Posted in General

In Behalf of Our Church Buildings

By Mac Deaver

Recently I listened to a man preaching a sermon in one of our better church buildings in Texas. And though he expressed gratitude for our buildings, he instructed us that we needed to get away from the idea of church building evangelism. I noticed later an article that had been published in one of our brotherhood publications, again decrying the emphasis that the author thought we had placed on our buildings. I would like to counter what I have heard and read with a few brief thoughts.

Usually those who find fault with us over our buildings are quick to point out that they are not opposed to the buildings as such, but to a wrong attitude that has developed about them. While that criticism may have application to a few brethren, I seriously doubt that it is widespread. I find no widespread criticism among us of our own private houses on the basis of a supposed misevaluation. Then, why are we in worship services or in periodicals at times subjected to criticism of an alleged wrong idea about or an overestimation of our buildings? All of us surely know that the church is not the building, but what can we constructively say about the building?

I am very grateful for our humble yet sufficient building in which our brethren in Sheffield meet and in which I regularly attempt to preach. It is not the largest building in which I have preached. It is not the most expensive building in which I have preached, but it is so very adequate to meet the current needs of our people. It is a very fine building suitable to the purposes of a wonderful country church in a remote part of Texas. Also, I am glad that our brethren have access to facilities that allow us to eat together every Lord’s day in between our services. The building provides a wonderful opportunity for edification through association during the noon hour.

And yet I have been aware for years of this criticism of an alleged overemphasis on the value of the church building. The criticism is not new. But it is an inaccurate criticism. Let me offer a few points in response to this misguided emphasis or misunderstood estimation of the building that some preachers continue to make.

First, we do, after all, need a place to assemble. While Hebrews 10:25 does not specify the place, it necessitates the place. A building is simply one of several options allowable by Bible authority. I’ll have to admit that in my younger preaching days, I somewhat romanticized the concept of worship in houses. After all, the early church often did that (Philemon 3). And for a while I did preach for a small group of brethren who at the time met regularly in a couple’s house. But usually, the demands are such that worship in a house is not practical very long for most congregations. At any rate, we simply make the point here that a particular building is certainly authorized and, in most cases, becomes the optimal choice for congregations of the Lord’s people. A special building in which the local brethren can gather becomes an expedient in our culture in most situations.

Second, it is good to have buildings that signify or indicate religious interest. In our culture, people usually see the difference between buildings used for secular purposes and those used for religious purposes. The community may not know the difference between the church of the Lord and the many churches of the world, but it can tell, because of the building and usually because of a sign, the difference between a building for religious purposes and a place of business. It is not hard to tell the difference between the mall as constructed and church buildings, and it certainly is easy to see the difference between the church of Christ and J. C. Penney. Remember, that the growth of the first century church utilized the concept of a synagogue, a building for religious purposes. If there was a synagogue in a town, that is where Paul usually went first to preach (Acts 13:5). And if there were no synagogue, he looked for a place known for regular religious activity (Acts 16:13).

Third, regular worship of the saints is primarily for the saints anyway. Brethren certainly have the right to offer special services for sinners where sinners can be taught. In the history of the churches of Christ in the United States, this used to be the emphasis during our gospel meetings. When the culture was yet interested in learning more Bible and was willing to sit and listen with sincere interest in the gospel, we appealed to them in our gospel meetings in these services. And, of course, even in our regular weekly services, when we realize that sinners are present, we preachers usually make an extra effort in our lessons to inform them of basic duty or to stimulate them into further study. But the basic purpose of regular worship is for saints since saints are the only people on earth who can worship God acceptably (John 4:24). The basic purpose of our services in our buildings is not evangelism. It remains edification (Heb. 10:25). It was certainly possible for a sinner to come into a special service of the saints for the expression of their miraculous gifts (1 Cor. 14:24-25), but that service was for the saints themselves, as are our regular worship services.

Fourth, there is no such thing, Scripturally speaking, as guilt-driven worship or guilt-driven evangelism. How often have you, dear reader, heard the preacher unintentionally undermining the significance of worship by suggesting that the more important Christian effort was yet to be made after the brethren left the building? Surely not all preachers have done this, but many have left the definite and lasting impression with their congregations that the worship itself was simply an essential preface to the greater expenditure of effort which was to characterize the brethren following their departure from the building. And I, right here, declare without fear of successful contradiction, that such an idea is preposterous! Now, no one will explicitly say that worship is unimportant any more than he will say that we don’t need our buildings, but when he gets through explaining what he thinks is the “real business” of the church, it amounts to the contention that the real work of the church goes on outside the building and that the “outside the building effort” is of much greater importance than what can possibly go on inside the building. But I ask, how can anyone who regularly studies both Old and New Testaments believe such a thing (cf. Amos 5:21-27; Lev.10:1-2; Mal.1:6-14; John 4:24; Heb. 10:25; Acts 20:7-11)? Any evangelism that a Christian performs is normal Spirit-driven evangelism, the outgrowth of Spirit-development within the heart of the saint (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22-24; Matt. 22:37-40). If we want to have a Scriptural view of evangelism as a brotherhood, then we are going to have to correct some falsehoods that some of us have been telling to others of us for years about the non-involvement of the Holy Spirit in the everyday life of the saint.

