Can You Be an Undenominational Christian?

CAN YOU BE AN UNDENOMINATIONAL CHRISTIAN?

By Wayne S. Walker

     What denomination were Peter, Paul, Philip, and Barnabas members of?  I dare say that practically everyone would agree that they were not members of any denomination, for there were no denominations in the first century.  Is it possible today for a person to be as they were?  I am not speaking of being in an ecclesiastical organization which simply claims to be “non-denominational.”  I am talking about actually being an undenominational Christian.

Our aim is to proclaim undenominational Christianity and plead for a return to God’s ways.  The basis for salvation in New Testament times was the response of human beings to the preaching of the good news of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:15-16).  He, possessing all the attributes of Deity, gave up the glory of heaven and came to this earth as a humble Savior (Philippians 2:5-8).  As a result of His death, burial, and resurrection, salvation was offered as a free gift to all who would submit to Him by faith (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

Those who were thus saved by their trust and obedience were added by the Lord to His church (Acts 2:36-41, 47).  They were Christians—and Christians only (Acts 11:26, 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16).  Our message is that people can be saved in the same way and can still be just Christians today.   The Bible presents all the saved as one spiritual body in Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23, 4:4, 5:23).  Can you be in this body or church without affiliation to a denomination?  God’s word teaches that you can, and this is what we want to announce.

How is all this accomplished?  “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11).  The same gospel of Christ is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16).  It can be preached today as it was in the first century, and folks can obey from the heart that same form of doctrine as they did in New Testament days (Romans 6:17-18; cf. vs. 3-4).  When this happens, then the same results will be forthcoming—just like planting the same kind of seed year after year.  If you are interested in this, we would like to study further with you.  Won’t you give it some thought?

“Behold, I Thought”

BEHOLD, I THOUGHT

By Wayne S. Walker

     In 2 Kings chapter 5, the Syrian general Naaman, a leper, was sent to the prophet Elisha of Israel for healing.  The command of Elisha to the diseased Syrian general, as given through his messenger, was to “go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (v. 10).

“But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand, and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper.  Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  May I not wash in them and be clean?  So he turned and went away in a rage” (vs. 11-12).

Naaman thought that Elisha himself should come out.  He thought that the man of God would put on a big show and use a lot of hocus-pocus.  He thought that washing in the Jordan to cleanse leprosy was a ridiculous act.  He thought that the rivers of Syria were better than those of Israel.  He may even have thought that seven times were a few too many.  His main problem is that HE thought.

Let’s make some applications.  What must one do to be saved or have forgiveness of sins?  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).  “Repent and be baptized, everyone of you, in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven.  And you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38, NIV).  But someone says, “I thought that faith alone saves a person.”  Yes, we are justified by faith (Romans 5:1).  But what about “faith only”?  Listen to James 2:24.  “Ye see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.”  Faith must work through love (Galatians 5:6).

“But,” someone else replies, “I thought that a sinner is saved by repentance and prayer.  My preacher told me to go down to the altar (or mourner’s bench) and pray for salvation till I prayed through.”  Is that how Saul of Tarsus was saved?  The Lord told him on the road to Damascus, “Arise and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do” (Acts 9:6).  For three days he fasted and prayed (vs. 9-11).  But he had still not been told what he must do.  Then Jesus sent Ananias to tell him what to do.  “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).  And he did it (Acts 9:18).  This he had to do to wash away his sins even after three days of repentance and prayer.  And what He did to be saved is a pattern for us (1 Timothy 1:15-16)

Again one responds, “I thought that salvation came by confessing the Lord and accepting Him as my personal Savior.”  Yes, we must confess Jesus (Matthew 10:32-33, Romans 10:9-10).  But note what Jesus Himself said in Matthew 7:21.  “Not everyone that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.”  How do we show our love for Christ and accept Him as Savior?  By profession only?  No.  “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).

Another answers, “But I thought that the Holy Spirit comes into the sinner’s heart and saves him.”  Certainly the Spirit has a role in salvation (John 16:7-13).  But did He save Cornelius directly and miraculously?  In Acts 10 we learn that Cornelius was to send for Peter who would tell Him words by which he would be saved (vs. 1-6, 30-33; cf. 11:13-14).  Peter came and began to preach to this Gentile and his family about Christ (vs. 34-43).  Then the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard.  But is this what saved them?  Peter evidently didn’t think so, because he said, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?  And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord…” (vs. 47-48).  These were the words by which Cornelius and his house were saved.

Naaman finally listened to his servants, decided to surrender his stubborn will, and “went down, and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God: and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child; and he was clean.”  When Naaman did exactly as he was told, his leprosy left him and he was cleansed.  The water itself did not cleanse him, nor did he earn his cleansing by dipping, but he had to obey God’s will to be clean.  When a person today has completely obeyed from the heart the word of God, the result is that he or she will be made free from sin (Romans 6:17-18).

What Naaman thought did not matter with God; nor is He interested in what you and I think. “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord.  ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

Asleep in Jesus

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ASLEEP IN JESUS

By Wayne S. Walker

     In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14 Paul wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep in Jesus, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.”  Being “asleep in Jesus” does not refer to being annihilated or even unconscious, but to being at rest and peace.  In 1832 Margaret MacKay wrote a little poem entitled “Asleep in Jesus,” which was set to music as a hymn in 1842 by William Batchelder Bradbury.  It has been in many of our hymnbooks and used to be quite popular, especially at funerals.  It still contains a good message for us to consider.

