The Gospel Observer (February 21, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Suffering Servant (part 2 of 2, Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
——————–

isaiah53_6

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Evidences of Faith
The Suffering Servant (part 2 of 2)

Jim Robson

III. And By His Stripes We Are Healed

When we return to the passage in Isaiah, we find many more remarkable things. In order to fully appreciate how remarkable Isaiah’s prophecies are, we must remember that he wrote more than seven hundred years before Jesus came to earth. Moreover, we must imagine ourselves to be living before the gospel had been preached all over the world. Let us pretend that we never heard of Jesus Christ, and pick up reading where we left off:

“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4-6).

How can we explain such a passage? Who is Isaiah talking about? How could someone else’s suffering help to heal you or me? How can God lay my iniquities on someone else? It is a truly puzzling message.

Of course, if we stop pretending, the answers are easy. For those of us who have heard the gospel message, it is obvious that Isaiah is referring to Jesus. We know this because the New Testament teaches that all have sinned, and that the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 3:23, 6:23). It is through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross that sinners have the opportunity to be forgiven, and to be granted eternal life:

“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).

It is only through the atoning death of Jesus Christ that we have hope of everlasting life, for all “we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”

There is yet another point to be observed in these verses. Isaiah indicated that people would think that the Servant had been smitten by God. Rather than seeing that He was suffering willingly, in obedience to God, the people would think that He was being punished by God. And, in fact, that is what happened to Jesus as He hung on the cross:

“And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, ‘He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, “I am the Son of God”‘” (Matthew 27:39-43).

We can see in the sarcastic taunts of these men that they felt Jesus was lying when He claimed to be the Son of God. Thus, from their point of view, His suffering was what He deserved, being a blasphemous heretic. They felt that He had been smitten by God.

IV. As A Lamb to the Slaughter

You will recall that we were led to this study of the suffering Servant by the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, where Philip the evangelist met the Ethiopian eunuch on the deserted road from Jerusalem to Gaza. The eunuch was reading from the prophet Isaiah, and Philip was able to preach Jesus to him beginning with that passage. Let us now turn to the verses which the eunuch was reading when Philip approached his chariot:

“He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:7-8).

Isaiah asserted that the Servant of God would accept His suffering without complaining or defending Himself — even though He was innocent. His suffering, after all, was not for the sake of His own sins, but for the sins of God’s people.

We see here that Isaiah again prophesied about the redemptive nature of Jesus’ sacrifice. Somehow, Isaiah — who wrote more than seven hundred years before Jesus — knew that a Man would give His life to pay for the sins of others — as he wrote a few verses later, the Servant would be an offering for sin (Isaiah 53:10). When considering such a passage, we can see how this would indeed be a perfect place for Philip to begin telling the eunuch about Jesus. On the other hand, if we put ourselves in the place of the eunuch, who had not yet heard of Jesus, we can see why he had trouble understanding these verses. Why would God’s Servant be stricken for the sins of His people?

Of course, it is only in the teaching of Jesus and His apostles that we find the answer to this question. Jesus’ sacrifice was an expression of God’s love for mankind (John 3:16). It was the way of bringing men and women from all nations into one people (Ephesians 2:14-18). It was the only way for God to be just — that is, to punish sin — and also merciful — to forgive the sinner (Romans 3:21-26). Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection were the fulfillment of God’s ultimate plan of redemption, whereby He bought back people from the clutches of sin, and gained the eternal victory over Satan (I Peter 1:17-19; Hebrews 2:14). It is in Jesus that God accomplished the plan of salvation He had announced in the garden of Eden, wherein the Seed of the woman triumphed over the serpent (Genesis 3:15). Once again, we are brought face to face with the fact that the books of the Bible, though penned by some 40 human authors over a period of 1500 years, work in harmony to present one coherent message.

But there is something else about these verses in Isaiah that is striking. Notice that it is prophesied that this Servant, although He did not deserve the punishment inflicted upon Him, would accept it quietly. And, in fact, when we read the passages that describe Jesus’ final hours, we find that He made no attempt to defend Himself, and that He offered no complaints (Matthew 26:47-27:50; Mark 14:43-15:37; Luke 22:47-23:46; John 18 & 19). Although He possessed the ability to eliminate His tormentors in an instant, He accepted their abuse with all the meekness of a sheep before its shearers. Indeed, He is the Lamb of God, the pure and perfect sacrifice for sin (John 1:29).

