The Gospel Observer (September 24, 2017)

Contents:

1) “Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!” (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Mark9_24

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“Lord, I Believe; Help My Unbelief!”
Tom Edwards

The account from which our title is taken is also seen in Matthew 17:14-21 and Luke 9:37-43; but only Mark, who brings out more concerning it in Mark 9:14-29, includes the above statement (v. 24).

Imagine, if you would, being the parent of just one son, but who was severely afflicted with illness. Matthew refers to him as “a lunatic” that was “very ill” and “often falls into the fire and often into the water” (Matt. 17:15). Luke shows that this was brought on by “a spirit,” which “seizes him, and he suddenly screams, and it throws him into a convulsion with foaming at the mouth; and only with difficulty does it leave him, mauling him as it leaves” (Luke 9:39). Mark’s account includes that the boy was “possessed with a spirit which makes him mute; and whenever it seizes him, it slams him to the ground and he foams at the mouth, and grinds his teeth and stiffens out” (Mark 9:17-18). Ever since childhood, this is what the boy had continually been experiencing (v. 21). How concerned you would probably be if he were your son.

The boy’s father then said to Jesus, “It has often thrown him both into the fire and into the water to destroy him. But if You can do anything, take pity on us and help us!” (v. 22).

Jesus responded, “’If You can?’ All things are possible to him who believes” (v. 23).

After hearing this, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (v. 24, NKJV).

This man appears to have been humble, honest, sincere, and truly seeking the Lord’s help.

Would not his request to the Lord also make a good prayer for every believer today? “Lord, I believe; but help me in those areas where my faith is lacking – or is not at all.” For Paul also prayed for the Thessalonians “night and day…most earnestly that we may see your face, and may complete what is lacking in your faith” (1 Thess. 3:10).  Do we not all have a need to increase in faith — to improve in those areas in which we are lacking?

Faith, like the various good virtues that make up the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:22-23), can be at different levels. For Jesus spoke of some who had “little faith” (Matt. 6:30), and of those whose faith was “great” (Matt. 8:10; Matt. 15:28). So faith can also be anywhere in between. We, therefore, need to strive to make our faith greater.

This was also a concern for the apostles. They asked the Lord to “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5), and how did the Lord answer them? He first told them, “If you had faith like a mustard seed [which is one of the smallest of seeds], you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and be planted in the sea’; and it would obey you” (v. 6). But that was not yet the answer to their question. So look what the Lord then goes on to say: “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done’” (vv. 7-10). So what do we infer from this as to the answer of their question concerning how to increase their faith? First of all, do we not see that an increase of faith is not something that comes suddenly? There is a need to grow in the faith through humble service unto the Lord, by doing those things that are required of us.  For faith needs to be exercised, and it should be a “faith working through love” (Gal. 5:6).  Faith is a foundation for the soul to build upon and be soundly supported throughout life.  For we are to “continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel…” (Col. 1:23).

But how can faith be increased? What is the source for it? It is true that the creation “testifies” toward the reality of God (cf Rom. 1:19-20; Psa. 19:1), which helps us to believe in Him; but the faith that saves from sin requires more than that kind of belief through creation. For Paul shows that it is the gospel that is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). We, therefore, must first hear it – for “faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). But we must also be “doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).  Brethren were being strengthened in the faith by conforming their lives to the message that Paul and Timothy spoke to them (Acts 16:4-5).  We have also seen that the gospel is referred to as “the faith” that we are to “contend earnestly for” (Jude 1:3), and which “a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to” (Acts 6:7). For as food is to the body, even more so is God’s word to the soul. Therefore, as Jesus states, “MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD” (Matt. 4:4). When Jesus told His disciples, who were concerned that He should eat, “I have food to eat that you do not know about,” they were thinking of only physical food (Jn. 4:31-33); but the Lord then explained, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (v. 34). Jesus was a doer of His Father’s will, and we must be likewise.  For since He had a need to receive the nourishment of spiritual food by obeying His Father, then how much more do we have that need toward doing the same?

To grow strong in the Lord involves increasing in faith. Peter closes his second epistle by exhorting the brethren to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). And Paul’s final words to the Ephesian elders also pointed them in that same direction: “And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:31).  What better advice can one give than encouraging others toward learning God’s word, obeying it, and continuing in it?