“Asleep in Jesus! Blessèd sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep; A calm and undisturbed repose, Unbroken by the last of foes.”  Again, being asleep in Jesus means being at rest.  “Then I heard a voice from heaven saying to me, ‘Write: “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”’”  ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them’” (Revelation 14:13).

“Asleep in Jesus! Oh, how sweet, To be for such a slumber meet, With holy confidence to sing That death has lost his venomed sting!”  Being asleep in Jesus means victory!   “’O Death, where is your sting?  O Hades, where is your victory?’  The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

“Asleep in Jesus! Peaceful rest, Whose waking is supremely blessed; No fear, no woe, shall dim that hour That manifests the Savior’s power.”  Being asleep in Jesus means looking forward to the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  “And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, ‘Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven’” (Acts 1:10-11).

“Asleep in Jesus! Oh, for me May such a blessèd refuge be!  Securely shall my ashes lie And wait the summons from on high.”  Being asleep in Jesus means awaiting until the final resurrection of the dead.  “That I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11).

“Asleep in Jesus! Far from thee Thy kindred and their graves may be; But there is still a blessèd sleep, From which none ever wakes to weep.”  Being asleep in Jesus means the hope of being reunited with others who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17).

On Monday, May 2, 1994, my mother, Mary Ellen Walker, fell asleep in Jesus.  She was born on August 3. 1929, the eldest daughter of Glen and Mildred (Holladay) Workman, and was baptized into Christ on October 13, 1940.  She married my father, Ernest B. Walker, on December 7, 1952, and had two sons.  I was born in 1954.  My brother, who was born in 1956, preceded her in death in 1976.  While living in Ohio she was a member of the Northside (originally Park Avenue) church of Christ in Hillsboro, and after moving to South Carolina in 1986, she was a member of the Central church of Christ in Greenwood.

Unless the Lord comes first, someday each one of us shall also “fall asleep” to await the coming of Christ, the resurrection from the dead, and the final judgment.   “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).  May we love God, labor in His service, and live our lives in such a way that when this time comes we shall be ready to meet him having been “asleep in Jesus.”

(—taken from With All Boldness; June, 1994; Vol. 4, No. 6; p. 20)

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The Four Great Calls

THE FOUR GREAT CALLS

By Wayne S. Walker

     One of the amazing marvels of modern technology is the cell phone.  Nearly everybody has one, including everyone in my family.  They are practically ubiquitous.  It is almost amusing to see what I consider “little kids,” twelve, ten, even eight, running around with their camera phones snapping pictures of everything in sight and texting all their friends.

However, I shall let my younger readers in on a little secret.  Back in the “dark ages,” when I was a young boy growing up at home, we did not have cell phones.  Nobody did.  They were not invented yet.  So, if you were expecting an important phone call, you just had to hang around the house, stay near the phone, and wait for that old “land line” to ring.  This raises an interesting question.  From whom might you be expecting that important call?

Might it be a boyfriend or girlfriend?  Could it be Grandpa or Grandma inviting you over to spend the night at their house for a special occasion?  Or would it be your teacher or maybe the principal to talk about some matter at school?  If you were a bit older, might it be your employer, or, if you were looking for a job, a prospective employer?

Not many of us ever expected a call from the mayor of the city or the governor of the state, and most surely not from the President of our nation.  And no one would have even thought to await a telephone call from God.  Yet, although we know that God does not necessarily utilize the telephone, the Bible teaches that God has called people.  “Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered’” (Jeremiah 35:17).

God called Israel, not on the phone but through His law and the prophets, yet they did not listen.  To use the vernacular, He kept calling them, but they would not pick up and answer the telephone.  Therefore, they were ultimately destroyed.  And God is still calling people today.  Are we listening?  Will we answer?  Each of the next four issues of this bulletin will contain an article about one of “the four great calls” that God has for mankind.

The Call of the Gospel

     The first of the four great calls is the call of the gospel.  “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  What is the gospel?

Our English word “gospel” comes from two Anglo-Saxon roots and basically means “good news.”  It is used to translate a word in the original language of the New Testament that literally means “good news” or “good tidings” or “good message.”   The gospel is obviously very important to Christ because He told His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).  From this, we conclude that the gospel is a message which can be preached.

Furthermore, we learn that Christ wants this gospel message to be preached to “every creature.”  He is talking not about cats and dogs, horses and cows, or elephants and giraffes, but about human creatures, mankind, people in all the world.  Thus, we understand that God intends the call of the gospel to be universal.  It is for everyone.  But what is the substance of that message?  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  It is the message of salvation for all mankind through Christ.

Paul confirms this.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  Of course, this raises the question, salvation from what?  Paul sets forth his thesis here and then explains it through the rest of the book.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  This is true of all responsible human beings.  The call of the gospel is universal because the problem which it is intended to solve is universal.

So, we all sin, but why do we need to be saved from sin?  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Sin has a penalty attached to it, and that is death.  The “death” under consideration here is not physical death but spiritual death, the opposite of “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Hence, because of our sin, we stand condemned to eternal death.  However, God does not want that and has devised a plan to save us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  This is the essence of the gospel message.

Therefore, based on what Paul says, no one can be saved from sin and its penalty apart from hearing and responding to the call of the gospel, and this response involves obedience.  How do we know this?  Notice what Paul says will happen to those who do not hear and respond to the call of the gospel.  “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

In summary, all responsible human beings have sinned and are under the penalty of spiritual death.  However, God loves us and wants to save us, so He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.  He then revealed His plan for our salvation in the gospel, which includes His terms which we must obey to receive it.  Just as God chose the Thessalonians for salvation and called them by the gospel, so He calls all people in every generation through the gospel.  “…Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).  Have you heard and obeyed the call of the gospel?