Again, we need to ask ourselves, why would Isaiah, in the eighth century BC, think to write about these things? What would make him imagine a Servant of God who would suffer for the sins of the people? What would make him think that this Servant would suffer quietly, without defending Himself or complaining? Where would Isaiah get such ideas? It is difficult to explain in naturalistic terms.

In this article, we have looked at eleven verses of Isaiah’s prophecies of the Suffering Servant. We have seen that, in point after point, Isaiah’s predictions were fulfilled in Jesus. The skeptic may suggest that the New Testament writers somehow manipulated their accounts to give the impression that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophesies, but this assertion is without any factual basis. On the contrary, many of the instances where the New Testament describes how Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy make no mention at all of Isaiah. If they were frauds trying to deceive people into believing that Isaiah’s prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, they would certainly point out the correlation between their own stories and Isaiah’s prophecies. Moreover, we cannot go to any one book of the Bible to see all of these connections; the passages which show the connections between the Suffering Servant and Jesus are scattered throughout the New Testament. It is simply not within the realm of reason to suppose that all of the men who wrote these books, being in different parts of the world as they wrote, somehow collaborated to produce such a perfectly harmonious correlation between Jesus and Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. Furthermore, when we consider that all of the various passages we have cited blend seamlessly in their context, we conclude that they could not have been fraudulently inserted.

In other words, the passages we have considered are genuine, authentic, and honest. That being the case, we cannot escape the conclusion that Isaiah foretold of a Person and events more than seven hundred years beforehand. That is powerful evidence of the inspiration of the Bible.

— Via The Watchman Magazine, September 1, 1999
——————–

John 6:26-29

“Jesus answered them and said, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.  Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal.’  They said therefore to Him, ‘What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?’  Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent'” (NASB).
——————–

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News & Notes

I was sorry to hear that Alma Lee Mayfield passed away February 20.   It was probably in 2002 when I first met her and her husband Jim who were members of the church of Christ in Metairie (a suburb of New Orleans), where I had attended some gospel meetings.  After the damage Hurricane Katrina brought to their building, the church no longer met there.  So Jim and Lee soon placed membership with the Southside church of Christ in Gonzales, which was about 58 miles from their home.  Since it was on Tuesday that we had our midweek service in Baton Rouge, it was there in Gonzales where I became more acquainted with the Mayfields, for I began attending the Wednesday evening services there on June 30, 2010 and continued to do so until moving from the Baton Rouge area in June 2014.  Lee was such a gentle, sweet, and friendly person, and had also been quite an encouragement to others.  I always enjoyed talking with her.  She will truly be missed.

Also passing away was Herbert S. Craft, Jr., of Trenton, Florida.  He was an uncle of Danny Bartlett, one of our members.

It was also mentioned last week of the passing of Robert Allen Young (the husband of Anita, another of our members), and of Shirley Jernigan who was the mother of Gege Gornton, who used to also attend here before moving away, and still has family who does.

We extend our condolences to all of these who have lost loved ones, and let those of us who are Christians be remembering them in our prayers.

And also for the following:

Carol Drain, who will soon begin chemo treatments for a total of six.

Michelle Rittenhouse, who has been undergoing some medical tests for her heart.

Also with heart trouble are Misty Thornton and Rex Hadley, Jr.

Barbara Sutherland (Marie Pennock’s niece), who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

And Danielle Howard, who has been having some trouble with her back.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes
(Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

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The Gospel Observer (February 14, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Suffering Servant (part 1 of 2, Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Phil2_8_9
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Evidences of Faith:
The Suffering Servant

Jim Robson

In the eighth chapter of the book of Acts, we find Philip the evangelist being sent by God to the deserted road that led from Jerusalem to Gaza. Once there, Philip saw the chariot belonging to the eunuch who was treasurer to the queen of Ethiopia. The Spirit told Philip to overtake the chariot. When he did so, he found the eunuch reading from the book of Isaiah. Specifically, he was reading the passage known to us as Isaiah 53:7-8. Philip established that the eunuch did not understand the prophecy he was reading, and the eunuch asked Philip for help. “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:35).