So in all this, we see the connection in obtaining a knowledge of the Scriptures, acquiring faith, and growing strong in the Lord. Our faith is based on God’s word – rather than on personal feelings. And corresponding with that, John declares, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13). So, yes, we are to look to God’s word for faith and increase in our knowledge of that message and put God’s word into practice in our lives so our faith will also grow — along with the assurance it brings.

As pointed out, the man in Mark 9:24 was humble to indicate that there were areas in his life in which he lacked faith, but he sought the Lord to help him in that. May we each also do the same, and by using those sources of His word (Rom. 10:17) and the avenue of prayer (2 Cor. 13:9) that God has provided for the Christian.

Paul told Timothy that by his teaching the word he would “be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you are following” (1 Tim. 4:6).  Was that merely a special privilege for Timothy to be able to be “constantly nourished on the words of faith”?  As we take the time to teach the gospel to others, it also helps us to grow in the faith.  For we are then doing what God has commanded and find it rewarding in doing so.  In addition, our studying and researching to prepare to teach has us focusing on the Scriptures and filling our hearts and minds with it, which is good meditation for the soul.

We must also increase in faith because some have wandered from it (1 Tim. 6:10; 2 Tim. 2:18; 1 Tim. 6:21); and we need, therefore, to be on guard against that. One of Paul’s exhortations to Timothy was that he would “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Tim. 6:12). Faith is to be “kept” (2 Tim. 4:7). It is to be lived by — rather than shrinking back from (Heb. 10:38). For faith preserves the soul (v. 39), and its outcome is the salvation of our souls (1 Pet. 1:9).  So we must “contend earnestly for” it (Jude 1:3).  And, to do so, as we have seen in this lesson, requires a faith that is accompanied with obedient action.  For “…faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-26).

Let us remember that humble, honest, and sincere man who, after talking with Jesus, “Immediately…cried out and said with tears, ‘Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!’” (Mark 9:24).  And may we, like him, also desire to have our faith increased and seek to accomplish that by expanding our knowledge of God’s word, putting it into practice in our lives, and spending time with the Lord in prayer.  For then, what a great comfort faith can be!  Not only is it then the saving faith that leads to heaven, but also it is “…the assurance of things hoped for” and “the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1).

(All Scripture from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
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News & Notes

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of Kelli McDavid Fleeman who passed away September 21 at only 46 years of age.  She was an occupational therapist, serving in Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia; and a member of the Wheelersburg church of Christ.  She is survived by her husband Richard “Rick” Fleeman, their son Adam, and their three daughters: Noel Elizabeth, Karlie Brooke, and Lindsay Dawn.  Also survived by her two sisters: Amy (Darrin) Hackney and Kimberly (Bert) Bayes.  Along with her father Joe (Dotty) McDavid, and many other relatives and friends as well.

Our sympathies also go out to all the loved ones of Geraldine (Jerri) Coop who passed away September 23.  She is survived by her husband Archie with whom she had been married for over 63 years; her three sons Michael (Emily), Clifton, and Gregory (Lisa); three grandchildren (Lauren, Mathew, and Geneva), her  sister Shirley (Tom) Bunting, her brother Harold (Wylene) Collins, and many other loved ones.  She was also a member of the church of Christ.

Let us continue to remember in prayer the others who have also recently lost loved ones: the friends and family of Ronald Ray Renfrow and also of Ladonna AndrewsAnd those with health issues: Shirley Davis, Cedell Fletcher, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, and Mary Vandevander.  Those healing from recent surgery: Anita Abbott, Mary Kicklighter, and Charles Crosby.  And also for Cicily Thompson who is seeking employment.
——————–

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,
living for the Lord; 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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to Marc 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

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The Gospel Observer (September 17, 2017)

Contents:

1) The Receiving of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ House (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Acts11_18

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The Receiving of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ House
Tom Edwards

The receiving of the Holy Spirit by Cornelius and his household is thought by some as an indication that one can be saved without the need to first be baptized.  For Cornelius and his household miraculously spoke in tongues, which implies they had been given the Holy Spirit, prior to their being immersed in water (cf. Acts 10:44-47).