The Call of Death

     The second great call from God is the call of death.  “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).  The call of the gospel is universal, but God gives each individual the choice of responding or not.  The call of death is also universal, as well as the two to follow, yet in these there will be no choice.  We shall respond to this call, except for those alive when Christ returns.

God ordained physical death as a consequence of the fact that sin was brought into the world.  We remember how God created man in His own image, male and female.  He made the male from the dust of the ground and put him in the garden with the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   Then He determined to make a helper suitable for the male, so took a rib from Adam, and fashioned Eve.  However, Eve yielded to the temptation of the devil, ate the forbidden fruit, and gave some to her husband.  They sinned.

One of the consequences of this sin is found in Genesis 3:19.  God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”  While we understand that physical death is not a specific punishment for sin—not everyone dies physically when they sin, and little babies who have not sinned sometimes die–we often think of it as a general punishment for sin, and the Bible does call it “the last enemy.”  Yet, there is also a measure of God’s grace and goodness here.  Once man sinned, God did not want him to live forever in a condemned state, so he decreed that we must die.

What happens when we die?  The most succinct description occurs in Ecclesiastes 12:7.  Solomon begins the chapter in the days of our youth, then proceeds in highly figurative language to describe the process of growing old, culminating in the time when the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken, a symbolic picture of death, after which he says, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  We humans are dual beings.  We have a physical body which is made up of the same elements as the earth, and we have an inner man, called the soul or spirit, which is made in God’s image.  At death, the body returns to the dust of the ground from which it was taken, and the soul returns to God, the Father of spirits.

While there is a lot that we simply do not know about what happens at death because it is not revealed, Jesus gives us a little more detail in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Lazarus was a beggar covered with sores who was laid at the gate of a certain rich man who was clothed in fine linen and fared sumptuously.  The implication is that the beggar was righteous but the rich man was not.  “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).

At their deaths, we would conclude that the bodies of both men were buried and returned to the ground, but the text tells us that their souls returned to the control of God and were in a place called Hades, the unseen realm of departed spirits who await the end of time, second coming of Christ, general resurrection, and final judgment.  However, Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom, a portion elsewhere called Paradise, while the rich man was in torments, a portion elsewhere called Tartarus, and they were separated by a great gulf.  Again, this call of death is universal.  All who have lived on earth, except Enoch and Elijah, have died, and all who are now alive or ever will live, except those alive at Christ’s coming, will die.  Are you ready for it?

The Call of the Resurrection

     The third of the four great calls from God is the call of the resurrection.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Here, again, we see the universality of this call.  As we noted in our previous article, because of Adam’s sin the sentence of physical death was brought upon all mankind.  Paul then says that because of Christ’s own resurrection from the dead, all mankind will be raised again.

Jesus Himself talked about this coming resurrection.  “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).  Some claim that there will be two separate resurrections—Jesus will come back once to raise the righteous dead and then after a thousand years, during which time the righteous will rule on the earth, will come back still another time to raise the wicked dead.

Yet Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.”  The word “hour” suggests a point in time.  So Jesus is saying that at the same point in time, all who are in the graves, both those who have done good and those who have done evil, will be resurrected.  There is simply no room in Jesus’s statement for two different resurrections separated by a thousand years.  All the dead, both righteous and wicked, will be raised at the same time.  However, most of the other passages which speak of the resurrection deal primarily with the resurrection of the righteous.

Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.   Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

As long as we remain in these physical, fleshly bodies we cannot dwell with God in heaven.  So, while not everyone will die before the Lord comes, all must be changed.  Paul is telling us that when Christ returns, the righteous dead will be raised in changed, incorruptible bodies, and then the righteous living will also be changed (cf. Philippians 3:20-21).  In both instances, this mortal will put on immortality and we shall have the final victory.

Paul also wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Here Paul talks about the results of this resurrection.  When the Lord descends, the dead in Christ will rise first.  “Aha!” says someone; “then second the dead out of Christ will rise a thousand years later.”  Unfortunately for this doctrine, that is not what Paul says.  The second thing that Paul says will happen is that those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  The word “thus” means in this way.  Following the resurrection, the risen dead and the changed living will meet the Lord in the air, and “thus,” in the air, they will always be with the Lord.  There will be no coming back to this earth to rule a thousand years because there will be no physical world left (cf. 2 Peter 3:10).  This is what the Bible teaches about the call of the resurrection.  Will you be raised to life or to condemnation?

The Call of Judgment

     The last great call from God is the call of judgment.  “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  These verses speak of the universal nature of this call.  Some have suggested that perhaps Christians will simply bypass judgment and slip directly into heaven, but the Bible teaches that everyone—including you and me—will be present at the judgment.  Remember that the Hebrew writer said that it is appointed for men to die once and after this the judgment.

Even those in Old Testament days knew that there will be a final judgment.  Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).  Here we learn the basis for this judgment—God will examine every work, including even the secret things, whether good or evil so that each one will receive a reward or punishment based on the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  “Each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Jesus also spoke about this coming judgment.  “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).  Here we learn both the standard and the time for judgment.  The standard will be the word of Christ.  The things which we have done will be compared to the teachings of Christ, and we shall be judged accordingly.  The time will be “the last day.”  We do not know exactly when that will be, but it will occur after the second coming of Christ, the general resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of the earth.  Again, Jesus calls it “the last day.”

