The Gospel Observer (March 20, 2016)

Contents:

1) The Christian’s GPS Guide (Steve Locklair)
2) News & Notes
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The Christian’s GPS Guide
Steve Locklair

Most people are familiar with the GPS, a global navigation satellite system developed by the Department of Defense which transmits precise signals allowing receivers to calculate and display accurate location, speed, and time information to the user. These global positioning systems work in most weather conditions, day or night, 24 hours a day, around the globe, and we can use them to help us get to our destinations. You simply put in your destination address, and it will tell you turn by turn directions for the roads you need to travel to get you there. Some models will even alert you to traffic and construction delays that you might encounter and will allow you to avoid them. Using the acronym GPS, let us consider a few comparisons between this man-made GPS and God, and how we should use our spiritual GPS.  First, we should recognize God’s Powerful Sight. God is like the man-made GPS in that He knows exactly where you are at and where you are going, both physically and spiritually, just as he did with Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:9-13, 17ff). But while the man-made GPS makes mistakes and is dependent on the accuracy of the installed map, God is infallible, inerrant, and eternal, which all men should realize or they are without excuse (Romans 1:20; Proverbs 15:3). God has given us an inspired, infallible, and inerrant word to correct us when we are wrong and instruct us in doing what is right in His sight so that we will have the wisdom to get to our eternal destination through Christ (2 Timothy 3:14-17; John 14:1-6). Are you doing what is right in your own eyes or the eyes of the Lord (Judges 17:6; 21:25)?

In addition, we should follow God’s Powerful Standard. Just as the GPS has to make choices as to which road to go on, we also make decisions as to our eternal destination. God has created us in His image without sin when we are born, but at some point in our youth we choose to sin (Ezekiel 18:20; Jeremiah 3:25; James 1:13-16; Romans 3:23; 1 John 3:4). When we make choices based upon our feelings without divine revelation, the GPS tells us that it will eventually lead to eternal condemnation (Proverbs 14: 12; Revelation 21:8). We cannot guide our own footsteps in righteousness (Jeremiah 10:23). Thankfully, through the power of His blood and resurrection from the dead, we can be born again to a living hope through the reliable standard of the Scriptures (John 11: 25-26; 1 Peter 1:3-5, 19, 22- 25). If you are not on the right road that leads to heaven (through God’s Powerful Standard), you will not escape the righteous judgment of God (Hebrews 4:12-13).

We must also avoid the Great Prowling Schemer (Satan). Realizing God’s Powerful Sight and following God’s Powerful Standard will put us on the right road, but through our journey, we will encounter many traffic snares, construction delays, and road blocks that we must detour around or persevere through. We also can be honestly and sincerely thinking we’re going the right way but still be wrong. An example of this is following a man-made GPS and taking the wrong turn. Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and uses those who appear to be righteous in order to deceive others (2 Corinthians 11:14-15).

Even though he appears innocent, we must not let our guard down, because the Bible describes Satan as a roaring lion seeking to devour souls (1 Peter 5:8). Satan is always scheming in order to get people to curse God and disobey Him (Job 1:11). But how does he get people to do that?

Satan can use families.  

Satan took away everything Job had but allowed his wife to live so that she would do Satan’s bidding when she told Job to “curse God and die” (Job 2:9). What if your loved one told you to quit serving God when you were suffering through trials? Would you do it? Job overcame the great prowling schemer and did not curse God (Job 1:22; 2:10). You must love Jesus more than any other family member and not give in when they tell you to sin; discourage you from doing what is right; or become your enemy; otherwise you are not worthy of Him (Matthew 10:34ff; Luke 6:46). Will you put on the whole armor of God so that you will be able to stand firm and overcome the schemes of Satan (Ephesians 6:10ff)?

Satan can use friendships.

The Bible warns about bad company corrupting good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). But in an attempt to be popular, or get along with others in order to avoid persecution, many will decide to hang out with the wrong crowd. If you do this and continue to be their friends, ultimately, you will think, talk, dress and act like them. But if you delight in God’s word, you will overcome the GPS (Satan) by saying no to their enticements to sin (Psalms 1:1ff; Proverbs 1:10ff). Even if you have faithful friends, Satan can use them to lead you astray. They may judge you by appearance, traditions, or assumptions (Job 4:8; 8:8; 11:5-6; 19:14; 32:3; 42:7). Will you say no when your friends entice you to sin or will you give in to the great prowling schemer?

