Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Authority of Christmas

It's been exactly one year that I've been writing this blog. I started it last Christmas because of a local preacher that was teaching error about the meaning of Christmas and the church's role. His blog allowed comment, and I sent scripture to counter what he said and he deleted the post. As a moderator for my own posts, I understand when I must occasionally delete a comment because it may be silly, irrelevant or obscene. But when someone uses scripture to explain their view point, I would never delete it in an attempt to avoid discussion or controversy.

My family and I celebrate Christmas every year as a family tradition to spend time together, exchange gifts, have a special meal and enjoy one another. We do not celebrate it as having any religious significance. The birth of Christ is a very special event as outlined in the Gospel. However, as in our discussions, we never find that we are to celebrate his birth in any special way. Christmas has its roots in the Catholic church that competed with a pagan holiday or winter festival. The Catholics decided, on their own, to worship Christ in a way not mentioned in the New Testament.

We find that Christ does mention how we are to worship him. It must be in spirit and in truth, firstly.

John 4:24 God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

We find that he instituted a memorial to remember Him...not a manmade ritual that is materialistic in nature but rather a spiritual one that is accomplished every week. We are to commemorate His death and resurrection and, in turn, reaffirm our faith in God.

Matt 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

This is accomplished weekly as outlined in Acts 20:7 rather than once a year. The emphasis with God's memorial versus man's memorial is one of realizing that Jesus was here to fulfill God's eternal plan in being sacrifice for the remission of our sins rather than emphasizing the earthy birth that brought him here.

Many see no problem with celebrating His birth in worship and pagan rituals, but it all boils down to what I've been writing about for the last 12 months...authority of the scriptures. Can you find a command or an example or necessary inference that we should worship Christ in a special way that remembers His birth? ...or rather do we have authority to worship God by remembering His love for us by giving His only begotten son?

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Silence of the Scriptures

This week in our authority class we discussed the subject of the scriptures and its silence. Many topics and details are not discussed in the source of God's authority, the inspired writings of the New Testament. During the Restoration Movement, there were two major divisions in how groups approached this subject. Firstly, there were those that believed that the silence in the Bible gave freedom to do as they pleased (unless strictly forbidden...Martin Luther). The other group felt that the silence gave them no freedom to act on their own (Ulrich Zwingle).

Let's look at a few passages:

1 Peter 4:11 If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

1 Cor 2:9 But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. 10 But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God.

When God has been silent on a subject, he intentionally did not reveal His desires because he didn't need to do so. He expects us to obey and follow His revealed commands. To do otherwise would be to assume what God wants, and we know man's wisdom is really merely foolishness.

1 Cor 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God....

There are many things that I see denominations participating in such as burning incense, sprinkling and pouring for baptism, mechanical music in worship to God, missionary societies, church sponsored hospitals and orphan homes, etc. The list is endless in all the devices that mankind comes up with in an effort to worship God in a way that He has not authorized. Next week I will reflect on the one year anniversary of this blog and the impetus of why I started it.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Expediency - What is It?

I often hear people talk about how things are authorized or pleasing to God because they are expedient. Expediency is a word we often use loosely. It’s important to know that it is not a source of authority but a term to describe why we do a certain thing.

Expediency is defined as: appropriate to a purpose, convenient, a means to an end.

In our Bible study, we looked at a few important characteristics of expediencies that we must remember before we start using the term to describe our methods of worship or our individual actions. We listed four characteristics of expediencies that must be remembered:

1) It must be lawful.
2) It cannot be specified
3) It must edify
4) It must not offend the conscience of a brother.

Let’s look at these individually and elaborate.

1. An expedient must first be lawful. This is a basic truth in that an expedient authorizes nothing…it must first be proven to be lawful before one can consider it.

2 John 9 -11: Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 ¶ If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

Also see 1 Cor 6:12; 10:23 and how Paul describes expediencies.

2. An expedient must not have been specified. When God specifies a certain action, we have no choice to accomplish it His way to be pleasing to him.When God specifies a certain action, we have no choice to accomplish it His way to be pleasing to him. As we have seen in previous posts, Noah was told to make the ark of gopher wood (Gen 6:14). God was very specific and Noah obeyed. He may have found a more convenient wood in the area but it would not have been an authorized expedient to use it since God had already specified a certain wood.

Some examples of specified commands include singing ( Eph 5:19; Col 3:16), baptism or emersion for the remission of sins ( Rom 6:4), and elders overseeing the local church only (1 Peter 5: 1-4).