And Paul talked about the judgment.  “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).  Here we learn both who the judge will be and the assurance of judgment.  Paul said that God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness, but He will do so by the Man whom He has ordained, who, of course, is His Son Jesus Christ.  And just as surely as Jesus was raised from the dead, so we can be assured that judgment will come.

Someday, everyone will hear the call of death and the call of the resurrection, except for those alive at Christ’s return, and even they will hear the call to be changed and to rise to meet the Lord in the air.  Then all of us will hear the call of judgment.  The only way to be prepared for those calls is to hear and respond to the call of the gospel in obedience to God’s will.  “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

—taken from Faith and Facts Quarterly; October, 2016; Volume 43, Number 4; pp. 63-73

The Bible, Sex Ed, and STDs

THE BIBLE, SEX ED, AND STDS

By Wayne S. Walker

     Recently, I came across a sheet of paper from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), a U. S. government agency, entitled “Information for Teens: Staying Healthy and Preventing STDs.”  I assume that it was intended for use in high school sex education and/or health classes for students to learn more about “sexually transmitted diseases.”  After presenting some factual information about what STDs are, how they are spread, and why they are so common especially among young people, with which I have no objection, the paper then explains some things that teens can do to protect themselves.

The first suggestion is as follows:   “The surest way to protect yourself against STDs is to not have sex. That means not having any vaginal, anal, or oral sex (‘abstinence’). There are many things to consider before having sex, and it’s okay to say ‘no’ if you don’t want to have sex.”  This advice is in perfect harmony with God’s word.  “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.  Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own?  For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

“There,” someone says, “they taught abstinence.”  But wait a minute.  The very next suggestion goes on to say, “If you do decide to have sex, you and your partner should get tested beforehand and make sure that you and your partner use a condom—every time you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex, from start to finish.”  One either teaches abstinence, or one doesn’t.  It’s not an “either-or” situation.  “If you do decide to have sex,” then you’re not practicing abstinence, and if the teacher allows for that possibility, then he or she isn’t really teaching abstinence.

The paper also offers this advice.  “It is not safe to stop using condoms unless you’ve both been tested, know your status, and are in a mutually monogamous relationship.  Mutual monogamy means that you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other. This can help protect against STDs, as long as you’ve both been tested and know you’re STD-free.”  Not quite.  Monogamy literally means “one marriage” and is defined “the condition or practice of having only one wife or husband at a time.”  This, too, is in perfect harmony with God’s word.  “Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge” (Hebrews 13:4).  In other words, sex is to be limited to marriage.

So in truth, monogamy does NOT mean “that you and your partner both agree to only have sexual contact with each other.”  That’s just committing fornication with only one partner.  Monogamy really means a husband and a wife having sexual relations only with each other.  By the way, using condoms may reduce the risk of STDs, but condoms can leak, break, or slip off, so they are not a 100% foolproof way of avoiding STDs (or unwanted pregnancies either).  The only absolute way of doing that is to refrain from sex prior to marriage and then to have sex only with your spouse after marriage.  It appears, after all, that God must have known what He was talking about all along.

—in “Search for Truth;” February 5, 2017; Vol. VIII, No. 7

The Gifts Christ Gave to the Church

THE GIFTS CHRIST GAVE TO THE CHURCH

By Wayne S. Walker

     Human-founded churches have human heads—e.g., a pope, a president, or a moderator.  However, the church of the New Testament, in the universal sense, has no earthly organization, only heavenly.  The head of the church is Jesus Christ Himself (Col. 1:18-19).  As the head of the church, Christ gave certain gifts to it in order for it to function as He desires.  “Therefore He says: ‘When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive, and gave gifts to men.’  (Now this, “He ascended”—what does it mean but that He also first descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is also the One who ascended far above all the heavens, that He might fill all things.)   And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers” (Ephesians 4:8-11).  The purpose of this article is to look more closely at the gifts Christ gave to the church and how they relate to its functioning.

Apostles

     Again, Jesus Christ is the head of the church.  To help Him establish His body, to guide it in its infancy, and to reveal His word, He chose certain men known as apostles (2 Tim. 1:11).  It is important that we understand the work of the apostles.  An apostle is “one sent” to do a special task for another (Lk. 11:49).  The word can be used generally (Acts 14:14, Phil. 2:25), even of Christ (Heb. 3:1).  But most often it refers specifically to “the twelve” (Mk. 3:13-19).  After Judas hanged himself, he was replaced by Matthias, and Paul was later added to the number.

The authority of the apostles was given to them directly by Christ (Matt. 18:18).  They served as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:20), stewards of His mystery (1 Cor. 4:1-2), and His representatives (Lk. 10:16).  One example of their authority is found in Acts 4:34-37 where early disciples brought money for the needy saints to the apostles’ feet for distribution.  Their basic work was to be witnesses of Christ (Acts 1:5-8).  Acting as ministers of the New Covenant (2 Cor. 3:4-6) or “earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:1-7), they revealed God’s word (Eph. 3:3-5).  The result of their work is that they laid the foundation for the church (Eph. 2:19-23).

To be qualified as an apostle, one had to receive a divine call—not from man or through men (Gal. 1:1-12).  He must have seen the resurrected Christ of whom he was a witness (Acts 1:21-22).  Also he needed the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4) and the inspired guidance that the Spirit provided (John 16:13-15).  In addition, the apostles had miraculous power to confirm their message as true (Mk. 16:17-20, 2 Cor. 12:12).  Since the work of the apostles was foundational in nature and pertained to revealing the word, confirming it, and establishing the church, once it was done it needs no repeating.  Hence, there are no living apostles today.  We continue in the apostles’ doctrine by following the message which they revealed (Acts 2:42).

