The Selling of Things in the Church Building

THE SELLING OF THINGS IN THE CHURCH BUILDING

by Wayne S. Walker

     (Author’s note: In the meeting house of a congregation with which I used to labor, there was a question box. It was not used very much, except as a depository for lost items, but once there was a question in it. I thought that the question and my response to it might be of general interest since it is a topic that I have heard discussed at various times and places. Yet I have seen very little written on it.)

     Question: "I believe something should be done about the selling of Avon, Tupperware, House of Lloyd, and Home Interiors (to name a few) in the church during services. Is there a lesson that can be brought concerning this situation?"

     Answer: Such a subject probably could not be worked up into a full-fledged sermon, but I believe that perhaps an article might be appropriate. The Bible does not deal with this issue specifically, so it must be handled by the application of general principles. Furthermore, some judgment must be involved, so no one answer is going to satisfy everyone. Some are rabidly opposed to any private commercial transactions between individuals on church property whatever, while others make their living by discreetly providing products and/or services to other members when seeing them at the church building.

     First of all, I seriously doubt that there is "the selling of" anything "in the church during services." If I saw buying and selling going on while the congregation was singing, praying, listening to the sermon, taking the Lord’s supper, or giving, I would be among the first to oppose it. I have an idea that the question concerns "the selling of" things at the church building before or after services.

     We all recognize that the meeting house of a church is an expediency. It is authorized by general authority under the command to assemble (Heb. 10:25). The church is commanded to assemble. Thus, a place to assemble is necessarily authorized. The church building itself is not "sacred" in the denominational sense. It is not a shrine or a sanctuary. Rather, the church itself, made up of saved people, is God’s temple or sanctuary (Eph. 2:19-22).

     At the same time, the building should not be used as a public auditorium for just any and every purpose. It exists as a place for the church to do what God has authorized it to do. Therefore, whatever activities are planned and promoted within the church building must be authorized by God for the church to do. This, of course, prohibits the church from using its facilities for that which pertains to social affairs, recreation, and entertainment (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Cor. 11:22,34).

     However, we also recognize that there are incidental uses of the building. It is not a highway rest stop, but we do have restroom and drinking facilities. Their use is incidental to our assembling for study and worship. Also, the church building is not a lounge, but we do take the opportunity to visit with one another before and after the services (and in between, too), to talk about our children or grandchildren, the weather, sports, and many other subjects. Again, such is incidental to our coming together as God commanded.

     Normally, in the instances contemplated by the question, very little actual selling goes on at the building, although sometimes this is the case. Usually, orders are taken at a party in someone’s home or over the phone. Then members use the opportunity of seeing one another at the building before or after services to deliver the merchandise. Even if orders are taken at the building, these are private transactions between individuals and really have nothing what ever to do with the planned activities of the church in the building. They are simply incidental to what we have come together for.

     The only passage which I can imagine that someone might use to condemn this kind of thing is John 2:13-17 where Jesus drove the money changers from the temple. But remember that this was done while the old law was still in effect, in the temple which was indeed a sacred or holy place under that law. The situation then is simply not comparable to individual transactions before or after services today. The lesson in this passage for us is not to take that which is spiritual and make it into something which is purely physical or material.

     Certainly, anything can be carried to an extreme and thus become wrong. It may be that some brothers and sisters have been over zealous in promoting some product before or after services. But the same can be said for some of the visiting that we do at the church building before, after, or between services. For the life of me, I cannot see how a group of people can be standing around at one minute before worship time talking and even arguing about football, business, politics, or whatever, then run to their seats and a minute later be ready to praise God.

     But such abuses do not make the visiting wrong in and of itself. And the fact that some may not have been as discreet as we might like in taking orders or delivering merchandise at the building does not necessarily make all such private transactions sinful. On the one hand, let us remember that we are coming together for a spiritual purpose and not let any incidental business that we end up doing get out of control. On the other hand, let us exercise love and tolerance for our brethren in such obviously individual matters. (—taken from Guardian of Truth; April 2, 1992; Vol. XXXVI, No. 7; p. 211)

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The Resurrection Was on Sunday

THE RESURRECTION WAS ON SUNDAY

by Wayne S. Walker

     One of the arguments made by Sabbatarians against Christians’ worshipping on the first day of the week is their claim that the resurrection of Christ was not on Sunday. They place the historical observance of the resurrection on Saturday, the day they have chosen to revere as "God’s eternal sabbath." Often when they assert that the seventh day of the week, the Old Testament sabbath, is the day Christians should assemble for worship, they run into some resistance. Most of so-called Christendom tends to regard the first day of the week, Sunday, as the day to which it attaches any religious significance. This practice has generally been the result of the belief that Christ rose from the dead on that day. Thus, any mention of Saturday worship turns many off. Sabbatarians have chosen to deny the Sunday resurrection in an attempt to persuade people to cease their recognition of Sunday as a "special day," and to present a better case for sabbath observance. It is not the desire of this writer to deal with false teaching concerning the sabbath since there are many good scriptural refutations concerning it. I mention it here merely to give some background.