3. An expedient must edify.

1 Corinthians 14:26 How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.

When we have leeway in our actions for things that are not specified and yet authorized, we need to ensure that they are edifying. We don’t want to be divisive in our actions and cause a split because we want to press our own agendas.

4. An expedient must not offend the conscience of a brother.

1 Corinthians 10:31 - 33 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God. 32 Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: 33 Even as I please all men in all things, not seeking mine own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.

Of course, this only applies to matters in which we have leeway not things specified. We must consider one another in our actions and think of those that may be weaker, more immature or less knowledgeable. To not consider them is to not love them as we should.

Our next class, which I will write about, will cover specific examples of expediencies in action.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Drinking Alcohol as a Christian

This past week I had a good Bible study with a brother at another congregation who wanted to study alcohol and the Christian. A couple of years ago as a new Christian, he had been offered a drink at a church member's house. He questioned whether it was right and was told it's no problem by his Christian host.

What does the Bible say about alcohol and our intake of it? I can't completely outline the arguments against a Christian's use of alcohol in this blog but will offer a few things to think about. Let me begin by recommending an article that thoroughly addresses this issue: Alcohol and the Christian by Matt Miller. He shows in great detail the scriptures and arguments for avoiding fermented drink. His five basic approaches to this subject include:

1. the wine of the Bible is not the same as modern wine
2. the Bible contains two distinct evaluations of the word wine
3. specific passages which condemn the intake of fermented beverages are examined
4. some biblical principles which forbid the intake of fermented beverages are examined
5. the most common arguments in support of social drinking shall be critically examined

Let's look at a few scriptures and we'll see what God and his inspired writers have to say.

Proverbs 23:29 Who hath woe? who hath sorrow? who hath contentions? who hath babbling? who hath wounds without cause? who hath redness of eyes? 30 They that tarry long at the wine; they that go to seek mixed wine. 31 Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his colour in the cup, when it moveth itself aright. 32 At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder. 33 Thine eyes shall behold strange women, and thine heart shall utter perverse things. 34 Yea, thou shalt be as he that lieth down in the midst of the sea, or as he that lieth upon the top of a mast. 35 They have stricken me, shalt thou say, and I was not sick; they have beaten me, and I felt it not: when shall I awake? I will seek it yet again.

Galatians 5:19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Ephesians 5:17 Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. 18 And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; 19 Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; 20 Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;

We can see from these passages what God's view is of strong drink or fermented alcohol. We are to be sober and vigilant at all times as Christians. We must view drunkenness as a process not an end result. As soon as we take that first drink, we have begun that process of drunkenness and set a bad example to our children, our peers, and fellow members of the church.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Generic and Specific Authority

I began to wonder if anyone was reading this blog and then we had visitors at our church from Alaska and was encouraged to hear that they had seen this. I don't get a lot of hits on it but hopefully it will teach or influence someone out there that is searching for God's authority. I hope that this blog may, at least, steer someone in the right direction and provide things to consider.

At our last authority class, we examined the classifications of authority -- generic and specific. Generic is broad and general commands and specific is something that is particular and specified in detail. God is often generic in His commands to us but when specific, we must obey Him as commanded.

As I have discussed in prior sessions, Noah was a good example of one following God's commands. God was very specific in how Noah was to build the ark to save him and his family. In Genesis 6:14, Noah was told to build the ark of gopher wood. When commanding him to use gopher wood, this necessarily implied that all other woods were excluded. When God specifies an action, we must exclude other methods.

For example, see Ephesians 5:19:

Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord;

This verse and those relating to music in the New Testament specify for us to sing and speak to one another. This excludes other forms of music such as instrumental, clapping, humming, whistling, etc. When Jesus told His disciples to partake of the Lord's supper as in Matthew 26: 26 -28:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

...he was very specific on what to partake to remember Him--unleavened bread and fruit of the vine. We see in Acts 20:7 that we can infer that this was done on the 1st day of the week...every week when the brethren gathered together.

When God is general in his commands, such as in Matthew 28:18-20 (the great commission), we have leeway in how we can carry out His desires. For example, he said to "go ye therefore and teach all nations." The command "to go" means we can carry it out by walking, driving, train, plane, etc. However, in verses such as Mark 16:15 specify that we are "to teach" the gospel of Christ.

Mr 16:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

Even though we may often not understand why God specifies certain actions such as immersion, acapella singing, raising church funds only through offering on the 1st day of the week, etc., we must trust His infinite wisdom and keep it as simple as He meant it to be.

In our next class, we will discuss expediencies and how they play into our quest to only do what is pleasing to God. Thank you for reading.