Prophets

     In addition to the apostles, there was a special class of people in the first century church who assisted in guiding the church and revealing the word known as prophets (Matt. 10:41).  Since many claim to have the gift of prophecy today, we need to study the work of the prophets.  From Old Testament background, we learn that the word “prophet” is defined as one who speaks forth for another (Exo. 4:15-16, 7:1).  Thus, in the Bible it usually means one who speaks for God and reveals His will to others (Deut. 18:18).  It always includes the idea of supernatural inspiration, if not in fact, at least in claim (Jer. 23:16, Ezek. 13:2; cf. Matt. 7:22).

There were prophets in the early church, as predicted in the Old Testament (Acts 2:17).  One who is named was Agabus (Acts 11:27-28, 21:10).  There were some prophets in the church at Antioch (Acts 13:1).  Judas and Silas are identified as prophets (Acts 15:32).  It is said that Philip’s four virgin daughters prophesied (Acts 21:9).  The work of these prophets was two-fold.  They are listed with the apostles in revealing the word (Eph. 2:20, 3:5).  They also taught in the church while the word was in the process of being revealed (1 Cor. 14:1-6).  The early church had to distinguish between true and false prophets (1 Jn. 4:1; cf. 1 Cor. 14:37).

In the Bible, a prophet was not just one who foretold the future.  Many times they did foretell the future, and when their prophecies came true, it was a sign that their message was from God, but their main function was simply revealing God’s will to people.  However, this gift was done away.  It was predicted even in the Old Testament that after the fountain would be opened for sin, the prophets would depart (Zech. 13:1-5).  Paul said in 1 Cor. 13:9-10 that when that which is perfect would come, that which was in part, including the gift of prophecy, would be done away.  We now have the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25).  There is no need for prophets today because all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and will make us perfect for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The work of prophets has ceased!

Evangelists

     Another gift that Christ gave to the church is evangelists.  The word “evangelist” literally means one who tells good news.  Some people make unnecessary distinctions.  They say that a minister is a preacher who works with a local church, an evangelist is a preacher who travels around, and a missionary is a preacher who goes oversees.  However, God’s word does not make any such distinctions.  Philip was called an evangelist, but he had a house in Caesarea (Acts 8:40, 21:8).  What is the work of an evangelist?  Paul told Timothy, who was to “remain in Ephesus” (1 Tim. 1:3), to “be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5).  Therefore, by examining various things that Paul told Timothy to do, we should be able to learn what the work of an evangelist is.

The primary function of an evangelist is to “preach the word” (2 Tim. 4:2).  The word “preach” here means to herald or proclaim, as John the Baptist went “preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Lk. 3:3).  The word needs to be preached because it alone is able to save our souls (Jas. 1:21) and to build us up (Acts 20:32).  The proper attitude to speak the truth is always in love (Eph. 4:15).  In preaching the word, he is to “instruct the brethren” (1 Tim. 4:6).  The King James Version says, “put the brethren in remembrance.”  Why?  Solomon tells us that there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl. 1:9).  The word of Jesus Christ does not change (Matt. 24:35).  Thus, there are many things of which Christians need to be reminded (cf. 2 Pet. 1:12-15).

An evangelist must “charge some that they teach no other doctrine” (1 Tim. 1:3).  There always have been and always will be false teachers (2 Pet. 2:1-3).  It is the duty of the evangelist to identify and rebuke them (Tit. 1:10-13).  Of course, the way in which this should be handled is with meekness (2 Tim. 2:24-26).  In order to fulfill his responsibilities, he is told to “meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them” (1 Tim. 4:15).  Certainly all Christians should search the scriptures (Acts 17:11).  But the evangelist has a special responsibility to “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, ASV).  This demands a thorough knowledge of the word, and the development of this knowledge will require much time in study (1 Tim. 4:13-14).

In addition, the evangelist is told to commit the word to faithful men who then can teach it to others (2 Tim. 2:2).  There is ever a need for teachers in the church (1 Cor. 12:28).  We shall write of these later in this article, but many who ought to be teachers cannot because they still have need of someone to teach them the basics (Heb. 5:12).  Each individual should seek to grow (1 Pet. 2:1-2).  But the evangelist can help train teachers.  And he should also “be an example to [of] the believer” (1 Tim. 4:12).  Again, all Christians must “live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world” (Tit. 2:12).  However, especially ought an evangelist show himself “a pattern of good works” (Tit. 2:7-8).  As a teacher himself, he has “a stricter judgment” (Jas. 3:1).  These passages help us to understand better the work of the evangelist.

Pastors

     The word “pastor” literally means shepherd.  Those who are told to pastor or shepherd the flock are also called elders.  We shall look more closely at the meaning and application of these words shortly.  However, we have noted that there were apostles and prophets in the first century church but there are none today for their work is no longer needed.  There were elders in the first century church (Acts 11:30).  And there are still elders today because their work is still needed.  Why is this so?  A Biblical study of the eldership (1 Tim. 4:14) will provide the answer to this question.

