatherings is within the purview of that divine authority.

The question has been asked, “Who has the right to cancel the services?” Well, while it is clear to me (though this is not discussed in this article) that elders have the right in given situations to cancel services, in the situation addressed in this article, the government does!

Posted in Apologetics, By Weylan Deaver, Doctrine, Uncategorized

Deaver-Rodriguez Debate Now Available To View

This four-night debate is about how the Holy Spirit helps the faithful Christian. It was held at the building of the Fort Sam Houston church of Christ in San Antonio in July 2019.

Joshua Rodriguez (Fremont, California) affirmed: “According to the scriptures, the Holy Spirit only indirectly influences the heart of the faithful Christian.”

Mac Deaver (Sheffield, Texas) affirmed: “According to the scriptures, the Holy Spirit directly influences the heart of the faithful Christian.”

All eight hours are available to view for free at this link.

Posted in Announcements

Deaver-Rodriguez Debate 2019

A four-night public debate is scheduled for July 2019 at the building of the Fort Sam Houston church of Christ in San Antonio, between Mac Deaver and Joshua Rodriguez. At issue is whether the Holy Spirit helps Christians directly, or only indirectly. Make plans to attend, if you can, and please let others know about it. For additional information, see the attached flyer.

2019 Deaver-Rodriguez Debate flyer

Posted in By Weylan Deaver, Christianity and Culture, Uncategorized

Thanksgiving

By Weylan Deaver

Celebrations of Thanksgiving in America trace back to an October 1621 banquet of the Pilgrims in Plymouth Colony, Massachusetts, along with about ninety Wampanoag Indians. After God had so richly blessed the colonists’ efforts, Governor William Bradford declared a day of public thanksgiving that stretched out over three days.

Governor Bradford proclaimed a second public thanksgiving c. July 30, 1623. After a twelve week summer drought that threatened disaster, the colonists held a day of fasting and prayer, after which, the very next day, a rain came that lasted two weeks. The life giving rain revived both crops and spirits and the colonists were more than happy to give God the credit.

During the Revolution, after the victory at Saratoga, the Continental Congress issued the First National Proclamation of Thanksgiving on November 1, 1777. It read, in part,

…That it may please Him, to prosper the trade and manufactures of the people, and the labour of the husbandman, that our land may yet yield its increase; to take school and seminaries of education, so necessary for cultivating the principles of true liberty, virtue and piety, under His nurturing hand, and to prosper the means of religion for the promotion and enlargement of that kingdom which consisteth ‘in righteous, peace and joy in the Holy Ghost’ (William J. Federer, America’s God and Country, p. 147).

After the discovery and thwarting of Benedict Arnold’s plot to deliver General Washington’s army to the British, the Continental Congress issued a Proclamation for a Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer on October 18, 1780.

…It is therefore recommended to the several states…a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, that all the people may assemble on that day to celebrate the praises of our Divine Benefactor; to confess our unworthiness of the least of his favours, and to offer our fervent supplications to the God of all grace…to cause the knowledge of Christianity to spread over all the earth (Ibid., p. 148).

To celebrate victory and the end of the Revolution, Massachusetts Governor John Hancock issued A Proclamation for a Day of Thanksgiving on November 8, 1783.

…I do by and with the Advice of the Council appoint Thursday the Eleventh Day of December next (the Day recommended by the Congress to all the States) to be religiously observed as a Day of Thanksgiving and Prayer, that all the People may then assemble to celebrate…that he hath been pleased to continue to us the Light of the Blessed Gospel; …That we also offer up fervent Supplications…to cause pure Religion and Virtue to flourish…and to fill the World with his glory (Ibid., p. 277).

On October 3, 1789 President George Washington proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving.

…And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions…to promote the knowledge and practice of the true religion and virtue… (Ibid., p. 165).

Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a National Day of Thanksgiving for the last Thursday of November 1863.

No human counsel hath devised, nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the most high God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy…It has seemed to me fit and proper that God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people (Ibid., p. 385).

Though Thanksgivings continued, it was not until 1941 that Congress ratified Public Law 77-379, whereby the President officially proclaims the fourth Thursday of November A National Day of Thanksgiving.

Reading over such pious declarations of American history, one cannot help but be impressed with the humility, sincerity, and religious devotion that characterized our presidents, governors, and legislators. To their credit, they were not embarrassed to discuss, in front of the world, their indebtedness to God, their acknowledgement of national sin, the need for virtue, their desire that God take America’s schools under “His nurturing hand,” their wish that Christianity spread the world over, and their praise and thanks for all the Lord had done for America.

We concur with President Lincoln that “…God should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged, as with one heart and one voice, by the whole American people.” Anything less is too little.

As you gather with family to dine on a Thanksgiving feast, remember to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to the which also ye were called in one body; and be ye thankful” (Colossians 3:15).