We cannot have successful evangelism by individual or congregation that coerced evangelism. Coercion has been attempted and, sadly, our history now records the fact that, a few years ago, the coercion reached new intensity and some of us became a cult! It is not Scriptural whether you are a Mormon or a Jehovah’s Witness or a Christian to set up a situation such that a person is more or less forced or intimidated into doing what is deemed “evangelistic” work. Furthermore, there is no more authority for “nuisance evangelism” than there is for “guilt-driven evangelism” or “coerced evangelism.” If there are things that false religionists do to you that you do not like in their misguided efforts at evangelistic activity, then why in the world would you attempt to do the same thing to them? The “golden rule” applies to evangelism as well as to anything else that we as brethren might try to do (Matt.7:12).

Our evangelistic efforts, Scripturally speaking, are the result of our love, and not the result of our guilt over the condition of the lost (cf. Rom. 13:8-10). We didn’t lose the lost; we didn’t cause the lost to be lost, and yet so much of the preaching on evangelism that I have heard over a lifetime of worship has almost totally left the impression with me that the preacher is placing the bulk of the responsibility for the sinner’s retrieval, if there is to be one, at the feet of the church rather than at the feet of the world where it belongs! Rather than putting the blame on the world, the church is usually accused. This has absolutely destroyed so much of “the peace that passeth all understanding” because we preachers did not speak knowingly of the responsibility of all parties involved: (1) God, (2) saint, and (3) sinner. Even under the Great Commission when it was clearly operative, Paul told two Gentile audiences that the prior obligation with regard to their finding God was theirs (Acts 14:14-18; 17:22-31)! It is my personal judgment that many of us preachers have over a lifetime of preaching unintentionally made it absolutely impossible for our local congregations to have any peace within because we constantly made the brethren feel guilty about those who had not as yet obeyed the gospel, most of whom never would anyway! Am I wrong? While knowing that the world could not have optimal peace (John 16:33), without meaning to, we preachers have made it almost impossible for that peace to exist within the heart of good and faithful brethren (Phil. 4:4-7).

Fifth, I would venture to say that most people who criticize American Christians for our alleged wrong view of our buildings, operate from an unbalanced view of the mission of the church. Usually, their concept is that the main or primary or most fundamental or maybe the sole mission of the church is to “reach the lost.” But such is simply not so! There is absolutely no Scriptural evidence to support such a contention. The whole mission of the church is to save souls, including those who have already been saved, as well as those who may yet be reached. The church is authorized to edify itself (Heb. 10:25; Jude 20-21), engage in benevolence (Jas. 1:27; Gal. 6:10), and try to influence the lost to their salvation (Matt. 5:13-16). The emphasis in the New Testament is nowhere placed on evangelistic effort as somehow more important than edification or benevolence. If there is a passage that so presents evangelism as the main focus of the church, what is it? I understand that our concept of evangelism in the past was derived from our wrong view of the Great Commission. That was fulfilled (Col. 1:23)! Our evangelism cannot be based on that assignment given only to the apostles and which they alone could fulfill.

Sixth, people have a way of finding our church buildings when they need help in physical matters. Have you ever noticed that? We are easily located by sinners when they need something in a financial way. I once preached where a certain non-Christian made use of the church to provide her taxi service. She knew where we were, she knew we were compassionate, she knew she was in need of transportation, and she knew of our expressed interest in her. And she was not reluctant at all to call on us for physical help! Of course, she showed absolutely no concern for the gospel, but she knew where we were.

Just how hard is it for anyone today in America to locate us? Even in areas where our people are sparse, because of public communication (including TV, radio, and the internet), just how hard is it for a sinner to locate a saint? Sinners know they have to go somewhere to get what they need. If they want food, they go to the store. If they want medical care, they have to go where it is. They understand all too well that the obligation rests personally upon them to make contact with those who have what they need. But because of our misconception of our relationship to a commission given once (and once only) to the apostles (and to the apostles only), we now have created the fiction that (1) it is more or less all right for the world to remain passive while (2) the basic and major effort in behalf of their souls is an effort given to the church! The world is viewed as composed of passive victims, and the church has the main responsibility for their salvation. This, I contend, is without Scriptural warrant!

In the church we have told ourselves for years and years that we have to go, and we have never, never stressed the God-given assignment to sinners to look for truth (Luke 11:13 cf. Matt. 7:7-12; Acts 17:27)! I have heard in my lifetime almost nothing about the responsibility of the sinner for himself from preachers in our worship services! And yet we all know that each person will give account for himself (2 Cor. 5:10). Somehow, when we discuss the work of the church, we lose our balance when considering what we must do regarding the sinner. Should we feel concern for sinners? Of course. Do we have any obligation to sinners? Certainly. But God knows how to get a searching sinner in contact with his sacred word, a local congregation, an individual Christian, a book, a TV broadcast, etc. Do you doubt it? We have seriously failed to comprehend what the Bible teaches about God’s overall divine management of the whole situation providentially, in spite of the fact that we have known for years that God controlled the total situation involving getting the gospel to all the Jews and Gentiles of the first century (Rom. 11:33-36). God still controls these matters. Do you doubt it? Every accountable being on earth is in God’s image! Doesn’t that image carry with it personal responsibility for the man to find his Maker? You know the answer!