The word “elder” originally denoted seniority, the older of two or one older than others (Lk. 15:25, Tit. 2:2).  Among the Jews, it was used to refer to certain leaders of a city and then of a synagogue (Matt. 15:2; cf. Num. 11:16-23).  In the church it came to identify a particular work, called in the King James Version “the office of a bishop” (1 Tim. 3:1).  In fact, three terms are used to describe this function in Acts 20:17-28).  Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus.  Again “elder” means a senior, one older, advanced in life, and mature in training and experience with the wisdom that comes from age (1 Tim. 5:17).  He told these elders that the Holy Spirit had made them overseers or “bishops,” a word which indicates a manager, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent, hence a supervisor (Tit. 1:7).  These elders or bishops are then told to shepherd or “pastor” the flock, a verb form of the noun that is defined as a herdsman of sheep, one who leads, feeds, and tends a flock, thus a presiding officer, manager, or director (1 Pet. 5:2).

There were elders or bishops or pastors specifically mentioned in New Testament churches at Jerusalem (Acts 15:6), Ephesus (Acts 20:17), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 5:12), and Philippi (Phil. 1:1).  In fact, elders are to be appointed in every church (Acts 14:23).  There must always be a plurality in each congregation (Tit. 1:5), never a single “pastor.”  And they are always over one church only (1 Pet. 5:2), never one “bishop” over several churches.  The qualifications for this office are found in 1 Tim. 3:1-7 and Titus 1:5-9.  The reason there are qualifications for the eldership in Scripture is that we might be able to identify those men who are capable of doing the work of elders.  Indeed, elders have a work to do.  Being an elder is more than just an honorary office.  What is this work?

Elders are told, “Take heed therefore to yourselves” (Acts 20:28).  Surely all Christians must examine themselves (2 Cor. 13:5).  But this self-examination is especially important for teachers and leaders because they “shall receive heavier judgment” (Jas. 3:1, ASV).  Also, they must take heed unto the flock and watch for their souls (Heb. 13:17).  According to 1 Thess. 5:12, the elders “labor among” the congregation.  One example of this labor can be seen in Jas. 5:14 where those who are sick are told to send for the elders of the church to pray for them.

Next, elders are to take the oversight or “rule” (1 Tim. 5:17).  They are called “bishops” (Phil. 1:1) because they manage or superintend the affairs of the congregation.  An example of this function is found in Acts 11:27-30 where the funds from Antioch for needy Christians in Judea were sent to the hands of the elders, who then obviously oversaw their distribution.  Then, they are responsible for feeding or tending the flock (1 Pet. 5:2).  Like a shepherd provides physical food and water for his sheep (Ezek. 34:1-6ff), so elders should provide spiritual teaching.  In this they do the will of Jesus who is the chief Shepherd and Bishop of our souls (1 Pet. 2:25, 5:4).

In addition, elders ought to be examples (1 Pet. 5:3).  Again, all Christians are to be examples (1 Tim. 4:12), but as noted with evangelists, this is especially necessary in those who are leaders because of the influence of their position (Tit. 2:7-8).  Elders rule not by “lording it over” the flock but by leading through a life of faithfulness, purity, and service.  Finally, they will guard the church against false doctrine (Tit. 1:9-11).  In order for men to do the work of elders, but must perform all the duties outlined in scripture.  They cannot pick and choose which ones they want or think are more important.

Teachers

     When a local church is properly organized, elders will oversee with deacons to serve, and evangelists will preach.  But there is yet another work to be done.  In the church at Antioch, besides some prophets, there were teachers (Acts 13:1).  It is important that we understand the work of teachers in instructing the church.  In a sense, all Christians are to be teachers.  It is part of the great commission to be “teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20).  We have examples of teaching done by the apostles (Acts 5:42), Barnabas (Acts 15:35), Paul (1 Tim. 2:7), the elders (1 Tim. 3:2), and Timothy (1 Tim. 4:11).  There is a time when we ought to be teachers (Heb. 5:12).  One way in which some can teach is by “admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col. 3:16).

However, our original text indicates that there was a specific group of servants in the early church known as teachers and implies that this was a public function which, along with evangelists and pastors, would result in the perfecting of the saints (Eph. 4:12).  Not everyone falls into this particular category (1 Cor. 12:28-29).  In order for one to be a teacher, he must possess certain characteristics.  He must teach truth (1 Tim. 1:3), be knowledgeable (1 Tim. 1:7), be faithful (2 Tim. 2:2), be patient (2 Tim. 2:24), practice what he teaches (Rom. 2:21), and be diligent (Rom. 12:7).  Not everyone is able to be an elder or an evangelist, but all Christians can do the work of teaching in one sense or another if they will apply themselves.

Conclusion

     We all recognize that organization is essential wherever humans are involved, such as in civil affairs (Rom. 13:1-7), the home (Eph. 5:22-33), and business (Col. 3:22-25).  The same is true of the Lord’s church.  As we have previously seen, the universal church has no earthly organization.  Jesus Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 1:22-23), and He chose certain individuals as apostles and prophets to assist Him in establishing the church and revealing His word.  However, local churches do have organization (Tit. 1:5).  There are several different kinds of denominational church organization which often bind several congregations together into hierarchies, presbyteries, districts, synods, associations, and other human-founded societies.

However, New Testament churches are autonomous (Acts 14:23, 20:28); independent (1 Pet. 5:1-3); equal (2 Cor. 8:14); sufficient (Eph. 4:12-16); and identical in essentials (1 Cor. 4:17).  Since He is the head of the church, Christ is also the head of each local congregation (Col. 1:18).  The local overseers are known as elders or pastors or bishops (Acts 20:28, 1 Pet. 5:1-2).  Under their oversight, evangelists preach the word and teachers instruct in the truth.  And all members should participate in the work (Rom. 12:4-8, 1 Cor. 12:27-31).  Not everyone has the same abilities, but everyone should do what he or she can.  This is how the church is organized according to God’s word using the gifts that Christ gave the church.