Three Days and Three Nights

     The first passage to be considered in our study is Matthew 12:38-40. In this text, Jesus compares Jonah’s three day and three night stay in the belly of the sea creature to His own three day and three night stay in the grave. It is a mistake to conclude that the particular sign Jesus was giving here to prove His Messiahship is the three days and three nights in the sepulchre, no more and no less. One writer has declared that the evidence of Christ’s deity was not the fact of the resurrection itself, but the length of time He would repose in the grave before His resurrection. However, this concept comes into conflict with the apostle Paul in Romans 1:1-4. The inspired writer did not say that Jesus "was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness" by the amount of time spent in the grave, but "by the resurrection from the dead" itself. Although if Jesus said He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, He was of course, the language of Paul indicates that the length of time is not so important as the actual event.

     It is also a mistake to define "three days and three nights" as seventy-two hours. Some have compared Genesis 1:13 where Moses said, "And the evening and the morning were the third day," with John 11:9-10 where Jesus asked, "Are there not twelve hours in a day?…but if any man walk in the night, he stumbleth." They erroneously conclude that since God "divided the light from the darkness…(and) called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night" (Genesis 1:4-5), that three days and three nights must include three twelve-hour periods each of light and darkness, hence seventy-two hours. This is clearly a mishandling of scripture by joining two totally unrelated passages and using modern definitions to interpret them. I do not believe that the Bible writers nor the Holy Spirit who inspired them was too interested in our arithmetical method of figuring time. We do err when we try to force our own Western measurements into the Spirit-breathed words of men of Oriental thought. What we must do instead is determine what was meant in first century Palestine by "three days and three nights" according to what the scriptures reveal.

     Comparing Matthew 12:39-40 with Mark 8:31, 9:31, and John 2:19-21, one must conclude that the terms "three days and three nights," "after three days," "(on) the third day," and "(with) in three days," all cover equivalent periods of time, or else Jesus contradicted Himself. It is accepted by practically all reputable authorities who have a knowledge of the original languages of the Biblical text that the Jews in all periods of Bible history used the expressions "after three days" and "on the third day" as equivalent, even though in our parlance, they would mean different things. (See Gen. 42:17-18, 1 Kings 12:5-12, 2 Chron. 10:5-12, and compare Matt. 16:21 with Mark 8:31.) The same is true of the phrases "within three days" and "on the third day" (Genesis 40:13-20). Notice again that a feast lasting "three days, night and day" (equal to three days and three nights) ended "on the third day" (Esther 4:16, 5:1) not on the fourth, and that a period of "three days and three nights" began "three days ago" (1 Sam. 30:12-13), not four. In addition, the Pharisees, recognizing that Jesus had said while alive, "After three days will I rise again," asked Pilate to "Command therefore the sepulchre to be made sure until the third day" (Matt. 27:62-64). According to our terminology, if Jesus were to rise after three days, we would guard the tomb until at least the fourth day; but not so with the Jews. A final note on Hebrew time measuring is found in 1 Sam. 20:12 where Jonathan told David he would sound out his father "about tomorrow any time, or the third day," making the third day equal to "the day after tomorrow."

     Sabbatarians say that expositors impose upon their credulity in arguing that the expression "three days and three nights" may include any part of a day or night. Even some evangelical Protestants are not satisfied with this explanation and consider it a weak makeshift at best. Besides the scriptural testimony in the previous paragraph, please note the chronological timetable in Acts 10 as corroborating evidence. In verses 1-8 Cornelius received a vision in which he was instructed to send for Peter. In verse 9, it was the morrow when the men journeyed to Joppa and when Peter had his vision. In verse 23, two days later, Peter accompanied the men to Caesarea, and in verse 24 they all arrived at Cornelius’s house three days after Cornelius’s vision. But Cornelius himself put it "four days ago" (verse 30). Why? First, in the expression "four days," any part of any day from the original day was included; and second, the ancients figured in the day on which an event occurred when counting time from that event. Thus, Cornelius’s vision was on the first day and Peter’s arrival on the fourth day–a total period of four days according to first century reckoning, event though we would consider it "three days" in our way of thinking.

     The point to be understood is that it is folly to restrict the phrase "three days and three nights" to an exact period of seventy-two hours. This is simply not what the Holy Spirit meant to say. In their reasoning, Sabbatarians put their own meaning upon the construction. They usually assume the crucifixion was on Wednesday, then try to establish this using either the modern Hebrew calendar or supposed astronomical observations, both of which are suspect and shaky evidence. Following this trend of thought, if "three days and three nights" were literally seventy-two hours, then this period would have ended on Saturday. This hypothesis fits amazing well with their sabbath worship. But the whole theory is based solely upon supposition, human wisdom, and perversion of Bible passages. There is not one shred of Scripture to substantiate it. We might pause here to state that if Sunday be the "third day" after the crucifixion, then Saturday was the second, and Friday was the "first day," which would have been the day on which the crucifixion must have taken place according to the Jewish mode of calculation used by the Bible writers. This is the only tenable conclusion to be drawn from the Bible record.

