I received a very thought-provoking e-mail recently from a blog reader who asked about a subject which doesn’t receive much consideration. He asked, “How does the church of Christ claim (or at least imply) to be something like the first century church, when the first century church didn’t really have the New Testament like we do today?” That’s a great question and there was certainly a period of time when no one had access to all 27 books of the New Testament, so let’s consider what the church was like then.Continue Reading...
Archives For New Testament
It seems there is a “church” building on nearly every street in America. If you open the yellow pages you’ll be overwhelmed by the vast number of entries in the section entitled “churches.” Still, many wonder, “What is the church?”
Here are few things the New Testament says about the church:
1) The church is a group of people. In fact, the word “church” is translated from the Greek word “ekklesia” which is also translated “assembly” (Acts 19:39). The word “church” never refers to a building, but to a group of people (Acts 12:5). When we call a building “a church” we start to associate worship, fellowship, and assembling together with a particular building. That is a shame! Worship and fellowship can happen anywhere the people of God are assembled.
2) The church is a group of saved people. When a person is saved by the blood of Christ, he or she is added by the Lord to the church (Acts 2:47). Man cannot “join” the church; he is added to the church by God. The church is the assembly of those who are “enrolled in heaven” (Hebrews 12:23).
3) The church belongs to Jesus. Jesus is called the “head” of the body (Ephesians 5:23; Colossians 1:18). He built it (Matthew 16:18) and He purchased it with His blood (Acts 20:28). If He is the head of it then that means I am not and neither are you. We don’t get to decide what the church is and how it should operate–He does!
4) Jesus only has one church. I realize that may not be a popular statement to make today but Jesus said, “I will build My church” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus did not say that he would build His churches (plural), but His church (singular). Certainly there are multiple congregations of the one church (Romans 16:16), but Christ has only one body (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:4).
5) The church has no name. Although it is has several different descriptions in Scripture (Hebrews 12:23; Acts 20:28), it is simply the church. When there is but one of something it does not need a name to distinguish it from others of the same type (because there are no others of the same type). There are different kinds of trees, so each has a particular name to distinguish it from other trees (maple, elm, pine, etc.). But when there is only one of something, it does not need a name. The Lord’s church can be described (in advertisements, on signs, etc.) in any biblical way, but the world must know that Christ’s church is simply the church.
6) The church is not to be divided. The modern religious world is full of denominationalism; the idea that the one church is actually segmented and divided into several smaller denominations. In other words, denominationalists believe the church is like a pie and each denomination is but a slice of that pie. However, nothing could be further from God’s design! Jude said that those who cause divisions are “worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:19). Paul said the Christians in Corinth were “people of the flesh” because they were divisions among them according to which preacher each group followed (1 Corinthians 3:1-4). He said about the church, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17).
Those are just a few things the New Testament says in answer to the question, “What is the church?”
So, why don’t we all stop all of this denominational foolishness and simply be Christians–members of Christ’s church? Isn’t that what He wants? Isn’t that what He laid out? In order to do that we’ll have to lay down our pride, our traditions, and our preconceived ideas and be radically devoted to Him! Let’s work on that together.
I love you and God loves you!
Several times this week I have been asked, “Will those who have never heard about Jesus go to hell?” Certainly neither you nor I are in charge of who will go to heaven and who will go to hell. However, I believe we can look at the Word and determine the answer to this very chilling question.
In order to determine the answer to this question we must realize several truths:
1) All have sinned (Romans 3:23). Whether a man has heard about Jesus or not, he has committed sin. There are people in the world who are kind, sincere, and even religious. However, there is not a single person walking the face of the earth who is “good” (Mark 10:18). Every person living has sinned and is need of the good news of Christ Jesus.
2) It is only “in Christ Jesus” that redemption is possible (Romans 3:24). If salvation were possible outside of Christ, He died for nothing (Galatians 2:21). Why would Jesus command His followers to spread the good news of salvation to ALL mankind (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16) if there were people who did not need to hear it? Everyone needs Christ and the spiritual blessings that come from being “in” Him (Ephesians 1:3).
3) Faith is necessary to be pleasing to God (Hebrews 11:6). If one must hear the word of Christ in order to have faith (Romans 10:17) and he must have faith in order to be pleasing to God, then he cannot be pleasing to God unless he has heard the word of Christ. Undoubtedly there are many kind and wonderful people throughout the world, some of whom may have never heard the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, no amount of kindness can earn them a place in the kingdom of God, for it is only “by grace through faith” that man can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9).