—-taken from Faith and Facts Quarterly; July, 2016; Vol. 43, No. 3; pp. 42-50

What I Learned from My Grandfather

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY GRANDFATHER

By Wayne S. Walker

     [Note:  This article is a biography-tribute regarding my grandfather, Glen Workman, a little-known gospel preacher in southern Ohio.  When he passed away in 1979, I wrote nothing about him in the papers published by brethren at that time.  About fifteen years later, I finally got around to putting some information together which I presented along with four main points in a sermon to the congregation where I was laboring at the time, and the brethren really seemed to appreciate it.  This article is a result of that lesson and contains that material.  WSW]

One can learn many good things from his grandparents.  Please consider what Moses said in Exodus 10:6 regarding the plague of locusts on Egypt.  “They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.”  This indicates that God considered the knowledge of “your fathers’ fathers” important even among the people of Egypt.

I hope that everyone has as pleasant memories of his or her grandparents as I have of mine.  Of course, some have never had the privilege of knowing their grandparents, and that is unfortunate.  Several people who are grandparents have told me that having grandchildren is one of their greatest blessings.  But speaking from the standpoint of having been a grandchild, I can say that having had good grandparents is a great blessing too.  Just think of Timothy and his grandmother Lois.

Certainly the most beneficial situation is when one’s grandparents are faithful Christians.  And, except possibly for my grandfather Lawrence Walker, whom I never really ever knew because he died when I was just two years old, all of my grandparents were members of the Lord’s church.  In fact, my Grandfather Workman, my mother’s father, was a faithful gospel preacher.  Not a lot of brethren knew him.  He did not hold many evangelistic meetings.  He did not preach in large congregations with fancy buildings and huge contributions.  He did not write articles and reports for the leading brotherhood publications.  He never edited a mass circulation bulletin.  He was content to live in the country and work with a small, rural church.  But he taught me a lot of worthwhile things, and for that I am still very grateful to him.

Charles Glen Workman, called Glen by his family and friends, was born on Oct. 29, 1896, in Clay Township, somewhere between Pricetown and Buford, in Highland County, southern Ohio, the son of William Wirt and Mary Susan (Hopkins) Workman.  While still a boy, he moved with his parents and older sister Edith to the family farm which his father purchased from a relative, near East Danville (or Winkle) in Whiteoak Township, also in Highland County.  They became members of the nearby Union Chapel Church of Christ, which we would identify as a Christian Church, but which was much more conservative then than the Christian Church is today.  His education was obtained from the nearby one-room Shofner School and from Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown.  Then on Oct. 27, 1927, just two days before his 31st birthday, he was married to Mildred M. Holladay.  To this union were born four daughters—Mary Ellen Walker, my mother, now deceased; Lois Mae McMillan, also deceased; Ruth Edith (Mann) Carpenter; and Joann Bohrer.

During his early life, my grandfather made his living as a farmer, a school bus driver, and a school teacher, also did some plumbing, and pursued his hobby of carpentry.  But he was always deeply interested in spiritual matters.  He obeyed the gospel while still a young man, probably being baptized in Whiteoak Creek which ran through the family farm as well as beside the Union church building.  My grandmother was a Methodist when they married, but just three years later, through my grandfather’s influence and teaching, she too was baptized into Christ.  At one point, he served as an elder in the Union church.  However, later in life, he decided that he wanted to preach the gospel.  So he enrolled at Cincinnati Bible Seminary and studied Bible under R. C. Foster.

He began preaching at the May Hill Church of Christ near Seaman in Adams County, OH, which again we would identify as a Christian Church, on Sept. 2, 1951, and continued there through Dec. 28, 1952.  His first sermon was entitled, “Why I Preach the Gospel.”  I still have his notes on that sermon and have even used his outline before.  On Jan. 4, 1953, he, my grandmother, and my Aunt Jo moved to Deming County, KY, near Mount Olivet, where he started work with the Christian Church in the small town of Piqua (pronounced pick-way in Kentucky) and continued there through Aug. 14, 1955.  During this time, my parents lived on the Workman family farm in Highland County, and that is where they were when I was born.

When my grandfather finished his work at Piqua, KY, and moved back to his farm in Ohio, he had grown very dissatisfied with the Christian Church and so began visiting with the (non-instrumental) Park Ave. church of Christ in Hillsboro (now known as the Northside church).  After continued study and discussion, one Sunday in 1955 my grandparents went down the aisle at Park Ave., confessed their error in worshipping with the Christian Church, and became identified with the non-denominational, New Testament church of Christ.  Then on Dec. 15, 1955, Grandfather began his labor with the Mt. Zion church of Christ near Belfast southeast of Hillsboro in rural Highland County, OH, where he continued for the next eighteen years.  Interestingly enough, the May Hill church, where he began his preaching work, had resulted from a division that had occurred around the turn of the twentieth century in the Mt. Zion church where he ended his labors.

Sometime in the early 1960s, they even sold the family farm to my Aunt Jo and her husband and bought a house in Belfast so they could be nearer the church.  I should say bought the shell of a house which my grandfather, with his knowledge of carpentry, rebuilt into one of the quaintest and coziest homes that I have ever been in.  But on Dec. 24, 1971, my grandmother had a massive stroke.  After that, I did some of my first regular preaching at Mt. Zion, filling in for Grandpa whenever Grandma’s situation and needs kept him from speaking, until I left for college in Aug., 1972.  Taking care of my grandmother began to wear on my grandfather’s health (he was now 75).  Thus, in the summer or early fall of 1973, he finally gave up his work with the Mt. Zion church.  They moved into Hillsboro and once again identified with the Park Ave./Northside church, where he continued to speak occasionally as opportunities arose.