Monday, September 22, 2008

How to Establish Authority

Our Bible study at my home is going well. It is very encouraging to be with a group of brethren that take God's authority seriously. So many people do their own thing without a single thought whether God's is pleased by it or not. We discussed the importance of using tools to access God's inspired written word to ensure we do all in His name as he would have us to do.

We discussed the three ways that we establish authority in all things that we do. This applies to schools, work, homes, etc. We may not always outline the method but we logically derive what we can and cannot do upon these three ways.

They are:

1) Direct command,
2) Approved example,
3) Necessary implication or inference.

Sometimes this is referred to as CEI (command, example, inference). This is not a doctrine taught by the scriptures but rather a respectful tool that we use to ensure we do all things by God's authority and that we do not stray from his written word.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Our love for God and respect for His authority leads us to ensure we don't haphazardly start doing things that God may be displeased with. Let's look at these three methods of establishing authority:

1) Direct Command (or statement): This is an obvious understanding that God and his inspired writers gave commands and made direct statements on what we are to do as Christians, as individuals and as a church.

a. All must repent: Acts 17:30; Luke 13:3
b. Assembling of the saints: Hebrews 10:25
c. Disciples are to contribute: 1 Cor 16: 1-2

2) Approved Example: Situations and example given for our benefit by the inspired individuals of the Bible.

a. Breaking bread on first day of week: Acts 20:7
b. Churches sending relief to other brethren: Acts 11:29-30

3) Necessary Inference: A logical conclusion that can necessarily be drawn from the data given.

a. Before he was baptized, Jesus with down into the water: Matthew 3:16
b. Christians met on the first day of every week and broke bread: Acts 20:7

In my next blog, I will look at using all three of these methods in how we partake of the Lord's Supper.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Sources of Authority

I apologize for not writing regularly for the last two months. Much has been going on with the kids out of school, vacation and my work schedule. I have been encouraged with the Bible study that we have been conducting twice a month on the subject of authority in the church. We are using a book as a guide entitled Authority in the Church by Billy Moore. I highly recommend it as an organized guide to approaching the scriptures.

The last two meetings of our study group have concerned things that are and are not sources of authority in the religious realm. We began with listing thing that are not sources of authority. These include: the Old Law, preacher directives, legislative edicts by elders, church traditions and doctrine, opinions of man, and the Machiavellian idea that the end justifies the means.

We see much abuse when it comes to these items. People use these things as sources of authority without giving it any thought. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 28:18, “…all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” He has the authority and no one else. We see in other verses that the old covenant was put away and had its purpose.

Hebrews 8:13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

Hebrews 9:14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. 16 For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.

Once Christ died on the cross, his new will or New Testament came into force. This made the Old Testament obsolete and no longer valid. This includes the Ten Commandments. That’s right…the Ten Commandments were delivered to the Israelites and not to us today. I once had a fellow pilot sarcastically ask if we could then commit murder…of course not. We find that in Christ’s law that nine of the Ten Commandments are “reissued” to us to be followed with the exception of remembering the Sabbath.

Have you ever noticed when watching people on TV discuss religion or arguing on these topics that they rarely use Scripture to justify or back their statements? This is a dangerous road and is fruitless when stating only their opinions. Throughout my years, I have been to Bible classes and heard sermons that had little to no scripture, and I am completely amazed that they would even consider taking on this responsibility without referring to His holy word.

1 Timothy 1:5 Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 6 From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; 7 Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

The scariest part is all the people that accept it. They will listen to a preacher or priest and never hold them to the truth. The Catholic church has manipulated members to believe that their leaders are the only ones that can properly understand the word of God. We find no where in the Bible that only an elite group exists that can understand God’s word. We are all to study and come to know the truth.

John 8:31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; 32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.

In the next couple of weeks, we will be getting into the basic approach to how to establish authority. It’s an approach that we all use in our day to day lives but usually don’t organize or verbalize it.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Delayed Posting

I'm sorry about the delay in posting an article about the authority of God. I have been very busy with my secular job. However, I have also started a class on authority at my home in Yorktown, VA on every other Sunday evening. The class is growing in size and is a very worthwhile study using Billy Moore's, A Study of Authority. If you live in the local area and are interested in attending, send me your email address or phone number and I'll give you the details. I will try to give a summary in these blogs of the material we covered in the previous week.

I leave you with one passage:

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

How Does the Bible Direct Us?

If you were to ask this question to 100 church leaders of different denominations and groups, you would get a wide range of answers and explanations. Firstly, we know that the word of God is inspired, or God breathed…it was written by His Spirit in a simplistic way that we may be able to follow Him and obey his commandments yet all do it in the same way.