Seventh, our buildings provide a way for us to find our other brethren in other areas. Just like having a book that lists where our brethren are located, our buildings and signs inform us as we travel that our brethren meet in a certain place. Of course, unlike it used to be, we do not now in America always know what we are going to find in some services within those buildings because of innovations that have corrupted the worship of some congregations. But, at least the buildings and signs provide us with some information relative to our brethren in other places, whether the meeting houses are being used rightly or not.

I have, just like you, spent a good portion of time in some of our buildings. And a few buildings have a special place in my heart because of experiences that have been mine within them. Our work and worship would be shackled, indeed, in this country as well as others, without them. I am grateful to God that in his most gracious providence, he has enabled us to have these structures appropriate to our needs. May they always be used by us to his glory and to our good and to that of our fellow man.

Posted in General

I Was Just Thinking…

By Marlin Kilpatrick

One of man’s attributes is the ability to think. God created man as a rational being. The ability to reason through complex problems separates man from the beast of the field. The beast operates by instinct, but we operate as rational beings. The ability to think does not guarantee we will always be rational. Sometimes we fail to think rationally. When this happens, we get into all kinds of trouble.

The Bible obligates each of us to think correctly. The apostle Paul said, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). He also said we are to “…be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:2). In the preceeding quotations the word “prove” means “…to test, to prove with expectation of accepting” (Vine’s, p. 146). The same word is translated try as in “…try the spirits whether they are of God, for many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1). We are to try or test every doctrine to determine if it is from God or man, and the standard by which such trying is done is the word of God.

The obligation to think correctly implies we, among many other things, should study our Bibles daily. After developing a knowledge of what the scriptures say, we must reason correctly about those scriptures. The apostle Peter wrote, “…and be ready to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Pet. 3:15). The word answer is translated from a word which means to make a defense of our hope, but how are we going to be able to make a defense, if we do not know how to reason correctly about the scriptures? Here is where the study of the elementary rules of logic becomes useful.

I was just thinking, how wonderful it would be if all people thought correctly about the scriptures. If everyone thought correctly about the scriptures, all the religious confusion in today’s world would be eliminated. A failure to think correctly about the scriptures will cost many sincere people their home in heaven.

No one will enter heaven just because he was lucky. No one will make it to heaven just because he happened to guess right. Only those who know and obey the truth and who can think correctly about the scriptures, have the hope of being with the Lord in eternity. Think about it.

Posted in General

The Fullness of Time!

By John Henson

Since mankind is lost and is headed for eternal punishment if it dies in that condition, then mankind needs a savior and a plan of salvation.

This is exactly what God provided for ever since the fall of man into sin in the Garden of Eden. Through history God has been working out the plan of salvation to save man from sin.

The apostle Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

Do we realize all the things God did to send Jesus? To send a descendant of David in the tribe of Judah, God had to preserve Judah through hundreds of years. Although Israel was sent into Assyrian captivity and Judah was taken into Babylonian captivity lasting 70 years, God preserved Judah and David’s line all the way to the birth of his Son.

In order to give people the fullest opportunity to hear and obey the gospel, God gave the Romans control of the world. During its domination of the known world, the Romans provided roads throughout its territories. People were free to travel from one place to another. Not only was this beneficial for commerce, but also it was beneficial for the gospel and those who would preach it.

During Greek and Roman rule, Koine Greek was practically the universal language of the world. Almost everyone understood and spoke Greek during the days of Jesus and Paul. One of the advantages of this was that the average Alexandrian in Egypt could read the Old Testament in Greek and come to an understanding of the prophecies concerning the Son of God.

Having a language understood by almost everyone was handy in teaching the gospel, wasn’t it? With a common language, there would be few mistakes in translation and no misunderstandings over what something would mean. God did that; his providence brought the Greek language into existence and into general use.

Understanding all that God did to save mankind helps us appreciate Paul’s statement, “But when the fullness of time was come….” The birth, life and death of Jesus was not an ordinary occurrence. It was divinely planned and divinely executed at just the perfect moment. And all this was done by the Father so you and I might hear the gospel and obey it.

What a wonderful opportunity we have this week to tell others about Jesus and give them this opportunity to obey the gospel!

Posted in General

The Most Important Factor

By Roy C. Deaver (1922-2007)

If there is a life after this life — and there is; and if there is a judgment to come — and there is; and if every accountable person shall stand in judgment before the Christ — and each shall; and if this life is given us that we may prepare for the life to come — and this is the case; and if the Bible is our only and all-sufficient guide in making preparation for the judgment, and for the life to come — and it is; then, it has to be the case that a knowledge of the Bible is the most important factor in the life and education of an individual.

(Excerpted from the Introduction to Deaver’s book, How To Study the Bible, p. ix).