Satan can use ministers.  

Satan disguises himself as a minister of righteousness so that he can deceive people into believing a lie. “No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness, whose end will be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:14-15). Satan can use his ministers to tell people… that “all roads lead to heaven”; “just accept Christ as your personal Savior and you will be saved”; “once you’re saved, you’re always saved”; “it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you are honest and sincere”; etc. We must not think of any man above that which is written (1 Corinthians 4:6), and we must test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1) so that we will not fall victim to the deceptions of the Great Prowling Schemer.

Finally, we must obey God’s Plan of Salvation. With the man-made GPS, the mileage will change as you get closer to your destination. Even though there are different answers along the way, it is still accurate (unless it has malfunctioned). It is the same way concerning God’s plan of salvation. In the book of Acts, different answers are given to people depending on where they are at spiritually. They are not told everything they need to do at one time. Remember that the sum of God’s word is truth (Psalms 119:160).

An unbeliever should examine the facts of the gospel so that he might believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God or he will die in his sins (John 20:30-31; 8:24). The only way anyone can have faith is by hearing God’s Powerful Standard (Romans 10:17), not by a vision, miracle, feeling, or strong conviction.

A person who believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God must have the conviction to obey everything Jesus commanded (Matthew 28:19-20; John 14:15; Hebrews 5:8). A person who does not obey God’s plan of salvation will be punished forever in torment (2 Thessalonians 1:7ff).

The Ethiopian eunuch heard preaching about Jesus and asked what hindered him from being baptized. He was told if he believed with all his heart he could. Then he said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God” (Acts 8:37). This was in accordance with Jesus’ command to believe and be baptized in order to be saved (Mark 16:15-16).

Those who were pricked in their heart that Jesus is Christ and Lord on the Day of Pentecost were told to repent and be baptized. Why? So that they could have the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). A penitent believer was told to “arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). Why was he baptized? So that his sins would be washed away. Then a Christian is told to learn to obey everything Jesus commanded and grow in the grace and knowledge of His will (Matthew 28:20; 2 Peter 3:18).

In conclusion, you will need to use your spiritual GPS (God’s Powerful Standard) everyday of your life so that you will be able to overcome the Great Prowling Schemer and obey God’s Plan of Salvation so that you can eventually go to heaven. Satan is trying to deceive people into believing that the way to heaven is broad and easy and many will go there. Do not be deceived! God’s Powerful Standard is narrow, difficult, and few will actually go to heaven. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).

— Via The Watchman Magazine, January 26, 2010
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News & Notes

We enjoyed our gospel meeting with Ron Edwards.  He did an excellent job and delivered 5 good and interesting lessons March 18-20.

We rejoice in the conversion of Victoria (“Tori”) McCarthy who was baptized into Christ March 24!  She and her family have been attending with us over the last couple months, and a few of us have also been having some additional Bible studies with them.

Let those of us us are Christians continue to remember the following in prayer:

Easton Cox is now back home following his surgery that had removed his entire left kidney, due to a malignant tumor that had been attached to it.  He has now also begun chemo treatments; but they are mild, since there is no tumor remaining that needs to be shrunk.

Carol Drain began her chemo treatments last Friday and now has 5 more to go, with each being 21 days apart.

Mandy has been diagnosed with a mass on her brain and breast.

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

Misty Thornton no longer need her Life Vest, due to her heart ejection fraction coming up to 45%.   Her heart rate still goes too high at times, and she has to battle constant fatigue; but she has gone back to work (which she can do mainly from her home).  She also has been approved for Bariatric Surgery and is glad for that — for it will help put her on the transplant list, as well as prolong the need for it.

Let us also continue to remember the family and friends of James Taylor (Martha Lively’s brother) and the family and friends of Robert Young (Anita Young’s husband) who both passed away recently.
——————–

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 (March 13, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: A Prophet Like Moses (Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
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Evidences of Faith:
A Prophet Like Moses

Jim Robson

The book of Deuteronomy, which was written somewhere around 1450 BC, records the final words of Moses to the nation of Israel, before their long-awaited entry into the promised land of Canaan. One of the things Moses told the people was this:

“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren” (Deuteronomy 18:15).