Phillipians 3:5 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

I present to you a systematic approach to the scriptures and a way to determine if your actions are in accordance with God’s authority. When evaluating this, you will see that this is exactly how we live our everyday lives and do it without question or controversy. However, when it comes to religion, we seem to just wing it and trust in our church leaders to tell us what to do. We must get serious on this issue and follow God’s commands or else face the consequences.

There are basically three ways to determine what God desires on a particular subject. Firstly, He may tell us directly—a direct command. This is commonly referred to the “thou shalt” or “thou shall not” type commands. We find many examples of this direction throughout the New Testament.

Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent…

Acts 2:38 …Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

This is very straight forward and we can understand that when God makes a commandment in this manner, we are to follow it.

The second way to determine if an actions is authorized is through approved examples in the New Testament. God used examples of the apostles and other Christians in showing what was expected in worshipping God and following His commands. Some examples of this include:

Assembling and breaking bread on the first day of the week.
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

Brethren sending relief to other brethren
Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

Finally, we can conclude that something pleases God through His teachings and writings that necessarily imply or infer that He wants it done a certain way. We have to use this reasoning in our everyday lives and we do so without even thinking about it. For example, if I say that I’m going to work tomorrow…it necessarily implies that I will get up, get dressed, get in my car, drive to work, etc. Look at these Biblical examples:

We can imply that Jesus had gone down into the water first
Mattew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him…

Implication that Philip baptized the eunuch (not vice versa)
Acts 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.

Some call this approach the CEI approach for command, example, inference but I don’t like to label it because it makes it sound like a man-made doctrine that works for certain people and not others. This is a systematic and organized way to approach the Scriptures and ensure we do things by God’s authority.

In previous discussions with a preacher in Newport News, Va …he stated:

How do we know the Bible only authorizes by command, inference and example? Our hermeneutic is nowhere fleshed out in the NT. In fact, it is almost self-defeating-- If only things taught by CEI are authorized, then CEI isn't authorized because it's not taught by CEI.
--Charles Tucker, Evangelist, Denbigh church of Christ

This is why so many groups have become so liberal and diverged from the word of God. They have no set way to approach the Bible…they are easily tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. (Eph 4:14) Brother Tucker even implies that direct commands have no meaning in the Bible because this hermeneutic isn’t outlined in the scriptures. I leave you this week with one final passage:

Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.

Next time, I will apply these three ways of establishing authority to specific Biblical examples.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Importance of the Six Days of Creation

With the influence of the world and Satan, we find that more and more of their ideas begin to infiltrate the church and skew the ideas of good honest brethren. One of these ideas is that the creation of the heavens and the earth by the almighty God was not necessarily six literal days. There are many false ideas that provide doubt to people and weaken their faith based on man’s wisdom rather than God’s.

1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Romans 3:4 God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar….

We find that in the very first chapter of the first book of the Bible that God show’s His infinite power and ability in the creation and foundation of this world. By faith, we believe that what He says is true and we understand the simplistic, straightforward manner in which His Spirit delivers it to us.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. 5 And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.

We see a reference to the creation in Exodus when God compares the workweek and sabbath day to God’s creation.

Exodus 20:9 Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: 11 For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

The Jews understood this to be six literal days and never questioned God’s power or ability to do such a thing. Why did God create the world in six days? Couldn’t He have done it in five or four or less? Of course, time means nothing to God. He is eternal and has no beginning or end. Time was developed for our edification and understanding. He developed the seven day week based on his creation and provided the sabbath for the Jews as a day of rest.

I have heard many arguments and faulty lines of logic used to create doubt in our brethren such as:

--The days are figurative because of 2 Peter 3:8: "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." This verse shows that time means nothing to God and refers to the second coming of Christ. This in no way relates to the creation nor does it make any sense in an argument that some may use.

--The first four days couldn’t have been literal 24 hours because the sun and moon hadn’t been created until the fourth day. Therefore, only the 5th through 7th days were literal. My friends, after every single day of creation, God stated: "And the evening and the morning were the XXX day." How much clearer can He make it for us.

--Those that believe in the false theory of evolution cannot accept the creation because it contradicts man’s foolish theories that are proved wrong time and time again. One cannot believe in the Big Bang theory or the theory of evolution and believe God account also.

--Some say it doesn’t really matter…it’s not a matter of faith and happened so long ago that it doesn’t affect our belief as a Christian. This is the most dangerous and harmful belief that a Christian can profess. If we can’t accept the omnipotence of God from the very first book that records our creation as He has set forth, how can we accept the virgin birth of Christ or His resurrection Awithout inflicting doubt in these miraculous events.