Posted in Doctrine, General

The Color of Grace

By Mac Deaver

God made man to be oriented in two directions. Man would while on earth always feel the “tug” of his physical atmosphere and also the “tug” of the metaphysical or spiritual atmosphere. His body would find attraction (and to a point even a necessary attraction) to things of this life (including food and covering—1 Tim. 6:8) while his spirit would find an appeal to something beyond what this world can of itself offer (Acts 17:27; cf. Col. 3:1-4). And this dual “tug” is captured in the free will choices of every person. There is an essential tension between flesh and spirit as they war for dominance in human personality (Gal. 5:17). All of our choices we make while in this body of flesh. Our human spirits are called upon by a wise and mighty Maker to choose spirit over flesh. But we must make that choice while still living in the body of flesh. And we must choose spirit over flesh because flesh goes back to dust and spirit goes back to God who gave it (Gen. 3:19; Eccles. 12:7).

This body of flesh is amazing in that it delivers to the brain certain “information” which then enables our mind to do its work. Our atmosphere makes an appeal to our minds through our senses that bring information to our brains in particular ways that make life so enjoyable and choices so necessary. Our five senses allow us contact with our physical atmosphere. The sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch put us into physical relationship with this physical world. And each sense has its own peculiar function in the way that it delivers information to our brains. And each of us values each sense. We would not want to lose any of the senses. Perhaps the sense of sight is the one we would least like to lose. It is of course an enormous ground for temptation (cf. lust of the eyes–Gen. 3:6; 1 John 2:16) while at the same time being such a blessing for enjoyment and a means of spiritual improvement (for example, through the examination of the universe [Psalm 19] and through the reading of God’s word (cf. Eph. 3:4; 1 Tim. 4:13; Rev. 1:3). Most men and women of whom we read in Scripture were people of sight. The blind men were the exceptions and on rare occasion the recipients of miraculous power (John 9:32; 8:22-26; Matt. 9:27-31).

Through sight the world we live in reveals itself to us in form and color. Light provides our capacity for vision and makes the distinction between darkness and light visually possible. Moses records for us the fact that following the initial creative act of Almighty God, “darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). After the creation of light, God separated each from the other and gave to each its own name (Gen. 1:3-5). In Job 38:8-11 we learn that thick darkness was a “swaddling-band” for the sea. And in a most humbling and exposing question, God once asked Job, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, And that thou shouldest discern the paths to the house thereof?” (Job 38:19-20). Did Job know how to follow the path or trail of darkness all the way to its source? And we know that Job is not alone in his inability for such a search. Later in the New Testament, light will represent God, truth, and goodness, while darkness will stand for ignorance and evil (1 John 1:5-7; Eph. 5:7-14; Luke 22:53; Eph. 6:12), and darkness will even come to indicate the final and complete loss of all privilege and blessing forever (Matt. 25:30; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 13).

Following initial creation, God had said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). The Logos or Word was the agent of creation in whom was life and light (John 1:1-5). Jesus Christ in his incarnation was “the true light” (John 1:7-9).

Now, as earlier mentioned our vision or sense of seeing makes possible not only form and the distinction between light and darkness, but it also reveals to us color. Interestingly, the first explicit reference to color in the Bible is Genesis 1:30 where Moses informs us that “every green herb” was intended for animal consumption. And the next reference to color is by way of introducing to us the “bow in the cloud” which was to be the sign of God’s promise that never again would he destroy the earth by a flood (Gen. 9:8-17). In the dictionary part of the Dickson New Analytical Study Bible, we find the following description of “rainbow.” “A beautiful arc exhibiting the colors of the spectrum, formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays on rain drops or mist. In Genesis, God tells Noah that the rainbow is the symbol of the covenant between God, Noah, and every living creature (Ge. 9:12-17; Re. 4:3).” When we consult the Revelation passage, we find that in John’s vision, the rainbow is around the throne of God.

Now, let us think about grace. There are various aspects of the topic such as: the nature of grace, the location of grace, the specific conditions of grace, the limit of grace, the purpose of grace, the distinction between grace and work, the essential connection between grace and work, etc. There is no actual color of grace, but if grace did have a color what would it be? Think with me just now about the color of grace. In the Bible as truths are told about actual events that have happened or that are yet to happen, we are on occasion introduced to colors that may or may not be in the textual accounts being considered all that significant for the moment, but when collected together may provide for us a combination of color whereby we can describe the magnificent grace of God. At least, for a moment, let us try to glimpse the color of grace.

First, it is partly the color of purple (John 19:1-5). Following the scourging, the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on the Lord’s head. They also took off his own garments and replaced them temporarily with a “purple garment” or a “scarlet robe” (See also Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 22:63-65). They put a reed in his right hand to represent the scepter of a king, and they mocked him by kneeling down before him in feigned worship. They spat on him and took the reed from his hand and struck him with it. They placed a blindfold over his eyes, struck him, and then requested that he identify the assaulter. Yes, they mocked him in worship as though he really was a king. So, they mixed their insincere worship with their sincere brutality, and little did they know that the One robed in scarlet was born to be a king and was about to willingly die for those abusing him (John 18:37; Rom. 5:6-8). Grace has within its fabric the color of purple.