At first blush, this may not seem very exceptional; throughout the long history of the Israelites, God sent many prophets to them. However, God did not send many prophets like Moses.

On the contrary, God Himself made a distinction between Moses and all of the other prophets:

“Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream. Not so with My servant Moses; he is faithful in all My house. I speak with him plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he sees the form of the Lord” (Numbers 12:6-8).

Even among the prophets, Moses was exceptional. God spoke of him in a way that set him, as it were, in a class by himself. So, when Moses indicated that God would at some point raise up another prophet like him, he was saying something truly extraordinary.

And, when we consider Moses’ life as a whole, it was indeed most extraordinary. At his birth, Moses narrowly escaped death: the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt, and Pharaoh had ordered all of the male Hebrew babies killed (Exodus 1:15-22). Moses’ mother hid her newborn son as long as she could, then placed him in a waterproofed basket in the reeds at the bank of the river, where Pharaoh’s own daughter found him, had compassion on him, and raised him as her own son (Exodus 2:1-10). Thus, the baby Moses was saved from the king’s decree.

Later in his life, Moses was sent by God to lead His people out of their Egyptian slavery (Exodus 3:9-10). After the people were out of the land of Egypt, they became trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea:

“Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea into dry land, and the waters were divided” (Exodus 14:21).

Thus, God effectively gave Moses power over the sea. Moreover, Moses freed the people from their enslavement to the Egyptians: for the Egyptians were driven back into the sea, and Moses closed it on them, drowning every man (Exodus 14:27-28).

To commemorate the people’s deliverance from bondage, Moses established the Passover and the feast of unleavened bread:

“So you shall observe the feast of Unleavened Bread, for on this same day I will have brought your armies out of the land of Egypt. Therefore you shall observe this day throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance” (Exodus 12:17).

This feast would serve as a reminder of how the people were in bondage in Egypt and were freed by God through Moses. It reminded them how they went from being slaves, to being God’s chosen people.

As we noted earlier, God spoke to Moses, giving him laws to deliver to the people. Moses then told the people all the words of the Lord and all His judgments (Exodus 24:3). Moses spoke whatever God told him to say (Exodus 4:12). But when Moses was on Mount Sinai, and God was speaking to him, he did something else impressive:

“So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water…” (Exodus 34:28).

Forty days is a long time to go without food or drink. And that is still not all; as a result of his meetings with God, Moses’ appearance changed:

“Now it was so, when Moses came down from Mount Sinai (and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’ hand when he came down from the mountain), that the skin of his face shone while he talked with Him. So when Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses, behold, the skin of his face shone, and they were afraid to come near him” (Exodus 34:29-30).

As a result of the meeting with God on the mountain, Moses’ face glowed. No wonder the people feared him!

Because of the people’s continual complaining, Moses came to realize that the responsibility of leading them was too much for him to handle on his own. So, like all men of faith, he brought his concerns to God in prayer:

So the Lord said to Moses: “Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tabernacle of meeting, that they may stand there with you” (Numbers 11:16).

God answered Moses’ prayer by providing him with seventy men who could help him accomplish his mission.

One of the most impressive things about Moses’ character is that, in spite of the repeated complaints and rebellions of the people, he never stopped caring for them. In fact, Moses continually interceded for the people with God:

“Yet now, if You will forgive their sin — but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written” (Exodus 32:32).

In his prayer, Moses reveals a deep concern for the people, that he cared for them every bit as much as he cared for himself: even to the point of being willing to suffer the condemnation they incurred with their sins.

At this point, you may begin to think of someone else in the Bible who was willing to suffer for the sins of His people. You may think of Jesus, “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness…”  (I Peter 2:24). Interestingly, on the night He was betrayed, Jesus even prayed for His people in such a way that revealed His deep concern for them:

“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24).

Jesus prayed that His people share in His rightful place in heaven, thus showing that He cared for them every bit as much as He did for Himself.

It is also interesting to note that, during His ministry on earth, Jesus had seventy men to work with Him:

“After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go” (Luke 10:1).

You will recall that this is the same as the number of elders who were appointed to help Moses in his work.