It is so important to believe God’s word as written. We cannot allow outside influence and false theories to affect our belief in the all-powerful, all-knowing and ever-present God. He created the earth in six literal days and to believe and teach otherwise is to teach and spread doctrine in contrast to God’s word.


I said I would talk on a different subject this week but I was sidetracked and had a request on this subject. My next blog will be in the continued study of authority.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Pope is just a man…

It’s been a bit since I wrote my last blog. I was on vacation with my family and have been quite busy since then. We were able to meet with brethren in Ft Lauderdale, FL and we all had a good time.

As you can see from the title of my blog that I am referring to the man that recently visited the United States and was subject to much fanfare and sensational promotion. He has a very large following and many people look to him for guidance and their faith. Let’s look at his name firstly. The word Pope is from Latin meaning papa, Papa, father and from Greek: papas = priest originating from πατήρ = father. Many people call him his holiness, father, the holy father, reverend, etc.

These terms are not deserving of any man. These are terms that should be reserved for our creator and father in heaven.

Matthew 23:8-12 8 But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9 And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10 Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11 But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

As I watched some of the activities, masses, fanfare, etc., it amazed me how people will expend so much energy, money, time and effort for a man and devote so little to God in worship and searching for the truth. The Catholic church has done so much harm to Christianity that it is leading many to lose their eternal life in heaven. I don’t say this to be ugly but to point out the facts of the scriptures and God’s desire for everyone to do things by His authority.

The pope does not have his origin in the Bible. No where in the New Testament do we see of the office of a pope. We do see the office of bishops (aka elders, shepherds, pastors) which has certain qualifications including being the husband of one wife and father of believing children.

Titus 1:6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; 8 But a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate; 9 Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Obviously, we know that the catholic church and its offices and positions do not follow this pattern as established by God. We must follow His pattern and walk by the same rule. The rule established by God and His teachings in the New Testament. Not ones established by mankind.

Phillipians 3:15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.

I will get back to our progression through the study of authority in my next blog as we talk about things specified and thing not so specified.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Big Circle

I have taught the subject of applying God’s authority at least four times over the years at different congregations and to all age levels. The more I study and search the sciptures, the more I realize how important this subject matter is to us all. I always like to illustrate with a large circle…within the circle is doing God’s will and by His authority as He has revealed to us. Anything beyond the circle, whether one pixel outside or 10 feet away is outside of the realm of His authorization.

Many people rationalize their actions by referring to God’s word as nothing more than a series of personal letters written as general guidelines for us to use, or not use as we see fit. I have corresponded with a preacher at a church of Christ congregation that has been studying and proclaiming this philosophy for a number of years in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. He readily admits being of a more conservative nature but feels so much more free and liberated to have a more liberal stance.

When we disregard God’s commandments, don’t follow His examples or necessarily infer what actions to take in our worship and church conduct, we do things that may be very offensive to God and have to bear the consequences. This is exactly why so many churches continue to get further and further from the "circle of authority." This divergence is nothing new in our modern times. The apostle Paul found that the church at Galatia very quickly began to pervert God’s word after he had taught them the Gospel.

Galatians 1:6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Satan uses all sorts of gimmicks and emotions to get us to rationalize by just barely crossing that "circle" to test the waters. Once we cross that boundary, nothing but the conscience of mankind will set those new boundaries. All must be done by HIS authority:

Colossians 3:17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

God takes His commands and authority very seriously. The silence of the Scriptures gives us no authority to act. How do we know if something is pleasing to God unless we go the New Testament and see if it is so? We should all be able to justify our worship and actions with Bible commands and examples or at least be able to infer that God required it of us. I leave you with one final passage.

1 Corinthians 1:25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

Friday, March 21, 2008

What is Easter? ...according to the Bible, of course

Acts 12:4 And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people.

This is the only passage that mentions the word Easter. Unfortunately, we find in the original Greek that the King James translation should have use the word, ‘Passover.' This was not a reference to the present-day tradition of an annual celebration of the resurrection of Christ but rather a reference to the Passover. This Greek word, paske is used several times in the New Testament and is translated to Passover in every instance other than this passage in Acts.

Satan will use all means to demean and degrade any and everything in the Holy scriptures. This includes taking the teachings, truths, and methods and then perverting (altering) them to the point that people will celebrate them in their own ways. This includes Christmas and Easter celebrations as a religious holy day (i.e. holiday).