4) People can find the truth if they will search for it (Acts 17:27). Paul told those in Athens that God has “made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope thatthey might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27).
It would be comforting to think that those living in remote places, who have never heard the gospel, were not responsible for obeying it. It would be nice to think that evangelism was not that important because God will have mercy on them who have never heard the gospel. However, Paul says that Christ will return “in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
There may have been a time when God “winked” at ignorance “but now commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30, KJV). Our job, to take the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15) is of the utmost importance because it is only him who “believes and is baptized” who will be saved (Mark 16:16).
Let us take our responsibilities seriously and go and teach the lost!
Baptism is the act of being immersed in water. It may seem a silly thing for God to ask people to do, and many reject it as being unimportant. However, it is not just important–it is essential if you hope to receive the grace of God. Here are three reasons that baptism is important.
1. Baptism is an appeal to God for a good conscience. Peter said, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). When a person is plunged down into the waters of baptism, what he or she is really doing is appealing to God to be cleansed from sins. Since sin has cut us off from God (Isaiah 59:2), we must have a way to call out to Him. God gave us that way when He gave us baptism, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16). It is God, through the blood of His Son, who washes away sins and the act of being baptized calls on His name and appeals to Him for a clean conscience.
2. Baptism is the moment at which a person is clothed with Christ. Paul wrote, “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27 NIV). The only thing which will matter, on the Day of Judgement, is whether or not you are in Christ, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Baptism is the moment at which a repentant person gets into Christ.
3. Baptism is the moment at which a person is united with Christ. There is nothing magical in the water. It is not the water which gives men eternal life or washes away their sins, it is Jesus Christ! But the phenomenal event of salvation happens when man is united with Christ and His blood, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk innewness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his” (Romans 6:3-5). When a person goes down into the watery grave of baptism by faith, he finds the saving blood of Christ.
Let me make one thing clear: man does not save himself by being baptized; he is saved by the grace of God when he responds in faith to God’s invitation of salvation. To read more about this subject I encourage you to check out my book, The Treasure Chest of Grace.
I love you and God loves you! Have a wonderful day!
It may seem common sense to say “you reap what you sow,” but it is amazing how many of us still don’t get it! We understand that when you plant corn, you can’t expect watermelons to grow. But we don’t seem to understand that what our lives produce is usually a direct reflection on what we planted. Paul wrote this, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
Here are a few examples of sowing and reaping:
1. If you sow seeds of rage and anger, you will reap a harvest of war! If you have ever thought that your house felt like a war zone, then stop to see who is planting seeds of anger (it may very well be you).
James 1:19-20 (ESV) “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.”
Ephesians 4:31-32 (ESV) Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
Hosea 4:1-2, 6 (ESV) “Hear the word of the LORD, O children of Israel, for the LORD has a controversy with the inhabitants of the land. There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; there is swearing, lying, murder, stealing, and committing adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed…My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge, I reject you from being a priest to me. And since you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.”
Proverbs 22:6 (ESV) “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
Proverbs 28:19 (ESV) “Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits will have plenty of poverty.”
Proverbs 14:23 (ESV) “In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty.”
I realize many people are passionate in their defense of mechanical instruments in worship to God. It is interesting though, how few have stopped to even question whether or not this practice comes from God or from man. If one simply studies the New Testament, I believe you will find that the use of mechanical instruments has no place in making music to God.
Put simply, the reason I don’t use instruments in worship is the same reason I expect a pizza I purchase to be topped with only the toppings I order. When I call up and order my favorite pizza from Papa John’s Pizza (a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza), I expect to receive a pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple. I will not be pleased if I receive less than this and I will not be pleased if I receive more than this. I will not accept a pizza with Canadian bacon, pineapple, and pepperoni. Pepperoni might be a fine topping, but if I have not asked for it, I do not want it.
This concept is so simple! When a person asks for something specific, then their silence concerning all other alternatives is prohibitive! Put simply, when I ask for a specific type of pizza I have automatically eliminated all the other possibilities concerning the type of pizza I wish to receive. There are a thousand alternatives to any given set of instructions, and it would be ridiculous for someone to have to exhaust a list of what he doesn’t want. All a person has to do is be specific about what he does want.
If however, I simply wanted a pizza and did not care what kind of pizza I received I could be generic in my order. I could simply say, “Bring me a pizza.” I could not complain then about the toppings which were on it because I did not specify want kind of pizza I wanted. This is a generic command.