But were they really saved at that point or was there some other reason for this unique case?  Let us give it some thought.

In time’s past, the Lord miraculously conveyed His message to others.  The Hebrew writer begins his letter by saying, “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and IN MANY WAYS, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son…” (Heb. 1:1-2, emphasis mine).

What were these “MANY WAYS” that the Lord had imparted His message in the long ago?  Sometimes it was through prophecy (cf. Acts 3:21; 1 Cor. 13:2), or through dreams (1 Kings 3:5; Matt. 1:20; 2:12-13), or through visions (cf. Gen. 15:1; 46:2; Num. 12:6; Ezek. 1:1), or through audible utterances (cf. Num. 7:8-9; Deut. 4:12; Deut. 5:22-24; Isa. 6:8; Matt. 3:17; Matt. 17:5); or through angels (cf. Jdgs. 6:12; 13:3; Gen. 16:7-10; Gen. 22:11-12), etc.

Speaking of those dreams, God gave some important, prophetic dreams to Pharaoh when Joseph was in the land of Egypt and interpreted the ruler’s dreams as pertaining to seven years of plenty, which would be followed by seven years of a severe famine (cf. Gen. 41:1-8).  But does that indicate that Pharaoh must have been a faithful child of God, in a right relationship with Him, since the Lord had imparted these dreams to him of conditions yet to come?

The same can also be said about King Nebuchadnezzar to whom God gave a prophetic dream (cf. Dan. 2:1-2), which Daniel then gave the meaning of (vv. 37-45) and proved the accuracy of the interpretation by first telling the king what his dream was (vv. 31-36).  In chapter 4, the king is also given another prophetic dream, which Daniel interprets for him.  Was King Nebuchadnezzar a true worshiper of God, a loyal follower, to receive such dreams?  To the contrary, Nebuchadnezzar believed in many gods (v. 47).   In chapter three, the king had a golden image that was 90 feet high and 9 feet wide that all people were to “fall down and worship” as soon as they heard the various instruments playing music.  So Nebuchadnezzar was commanding these to be idolaters!  And those who would not comply were to be thrown into the fiery furnace!  In seeing Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego miraculously protected from those flames, Nebuchadnezzar came to acknowledge the true and living God, but also still believed in various false gods (cf. Dan. 3:27-30).  The point, however, is that Nebuchadnezzar was not a faithful follower of the Lord, yet God still gave this king of Babylon prophetic dreams.

Furthermore, according to Number 22:27-33, God enabled even Balaam’s donkey to speak!  But that certainly doesn’t indicate that this animal was some type of faithful servant of the Lord in “righteous” standing with God — and as opposed to a donkey that might be in “unrighteous” standing!  The donkey spoke because the Lord wanted it to in response to Balaam.

In John 11:49-53, Caiaphas declares, “…it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”   This high priest, who was the son-in-law of Annas and appointed by the procurator Valerius Gratus, was one in favor of killing Jesus (Matt. 26:3-5).  But what Caiaphas had not realized was that “he did not say this on his own initiative, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but in order that He might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”

And what about those who had miracles worked upon them in spite of their unbelief?  According to John 9:25, the blind man did not even know if Jesus was a sinner or not when He healed him! Does one truly believe in the Lord if He is regarded as a sinner or possibly one? It was after the blind man was healed that Jesus later returned to him and asked in verse 35, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” And the one who could now see replied, “…’Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?’  Jesus said to him, ‘You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.’  And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him” (vv. 36-38).

Elymas the magician, also known as “Bar-Jesus,” was a Jewish false prophet who was perverting the right ways of the Lord and sought to turn Sergius Paulus away from the teaching of the apostle Paul.  But Paul, after rebuking Elymas, commanded him to become blind for a while – and it was done (Acts 13:6-11)!  Did that miracle happen to Elymas because he believed it would? Does it indicate he had been a Christian who had faith in the power of God?  Is being made blind something that Elymas even wanted to happen to himself?  Yet, it was accomplished!

So these examples of God, miraculously enabling or imparting to those that were not His faithful people, show that it could be done; and that it does not, therefore, necessarily imply that they were in a saved or right relationship with the Lord.