Objections examined

     The Bible indicates that Jesus was crucified on Friday, for the next day was called "the day that followed the day of preparation" (Matt. 27:62). It is not mere assumption to say that the day of preparation was Friday, because the term "preparation" was, and still is, the common method of referring to the sixth day of the week by both Jews and Greek-speaking people. From what we have studied concerning the Hebrew expression "three days and three nights," a Friday crucifixion would have necessitated a Sunday resurrection. However, some will invariably ask, "Which preparation is Matthew speaking of?" as they try to devise a week with two preparations in it. Their attempted explanation is that Wednesday was the preparation for the Passover and Friday was the preparation for the regular sabbath. In this way, they can return to their idea of a Wednesday crucifixion, but it is merely a guess, and a poor one at that.

     Although it is admittedly difficult, if not impossible, to reconstruct the exact chain of events according to day and time in the last week of Jesus’s life, there are certain statements which help us understand what did happen when. The Bible, in referring to the day following the crucifixion, explains, "That sabbath [regular term for seventh day] was an high day" (a special occasion or feast, John 19:31). This explains why the day of the crucifixion was "the preparation of the passover" (John 19:14), as well as the preparation of the weekly sabbath. What this means is that the passover feast that year fell on the seventh day of the week. Jesus was crucified on the day before this occasion, on Friday, the preparation.

     Furthermore, the Bible clearly reveals which day Jesus rose from the grave. In Mark 16:9 we read, "When Jesus rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had driven seven demons" (NIV). Amazingly, we are told that this verse does not say that the resurrection was on Sunday. It is argued that the verb is in the perfect tense, and that Jesus’s condition early on the first day of the week was "risen" because He arose the afternoon before. This is admittedly the normal meaning of a perfect verb in the Greek New Testament. However, even if the information about the tense were correct, it would not uphold the argument because the perfect form of that particular verb (anistemi) has the sense of a present. But the tense of the verb is not perfect! The form of the verb is anastas, which is a second aorist active participle. If it were perfect, it would be anestekos. The verse literally reads, "Now having risen early on the first day of the week," or "Now after (or when) he had risen on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene." There is no doubt what the verse says–it says that Jesus did rise on the first day of the week. The only doubt might be as to its canonicity since some of the more ancient [but questionable] manuscripts omit it. But I believe there is sufficient evidence to warrant accepting this passage as authentic scripture.

     Another statement concerning the first day resurrection is Luke 24:21, "Today is the third day since these things were done." The first day of the week is specified in verse 1; the events transpiring in this section of the chapter happened "that same day" (verse 13); and that day was the third day. An objection is raised to this that "these things" included the seeting of the seal and the watch over the tomb which occurred "the next day" (Matt. 27:62). The desired conclusion is that Sunday was the third day since the day this was accomplished (which would be the day following the crucifixion) but not since the day of the crucifixion itself. Yet when we examine the speech of Cleopas in verses 18-20 of Luke 24, it is clear that he did not include the events which transpired on the day after Jesus was crucified, but ennded his account with "The chief priests and our rulers…have crucified him." Besides, Cleopas was not intending to give a detailed, chronological account of all the events surrounding Christ’s death. All he was saying was that Christ had predicted that He would die, be buried, and arise the third day. And "Today [the first day of the week] is the third day."

Conclusion

     The scriptures, written by holy apostles and prophets who were inspired by the Holy Spirit, which reveal the very mind of God, plainly teach that the resurrection of Christ from the dead occurred on the first day of the week, the day we call Sunday. To deny this is to deny the Biblical record. Sabbatarians teach otherwise, however, proclaiming that Christ arose on the sabbath, the day we call Saturday. They say, "The seventh day;" God says, "The first day;" the Bible says, "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar" (Rom. 3:2). I shall let you draw your own conclusions.

References

     Armstrong, Herbert W. The Resurrection Was Not on Sunday (Pasadena, CA: Ambassador College, 1972), pp. 4-5, 12.

     Machan, J. Gresham. New Testament Greek for Beginners (n.p.: MacMillan Company, 1923), p. 216.

     Marshall, Alfred. The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1958), p. 216.

     McGarvey, J. W. Commentary on Matthew and Mark (Dallas, TX: Eugene S. Smith, 1875), p. 112.

     Torrey, R. A. Difficulties in the Bible (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1907), p. 101.

     (—taken from Truth Magazine; May 5, 1977; Vol XXI, No. 18; pp. 279-281)

“Position Available”

"POSITION AVAILABLE"

by Wayne S. Walker

     Several years ago a letter marked "Position Available" came to the congregation with which I was laboring from a group in another state identifying itself as "Church of Christ." They were looking for a "minister of the Church of Christ at _____." I know nothing personally about them, but the letter contained a number of statements that are indicative of the difficulties faced by Christians today concerning the denominational concepts that tend to creep in among us. There are some important lessons that we should learn in this regard.