You will also recall that Moses’ face glowed while he was on the mountain with God:

“Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light” (Matthew 17:1-2).

Nor was Moses the only one to fast for forty days:

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He became hungry” (Matthew 4:1-2).

Nor indeed was Moses the only one to speak what God told him:

“For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that His command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:49-50).

Thus Jesus related the commands of God the Father to His people, just as Moses had done for the Israelites.

Moreover, Moses was not the only one who was involved in freeing slaves. As Jesus said, “…whoever commits sin is a slave of sin” (John 8:34). By giving Himself on the cross, Jesus paid the price for sins, thus setting His people — His disciples — free (John 8:31-36). Not only that, He provided them with a way to remember the event that brought them from slavery to freedom:

“And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me'” (Luke 22:19).

Jesus established this memorial at His last meal with the apostles before His crucifixion. This meal was a Passover meal (Luke 22:7), and so there would be no bread available except unleavened bread. Thus the commemoration established by Jesus, like the one established by Moses, was a feast of unleavened bread.

And, of course, we all remember what happened when Jesus and His disciples were at sea, and a storm arose that threatened the boat and their lives:

“Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:39).

Jesus evidently had inherent authority over the sea and the wind, whereas Moses could not have parted the Red Sea without God’s direct intervention. And no doubt, Jesus freed His people from a spiritual bondage that has eternal consequences, whereas the deliverance accomplished by Moses was physical and temporal. And while Moses expressed a willingness to die with his people, Jesus actually died for His. In short, Jesus was, in point after point, greater than Moses. Nonetheless, the parallels are striking.

We have yet one more parallel to mention. When Moses was born, Pharaoh had ordered all the male Hebrew babies to be killed, as a security measure. When Jesus was born, it was King Herod’s turn:

“Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men” (Matthew 2:16).

Of course, Herod did not succeed in killing the newborn King, because Joseph had been warned by an angel to flee to Egypt. Thus both Jesus and Moses narrowly escaped death as babies.

Having considered all of these things, it is important to remember that at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, two of the greatest prophets of all time appeared with Him: Moses and Elijah. When Peter wanted to erect tabernacles for the three of them, God said:

“This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5)

When the apostles opened their eyes, Jesus was the only one of the three still there. Thus God spoke of Jesus in such a way as to separate Him from all other prophets, as He had once done for Moses. Jesus is indeed in a class by Himself.

Not surprisingly, in Acts 3:22-26, the apostle Peter identifies Jesus as the Prophet whom God had promised, the Prophet like Moses. When we consider that Moses had so many points in common with Jesus, it is difficult to regard them all as nothing more than coincidences. Moreover, Moses was by no means the only foreshadow of Christ in the Old Testament: there are many of them. The various foreshadows do not appear very similar to each other, and yet each and every one points to Jesus. It is simply not within the realm of reason to take all of these as mere coincidence. The Bible is the product of One who cannot only foresee the future, but who can even orchestrate events in such a way as to illustrate what is going to happen hundreds or even thousands of years later. He is a truly mighty God.
— Via The Watchman Magazine, October 1, 1988
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News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be remembering the following in prayer:

Easton Cox (son of Mark and Emily Abbott Cox) is only 14 months old, but recently had his left kidney removed, due to a malignant Wilms tumor that was attached to it.  A port was also implanted under his skin for the 16 weeks of chemo that he will be receiving.  Some lymph nodes were also removed for testing.  And here is something that seems providential: The reason why Easton was first taken to the hospital was not because of the tumor, which they knew not about at that time; but because of blood in his urine that was caused by a kidney infection, which was non-related to the tumor.  His great grandmother mentioned that a doctor might have simply prescribed some antibiotics for Easton and then send him home.  But Easton’s doctor also had an ultra sound done that led to this very important finding, which is now being taken care of!

Mandy has been diagnosed with a mass on her brain and breast.

Carol Drain will begin her chemo treatments March 18.  There will be 6 of them, 21 days apart.

Penny Medlock had to return to Saint Simons, due to her medication needing to be adjusted again.  She had been having some difficult days.