This is an amazing thing. Philip began preaching Jesus from the book of Isaiah, which was written more than seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth. How could this be? How could a book written centuries before Jesus was born be used to teach someone about Him? If we go to the passage that the eunuch was reading, we will see that, on its own, it is indeed difficult to understand. However, when we view it through the lens of the New Testament, we can get a glimpse of how Philip could have used this passage to lead the eunuch to Christ. We will also see that it becomes very difficult to explain how or why Isaiah wrote such a passage — unless he was truly inspired by God.

Before we look at the passage in Isaiah, it is important to keep a couple of things in mind. For example, remember that the chapter and verse divisions in our modern Bibles were added almost 2,000 years after Isaiah wrote. These divisions are for ease of reference, and do not necessarily reflect a logical division in the author’s line of thought. Also, you will notice that Isaiah, like other prophetic writers, frequently shifts verb tense. He goes from past to present to future tenses while talking about the same events. This may be to emphasize that, whereas the prophet was writing about things that had not yet occurred, God had decided that they would happen, and therefore they were as good as done. Whatever the reason, however, we do not need to be distracted by these things; for our current purposes, we simply need to be aware of them.

I. Exalted, Extolled, and Marred?

Let us turn now to the fifty-second chapter of Isaiah. In the midst of prophecies concerning God’s promise to redeem His people, we find descriptions of a very special Person:

“Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (Isaiah 52:13).

This picture of a Servant of God who would be characterized by wisdom and be held in honor is consistent with other prophecies of the coming Messiah (for example, Psalm 110). From here, however, Isaiah goes in a direction that we would not expect:

“Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men” (Isaiah 52:14).

Why would God’s Servant be marred? Moreover, how does this fit with the idea of Him being exalted and extolled and very high? Already, we can begin to see why the eunuch might have difficulty understanding Isaiah’s prophecies concerning the Servant. We can also begin to see that it is difficult to explain why Isaiah would write in this manner, if he were merely writing of his own initiative. If his goal were to comfort the people with promises of a great and powerful Messiah, why would he say that God’s Servant would be marred? On the other hand, if he were trying to frighten the people into obedience, he would not be writing promises of a wise and glorious leader. If we try to explain Isaiah’s words in purely naturalistic terms, we will keep running into problems.

If we try to imagine ourselves living before the time when the gospel had been preached all over the world, we can see that Isaiah’s words would be very difficult to understand, even if we believed that he was a true prophet, and his book inspired by God. How could it be, that God’s anointed King would be wise and exalted, and yet be marred more than any man? For one who is acquainted with the gospel, however, Isaiah’s message is perfectly clear. Consider the apostle Paul’s words:

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:5-11).

Jesus was God in the flesh, and He never did anything but good, yet He was subjected to the form of execution reserved for the most despicable criminals: clearly, His visage was marred more than any man. Yet, as Isaiah prophesied, Jesus was subsequently exalted and extolled above all others.

So then, Isaiah 52:13-14 is a passage that is difficult to explain in naturalistic terms. Moreover, even a believer would have difficulty explaining its meaning — if it were not for the gospel. We see then, that the gospel of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the New Testament more than seven hundred years after Isaiah, provides the explanation for Isaiah’s writing. To look at it another way, Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy. If this were an isolated Old Testament passage torn from its context and made to conform to a preconceived idea, then it would not be very compelling. But is that what we have done? Let us return to Isaiah and see.

II. The Mouths of Kings Shut by the Man of Low Esteem

If we pick up the reading in Isaiah where we left off, we find that the prophet had much more to say about God’s coming Servant:

“So shall He sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths at Him; for what had not been told them they shall see, and what they had not heard they shall consider. Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him” (Isaiah 52:15-53:3).