Easter was started as a pagan holiday in approximately the 4th century to celebrate fertility and the goddess of Spring. This same goddess has been referred to several names including Aphrodite, Astarte, and Ashtoreth. She is mentioned in 1 Kings 11:5, 33 and 2 Kings 23:13.

Over time, just like the celebration of Christ’s birth, Easter was adopted by the Catholic and Greek Orthodox churches as a tradition and quickly adopted by mankind. Many argue that there is nothing wrong with celebrating Christ’s death and resurrection on a yearly basis as a special day. Unfortunately, once again, man continues to try to outsmart and second guess God. The Spirit, in His divine writings was very specific about when and how to celebrate Christ’s death and resurrection.

Matthew 26:26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. 29 But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom. 30 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.

From these two verses, we see that we are to partake of the bread and fruit of the vine on the first day of every week. This is not a yearly practice but rather a weekly ritual. We must follow God’s pattern and not add to it nor take away from it. God has a reason for His commands and we don’t always understand the reasons behind them.

Our congregation celebrates the sacrifice of Christ on a weekly basis. You won’t see special “Easter” sunrise services or a special communion to be ignored for the next 51 weeks. We do as Christ instructed in remembering Him on a weekly basis…for he knows how short our memories are and the need for this constant reminder.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Source of God’s Authority is not….

Many people are very gullible and will believe almost anything without verifying the source or accuracy. I constantly get emails claiming many things yet I quickly learn that it may be a hoax or outright lie. We need to be very careful when we put trust in anything other than God’s word. Man is always fallible and can lead us astray. The bible warns us of this.

Matthew 7:15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. 19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. 20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

This leads me to a subject of talking about things that are not sources of authority.

Old Testament: As mentioned in the last blog, people are constantly referring to practices or doctrines in the Old Testament as reasons for doing it today. Examples include tithing, the 10 Commandments, instrumental music, polygamy, etc. We must remember that it was removed on the Christ when He died for us.

Ephesians 2:14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

The Preacher/Bishop/Cardinal/Pope: Preachers have a tremendous responsibility when teaching others. Many religions place a special emphasis on the evangelist to the point that they’ve invented special offices or positions that are not dictated by scripture. When this is done, God’s word is supplemented without His authority. All men sin and can lead a group astray. Terms like pastor or reverend are misused by everyone due to the abuses of certain religions and media. God is the source of authority not man.

Creeds of the church: Some churches legislate their own bylaws, creeds or synods/councils. We have no authority to make up the laws. We cannot accept creeds of man and be pleasing to God.

Matthew 15:8 This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. 9 But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.

The End Justifies the Means: Also known as Consequentialism, it refers to those moral theories which hold that the consequences of a particular action form the basis for any valid moral judgment about that action. From a consequentialist standpoint, a morally right action is one that produces a good outcome, or consequence. Many people justfy their actions by saying it’s a good work or they look at the results of doing it a certain way.

Look how the mega-churches reel people in with big bands, entertainment, sporting events, motivational speakers, etc. They justify their actions by stating it’s a good work because all these people get to hear God’s word and worship Him. David tried to move the ark of the covenant in a way that was different than God’s way and the “end would justify the means.” However, we find that his alternate method led to a death and results not accomplshed. (see 2 Samuel 6:1-11 and 1 Chronicles 26: 16-20)

Many more things are used by people to justify their actions; however, we need to remember that anything other than the Testement of Christ is not a proper source of authority in our actions as a church or as an individual. Of course, not all details are given, and we will start to examine the method in which we can look at our actions to determine if they are pleasing to God in future blogs.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Out with the Old, In with the New

One of the most misunderstood and misused applications of the Bible is mixing up the Old Law with the New Law resulting in confusion, many different denominations and out-right misuse of scripture. I have often had Jehovah Witnesses, Mormons, and others come to my door and try to justify their beliefs using the Old Testament or Old Covenant as a source of authority in why they do certain things. Don’t get me wrong, the Old Law had its purpose and can still provide valuable lessons in how to respect God and the history of God’s eternal plan for the church.

Galatians 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. 26 For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

The law was designed to be an introduction to Christ. The sacrifices and offerings were designed to shadow forth the Messiah, and to introduce him to the world. It had a purpose and its purpose was fulfilled as prophesied by Isaiah and others when Christ died, was buried and resurrected.

Hebrews 8:10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: 11 And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. 13 In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.