Remember, too, our Gospel Meeting  March 18-20 (Friday – Sunday) with Ron Edwards (from Jonesboro, Georgia) preaching.  The following shows the lessons and times for each service:

Friday 7:30 P.M.: “Who Am I?”
Saturday 7:30 P.M: “What is My Greatest Danger?”
Sunday 9 A.M.: “How Should I Read Genesis 1-11?”
Sunday 10 A.M.: “What Do I Want On My Tombstone?”
Sunday 3 P.M.: “What is in a Name?”

If you are going to be in our area, we would love to have you come join us for any or all of these services!  We hope to see you there!
——————–

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 (March 6, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: Eyewitness Testimony (Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Acts4_33
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Evidences of Faith:
Eyewitness Testimony

Jim Robson

“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise” (1 Corinthians 15:14-15). The conviction that Jesus rose from the dead lies at the very heart of the Christian’s faith. Therefore, if we can be certain that He did rise, then we can be certain that we are correct in following Him. Likewise, if we cannot be certain that He rose, then our faith as Christians is without a substantial foundation. It is of the utmost importance, then, that we can be completely certain of Jesus’ resurrection. But, how can we be certain, seeing that we were not present to witness it for ourselves?

This question can be addressed in a number of ways. One way to approach this question is to take a hard look at those who claimed to see the risen Christ: are they reliable witnesses, or a bunch of charlatans? If they are frauds, then there is no reason to follow Christ over any other philosopher or religious figure — for example, Gandhi or Buddha or Muhammad. However, if the individuals who testified of Jesus’ resurrection prove to be reliable witnesses, then we have solid reason to place our faith squarely in Him. Paul indicated that hundreds of individuals saw the risen Christ (1 Corinthians 15:6), but for our purposes we will focus on the handful of witness who knew Him best: the apostles.

In order to determine whether we can believe their testimony, we may start with the question, “What did the apostles have to gain?” If we are going to believe that these men fabricated the resurrection story, then we ought to be able to determine a motive. In point of fact, however, they did not have much of anything to gain. They did not attain wealth for their efforts, nor is there any evidence that they tried to. They did not achieve any political power; in fact, all of their efforts at preaching were focused on the spiritual well-being of the hearers, and no attempt was made to form any kind of political or social movement. Indeed, so far from gaining anything, the apostles suffered grievously for their teaching. They were arrested, imprisoned, and beaten. They were ostracized by the rulers of their own people. Some of them were even killed for their beliefs. These things being so, there is no apparent reason for them to conjure up such a lie. The necessary conclusion, then, is that they were honest men.

To see this point even more clearly, consider in particular the apostle Peter. On the night Jesus was arrested, Peter was so afraid of punishment that he denied knowing Jesus not once, but three times (Matthew 26:69-75). After seeing the resurrected Jesus, and watching Him ascend to heaven, this same Peter began publicly preaching that Jesus is the Christ, and that he himself was a witness (Acts 2:32-36). In fact, Peter had grown so bold that, when he was arrested for preaching Jesus, he proceeded to preach Jesus to those who had arrested him (Acts 4:8-13)! It is difficult to explain such a drastic change in Peter’s character, unless he truly believed that Jesus had risen from the dead: the fabrication of a lie would never transform a coward into a hero, but witnessing a Man risen from the dead could.

Another question that may be asked is, “Were the apostles just a bunch of dupes?” This is a fair question. It is not enough to know that they were honest men; there is, after all, such a thing as an honest mistake. Perhaps they so badly wanted to believe that Jesus had risen, that they were easily convinced. To answer this, we may begin with Mark’s account:

“Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe” (Mark 16:11).

Far from being easily persuaded, these men appear to be downright skeptical. And the account continues:

“After that, he appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country. And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either. Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen” (vs. 12-14).

The apostles seem to have been reluctant to believe that Jesus had risen, rather than eager to believe it.

Most famous in this regard, of course, was the man from whom we derive the expression, “doubting Thomas”:

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe'” (John 20:24-25).

Clearly, these men were not easily persuaded of the resurrection. Therefore, the fact that they became so thoroughly convinced of it that they were willing to suffer and die in order to preach it to others, gives us compelling reason to believe their testimony.