Where the New King James reads, “sprinkle,” your Bible may say, “startle.” Either way, the prophet is telling us that this Servant of God would have such an impact on the world as to affect many nations. In fact, He would even shut the mouths of kings! And yet, Isaiah tells us that He would not be respected, but rather would be despised and rejected by men. How could both of these things be true?

Once again, we can turn to Jesus to find our answers. In His life as a man, Jesus was indeed despised by the religious leaders of His day (for example, see Mark 12:13,18,28; John 9). Moreover, at the end, multitudes of His own people gathered together and demanded that He be subjected to an excruciatingly painful and disgraceful death:

“Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to releasing to the multitude one prisoner whom they wished. And at that time they had a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Therefore, when they had gathered together, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom do you want me to release to you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?’ For he knew that they had handed Him over because of envy. While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, ‘Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him.’ But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitudes that they should ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ They said, ‘Barabbas!’ Pilate said to them, ‘What then shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?’ They all said to him, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ Then the governor said, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they cried out all the more, saying, ‘Let Him be crucified!’ (Matthew 27:15-23)

But the Jews were not the only ones to show contempt for Jesus. The Romans, too, treated Him as though He were utterly despicable:

“Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole garrison around Him. And they stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand. And they bowed the knee before Him and mocked Him, saying, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ Then they spat on Him, and took the reed and struck Him on the head. And when they had mocked Him, they took the robe off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him away to be crucified” (Matthew 27:27-31).

Remember that all of this was done after they had beaten Jesus with a scourge, which was a whip with many thongs (verse 26). So, Jesus was treated with the utmost contempt by both Jews and Gentiles. All are guilty of His suffering and death; no one is innocent. When we meditate upon these things, we see that Jesus thoroughly fulfilled the words of Isaiah, “He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.”

But Jesus also shut the mouths of kings, even after His crucifixion. Consider, for example, the emperors of Rome. The Roman Empire covered an enormous territory and encompassed many nations. For centuries, Roman emperors persecuted Christians. Their goal was to put an end to the religion of Jesus Christ and preserve their empire by turning the people back to the state religion. In 311 AD, the emperor Galerius, an ardent persecutor of Jesus’ followers, was struck with an incurable illness that caused him intense pain. Realizing he was near death, he reversed his stance, and issued an order that Christianity should be tolerated. Might we not say, insofar as his attack on Jesus was concerned, that his mouth was shut? Of course, his nephew, Maximin II, disregarded the order, and instead increased the severity of his persecutions. But Maximin was defeated by Licinius in battle, and fled. In 313 AD, co-emperors Licinius and Constantine issued the Edict of Milan, which required that Christianity be tolerated. As for Maximin, he died of poisoning that same year.

Of course, the Roman Empire slowly crumbled, and its emperors have long been silent. However, the kingdom of Jesus Christ, which they fought so tenaciously to destroy, continues to thrive. Indeed, no other person has had as much of an effect on human history as Jesus, yet the secular historians of His own time considered Him to be of little significance: they did not esteem Him. Having said all of that, though, we need to recognize that Jesus’ influence on the affairs of this life is as nothing when compared to His influence in eternity. Jesus has gained the eternal victory for His followers. He has gained the ultimate victory over every attempt of man or Satan to establish a lasting religious or political system. In the end, there will be no pretending to resist Him:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power” (I Corinthians 15:20-24).

On the day when God calls all mankind to account, there will be no king, emperor, philosopher, scientist, “pastor,” or “reverend,” who will be able to open his mouth in the presence of the glorified Jesus Christ. However, His faithful servants, though lightly esteemed in this life, will shout and sing with triumph and joy.

— Via The Watchman, September 1, 1999
——————–

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News & Notes

We extend our condolences to the family and friends of the following, and let those of us who are Christians be remembering them in prayer:

Robert Allen Young passed away February 15 at only 58 years of age.  He was the husband of one of our members, Anita Hadley Young.

Shirley Jernigan (mother of Gege Gornto) also passed away February 15.  She was the mother-in-law of one of our member’s brother (Bud Gornto, who had been a former member before moving away).

These others can also use our prayers:

Carol Drain will soon be having a port implanted to begin chemo treatments for a total of six.