     The letter began, "The _____ congregation of the Lord’s church is seeking a new pulpit minister." Right away there is a problem. If we are going to speak where the Bible speaks and call Bible things by Bible names, then we must realize that the Bible does not speak of a "congregation of the Lord’s church." This is a diocesan concept of the body of Christ similar to the one which led to the development of the Roman Catholic Church. It is "the language of Ashdod" (Nehemiah 13:24).

     We need to understand that the church universal is not divided up organizationally into many local congregations. Rather, it is made up of individual Christians who then form themselves into local congregations. It is this idea of the local churches as units of the universal church which has led to attempts at mobilizing the universal church by missionary societies, sponsoring churches, and brotherhood institutions. Furthermore, while the Scriptures use the terms evangelist, preacher, and minister to describe proclaimers of the word, the term "pulpit minister" (does it distinguish from some other kind of minister?) is not found. All Christians are to be simply "ministers of Christ" (1 Corinthians 4:1).

     Under "Duties/Responsibilities" are listed "Preaching, Teaching Bible Classes, Conduct home Bible Studies and other types of evangelism, Counseling and Visitation, Edit and Publish Weekly Bulletin." Of course, many of these are duties that most, if not all, preachers have performed in their work. But why single out arbitrarily certain items? Churches have a right to expect preachers they support to discharge all their responsibilities as revealed in God’s word (cf. 1 Timothy 4:6, 2 Timothy 4:1-4).

     Under qualifications, the first mentioned is "B.A. Degree in Bible preferred." Certainly, there is nothing wrong with a preacher’s having a college education and it can even be helpful from time to time. But where did people get the idea that a fellow can learn more about the Bible from a university professor than from studying it on his own? The apostles would not qualify, for as to formal education they were "ignorant and unlearned men" (Acts 4:13). Also, I wonder of these folks would prefer a B. A. Degree from a "Church of Christ" college over one from a denominational seminary.

     Other qualifications are "Demonstrated experience in soul winning, Bible class teaching experience, Ten (10) years experience as a pulpit minister desirable, Successful experience working under the direction of elders, Experience in the Northeast U.S. preferred, Experience in editing and publishing a church bulletin desired." Certainly no one would minimize experience. It is a great asset to possess. But if all churches demanded as much experience as this one (and it is only "7 years old with about 70 in attendance on Sunday"), where in the world would preachers obtain any? In time, there would not be enough experienced men to go around. I wonder how much experience Timothy had, seeing he was still a youth (1 Timothy 4:12).

     One more qualification requires "experience or training in counseling." Now if this means counseling from the word of God, any knowledgeable Christian could fill the bill. But if it refers to specialized counseling, such as for troubled marriages, alcoholics, juvenile delinquents, etc., that is something different. Any preacher is willing to help in these situations by applying God’s word. But in the past, only denominational "pastors" were expected to have experience or training in psychology, therapy, and such like. Such is not a part of the work of the evangelist (or the church, for that matter) as described in the New Testament, although it is becoming increasingly popular among "Churches of Christ" infected with the social gospel (see 2 Timothy 4:5).

     Last of all, "conditions of employment" include "Commitment–five (5) years to the _____ congregation." Yet, at the same time, the congregation does not want to make the same commitment to the preacher. It offers only an "initial one (1) year contract renewable six (6) months prior to expiration." Jesus said, "Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so unto them" (Matthew 7:12). If this church expects a preacher to make a five-year promise, it should be willing to make the same guarantee.

     Obviously, churches and preachers need to arrive at a mutual understanding in their relationships. But I, personally, do not htink that I would want to touch this "position" with a ten foot pole–or two ten foot poles for that matter. I have a feeling that this congregation is probably among what we would call "liberal" or "progressive" churches. But we who claim to be more "conservative" in our approach to the scriptures need to be careful that we do not begin to look upon gospel preachers as professional hired employees of the church, but as servants of the Lord who deserve the support of the Lord’s people. (—taken and slightly updated from Faith and Facts; Apr., 1982; Vol. 10, No. 2; pp. 30-32)

The Most Important Question Ever Asked

THE MOST IMPORTANT QUESTION EVER ASKED:

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"
(Acts 16:30)

by Wayne S. Walker

     In the sixteenth chapter of the book of Acts, the apostle Paul had come to the city of Philippi in Macedonia, the northern part of Greece. While there, he and his co-worker, Silas, cast a demon out of a slave girl. Her masters were upset that they would no longer be able to use her fortune telling powers to gain money, so they had Paul and Silas put in prison.

     That night, while Paul and Silas were singing and praying, a great earthquake shook the prison, the doors were opened, and the prisoners’ bands were loosed. The jailor awoke, saw the condition of the jail, and, assuming that the prisoners had fled, drew his sword to kill himself. However, Paul shouted, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here."

     The jailor then fell down before Paul and Silas, brought them out, and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" They told him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and then preached to him and his household the word of the Lord that they might know what to believe. He took them the same hour of the night, washed their stripes, and was immediately baptized with his family.

     We do not know exactly what was in this jailor’s mind when he spoke to Paul and Silas. He may have heard something about their preaching. He was undoubtedly influenced by the terror of the earthquake and his close brush with death. He may have noticed the demeanor of Paul and Silas in prison. In any event, he asked the most important question anyone can ever ask. "What must I do to be saved?"