Second, grace is partly the color of red (Rev. 1:5; Acts 20:28). About sixty-three years following the event of the cross, John on Patmos Isle would remind us that Jesus “loosed us from our sins by his blood.” There was blood on his back from the scourging; there was blood on his brow from the thorny crown driven into his skull by the soldiers who struck him on the head with the reed. There was blood from the wounds in his hands and in his feet through which the nails affixed his body to the cross. After all, in the wonderful eternal purpose of God, that marvelous human body was prepared for this crucifixion (Eph. 3:10-11; Heb. 10:5-7). And after he died, a soldier pierced his side and out came blood and water (John 19:34). The Father had announced at the Lord’s baptism in water that Jesus was in fact his son in whom he was well pleased (John 1:29-34; Matt. 3:17), and at the Lord’s death the Father again claimed him, in effect, by the various miraculous demonstrations of God’s power, tearing the veil between the holy of holies in two pieces and doing so from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51), providing an earthquake that opened the graves from which certain saints arose following the Lord’s own resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53), tearing rocks apart (Matt. 27:51), and having already provided darkness from noon to three over the land, one half the time that Jesus spent on the cross (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:25, 33). The darkness and the earthquake along with other features of this most unusual scene were sufficient to produce fear in the hearts of a certain centurion and his associates as they watched Jesus. They got really scared and they reached the conclusion, “Truly this was a son of God” (Matt. 27:54). Thus the Father claimed Jesus by water at the Lord’s baptism. And the Father claimed Jesus by deed when he shed his blood. Thus, Jesus had come by water and by blood (1 John 5:6). And when the Lord died, a soldier pierced his side and out came blood and water (John 19:34). Indeed, grace is partly the color of red.

Third, grace is partly the color of white (Rev. 3:4; 7:13). Just as light comes to be distinguished from darkness as indicating truth and goodness, the color white comes to represent purity and innocence. During the Lord’s transfiguration, “…the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling” (Luke 9:29). Mark says that “his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3). Following the Lord’s resurrection, Mary saw two angels in the tomb. They were dressed in white (John 20:11-12). Immediately following the Lord’s ascension, two men in white apparel asked the apostles why they were looking into heaven (Acts 1:10). If the color of an angel’s garment is mentioned, inevitably it will be white. Many years later, the Lord through John informed the church at Sardis, “But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” Later in John’s visions, an elder asks him concerning certain ones that are arrayed in white robes. Who are they? Where did they come from? John has no answer but is sure that his inquirer has it. Indeed, the elder responds, “These are they that come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their garments are clean; they are white because they have been washed in blood. The color scheme of grace is profound! Just as a man may become rich by becoming poor or may become first by becoming last or may become wise by becoming foolish, he may wash his garments in red blood so that they will be white. Such language is unique, such concepts are ironic, but the thought becomes clear as we understand that a believing, penitent confessor washes his robes when he is immersed in water unto the remission of his sins, for it is at that point that the Lord’s blood is spiritually applied to his own human spirit (John 7:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). Yes, the color of white is represented in the fabric of grace.

Fourth, the color of grace is partially composed of blue (Exod. 26; 1 Pet. 2:24). You may read of the ornate nature of the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place. The veil was composed of “blue, and purple, and scarlet” (Exod. 26:31). You may well recall that in Judaism only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies, and that he could do so only on one day of the year, the day of atonement (Lev. 16). He could only come inside the inner veil with blood that he was to sprinkle before and upon the mercy seat (Lev. 16:15). This inner sanctuary was off limits to the rest of the Jews and even to the High Priest himself except on that one day of atonement. In the New Testament the Hebrews writer uses the most holy place as representative of heaven itself (Heb. 9:24). Following the death of Christ, as God tore the inner veil in two separate pieces, he was declaring that heaven was now available to his people in a way heretofore unavailable. Heaven was no longer off limits to God’s people. The sacrifice of Christ could do what that of bulls and goats could not do. The cross was able to perfect for ever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:1-4, 14; Heb. 9:23-28). Jesus has now gone into heaven itself to appear before the face of God for us, and he will one day come back to claim those who have waited on him unto salvation (Heb. 9:27-28). Thus, when the veil (colored with blue and purple and scarlet) was divinely torn, God was saying that the sacrifice of his own dear son, just concluded, was sufficient as a sacrifice to take care of the sins of man (cf. Isa. 53:11; Rom. 3:25-26). Also, consider that when Jesus suffered for us just before and on the cross, his body was so tortured that it became one single bruise. In 1 Peter 2:24 we read, “who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” The ASV gives us a footnote on the word “stripes” showing that in the Greek New Testament the word is in fact singular and could be translated “bruise.” The Lord’s body was in effect one continuous bruise. Thus, when we think of the Lord’s sacrifice and how it makes heaven now possible for us, we think of the divinely torn blue and purple and scarlet veil giving us access to heaven but only at the price of the battered and bruised body of Christ himself.