Michelle Rittenhouse, who has been having heart trouble, will be undergoing medical tests for a few days this week.

Also, with heart trouble are Misty Thornton and Rex Hadley, Jr.

Barbara Sutherland (Marie Pennock’s niece) has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes
(Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (February 7, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: Many Books, One God (Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
——————–

heb13_8b

 

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Evidences of Faith:

Many Books, One God

Jim Robson

Those who claim that the Bible is merely the work of human beings, without God’s guidance or inspiration, will also speak of the evolution of the writers’ concept of God. They claim that the earlier writers had a primitive idea of who God is, whereas the later writers had a more sophisticated notion. Indeed, this is what we would expect from a collection of books written over a span of some 1500 years. But, is it really the case? Did the picture of God change from Genesis to Revelation, or is it truly the same God described throughout? The way to answer this is to look at some specific aspects of God’s character, and see whether the early writers had a different notion of God than the later ones did. For reasons of space, we cannot look at all of the different characteristics of God in this issue. However, we can take a good look at two of them.

Let us start with God’s judgment. This is one of the areas where folks most often insist that the God of the New Testament is different than the God of the Old Testament. The claim is that the God of the New Testament is a God of love and mercy, whereas the God of the Old Testament is a God of wrath and justice. (Keep in mind that “justice” means “fairness”; a judge who is just, therefore, must acquit the innocent and punish the guilty.) Let us now turn to the Bible, and see whether there is indeed a difference between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament, in regard to judgment.

If we start in the book of Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden of Eden and condemned to death because of their sin (Genesis 3:22-24). In the time of Noah, the entire earth was destroyed by a flood, because mankind had become so completely sinful (Genesis 6:5, 7:23-24). The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed because of their utter sinfulness (Genesis 19:1-24). God is consistently just throughout the Old Testament. Solomon sums it up this way:

“A good man obtains favor from the Lord, but a man of wicked intentions He will condemn” (Proverbs 12:2).

There is no question but that the God of the Old Testament is a just God, and therefore He punishes those who do evil.

But, what about the God of the New Testament? Is He different? Well, Ananias and Sapphira probably don’t think so: they were struck dead instantly for lying to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11). King Herod was struck dead because he did not correct those who called him a god (Acts 12:20-24). Elymas the sorcerer was struck with blindness for opposing the teaching of the gospel (Acts 13:8-11). Throughout the book of Revelation, there are promises of God’s wrath upon those who reject Him:

“But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8).

The New Testament tells us that our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29).

Furthermore, consider Jesus’ words to those who heard His preaching but did not repent:

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say to you that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for you” (Matthew 11:21-24).

“The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41).

Finally, consider the judgment scene which Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46. In the last verse of this passage, Jesus says that those who did not serve Him would go away into everlasting punishment. Clearly, the God of the New Testament is One who punishes evildoers, just as surely as the God of the Old Testament is.

In this regard, then, there is no difference. The Bible is consistent in its portrayal of a just God. If the Bible is a purely human invention, then we would expect to see the identity of its God develop over time. The God of the oldest books (Genesis through Deuteronomy) should be the most primitive. The God of the later Old Testament books should become more fully defined, more sophisticated, and the God of the New Testament should be even more refined. However, we have seen that, in terms of His justice in judgment, God remains unchanged from Genesis through Revelation. This leads to the conclusion that God revealed Himself to the writers of the Bible, rather than the notion that the writers described God according to their own understanding.

Now let us look at the other side of the coin: God’s love and mercy. Let us go back to the beginning. In the first chapter of Genesis, we see the account of creation laid out for us in order. In this account, we find only one creature made in the image of God: man. Moreover, it becomes evident that everything else was created for the man. Even the heavenly bodies were created for mankind:

“Then God said, ‘Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons and days and years'” (Genesis 1:14).

What other creature besides man uses the sun, moon, and stars to gauge time? What other creature uses the heavenly bodies as signs for navigation? If God created something as vast and magnificent as the heavens for mankind, then surely this is evidence that He loves us.