So why did God give the Holy Spirit to Cornelius and his household — prior to their being baptized?  This miracle at Cornelius’ house was preceded by one that Peter experienced while at the house of Simon the tanner in Joppa and on the rooftop (Acts 10).  For there, Peter “fell into a trance” (v. 10) and saw a large sheet coming down that contained some creatures that were “unclean” and unlawful to eat during the Mosaical Age; and Peter heard a voice telling him to “Get up, Peter, kill and eat” (v. 13); but he had always refrained from eating anything “unholy and unclean” (vv. 11-14).  The voice then came to him the second time, saying, “What God has cleansed, no longer consider unholy” (v. 15)  “This happened three times…” (v. 16).

While Peter wondered as to the meaning of that vision, the three whom Cornelius had sent had arrived at Simon’s house and asked for Peter.  These were sent because an angel of the Lord had told Cornelius to do so (v. 22).  And the Spirit then told Peter, “Behold, three men are looking for you. But get up, go downstairs and accompany them without misgivings, for I have sent them Myself” (vv. 19-20).

Why did the Spirit say, “accompany them without misgivings”?  It was because, up to this time, Jews had little or no dealings with the Gentiles.  For on his arrival at Cornelius’ house, Peter declared, “You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a man who is a Jew to associate with a foreigner or to visit him; and yet God has shown me that I should not call any man unholy or unclean. That is why I came without even raising any objection when I was sent for…” (vv. 28-29).  Yes, Peter learned a great lesson!  He acknowledged, “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (vv. 34-35).

Keep in mind, too, that this event at Cornelius’ house took place about 10 years after the church was established; and Cornelius and his household became the first Gentile converts to Christ.  They had not been proselytes to Judaism in previous years, like “Nicolas, a proselyte from Antioch,” who later became one of the seven (Acts 6:5).  Rather, Cornelius and his household were Gentiles who were now coming to Christ to become Christians.  And to witness that wonderful event, there were also six Jewish Christians that Peter had brought with him (vv. 23, 45; 11:12).

The outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Cornelius and his household was God’s way of showing that Gentiles need to also be reached with the gospel.  For the Lord wants them to be saved, just as much as He wants the Jews to be, by submitting to His plan of salvation.  So this miraculous event at Cornelius’ house indicated that the door of redemption was open for the non-Jews as well — and all the Jewish Christians needed to not only realize that, but also accept it.

That this was something that the Jewish Christians had to learn, with regard to the Gentiles, is also inferred from the fact that Paul had referred to it as “the mystery of Christ, which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit; to be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:4-6).

Peter had actually preached on the day the church was established that the blessings which the Holy Spirit promised were not only for “you and your children,” which would be the Jews converted to Christ, but also for “all who are far off [the Gentiles], as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself” (Acts 2:39).  But it appears that Peter, though he spoke this by the inspiration of the Lord, did not understand all of what was meant in that statement.  For he is also the very one that God, about a decade later, had to give the vision to that signified the Lord’s approval toward preaching to and converting the Gentiles (cf. Acts 10:9-16).

Note, too, that this outpouring of the Holy Spirit was not an every-day occurrence nor something that would happen to every person who was converted, as some wrongly assume today.  For rather than likening it to some similar event a week before, or a month before, or several months before, Peter, in seeing what these Gentiles were doing, reflects back about 10 years to liken it to that time when God had given him and the other apostles the Holy Spirit on that day that the church was established (Acts 10:47; Acts 2).  He then also repeats that likeness when relating the account to the Christians in Jerusalem (Acts 11:15-18).

That makes sense because the baptism of the Holy Spirit that the apostles received (Acts 2; 11:16) and now this outpouring of the Spirit upon those at the house of Cornelius (Acts 10,11) are the only two examples in the New Testament of receiving the Holy Spirit in that manner, which was directly from God.  All others, in the early church who had miraculously received the Holy Spirit, did so through the laying on of the hands of an apostle — and only the apostles had the ability to do that (cf. Acts 8:5-6, 12-18; Acts 19:5-7).