Grandpa and Grandma celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1977, at which time they had nineteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild (another great-grandchild was born shortly thereafter).  But late the following year Grandpa came down with a cold that just would not go away.  After several tests were run, it was confirmed in February of 1979 that he had Hodgkin’s disease.  Eventually he was taken to Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, where he died on Mar. 22, 1979, at the age of 83.  My mother, her three sisters, and I, his oldest grandson, were all present at his death.  It has been a number of years since my grandfather died, yet I still miss him and think of him often.  My grandmother, continuing to suffer the effects of her stroke, survived until her death four years later on Mar. 3, 1983.  But enough about Glen Workman’s life.  Now I want to share with you what I learned from my grandfather.

grandpaglen

First, my grandfather taught me to test all things by the Scriptures.  It was his love for, knowledge of, and determination to stand on the Scriptures that led him to recognize the error of the Christian Church and identify with the truth.  And that same emphasis on the Scriptures characterized all of his life and his preaching.

The Scriptures were given by inspiration for our benefit that we might know what God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Thus, these Scriptures must be the standard by which we test all beliefs, teachings, and practices in religion with which we come into contact (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 John 4:1).  Only those who base their religious faith, doctrine, and activity on the doctrine found in the Scriptures can be assured of pleasing God (2 John vs. 9-11).

Second, my grandfather taught me to use wisdom in making decisions.  I firmly believe that my grandfather was a very wise man, whose wisdom was born of the maturity and experience that come with age, coupled with a firm trust in God’s word.  He always seemed to approach matters with a great deal of practical insight, common sense, and patience.  Over the years I have had preachers (and preachers’ wives) who knew Grandpa tell me that when they faced some problem or difficult decision and went to him, he encouraged them to look at all sides and not act rashly.

And this is good advice for anyone at almost any time and place.  Certainly God wants His people to be characterized by wisdom in the lives which they lead (Ephesians 5:15-17).  Especially in our relationships with the people of this world, among whom we are to be an influence for good, we need to walk wisely in both deed and word (Colossians 4:5-6).  Of course, we are all going to make some mistakes at times, but in every situation that we face, we need to be constantly looking to God for the wisdom that is from above so that we can treat others right, be righteous examples, and accomplish as much good while doing as little harm as possible (James 1:5, 3:17-18).

Third, my grandfather taught me to think for myself.  Through the years my grandfather heard a number of different gospel preachers, listened to several debates, read some of the papers published by brethren, consulted various commentaries and religious books, and in general did whatever he could to learn what other people were saying.  But he never followed anyone or anything slavishly.  He obtained whatever good he felt he could and discarded anything he believed was not beneficial.  And since he knew that I wanted and planned to preach, this was something that he was always trying to instill in me.

The fact that something has been around long enough for it to become a “tradition” does not necessarily make it wrong, but we always need to make sure that we are not simply following the traditions of mere men (Matthew 15:7-9).  In fact, while we certainly can and should learn from what men have said and done, we should never put our trust in fallible mortals because even the best of them can let us down (1 Corinthians 4:6).  Therefore, like the Bereans, we must never accept what anyone says just because of who says it, but study for ourselves to make sure that it is in harmony with God’s will (Acts 17:11-12).

Finally, my grandfather taught me to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.  In the course of our discussions on various topics, I found that my grandfather and I disagreed about some things.  While he was opposed to instrumental music in the worship of the church, he felt that a Christian could sing hymns to the accompaniment of an instrument outside the assembly, whereas I do not believe that one can.  We also had differences of opinion on certain aspects of the divorce and remarriage issue.  But the point is that we could disagree on these subjects and even express our disagreements as we discussed them, yet still not be mean or ugly about it.

On the one hand, we must recognize that there are many issues facing God’s people, some from without and some from within, the preaching and practicing of which involve folks in soul-damning error, and which we must, publicly and forcefully, oppose (Romans 16:17-18).  On the other hand, there are issues which involve only personal conscience and application, or beliefs which, even if wrong, a person may hold as a matter of private conviction without actually teaching error or practicing sin.  Paul dealt with some principles governing these types of situations in Romans 14:1-6, 19, 22-23.  And even when we find circumstances where we must strongly oppose someone whom we believe to be in error to the point that we cannot have fellowship with him, there is still never any occasion to be unkind, nasty, and malicious in our treatment of him (Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8).

Usually when we hear the term “pioneer preacher,” we think of such individuals as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and “Raccoon” John Smith, who in this country pioneered the way out of denominationalism back to the Bible.  Or we may picture such colorful characters as Jefferson Davis Tant, Joe S. Warlick, W. Curtis Porter, or W. W. Otey, who proclaimed the gospel so forcefully among the pioneers as they moved west.  My grandfather was not a pioneer preacher in either of these senses, but he helped pioneer our family to know and obey God’s word.  Something for which every Christian can and should be grateful is the good influence in his life of his family or at least those who have taught him the way of the Lord and provided a good example.  Therefore, I thought that I would share with our readers, by way of illustration, some things that I learned from my grandfather.

—taken from Faith and Facts; January, 1994; Vol. 22, No. 1; pp. 56-61