We see further in Hebrews 9 that the New Covenant was much better than the old. It was perfect as established and confirmed by the blood of Christ. When we look to the Bible as a source of authority, we need to remember that the Old Law was given to the Israelites and had its purpose. The New Law is given to all mankind…both Jew and Gentile, and allows us all to become Christians and have the hope of eternal life.

Probably the most visible and misunderstood concept is that of the 10 Commandments. These commandments were given to the people of Israel not to the Gentiles or Christians of today. I once had a man say, "Oh so we can murder or commit adultery if we want?" Of course not…that’s just the silliness that seems to appear in a discussion of religion. We find that nine of the Ten Commandments are actually reaffirmed under the law of Christ. We follow these laws because Christ has told us to follow them.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

We find that if we have the proper attitude and love God first, our neighbors second, and ourselves last, we will have no problem following the word of God and obeying His commandments. We won’t be trying to find loop-holes and trying to rationalize our actions in worshipping God the way we want rather than the way God wants. We will search out the New Testament for what we can cannot do and never allow God’s silence on a subject to justify doing whatever we want. My next blog, I will start looking at specific rules or approaches in how we establish authority. I welcome your comments and look forward to the next entry.

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Meaning of Authority

When we accomplish things in our day to day lives, we usually know the proper source of authority in what we do without even thinking about it. We know that the state has the right to establish a speed limit. The county can levy taxes. The federal government has the power and authority to establish laws that forbid many different types of crimes. However, when it comes to religion, it seems that people throw out common sense and respect for the law giver to justify doing whatever they desire.

Let’s first look at two words—power and authority.

The word power is translated from the Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) from several different words.

O.T.: koach—strength; force; ability to do something; we find where God emphasizes His power and strength in verses such as Exodus 15:6 and 32:11.

Dunamis—in reference to God: Matthew 26:64, Mark 14:62; of Christ: 1 Corinthians 1:24; the Gospel: Romans1:16.
Exousia—freedom of action, right to act; Luke 12:5, Ephesians 3:10
Ischus—ability force strength; 2 Thessalonians 1:9
Kratos—power; 1 Timothy 6:16, Hebrews 2:14

The word “authority” is translated from the Greek word exousia (1849) denoting ability or strength that one is endued or given. We see that this word is used somewhat interchangeably in the New Testament meaning power or authority depending on its context.

The bottom-line is that power is the ability or force to accomplish something and authority is the right to carry it out.

Who has the power and authority and how do we know?

For the purpose of my blog, I will dwelling with the fact that the Bible is the sole source of authority. Other books by man, religious synods or doctrine, opinions, etc. will not be used as a source of God’s authority.

The Holy Bible is the source of our authority from God. We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16 – 17:

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

The inspiration of God means that it is God breathed (theos + pneo).

We find that it is free from error and historically accurate. Additionally, the word of God needs no revision or additions to be complete. 1 Peter 1:24-25 states:

1 Peter 1:24 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: 25 But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Many other groups have found that in order to justify their actions, they need more than the Bible (in particular the New Testament) to justify their actions.

Jude 3: Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

We find that this means once and for all time delivered (also see 2 Peter 1:3). We don’t need other books or creeds of man. It is all sufficient and provides all we need to accomplish all of God’s desires in worshipping Him and living our lives that we might please Him and have eternal life with Him.

My next blog will cover the differences between the two covenants and explore which covenant is our source of authority.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Authority—Do We Need It in Everything We Do?

When we live are basic lives from day to day, we recognize authority and laws without even thinking about them. We know that the state sets a speed limit on the highways and we understand that the government doesn’t allow murder or theft. We also know that to find out what the federal or state government allows or disallows we have to go to the statutes. We understand and accept man’s authority with great ease.

However, when it comes to our Creator’s authority, we often try to rationalize, pick and choose, and deny the laws and commands of God so that we may do as we choose. Satan will tempt us and slowly get us to deny Christ’s laws and confuse things so that we will do as we please rather than as God commands. The evangelist, Timothy was warned of this in the early church…

2 Timothy 4:2 Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; 4 And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.

I recently had a local evangelist tell me that writings of the New Testament were merely letters that applied to the people of the time and they weren’t valid in establishing any type of authority because the subject matter wasn’t applicable anymore such as eating of meats, woman wearing gold apparel, etc. He stated,

“There is no law code or legal pleadings in the New Testament. What you have is historical narrative (story) and situational personal letters.”

We are sliding down a slippery slope when we dismiss the authority of God and use the excuse that if the examples in the Scriptures don’t seem relevant then we will disregard them. If that be the case, why even read the Bible? God has always revealed what is needed for us to act appropriately and He is NOT the author of confusion.