The question then, as it concerns music in worship, is: was God specific or generic about music? Some are quick to say, “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” (Psalm 100:1)! And they are right. That is a generic command. However, that is a generic command to the Jews under the Old Covenant. If you want to please God under the New Covenant, you better look to the New Testament. It doesn’t matter what kind of pizza I ordered yesterday. If I order a new pizza today, it is that pizza order that I wish to have followed.
When we read in the New Testament about music to God this is what we read:
Ephesians 5:19 (ESV) “addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart”
Colossians 3:16 (ESV) “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Hebrews 13:15 (ESV) “Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name.”
The reason it is not right for Christians to use an instrument in worship is because God specifically instructed us on how to make music to Him; those instructions did not include the instrument.
Being radically Christian is about following God’s instructions, not man’s. Therefore give God what he’s asked for and be radically Christian!
Most people, including Christians, gripe and complain when Monday morning rolls around! Well I think it is time Christian people knock it off! One of the best ways to show the world you’re different, is to be positive! “Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world” (Philippians 2:14-15). With that in mind, here are five reasons to love Monday mornings:
1. Monday is a day the Lord has made as well! I have heard so many people quote Psalm 118:24, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” on a Sunday morning, as if it exclusively applied to the Lord’s day. Well I have news for us, Monday is a day the Lord has made too!
2. Mondays are full of opportunities to serve and glorify God! There are going to be countless opportunities to serve God during any given day, don’t miss them because of negativity (Ephesians 5:16).
3. Mondays are another opportunity for you to get right with God. Are you really sure there is nothing in your life which needs to be changed? Are you sure there are not sins from which you need to repent? Are you positive you couldn’t improve your relationship with Him? Be thankful God has allowed you another Monday to get a little closer to Him!
4. Mondays are an opportunity for you to teach someone about the Gospel. God is being patient right now, giving lost souls more opportunity to come to Him (2 Peter 3:9). Mondays are a great day for evangelism, if you’ll only see the opportunity!
5. Mondays are full of blessings! Just take a moment to realize how blessed you are and how much better off you have it than what you deserve! How can you use your Monday for complaining and rejoicing at the same time?
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)
1. “I Am So Blessed” – Use this saying any time you’re tempted to feel sorry for yourself. Use it to help you remember you have so much more than you deserve. God has been gracious with you and has given you so very much! Just remember to tell yourself constantly, “I am so blessed.”
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:13-14).
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11-12).
One of the greatest things a Christian possesses is hope! When the Bible uses the word “hope” it is not being used in the wishful sense that many use the word today. Hope, in Scripture, usually refers to a “confident expectation.” The Christian’s expectation concerns salvation and his confidence comes from the trustworthy nature of God.
Anyone who is “in Christ” (Romans 8:1; Galatians 3:27-29) can expect to be saved from his sins. However, my expectation concerning salvation does not come from a reliance on my own righteousness. In fact, I am saved in spite of who I am, rather than based on who I am. Instead, my confidence comes from knowing that the One who promised me salvation is faithful and it is “impossible” for Him to lie (Hebrews 6:18). My confidence–my hope–is in Christ!
Paul says in Hebrews 6:19 that the Christian’s hope is a “steadfast anchor of the soul.” What an AWESOME analogy!
- An anchor is solid! Our hope, likewise, is solid. Paul says that it is “steadfast.” How wonderful it is to get up every morning KNOWING that you are saved; knowing that God loves you and the blood of His son continues to wash away your sins (1 John 1:7)! As long as you have been united with Christ (Romans 6:1-7) and you “abide” in Him (John 15), you can have a confident assurance concerning the heavenly home He has prepared for us!
- An anchor keeps a ship from being “tossed to and fro” in the sea. Paul encourages the Ephesians to grow up spiritually, “so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness indeceitful schemes” (Ephesians 4:14). Our hope keeps us in one place. It keeps us anchored in Christ. As long as we keep our hope focused on Christ, we will not be carried along by false teaching. It is when we lose hope (or pull up our anchor) that we forget why we should do what we should do. So many out there are drifting hopelessly along listening to whatever teacher will say what their “itching ears” want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3). They think these false teachers are giving them hope, but they are only causing them to drift farther and farther from the Truth. Keep your eyes on Christ! Keep your anchor firmly established, by staying in His word!
- An anchor brings peace, even in a storm. When an anchor firmly in place, even during a fierce storm, those on board can know peace. Life is a scary place–full of storms. But when Jesus is in our boat, we can know the peace He had when he slept during the fierce storm (Matthew 8:24). Christians need not fear the storms of life. We need only to put our confidence in Christ and ride out whatever comes our way!