Fifth, the color of grace is partly pale (Rev. 6:7-8; Psalm 116:15). In Revelation six, we learn that John watches as the Lamb opens the seals that had kept the contents of a curious book concealed. This book was held by One who sat on the throne. No one could open the book and see what was inside except the slain Lamb that was now alive. As the Lamb removes each seal further information inside the book is revealed. With the opening of the first seal, John sees a white horse. The second seal removed reveals a red horse, the third a black horse, and the fourth a pale horse. The rider of the pale horse is identified as death, and we are informed that Hades followed him. Indeed, the removed fifth seal reveals slain saints beneath the altar, waiting for justice regarding their murders. They are told to have patience; other Christians are yet to be killed before final justice is rendered. The pale horse is the color of yellowish-green. It is the color of a corpse. Grace involves death. It surely entails the death of Christ on the cross, for Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Life was removed from the body of Christ temporarily as he winged his way to Paradise at the moment of his death (Luke 23:43). He expired (Luke 23:46). While crying out with a loud voice, he released his spirit (Matt. 27:50). He had been given the authority or right to lay his life down and to take it again; no one actually took it from him. The commandment that gave him this right came from his Father (John 10:17-18). The loud cry that preceded his death was the cry of triumph. He had not been defeated! Yet, his body was now a corpse, and was taken by two men and placed in a tomb. Regarding us, the Scripture is clear that our old man must be put to death. Spiritually speaking, we all must die to sin (2 Cor. 5:17). In our case, it is death by burial into death (Rom. 6:3-4). We rise with a new nature and with the Spirit of God now indwelling our body (2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 8:9). The body once dominated by flesh and sin is now dead, but the human spirit is said to be life because it is now joined to the Holy Spirit himself (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:16-20). But in time even Christians must meet the appointment of physical death (Heb. 9:27). Death “the rider” finally comes on his corpse colored horse to take the spirit away. Indeed, the corpse is taken to the cemetery for burial, but the spirit goes back to God for final disposition (Eccles. 12:7: Heb. 9:27). Grace is composed of yellowish-green.

And sixth, grace is partly crystal clear (Rev. 21:6, 11; Rev. 22:1; Heb. 10:22; John 4:10; John 7:37-39; 1 Cor. 12:13). It is the color of fresh, clean water (John 4:10). The Holy Spirit himself is likened unto such water of which Christians drink (John 7:37-39). This is possible because all who become Christians are born of water and Spirit (John 3:3-5). That is, they are immersed in both water (Acts 8:36) and Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). They drink of one Spirit as if they were drinking fresh, pure water. There was always only one way into the kingdom. There was always, in one sense, only one baptism, and it was a baptism with two elements: water and Spirit. And everyone who entered the church came in under the application of the principle stated by Jesus in John 3:3-5. There are absolutely no exceptions to the application of this principle to any case of (1) conversion or (2) kingdom entry in the book of Acts. None! In baptism our bodies are to be bathed or washed in clean water (Heb. 10:22), and our spirits are submerged into the purity of the Holy Spirit himself. We thus from baptismal water arise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4), our human spirits now joined to the Holy Spirit himself (1 Cor. 6:16-17). The Holy Spirit within is as a spring producing rivers of water within the saint (John 7:38-39). And furthermore, the holy city of God (the heavenly Jerusalem) to which saints now march is glorified with a light said to be like crystal (Rev. 21:10-11). Yes, grace is partly crystal clear.

Then again, grace is the varied color of precious stones (Rev. 21:19-21). The foundations of the wall surrounding the heavenly Jerusalem are precious stones. There is jasper which can be of various colors including blue, purple, and green. Sapphire is blue. Chalcedony is whitish and bluish or grey. Emerald is green. Sardonyx is reddish and white. Sardias is reddish. Chrysolite is gold. Beryl is sea-green. Topaz is yellowish. Chrysoprase is golden green. Hyacinth is light violet to moderate purple. And amethyst is deep purple or violet. Such colors are meant to place before us the undeniable fact that heaven is a place of indescribable beauty. The gates to that holy city are of pearl (Rev. 21:21), and the city itself is pure gold like unto pure glass (Rev. 21:18). And all who enter were of character like unto gold, silver, or costly stones (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

And in the eighth place, the grace of God could be partly the color of gold (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 21:21). The prayers of the saints in John’s vision are likened unto incense within golden bowls. There is no way for a Christian on this earth to successfully live a righteous life without the constant employment of prayer. The prayer of a saint is to be utilized along with the rest of his spiritual armor (Eph. 6:17-18). Through it, much needed power is provided (Eph. 3:14-21). The grace of God which remains so accessible to his children will be of little value if his children cease to pray. The Lord taught to pray sincerely and meaningfully (Matt. 6:5-8). He taught us to pray dependently (Matt. 6:11). He taught us to pray forgivingly (Matt. 6:14-15), and hopefully (Matt. 6:10, 13), and urgently (Luke 18:1-8). And Paul told us not to stop praying (1 Thess. 5:17). And James assures us of the value of a righteous man’s prayer (Jas. 5:16). And of course, that kind of prayer is a prayer of faith (Jas. 1:5-7; cf. 1 John 5:14-15). The one street in heaven is of gold, “as it were transparent glass” (Rev. 21:21). And those who will walk that street who arrive on the other side of death from our period of time are those “faithful until death” Christians whose faithfulness was to a great degree determined by their sweet relationship to the Father through authorized prayer.