The Need to Be Saved

     This question implies that there is a need to be saved. A man who cannot swim and falls in water needs to be saved from drowning. A child who is kidnapped by a person threatening to kill it needs to be saved from murder. As tragic as these situations are, there is something even worse from which every responsible person needs to be saved.

     "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). If one can understand this pamphlet, he has sinned. What does this mean? Sin is defined as "lawlessness" or a transgression of God’s law (1 John 3:4). We sin by committing "unrighteousness," that is, doing something that is not right in God’s sight which He condemns (1 John 5:17). And we sin by omission, that is, failing to do something that God commands (James 4:17).

     "All have sinned." Some people respond, "How dare you call me a sinner!" Yet, we all know that we do things that are wrong and fail to do things that we should. "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). We need to be saved from the punishment attached by God to sin.

     What is that punishment? "For the wages of sin is death…" (Romans 6:23). Just as the drowning man or the kidnapped child is in danger of physical death, so those who are guilty of sin will suffer spiritual death, which is separation from God both in this life and in eternity. It is from this that we need to be saved.

The Possibility of Being Saved

     The fact that this question is recorded and answered in the Bible also implies that even though we have all sinned and deserve death, it is possible to be saved. How? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

     God loves us, whom He created in His image, so much that He does not want to see us suffer punishment for sin. Therefore, He gave His only begotten Son. "…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:3). We deserved death because of our sins. However, Christ, who did no sin and thus did not deserve death, suffered this punishment for us.

     Therefore, just a child who is kidnapped might be redeemed by the payment of ransom, so a price has been paid for us to be redeemed from sin and its punishment. Paul wrote of Christ, "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace" (Ephesians 1:7). It is the blood of Jesus that makes it possible for us to have our sins forgiven.

     Once these sins, the wages of which is death, are forgiven, then we no longer deserve death and are given life. "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12). Thanks be to God who has made it possible for us to be saved from our sins by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us that we might have redemption and life!

Things We Must Do to Be Saved

     This question implies as well that there is something which we must do in order to be saved. Certainly, there is nothing that we can do to make atonement for our sins. "For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).

     "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5). No amount of good works can make up for the wrongs that we have committed. We are dependent on God’s grace and mercy for salvation.

     However, this does not mean that there is nothing for us to do. God has extended the free gift of His pardon to all mankind with certain conditions attached. "Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). "If you love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15). We cannot earn salvation by doing these things, but to receive salvation we must meet God’s conditions.

     When the people on Pentecost realized that they were sinners, they cried out, "What shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). When Saul of Tarsus came to see His need for Christ, he asked, "Lord, what do you want me to do?" (Acts 9:6). They understood that there was something for them to do. No one can be saved without doing what Christ says we must do to be saved.

The Gospel is God’s Power for Salvation

     We must hear the gospel of Christ. The word "gospel" means good news. Jesus told His apostles, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:16). Why? Because Paul said of the gospel, "It is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek" (Romans 1:16). The gospel is God’s revelation of salvation.

     Why is important that we hear the gospel? "For ‘whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’ How then shall call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard?…So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:13-17). Because Jesus Christ gave His life as a ransom for our sins, He wants us to listen to His word.

     We must also believe the gospel. The basic message of Jesus was, "Repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:14). This means believing that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. "For if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins" (John 8:24). The scriptures were written "that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name" (John 20:31).

     This is why the jailor was told, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, and your household" (Acts 16:31). "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6).

Repentance and Confession Necessary to Salvation

     We must repent of our sins. Jesus told the people of His day, "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish" (Luke 13:8). In preaching the gospel, the apostles preached repentance. Paul said, "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30). We cannot continue in a sinful life and expect God to save us.

     What is repentance? The word signifies a change of mind or heart. "For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted" (2 Corinthians 7:10). Repentance is a change of mind produced by godly sorrow for sin that leads to a change of life. It is a turning away from sin and a turning toward God.

     We must also confess Christ. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). This simply means having the courage and conviction to acknowledge publicly that Jesus is the Christ, as did the Ethiopian eunuch who was willing to confess, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Acts 8:37).

     Why is this so important? Paul explained, "That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Romans 10:9-10). We cannot be saved without openly pledging ourselves to Christ.

Obedience to the Gospel of Salvation

     We must be baptized. Jesus said, "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). As the apostles preached the gospel, they said, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). The Bible never says that we are saved then baptized because our sins have already been forgiven. It says that we are baptized "for the remission of sins."

     When we are baptized into Christ, we are baptized into His death (Romans 6:3-4). Jesus shed His blood in His death; therefore, we are baptized into the cleansing power of His blood. When we are baptized, we put on Christ (Galatians 3:26-27). All spiritual blessings, including salvation, are in Christ, so we must put Him on in baptism to have salvation. "There is also an antitype which now saves us–baptism" (1 Peter 3:21).