1 Corinthians 14:33 For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.

In the next few blogs, I will be going through a step by step process in examining authority and how we should, with reverence, approach God’s word. The New Testament is not like the old law in which every minor detail is given in how to worship God and behave. Rather, we are to have the right attitude and desire to obey God and his commandment with what His Spirit has revealed to us through the Word.

Matthew 22:37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

John 14:12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father. 13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it. 15 If ye love me, keep my commandments.

Just as Jesus told His disciples, if we love truly love Him, we will keep His commandments. So we will study the New Testament and learn what his commandments are rather than making them up ourselves as many do today.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Homosexuality and the Bible

“United Church of Christ backs gay marriage”
--USA Today, 5 Jul 05


Does it matter what a church synod says about an issue? Does it matter what man’s desires are? What do the Scriptures say about fleshly lusts? Look at these versus on this issue and decide for yourself.

Genesis 2:24: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Romans 1:27: “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

1 Corinthians 6:9 “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind…”

John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

These are just a few verses that relate to this issue. Homosexuality is obviously a sin. We can overcome sin by making a choice to do right.

1 Cor. 10:13 “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

This same article from USA Today also states, “The president of the United Church of Christ said his denomination "acted courageously to declare freedom" when it passed a resolution endorsing same-sex marriage on Independence Day.” Let’s look at the gospel of Matthew 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

I find it so unbelievable that people are willing to accept a false doctrine, declare it okay in Christ’s name and yet it be completely opposite of God’s teachings. The scriptures are very clear about this lifestyle and the like. We must resist temptation and do the will of God.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Counterfeit Religion

When the Secret Service trains its members to recognize counterfeit money, they begin by studying and learning the genuine article. They study in great detail all of its protections, its paper and markings, and the very smallest details to ensure they know the “real thing” better than anything. A bank teller deals with money all day long and he or she can get a good feel of the currency and know the “real thing” from experience and handling the bills on a daily basis.

We too can learn much from these practices when dealing with the church. When we move or relocate, how do we determine if the church we attend is the “real thing?” Do we consider the importance of finding a sound church that adheres to God laws and doctrine?

We may begin with the name. When naming an organization, we show respect and honor in naming it after the founder and head. This applies to the church:

Ephesians 5:3 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.

We begin by finding the genuine article by looking at the name…one that honors its founder and creator. (see…Romans 16:16 …’church of Christ’; 1 Corinthians 1:2 …’church of God’; Hebrews 12:23 …’church of the firstborn’) As Christ pointed out to Peter, in Matthew 16:18, Christ is the founder…any other is an imposter/man-made/counterfeit.

Another important detail when looking for a genuine church is the age. I’m not talking about the individual congregation, but the church itself. Many denominations that name themselves after a man, method or doctrine can only trace themselves to a modern era…a man-made era. For example,

Roman Catholic Church - Rome, 606 A.D., with Boniface III as pope.
Lutheran Church - 1520 A. D., Germany, with Martin Luther's writings as authority
Episcopalian - 1534, England, when Henry VIII broke with Roman Catholicism
Presbyterian -1536, Switzerland, led by John Calvin
Baptist - 1607, Holland, by John Smythe
Methodist - 1739, England, by John Wesley
Latter Day Saints (Mormons) - 1830, America, by Joseph Smith
Christian Scientist - 1866, America, by Mary Baker Eddy
Jehovah's Witnesses - 1872, America, by Charles T. Russell

At the time Jesus built his kingdom (church), no denomination of any kind was in existence. The church of Jesus Christ was established in 33 A.D., in the city of Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus (Acts 1, 2). Any denomination that had its origin by another founder other than Jesus at this time and place cannot be the genuine article.

The organic law of the United States is our constitution and all laws sprout from its core. Laws governing the church are found in the New Testament.

2 Timothy 3: 16-17 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.

We should also ensure that our church worships God in the correct manner. We know what pleases God by what His Spirit has revealed to us in His Word. Examples and scriptures of these acts include:
--Prayer, Acts 2:42…to God through His son
--Singing, Ephesians 5:19…making melody with our hearts, not instruments
--Contribution, 1 Corinthians 16: 1-2…laying aside money on the first day of the week
--Lord’s Supper, Acts 20: 7…taken every first day of the week
--Preaching, 2 Timothy 4:2-4…sound preaching from God’s word

John 4:24--”God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

We must examine and study the genuine article and know it in order that we can detect counterfeit religions. The inspired writers of the New Testament have warned us about these counterfeit efforts. We must be on guard and not easily deceived.

Mattew 7:13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. 15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.