As we noted last month, Adam and Eve were punished for their sin. We did not take time to consider, however, the fact that God allowed them to live for some time. He did not obliterate them on the spot; He gave them opportunity to learn from their error, and change their ways. In fact, their punishments seem to be calculated to teach them (Genesis 3:16-19). This shows mercy.

Several generations later, we find that mankind had become so utterly wicked that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5). Again, God does not destroy mankind instantly, but gives him 120 years to repent. Moreover, there is a man named Noah, who found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). God tells Noah that He will be destroying the earth by means of a flood, and instructs Noah to build the ark for his family and a large group of animals. Noah’s response shows that he believed God:

“Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis 6:22).

Noah, a man who believed in God, and demonstrated his faith through obedience, was saved by God. It is not that Noah was himself sinless; on the contrary, we find him in a drunken stupor after the flood (Genesis 9:21). Therefore, God would have been justified in destroying Noah along with the rest of mankind. However, God had mercy upon him.

Again, in the case of Abraham, we see incidents where he exhibited striking dishonesty and cowardice (Genesis 12:10-20, 20:1-13). On the other hand, we also see that whenever God told Abraham to do something, he obeyed: even to the point of sacrificing his son (Genesis 22:1-13). For His part, God bestowed very special blessings upon Abraham. God’s criterion for doing so appears to be summed up in this verse:

“And [Abraham] believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6).

In spite of Abraham’s failings, he was faithful — believed in God — and for this very reason God considered Abraham righteous. In other words, Abraham’s sins were forgiven because of his faithfulness.

We can see, then, that the God of Genesis is a God of love and mercy. Truly, He only extends mercy on His own terms: but this is what we would expect from a God who is just. In a court of law, we might expect a judge to extend some leniency toward a criminal who expresses deep regret for his actions, and who promises not to repeat his offense; on the other hand, we see that the judge is justified in “throwing the book at” the criminal who shows no signs of remorse whatsoever. Mercy is tempered by justice.

Throughout the Old Testament, God’s character does not vary on this point: there are numerous examples of God’s love and mercy, and yet He never loses sight of justice. And when we get to the New Testament, we find that God is still concerned with justice; He does not ignore the problem of sin. In fact, it is because of the seriousness of sin, that He pays such a high price to punish it. On the other hand, in His loving mercy, God formulated a way to punish the sin while simultaneously offering forgiveness to the sinner — although forgiveness is still on God’s terms:

“He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

God’s terms have not changed. He still offers forgiveness and eternal salvation to any and all who will be faithful to Him.

Have you made that commitment to be faithful to God? Have you been baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins? If not, why are you waiting (Acts 22:16)?

— Via The Watchman Magazine, March 1, 1999
——————–

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News & Notes

Gospel Meeting February 7-10 at the Hoboken church of Christ (5101 Main Street, Hoboken, GA).  Weeknights: 7:30.  Speaker: Ian Rice (from Lakeland Hills, Florida).

Rex Hadley Jr. was hospitalized recently, due to bronchitis and congestive heart failure. His heart function had dropped to 18%, but that could improve.  He is now back home.

The test results for Carol Drain showed no cancer for the lower region, including the kidneys and liver.  She will be having another test this Monday on the upper to determine what has caused a slight number increase that has led to some concern.

Let us also continue to remember Shirley Jernigan (Gege Gornto’s mother), who is in her 90s and receiving hospice care.
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes
(Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (January 31, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Walls of Jericho (Jim Robson)
2) Exalting Christ (Bill Hall)
3) You’re Satisfied? (Jere E. Frost)
4) News & Notes
——————–

city wall
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Evidences of Faith:

The Walls of Jericho
Jim Robson

On the cover of the December 18, 1995 issue of Time magazine is an artist’s rendition of Moses about to break the tablets of stone on which God had written the Ten Commandments. In bold letters is the question: “Is the Bible Fact or Fiction?” Under this eye-catching headline, we are informed that “Archaeologists in the Holy Land are shedding new light on what did — and didn’t — occur in the greatest stories ever told.”  The article which underlies this cover has some interesting information, but also some inconsistencies and misleading statements. I am not in the business of criticizing journalists or their work, so I do not intend to pick out all of the various problems in the piece, nor indeed would there be space to do so in this paper. However, the assertions made regarding the fall of Jericho are particularly interesting, and also perhaps most damaging to anyone seeking the truth. We would do well, therefore, to examine these a little more closely.