     Why must we do these things? Again, it is not to earn salvation by good works but to obey God’s terms for salvation. What if we do not obey? When Jesus returns, He will come, "taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

     However, if we obey, we are promised a reward. Jesus Christ is said to be "the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Hebrews 5:8-9). He is the source of salvation not just to those who believe Him, but to all who obey Him. Have you obeyed? (—taken from The Preceptor; March, 2005; Vol. 54, No. 3; pp. 12-14)

Miraculous Divine Healing

MIRACULOUS DIVINE HEALING

by Wayne S. Walker

     There is no doubt that Jesus healed people miraculously (Matthew 10:1), as did other inspired men of the first century. However, we do not have nor need healing of a miraculous nature today for three reasons.

I. Its purpose was fulfilled

     A. The purpose of Jesus’s miracles was to produce faith (John 3:2, 4:53, 5:36, 10:37-38). How is faith produced today? By the wrotten word (John 20:30-31, Romans 10:17; see also John 17:11-20).

     B. The purpose of the apostles’ miracles was to reveal and confirm the world (Mark 16:17-20, Acts 2:43, 1 Corinthians 2:1-6, 2 Corinthians 12:11-12, Ephesians 3:3-5, Hebrews 2:1-4). Since the word has already been confirmed, there is no need for further confirmation (Galatians 3:15).

     C. The purpose of miracles inthe early church was for edification and teaching before the New Testament was finished (1 Corinthians 12:7-12; 14:1-4, 22-26). But today we have the completed scriptures for teaching and edification (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

     D. 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 affirms that when the perfect revelation came (James 1:25), the "in-part" methods of revelation would pass away.

II. The means by which it was obtained passed away

     A. Jesus promised the baptism of the Holy Spirit directly to the apostles (Acts 1:2-8, 26; 2:1-14; cf. John chapters 14-16). It was also given to Cornelius (Acts 10:44-48, 11:13-18), but offered to no one else.

     B. In every other case, all supernatural gifts came through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, not by prayer or direct bestowal from Christ (Acts 6:5-8, 8:14-18, 19:6; Romans 1:11; 2 Timothy 1:6).

     C. Since we do not have living apostles today (Acts 1:21-22, 1 Corinthians 15:8), whatever measure of the Holy Sprit we have comes by faith, not miracle (Galatians 3:2, Ephesians 1:13).

     D. The evidence of the Spirit in our lives today is not miraculous activity, but the qualities and characteristics that the Spirit teaches us in the word to have (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:18-21; cf. Colossians 3:16).

III. The nature of New Testament miracles is not and cannot be duplicated today

     A. They were distinctive and identifiable. People could see and tell they were not by natural means (Acts 8:6-12, 19:11-17).

     B. They were plainly visible and testable, not internal, emotional, or psychosomatic. Nor were they done in far away places and simply reported (John 9:1, 6, 7).

     C. They were undeniable, not subject to debate. Enemies opposed them but had to admit their existence (Matthew 12:22-32; Acts 2:22-23, 4:16, 14:9-12).

     D. They were complete, not partial. No one was ever told to come back for futher healing (John 5:5-9).

     E. They were immediate and instantaneous, not gradual. Niraculous healing never took place over a period of time (Acts 3:7-8).

     F. They were universal. All manner of diseases were cured and everyone who came was healed (Matthew 4:23-25, 12:15; Acts 5:16).

     We believe that God answers prayers and that He works today through His providence to heal the sick (James 5:13-15). But there are no miracles today as in the Bible. (—originally written for the bulletin of the church of Christ in Medina, OH, and reprinted in Torch; May, 1981; Vol. XVI, No. 5; pp. 13-15)

The Gospel

THE GOSPEL

by Wayne S. Walker

     The Bible teaches that a number of items are necessary for salvation, that we are not saved by any one thing alone. One of them is the gospel of Jesus Christ. "In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise" (Ephesians 1:13).

Good News!

     What is the gospel? Our English word "gospel" comes from an Anglo-Saxon term which literally means "good news." The word in the New Testament translated "gospel" means "good message" or "glad tiding" (Romans 10:15). "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:10). The gospel in essence is the good news of salvation in Christ by divine grace through man’s obedient faith (Ephesians 2:8). "…Preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who doe snot believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:15-16).

Content

     What is the content of the gospel? "Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you….For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). The gospel contains these facts which one must believe to be saved. However, the gospel must also be obeyed (Romans 10:16). Facts themselves cannot be obeyed; commands can be obeyed. Thus, the gospel also contains commands. This is why Jesus said that preaching the gospel includes commands to believe and be baptized (Mark 16:16). Furthermore, the gospel has preciuos promises, as the hope laid up in heaven (Colossians 1:5).

God’s Gift

     What is God’s part in the gospel? First of all, the gospel is the good news of salvation in Christ alone, and God has made all the provisions to grant us salvation by His grace. Paul preached "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). Additionally, God has revealed all these provisions in the gospel–both what He has done to make salvation available, and those conditions upon which we can receive it. Paul says "that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ through the gospel" (Ephesians 3:3-6).