A Hostile Witness

So far, we have looked at the apostles who traveled with Jesus while He was on earth in order to establish the reliability of their testimony, and we have found them to be credible witnesses. Now, let us look at another individual who claimed to see the risen Christ, and examine his credibility as a witness. Let us look at Saul of Tarsus.  When we first encounter Saul of Tarsus, he is guarding the clothes of those who are stoning Stephen to death (Acts 7:58). Stephen was put to death because he was proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, and rebuking those of his countrymen who refused to believe in Him. We are told that “Saul was consenting to his death” (Acts 8:1). Moreover, Saul was not content with the death of one disciple. On the contrary, “he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (8:3). When many of the disciples fled from Jerusalem, Saul was not content to let them go:

“Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem…” (Acts 9:1-2).

Clearly, Saul was vehemently opposed to the notion that Jesus was the Messiah. It did not seem likely that he would ever become a believer.

When we consider Saul’s training, and his place in the Jewish society of that day, it is not surprising that he was opposed to the gospel of Christ. Saul was a Pharisee, and the Pharisees were one of the more powerful sects among the Jews. The Pharisees regarded the gospel as a threat to their position and their nation (John 11:47-48). Not only that, they constituted the strictest sect among the Jews (Acts 26:5): they were determined to preserve the precepts of the Old Testament, the law of Moses (Acts 15:5). The disciples of Jesus Christ, of course, were preaching that God had made a new covenant with mankind through the blood of Christ, and therefore the law of Moses was no longer in effect (Hebrews 8:7-13). Such teaching would seem like blasphemy to a Pharisee: and Saul, being a very zealous young Pharisee, was determined to see this teaching stamped out.

So then, let us consider Saul of Tarsus. As any Pharisee, he was a well-educated and well-respected member of his society. His position in life appeared to be secure and comfortable. To him, the gospel of Christ appeared to be blasphemy, and repugnant to everything he stood for. His zealous opposition to the gospel caused him to ruthlessly persecute those who believed and taught it. It would seem abundantly evident that such a man would never become a disciple of Jesus Christ.

Yet, he did become a disciple: and not only a disciple, one of the most energetic and well-known gospel preachers of all time. As you may already know, Saul of Tarsus is the man who is better known to history as the apostle Paul. The question is, what made him change? What could convince such a hostile opponent of Jesus to become one of His most ardent followers? According to Paul, it was the fact that he saw the risen Christ:

“I persecuted this Way to the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women, as also the high priest bears me witness, and all the council of the elders, from whom I also received letters to the brethren, and went to Damascus to bring in chains even those who were there to Jerusalem to be punished. Now it happened, as I journeyed and came near Damascus at about noon, suddenly a great light shone around me, and I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, `Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?’ So I answered, `Who are You, Lord?’ And He said to me, `I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting'” (Acts 22:4-8).

The result of this vision was that Paul believed in Jesus, was baptized, and immediately began preaching the gospel to others (Acts 9:10-22).

If there ever was a man who was unlikely to admit to seeing Jesus risen from the dead, that man was Saul of Tarsus. And yet, he not only admitted it, he boldly proclaimed it throughout the Roman Empire. Our next question might be, what did Saul have to gain by becoming a preacher of the gospel? The answer is that, like the other apostles, his efforts to spread the gospel resulted in persecution and suffering, as he wrote to the church at Corinth:

“From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren…” (2 Corinthians 11:24-26).

In exchange for his life of security and comfort, Paul received a life of suffering and danger. Clearly, he did not claim to have seen Jesus for the sake of personal gain. Paul must have truly believed that he had seen the risen Christ.

So then, the question that remains is whether Paul had the mental stability to make him a believable witness. We may begin to answer this by noting that he appears to have had the respect of the rulers of his people. As mentioned above, when Saul went to the chief priest and asked for letters to the synagogues of Damascus, he was given them. He even called upon the high priest and the council of elders as his witnesses, when defending himself before the mob in Jerusalem (Acts 22:5). It is not likely that the rulers of the nation would have placed such trust in a man whom they regarded as unstable. Moreover, when we read Paul’s writings (Romans through Philemon), it appears that he was a highly intelligent man who had a completely rational mind: his method of argumentation is thoroughly logical. It is reasonable to conclude, based upon the available evidence, that Paul was in his right mind.

We have every reason, therefore, to regard Paul as a reliable witness. He had nothing to gain by his testimony, and much to lose. He had every reason to deny that Jesus had risen from the dead. He gave every appearance of being a sane and rational man. So then, we may add Paul’s testimony to our long list of reasons to believe. And, we may ask those who do not believe this question: why not? As Jesus said to Saul, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads” (Acts 26:14).