On pages 68-69 of the magazine in question is a large black section entitled, “Tales from The Bible That Are in Doubt.” Around this title are arrayed some more artistic renditions of biblical events, each one with a question: “Was Abraham a Myth?,” “Did the Exodus Happen?,” “Was There a Moses?,” and “Did Joshua Conquer the City of Jericho?” In the cases of Abraham, Moses, and the Exodus, the point is that no direct archaeological evidence has yet been found to prove any of these. In typical fashion, “most scholars” agree that these things never happened, simply because there has not been found any direct proof of their existence outside of the Bible! This is nothing new; for generations, scholars have consistently refused to believe anything the Bible says until such time as some extra-biblical evidence forces them to admit that it happened. And even then they insist that the details of the biblical account are full of errors, whether or not they have any evidence to back up their assertions. But the claims Time makes regarding Jericho are somewhat bolder. In this instance, the claim is that the archaeological evidence actually contradicts the scriptural record:

“Historians generally agree that Joshua’s conquest would have taken place in the thirteenth century B.C. But British researcher Kathleen Kenyon, who excavated at Jericho for six years, found no evidence of destruction at that time” (page 68, center column).

This is interesting on at least two levels. First, if there is no archaeological evidence of Joshua’s campaign, and indeed historians don’t even believe it ever occurred, how can they all agree on when it would have happened? Secondly, it is interesting that this article, which repeatedly claims to be talking about new discoveries, cites Kathleen Kenyon’s research. Dame Kenyon excavated in Jericho from 1952 to 1958, and she died in 1978.

Kathleen Kenyon concluded that Jericho’s walls fell around 1550 B.C., some 150 years before the Bible has Joshua coming to the city. According to an article by Dr. Bryant Wood in the March/April 1990 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review, her conclusion was apparently based solely on the lack of pottery from Cyprus in her sites. It seems that certain Cyprian pottery was common in the 1400s B.C., and since she didn’t find any, she decided that the city must have been uninhabited during that time. But John Garstang, who excavated at Jericho from 1930 to 1936, had discovered some of this very pottery! Moreover, some of the local pottery which Dame Kenyon did find is unique to the period 1400-1450 B.C., when she said the city was unoccupied. So, the ceramic evidence actually confirms that the city was occupied until approximately 1400 B.C.

In addition to the ceramic evidence, there is much more archaeological evidence to show that the walls of Jericho fell somewhere around 1400 B.C. For a discussion of this evidence, see Dr. Wood’s article noted above. As to the Bible, I Kings 6:1 states that King Solomon began building the temple in Jerusalem in the four hundred and eightieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt. Construction of the temple began in 966 B.C., so this places the exodus from Egypt at 1446 B.C. When we consider the forty years of wandering in the wilderness, this puts Joshua at Jericho pretty close to 1400 B.C. Furthermore, in spite of the fact that the authors cite Dame Kenyon’s conclusions, the time line on pages 66-67 of the Time article shows the destruction of Jericho at 1400 B.C.! If you ask me, things are looking pretty good for the biblical account so far as the date is concerned, “most historians” notwithstanding.

But Dr. Wood points out that the archaeological evidence indicates more than just the date of the destruction. For example, unusually large stores of grain were found in the ruins. The portions of the city which were excavated were fairly poor, and grain was quite valuable in those days, so there are several conclusions which may be drawn from the fact that the stores of grain were intact: 1. Since grain was stored after harvest, the people ate from the stored grain until the next harvest. Therefore, Jericho must have been destroyed fairly soon after harvest, which would be in the spring. According to scripture, the Israelites crossed over the Jordan during the harvest (Joshua 3:15), then observed the Passover (5:10), and then took Jericho according to the Lord’s command. 2. The city was not taken by means of a long siege, which would have been typical in that time. If it had, the food would have been depleted. Joshua only needed to surround Jericho for seven days (6:3-5, 8-20). 3. Because grain was so valuable to the point of being used as currency, most conquerors would take any grain stored in a vanquished city. The large intact stores of grain in Jericho are therefore an anomaly. But this again is consistent with scripture, which states that the Israelites took only silver, gold, bronze, and iron for the treasury of the Lord (6:24). They took no other plunder.