Man’s Responsibility

     What is man’s part in the gospel? To be saved from sin people must believe the gospel (Mark 1:14). Before people can believe the gospel, they must hear it (Acts 15:7). Then they must obey the gospel, because those who do not obey the gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction for their sin (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8). Both those who hear and those who preach the gospel must not accept a perverted gospel (Galatians 1:6-11).

Gospel and Doctrine

     What is the relationship between the gospel and doctrine? Some affirm a distinction between the gospel, to be preached only to the lost, and doctrine, to be taught only to the church. This distinction has been the basis for several false ideas, including unscriptural "unity in diversity." Such a distinction is not scriptural. Paul was coming to the saints (church) at Rome to preach the gospel to them (Romans 1:7-15). At the same time, these Romans were Christians because when they were lost they"obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine" by which they were freed from sin (Romans 6:17-18). Sound doctrine andthe gospel are co-extensive in the saving and sanctifying of man (1 Timothy 1:10-11).

Conclusion

     Jesus has given us marching orders: "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15). We sing, "Of one the Lord has made the race, Through one has come the fall; Where sin has gone must go His grace: The gospel is for all" (J. M. McCaleb). The gospel is for all, because all have sinned (Romans 3:23). The fact that people must hear and believe the gospel means that those who are saved have an obligation to preach the gospel to a lost world (1 Corinthians 1:17). Let us confidently say, "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16). Let us believe it, obey it, preach it, and defend it with all our might. (—taken from Christianity Magazine; Sept./Oct., 1999; Vol. 16, No. 9-10; p. 21)

Eternal Security

ETERNAL SECURITY

by Wayne S. Walker

     One of the tenets of Reformed theology which John Calvin adopted and propagated was that of "the perseverance of the saints." Often it is referred to as the doctrine of "once in grace, always in grace." Or stated as a proposition, it reads, "A child of God cannot so sin as to lose his soul eternally." Much has recently been said, and needs to be, concerning the relation of Calvinism to modern heresies among our brethren, but it is my purpose to examine this particular doctrine as it would be presented by a sectarian preacher of the Calvinist persuasion.

The Arguments For

     A primary argument made for this kind of teaching is an emotional one. It may be asked, "If your son did not do what you asked, would you completely reject him as you claim God will His unfaithful children?" The fact that many have been disinherited in times past does not seem to deter the inquirer. Nor does the fact that we cannot determine what God will or will not do by what man thinks or does, since God is not to be limited by human feelings. By applying a little reason to the situation, I think we can see a point that is overlooked. Suppose I were to make a promise to my hypothetical son–say a new car upon graduation from college. But if he should drop out his junior year, am I still obligated to give him the car? The obvious answer is no, even though he is my son and I still love him. The reason he would not receive the promise is that he did not complete the stipulations on his part. The application is that God has promised His children eternal life, if they remain faithful to Him and do His will. But if those conditions are not met, God is under no obligation to carry out His promise, even though it involves His own children.

     Emotion is not the only basis for argument, however. Calvinists know well how to twist Bible passages in attempting to prove their doctrine, all the while wresting the scriptures to their own destruction. A favorite passage in 1 John 3:9, "Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God." The word "commit" is not in the original language, and the present construction of the Greek verb indicates habitual and persistent sin. That is, a child of God no longer lives in sin. The word "cannot" does not necessarily imply absolute impossibility (see Gen. 19:19, 42:22) but rather conditional or permissive impossibility. Notice also that the one "born of God" is the one that "doeth righteousness" (1 John 2:29), that is, continues to do righteousness. Besides, if this verse taught the impossibility of apostasy, it would have John contradicting himself, for in 1 John 2:1, he said he wrote to his readers that they sin not. Why write this warning if it were not possible for them to sin, or be in danger of losing their souls through sin? John recognized the possibility of apostasy.

     Other passages similarly perverted are John 3:16 and 5:24. We are told, "It says, ‘shall not perish’ and ‘shall not come into condemnation.’" But note the condition of believing in both verses, again in the present tense denoting continuative action. No one denies that the true and faithful believer will not perish, but the question is, can a believer become an unbeliever? Hebrews 3:12 answers the question, "Yes!" John 10:28 is also misused: "Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." But of whom is Jesus speaking? Verse 27 says it is His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him. The possibility exists that some of His sheep will not follow. Another misapplied verse is 1 Corinthians 10:13, where Paul said that God will make a way of escape for the Christian in temptation. This is supposed to mean that since God has provided a means of escape, therefore a Christian cannot sin. However, the verse in no way intimates that a Christian must take the escape route. All it says is that there is a way out of temptation for the Christian to take if he will; many will not, though, and will yield as revealed in James 1:14-15.