— Via Watchman Magazine, July 1, 1998
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of James Taylor (Martha Lively’s brother) of Ocala, Florida,  who passed away March 8.  Let those of us who are Christians be praying for all his loved ones.

Penny Medlock
returned home Friday from a more than one-week hospital stay and is now doing much better.

James Medlock had not been well recently, but has now improved.

Let us also continue to remember in prayer Myrna Jordan, as she is recuperating from her recent surgery; and Rex Hadley, who had been in the hospital last week, due to having trouble breathing.

We will be having a Gospel Meeting March 18-20 (Friday – Sunday) with Ron Edwards preaching.  Friday and Saturday services will begin at 7:30 P.M.  Sunday services will be at 9 A.M., 10 A.M., and 3 P.M. All are invited!
——————–

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 28, 2016)

Contents:

1) Evidences of Faith: The Blood of the Lamb (Jim Robson)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Exodus12_13
-1-

Evidences of Faith:
The Blood of the Lamb

Jim Robson

In the May installment of Evidences, we looked at the exodus of the Israelites from the land of Egypt. In particular, we focused on the crossing of the Red Sea, and how that crossing foreshadowed the New Testament concept of baptism. This month, we will focus on another event which God brought about in the course of freeing His people from their slavery: the tenth plague.

In order to convince the Egyptians of His deity, engrave the fear of Himself on their hearts, make Himself known to all peoples, and to convince Pharaoh to let Israel go, God sent a series of plagues upon the Egyptians. The tenth — and final — of these plagues was the most terrible of all:

Then Moses said, “Thus says the Lord: ‘About midnight I will go out into the midst of Egypt; and all the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sits on his throne, even to the firstborn of the maidservant who is behind the handmill, and all the firstborn of the beasts'” (Exodus 11:4,5).

This would be the plague to end the plagues, the one that would finally cause Pharaoh to send Israel out of Egypt. Moreover, it was yet one more instance where God showed that He had chosen a specific people to be His own:

“But against none of the children of Israel shall a dog move His tongue, against man or beast, that you may know that the Lord does make a difference between the Egyptians and Israel” (Exodus 11:7).

God had determined that He would shield His people from the death of their firstborn. However, the Israelites would have to do something in order to avail themselves of this protection.

In chapter twelve of Exodus, God instructed the Israelites to conduct a special sacrifice. On the tenth day of that month, which was henceforth to be the first month in their calendar, each household was to choose a lamb. If the household was too small to eat the whole lamb, then two neighbors could share a lamb. It could not be just any lamb, however:

“Your lamb shall be without blemish, a male of the first year. You may take it from the sheep or from the goats” (Ex. 12:5).

While it could be either sheep or goat, it had to be without spot. They were to keep this lamb for four days:

“Now you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month. Then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at twilight. And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two door-posts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it” (Ex. 12:6,7).

It is interesting to note the phrasing of verse six; it is as if the entire people Israel were coming together to kill one lamb. We know from what has already been said that many lambs were to be sacrificed, and so to say that “the whole assembly…shall kill it” seems enigmatic. It is also interesting to note the time of day. If your Bible has marginal notes, it may point out that the ancient Hebrew expression rendered twilight literally means, “between the two evenings.” But more importantly, there is the blood: why put it around the door?

“For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord. Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt” (Ex. 12:12,13).

This is why the meal is called the Lord’s Passover (verse 11). God did not enter the houses where the lamb’s blood was on the doorposts and lintel to destroy their firstborn, but passed over them. Thus God’s people would be saved from the death of their firstborn children by the blood of the lamb.

God commanded the people to observe the Passover perpetually, year after year, to remind themselves that it was He who had freed them from slavery and made them into a nation. Along with the Passover, there was also to be a week-long feast. As you recall, the Passover was sacrificed on the fourteenth day of the first month. This day would also mark the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

“In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the twenty-first day of the month at evening. For seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses, since whoever eats what is leavened, that same person shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel, whether he is a stranger or a native of the land” (Ex. 12:18,19).