And finally, the color of grace is the color of the glory of God (Rev. 21:23-27). The light from heaven which revealed to Saul of Tarsus the ascended Christ was a light brighter than that of the noonday sun (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:13). Saul then could not see “for the glory of that light” (Acts 22:11). And the extent of light that would blind a physical eye on this earth will in heaven be the extent of light that will provide vision to all the residents of the eternal city. The sun and moon will not be needed. Their light which served this universe so well is not appropriate to the metaphysical or spiritual domain which will be the home of the soul. And the greater light that ruled the day, and the lesser light that ruled the night, will be no more since the first heaven and earth will by then have fled away (Rev. 20:11). The New Jerusalem will be bathed in the light of the Lord God the Almighty and of the Lamb (Rev. 21:23). And in some way, whatever glory from this universe that can be translated into glory appropriate to the new domain will contribute to the spiritual atmosphere there (Rev. 21:24-27). We cannot begin to imagine the beauty of that eternal situation that awaits the faithful children of Almighty God.

Indeed, if grace had a color, the colors that we have here collected from Holy Writ, would at least in part characterize in color that favor bestowed upon the sons and daughters of men. May God help us to appreciate the grace of God more and more and to constantly live in its loving and beautiful embrace.

Posted in General

Listen to God

By John Henson

My father had a piercing whistle. He’d use it to call us home to dinner. Of course, we didn’t want to come home because we were deeply involved in the biting drama of sandlot softball.

My sister and I believed we could safely ignore the whistle when we heard it the first time, but we couldn’t ignore the second one.

Human beings, however, learn to ignore things. It begins when we refuse to heed Dad’s call to dinner. Later, we learn to ignore our parents. Then, with the help of some educators, philosophy and science books, we learn to ignore God.

The inspired ruler wrote, “Listen as wisdom calls out! Hear as understanding raises her voice! She stands on the hilltop and at the crossroads. At the entrance to the city, at the city gates, she cries aloud, ‘I call to you, to all of you! I am raising my voice to all people. How naive you are! Let me give you common sense. O foolish ones, let me give you understanding. Listen to me! For I have excellent things to tell you,’” (Proverbs 8:1-6 NLT).

There is certainly a vivid picture here, isn’t there? We see the wisdom of God’s word shouting at the top of “her” voice, in full public view, calling for people to LISTEN! How foolish and naïve we humans are listening to voices that have no wisdom at all, and how we give credence to ideas that are nothing more than fables.

People listen to the voices saying, “There can be no God.” They listen to the ones who say, “Jesus was a great man, but he wasn’t the son of God.” There are so many wrong voices in the world when all we need is to listen to one, the right one.

Listen to this advice: “Hearken unto my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be my people; and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that it may be well with you,” (Jeremiah 7:26 ASV). Listen to true wisdom. Let the words sink in. Listen to God in the Bible.

Posted in General

“No Matter What…God Is Not Mad At You!”

By Weylan Deaver

I saw a bumper sticker that read, “No Matter What…God Is Not Mad At You!” I couldn’t help but think that someone has a misconception about the nature of God. Now, it is true that God does not get mad like men often do, by losing his temper, becoming flustered, turning red in the face. In the heat of an angry moment, many a man has done a thing he later regretted. God does not do that. God is always in complete control, always takes the right action, always acts in harmony with his infinite nature. If God were ever to get angry, it would be a perfect anger, for just reasons, executed in a perfect way. God does not throw temper tantrums. But, is it possible for God to be mad? A quick word search reveals that the phrase, “anger of the Lord” occurs 36 times in the Old Testament. The similarly worded “wrath of the Lord” is found 14 times in the Old Testament. In the first person, God speaks of “my wrath” 44 times and “my anger” 31 times in the Bible. Speaking of God’s anger in the third person, “his wrath” occurs 20 times. “Wrath of God” occurs 11 times in the New Testament. In Jeremiah 49:37, God even refers to “my fierce anger.” Doubtless there are other passages that express the same idea, though worded differently. Surely this is enough for us to understand there is such a thing as divine anger at a man or mankind. Many want to perceive God as a grandfatherly figure in the sky who is rather harmless and doesn’t have the will to mete out genuine punishment which lasts for eternity. They think like that, not because the Bible teaches it, but because they do not know what the Bible teaches. The New Testament puts us on guard against such delusions. Every right-thinking man wants to “avoid God’s wrath” (cf. Romans 13:5), and living every day as a Christian is the only way to do so. “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31), “for our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29). The true God both commands and deserves our utmost respect.

Posted in General

Test All Things

By Charles Ivie

Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Such a familiar verse, but do we really always obey this command? Or do we simply accept, as having already been tested, many statements by well-known brethren from the past? Acceptance of any view, simply because it was set forth by a respected brother, is very dangerous to the Lord’s church. This is the very attitude that has furthered denominationalism.

Let us consider two passages that have been lightly considered in the past. It is not my purpose to bring reproach upon anyone, nor to impugn the motives of those advancing the false views. My purpose is to point out how carelessly some views have been accepted as fact. There are other passages that could be used, but these will suffice.