In addition to the grain, the archaeologists also determined that the walls of the city collapsed. They were not broken by some kind of battering ram, they fell down. Here, of course, is a part of the scriptural account with which many are familiar:

“And it happened when the people heard the sound of the trumpet, and the people shouted with a great shout, that the wall fell down flat” (Joshua 6:20).

Finally, after destroying the city with the sword, the Israelites burned the city and all that was in it with fire (6:24). This again is consistent with the archaeologists’ findings which indicate that after the walls fell down, the city was burned.

So then, we see that in point after point, the archaeology of the city of Jericho agrees perfectly with scripture. And this is not surprising. In fact, the same issue of Time which we have been discussing has an article on page 70 entitled, “The New Testament’s Unsolved Mysteries,” which states:

“Time and again, archaeological finds have validated scriptural references.”

This being the case, why do scholars still insist on doubting the historical accuracy of the scriptural accounts? That may be the real unsolved mystery of the Bible! However, regardless of its detractors, scripture continues to prove itself to be reliable and true. And those of us who put our trust in God’s word continue to find ourselves on solid ground.

— via Watchman Magazine, March 1, 1998
——————–

phil1_20b

-2-

Exalting Christ

Bill Hall

How do we exalt Christ?  We exalt Christ when we preach His word, when we follow His teaching, when we do only that which He authorizes, when we wear only His name, when we make Him the center of our affection and adoration, when we recognize Him as our only Head, Lord, and King. To do otherwise is to fail to exalt Him.

— Via bulletin articles of the Collegevue church of Christ, January 10, 2016
——————–

Prov14_12
-3-

You’re Satisfied?

Jere E. Frost

So what?

The rich man was satisfied, but God called him a fool and took his life and condemned his soul. (Luke 12:20)

The whole church at Laodicea was satisfied, but Jesus said they did not know that they were actually wretched, and miserable and poor and blind and naked (Revelation 3:16-22).

That’s about how wrong a “satisfied” person can be.

Satisfied? Are you, now? The Pharisee that went into the temple to pray was satisfied with himself, and even glad he was not as the Publican (Luke 18:10-14). But Jesus said that the satisfied Pharisee was not justified like the sin-conscious Publican was!

The wise man warned: “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

— Via The Beacon, January 19, 2016
——————–

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving” (Colossian 2:6,7).
——————–

-4-

News & Notes

Let those of us who are God’s children keep the following people in prayer:

Rex Hadley Jr. (Anita Young’s brother) was hospitalized recently, due to bronchitis and congestive heart failure. His heart function had dropped to 18%, but that could improve.

The test results for Carol Drain showed no cancer for the lower region of her body, including the kidneys and liver.  She will be having another test this Monday on the upper part to determine what has caused a slight increase in some numbers that could possibly be indicating a recurrence of cancer that has been in remission for 8 years.

The Hoboken church of Christ at 5101 Main Street, Hoboken, GA, will be having their gospel meeting Feburary 7-10.  Weeknights will begin at 7:30.  Ian Rice (the preacher for the Lakeland Hills church of Christ in Lakeland Hills, Florida) will be the guest speaker.

Shirley Jernigan (Gege Gornto’s mother), who is in her 90s, began hospice care in the home of her daughter a couple weeks ago.

Frankie Hadley (Rex senior’s wife) recently had a mini stroke.

Shirley Davis (hip trouble), Deborah Medlock (pain around shoulder area), Andra Johnson (difficulties while being pregnant), Misty Thornton (heart trouble), and Michelle Rittenhouse (heart trouble).
——————–

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes
(Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ
(John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ
(Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized
in water for the remission of sins
(Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).     
6) Continue in the faith
; for, if not, salvation can be lost
(Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
——————–

Tebeau Street
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA  31501
Sunday services:
9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday:
7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go
(Gospel Observer website)
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html
(audio sermons)