     Two more passages worthy of examination are Ephesians 1:13-14 and Romans 8:34-39. According to this false doctrine, the seal of the Spirit is set upon Christians to make it impossible for them to fall. While it is true that the Holy Spirit is given us as a seal to guard and protect us, it does not discount the possibility of the seal being broken. Nowhere is it stated that the Holy Ghost must remain as a seal on someone who does not want to be sealed any longer. The Spirit can be grieved (Eph. 4:30). Then we are told, "Nothing can separate us from the love of Gold."’ Not even unfaithfulness on the part of a Christian, I suppose. Something did separate Demas from God, though–the love of the world (2 Tim. 4:10). Something separated the Ephesians from the Lord, too; they left their first love (Rev. 2:4). What Romans 8 actually teaches is that one who truly loves God (verse 28) and keeps his Word will not be separated from the love of God.

What Saith the Scriptures?

     Turning from the defensive, we now present scriptural teaching concerning the possibility of Christians falling. 1 Corinthians 10:12 warns, "Let him that thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall." It is argued that the context concerns the Israelites before the cross who were not under the New Testament dispensation. This reasoning is a misuse of the context and unnecessarily restricts it. The point Paul is making is that those Israelites fell because of their sins; so you Corinthians take heed lest ye fall. In Galatians, Paul plainly tells some "children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" (3:27) that "Ye are fallen from grace" (5:4). The reason they were fallen was that they were "removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel" (1:6). There is no doubt the Bible teaches a child of God can fall from grace. The question now is whether that fallen Christian will still be saved.

     In Hebrews 6:4-6, the writer spoke of some "who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of-the Holy Ghost, and have tasted of the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come" who later fell away and became so hardened that it was impossible to renew them unto repentance. Their state was that they had crucified "to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put him to an open shame." Now, can one in that condition have a home in heaven, even though he was once enlightened? Again, we turn to 2 Peter 2:20-22 and read of some who had "escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ" but had again become entangled in them. Peter said that "The latter end is worse than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." If a person who has been born again yet falls in sin will still be saved, how is the latter end worse than the first? If one who has sinned in this manner is worse off than one who has never become a Christian, how can he go to heaven? Then in Galatians 6:1, Paul encourages his spiritual minded brethren to restore those who were overtaken in a fault. Why attempt to restore such people if they, as Christians, will be saved despite their sin?

     Some Calvinist preachers have made statements to the effect that they could murder, rape, prostitute themselves, even commit idolatry, and it would still be impossible for them to go to hell because they are supposedly born again children of God and He could never go back on His promise to save them. Let us see what the Bible says. Can a Christian lie? Ananias and Sapphira did in Acts 5:3. Revelation 21:8 says, "All liars shall have their part in the lake that burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death." No distinction is made between "regenerate" liars and unregenerate ones. Can a child of God get drunk? Evidently it is possible, for Paul warns the Ephesian saints against it in Ephesians 5:18. Yet of drunkenness it is said, "that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5:21). There is no difference here between drunkards who are Christians and those who are not. Again, can one born again commit fornication? Yes, for a brother could be a fornicator (1 Cor. 5:11). But no fornicator "shall inherit the kingdom of God" (1 Cor. 6:10). Nothing is said about children of God who commit fornication as opposed to fornicators of the world. The Bible teaches that a Christian can commit sins that are worthy of eternal punishment, and if they do, they will lose their souls in hell.

Conclusion

     The apostle Paul recognized the possibility of apostasy in 1 Corinthians 9:27. He realized that through his body, he could sin in such a way as to be rejected or cast away. The verse does not say he would be rejected by his listeners, as some claim. The word means "disqualified". in the original language. Disqualified from what’?–from running the race and gaining the prize of verses 24-26. The parable of the sower also shows that a child of God can fall from grace. In Luke 8:13-14, Jesus told of some who heard and received the Word, yet in time of temptation, or through the cares and pleasures of this world, fell away. Will they be saved eternally?

     Someone might ask, "Well, do you believe in eternal security or not?" Yes, I believe in eternal security, but I believe what the Bible says about it, and that is, that it is conditional. In 2 Peter 1:10, after listing the characteristics that one must possess to be a faithful, growing Christian, the apostle said, "For if ye do these things, ye shall never fall." Note that well–"if ye do these things." "If" introduces a condition. Truly, Christ is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9). The true Christian who constantly seeks to manifest godly qualities in his life shall never fall. But his eternal security is conditional on his remaining faithful. On the other hand, one who fails to meet the conditions and does not continue to obey, forfeits his eternal security, for God is no longer bound to keep His promise.

     The teaching that a child of God cannot so sin as to lose his soul in hell is a false teaching invented by the devil and is a cop-out. It allows a person to soothe his conscience and "feel saved" in spite of the sin he may allow in his life. Certainly not all who believe unconditional perseverance of the saints actually think this way, at least consciously; but anyone who accepts the doctrine does not have to be so careful with his life as one who knows that when he yields to the temptations of Satan, his sin may cause him to lose his eternal security. Then, do I doubt my salvation? Not a bit. I know that as long as I act in harmony with God’s will that I will be eternally saved. And the fact that if I get out of step I may be lost provides additional motivation to live as God would have me to. I would hope that all who teach impossibility of apostasy will come to recognize the teaching for what it is–a ****able departure from the teaching of God’s Word. (—taken from Truth Magazine; January 13, 1977; Vol. XXI, No. 2, pp. 28-29)