So, no leavened bread could be eaten with the Passover lamb, or for a week thereafter. The Israelites, God’s first covenant people, were to keep this feast perpetually. Thus it would be an ongoing reminder to them that God had saved them from their bondage to the Egyptians.

While there are many instances of God saving His people from various kinds of predicaments recorded in the Bible, the central problem is always sin. This is a problem we all face, for all have sinned (Romans 3:23). And it is a very serious problem, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23). Moreover, it is a problem which we are helpless to rectify on our own, since everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin (John 8:34). In the first epistle of John, we are told that God is all light, purely good, with no darkness, or evil, in Him. Therefore, we who have sinned cannot have any part with Him, because we walk in darkness. Our sins separate us from God, and therefore also from heaven and eternal life, and there is nothing we can do on our own that can take those sins away:

“But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from sin” (1 John 1:7).

If we believe in Jesus, and thereby live according to the example He set for us, God will call us His people, and deliver us from the greatest predicament of all:

“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10).

So, by the resurrection of Christ, by His victory over death, we have hope of everlasting life: if we have first been reconciled to God by His blood. It is the blood of Christ that frees us from our bondage to sin, and saves us from the death that results.

So then, just as the blood of the unblemished lamb saved the Israelites from the death of their firstborn, so also the blood of Christ saves all of His disciples from the consequence of their own sin: death. The sacrifice of Christ is what allows the just God to pass over His people when He executes judgment upon mankind for their innumerable sins…

“…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth to be a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:23-26).

Because of the blood shed on the cross, those who are accounted faithful in Jesus Christ will not receive the punishment for their sins, but will receive life by the grace of God. Thus God has delivered us by a truly great deliverance.

Just as we saw that Exodus 12:6 is written as though there was only one lamb for the entire people of Israel, so we truly have only one Lamb who was sacrificed for us. We also noted that the original Passover was sacrificed at twilight, and that the Hebrew expression literally means “between the evenings.” With that in mind, consider what happened when Jesus was on the cross:

“Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama Sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’ Some of those who stood by, when they heard it, said, ‘Look, He is calling for Elijah!’ Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, ‘Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come take Him down.’ And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last’ (Mark 15:33-37).

The ‘sixth hour’ would have been about twelve noon, and the ‘ninth hour’ about three p.m. So, there were three hours of darkness before Jesus’ death, but normal evening did not begin until about three hours after His death. There were, in effect, two ‘evenings’ that day, and Jesus died between them. The Passover is a vivid foreshadow of the sacrifice of Christ.

The apostle Paul refers to this in the context of instructing the church at Corinth to put away from themselves a man who, though called a Christian, would not repent of his sin. The Corinthian brethren, rather than feeling pain when considering the spiritual state of their fallen brother, were evidently proud of their capacity to embrace him even in his sin, and so Paul rebukes them:

“Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Corinthians 5:6-8).

Remember the Feast of Unleavened Bread? Just as God’s first covenant people kept that feast beginning with their Passover sacrifice, so also do we. They kept their Passover by killing a lamb; our Lamb has been sacrificed for us once and for all. They kept their Feast of Unleavened Bread by eating that bread; we keep ours by being that bread: by purging out the leaven of sinful attitudes, and living with pure hearts before God.

We have, then, yet another clear example of how the books of the Old Testament anticipate the events and truths recorded in the New Testament. In this present case, the book of Exodus was written about fifteen hundred years before the New Testament was begun, yet somehow the author could foreshadow the cross of Christ. Sure, one may dismiss this as mere coincidence, but then what about the prophecy of Moses, discussed in last month’s issue of the Watchman? Or the bronze serpent (June issue)? Or the crossing of the Red Sea (May issue)? Or the near-sacrifice of Isaac (February)? At some point, we must reject the notion that this is all chance, and admit that there is a pattern. And that pattern leads us to the inescapable conclusion that the Bible is indeed from God.

— Via The Watchman Magazine, November 1, 1998
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

Here are some folks who would appreciate the prayers of the saints:

Penny Medlock has been hospitalized at Saint Simons for the last several days now.

Rex Hadley was admitted recently to the Mayo Hospital, due to having trouble breathing.  Tests are being done for his heart and lungs.

Myrna Jordan is now back home recuperating from recent surgery she had in Savannah.
——————–

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)