1 Peter 4:11, If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” This verse is often used to teach we must speak according to God’s word. Certainly, there is no problem with this idea. We are commanded to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15); God’s word is truth (John 17:17). We also are not to follow empty deceit or traditions of men, but to follow Christ (Colossians 2:8). However, is this the idea Peter is putting forth in 1 Peter 4:11? The context shows that it is not. If one speaks by the power of God, he is to give God the credit. Herod did not and died of worms (Acts 12:21-23). If one ministers, he is to recognize it is of God’s ability, thereby glorifying God.

Ephesians 2:10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” This passage is often used to show that we, as Christians, are to do good works. It is true that we are to do good works. We are commanded to walk worthy of our calling (Ephesians 4:1). But, is this the idea being taught in Ephesians 2:10? Paul was inspired to use the Greek word “epi,” which is translated for or unto in the phrase for good works. This word basically means: upon, or on the basis of. Therefore, we understand that we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), on the basis of good works (continued obedience to the gospel, Romans 2:7,8).

These ideas are mentioned, not to spark controversy, but to point out that our first  understanding of a passage is not always the correct one. Part of the problem in understanding the Holy Spirit issue is the acceptance of well-known views as truth. Faithful Bible students have misunderstood (and others will misunderstand) verses of God’s word. Therefore, let us be diligent to “test all things,” no matter who speaks them.

Posted in General

A Prophet Like Moses

By Weylan Deaver

Fourteen centuries before Jesus was born, Moses told the Israelites, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen” (Deut. 18:15, ESV). After the church was established (Acts 2), Peter hearkened back to the prophecy of Deuteronomy and identified the prophet when he said, “Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you’…God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:22,26). Indeed, Jesus and Moses bear many striking similarities.

Both were Jews. Moses was a descendent of Levi (Exod. 2:1) through whom God delivered the Old Testament law. Jesus was a descendent of Judah (Rev. 5:5) who was born under that law (Gal. 4:4).

Both escaped death in infancy. In Moses’ time, the wicked Pharaoh (likely Thutmosis I) ordered all newborn baby boys to be thrown into the Nile River to drown (Exod. 1:22). In God’s providence, the baby Moses was rescued from such a fate. After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Herod—perceiving a future threat to his power—commanded the murder of all boys two years old and under in the vicinity of Bethlehem (Matt. 2:16). Yet, the young Jesus was kept safe.

Both were deliverers. Moses delivered the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery (Exod. 3:10). Jesus delivered spiritual Israel (Rom. 2:28-29; Gal. 3:29) from the slavery of sin (Matt. 1:21).

Both knew God face to face. Among all the Old Testament prophets, Moses was uniquely near to God so that the Lord spoke to him as a friend, face to face (Exod. 33:11; Deut. 34:10). Of course, Jesus knew God on a level far superior to that, being himself God’s only begotten Son (John 1:18).

Both were prophets. A prophet was one who spoke on behalf of God. God sent Moses to Pharaoh with the promise that he would be with Moses’ mouth and teach him what to do (Exod. 4:15). Later, Jesus would repeatedly stake the claim that he was only teaching what he had received from his Father (John 8:26). So, the words of Moses and Jesus both originated with God.

Both were law givers. The law that God gave at Mt. Sinai after the Exodus was given through Moses (John 1:17). It was Moses who furnished the Lord with tablets of stone on which were written the divine commandments. Christ fulfilled all the Old Law (Matt. 5:17), nailed it to the cross (Col. 2:14), and inaugurated a New Covenant (Matt. 26:28), which is also called the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:2).

Both worked miracles. By divine power, Moses turned the Nile into blood, initiated the other plagues, parted the Red Sea, and brought water from a rock at Kadesh. Jesus performed so many miracles that John reminisced—should they be all written down—they would fill too many volumes for the world to hold (John 21:25).

Both were mediators. Moses stood between Israel and the Lord to declare God’s word (Deut. 5:5). Moses mediated for Israel after the golden calf fiasco (Exod. 32) and saved thousands of lives. Now Jesus is mediator of a better covenant (Heb. 8:6). Paul wrote, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).

Both suffered disrespect. Several men launched a rebellion against Moses’ authority, which the Lord put down most effectively (Num. 16). Jesus—in spite of his miracles—was still not believed (John 12:37). “And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household’” (Mark 6:4).

Both had family who temporarily failed them. Even Moses’ brother and sister, Aaron and Miriam, complained against him (Num. 12:1). Jesus had several brothers and sisters who—at least initially—rejected his claims (John 7:5).

Both were present at the Transfiguration. This event is recorded in Matthew 17. Though their earthly lives were separated by centuries, for a brief moment they were in each other’s presence: Moses with the prophet he foretold, and Jesus with the prophet who had written about him (John 5:46).

Both were baptized. Though we may not picture the Red Sea crossing as a baptism, the New Testament does. “For I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea” (1 Cor. 10:1-2). Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River to fulfill all righteousness (Matt. 3:13-17).

Both prepared men to carry on their work. Moses readied Joshua to assume the mantle of leadership (Deut. 34:9). Jesus groomed a handpicked cadre of men whom he would send into all the world to preach the gospel (Mark 16:15).

Though their similarities run deep, God made clear who it is we are to obey when he made an announcement to the mountaintop gathering of Jesus, Moses, Elijah, Peter, James and John. “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him’” (Matt. 17:5).