So just as that day of Pentecost in Acts 2 was a special day of the apostles receiving the Holy Spirit and the church being established, this outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Cornelius’ house also made it a special day for the Gentiles!  For the way of salvation through Christ was now offered to them and would continue to be for any Gentile who would want to enter upon that pathway to glory by meeting the same conditions any other person would have to, in order to be forgiven, to become a Christian, and to continue in living for the Lord.

When Peter had later journeyed to the church in Jerusalem, the Jewish Christians “took issue with him, saying, ‘You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them’” (Acts 11:2-3).  But after Peter explained to them all that had happened and how God had even given the Holy Spirit to those Gentiles, the Jewish Christians then “…glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life’” (v. 18).

You see, that was the reason God gave the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles and had them speak in tongues — even before they were saved from their past sins — so that all could know that God’s desire to save is not just toward the Jews, but towards all people!  And all those who were Jewish Christians needed to adjust their thinking and acceptance toward that fact!

Therefore, God’s giving of the Holy Spirit to these Gentiles was not an indication that they had already been saved; but to show they could be, and that the Lord makes no distinction between them or the Jews when it comes to salvation.  As Paul also writes: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26-29).  And this was also true for those at Cornelius’ house who had their sins forgiven, after they obeyed the command to be baptized in water (Acts 10:47-48).

For those who understand the purpose for water baptism, it is easy to see that Cornelius and his household could not have been saved prior to their being baptized.  So after those Jews who had come with Peter had witnessed with amazement the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and heard these Gentiles speak in tongues, Peter then declared, “’Surely no one can refuse the water for these to be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we did, can he?’ And he ordered them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ…” (Acts 10:47-48).

Baptism is always seen as that last step that leads to being put into Christ (Gal. 3:26-27), that one may obtain the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38; Rom. 8:1), rise up to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12-13), and be saved from past sins (1 Pet. 3:21).  So these verses make it clear that it was not when or before their speaking in tongues by the Spirit that these Gentiles were forgiven and became Christians; but, rather, it was after they were then baptized in water for the remission of sins. And their having received the Holy Spirit and speaking in tongues prior was a unique case to serve as a sign to all that “God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

(All Scriptures are from the New American Standard Bible unless otherwise indicated.)
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News & Notes

Anita Abbott recently had surgery and all went well.  Let us be remembering her in prayer as she now heals.

Let us also keep in prayer Kelli Fleeman who continues with hospice care.  She has been battling with lymphoma that is now in the brain and greatly affecting her.

On September 11, Gerri Coop had a stroke.  She had been hospitalized, but then moved to hospice care. Let us pray for God’s blessings to be with her.

Mary Kicklighter recently had a complete knee replacement, and all went well.  Let us pray that she will heal speedily from it.

It was good to see Charles Crosby back with us, following his surgery a few weeks ago.  He still continues with receiving antibiotics intravenously, twice a day, and which takes about 90 minutes each time.

Also for prayer those who recently lost loved ones: the friends and family of Ronald Ray Renfrow and also of Ladonna Andrews.  And for those with health issues: Shirley Davis, Cedell Fletcher, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Cheryl Crews, Cicily Thompson, and Mary Vandevander. 
——————–

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,
living for the Lord; 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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (September 10, 2017)

Contents:

1) The Christian’s Spiritual Armor (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
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Armor of God

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The Christian’s Spiritual Armor
Tom Edwards

We see of a promise in 1 Corinthians 10:13 that should give us comfort during times of trials and temptations.  The verse says, “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.”

We believe this promise to be true.  However, we are not told in this particular verse just how God will go about providing this victory for us.  But one thing we can see in the context is that it also involves our working together with the Lord.  For notice the very next verse: “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry” (v. 14).  The implication being: if we want victory in Jesus, we then must turn from sin and turn to the Lord.

Something else that helps us gain the victory is by putting on the spiritual armor that the Lord has made possible for us, which is referred to in Ephesians 6:10-17.   For this is truly one of the ways that the Lord can provide us with a means of escape – by being well-protected from the onslaught of the evil one and even have a weapon — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” —  to fight back with.

In this passage, Paul begins by exhorting the brethren to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness….” (vv. 10-12).

Paul, therefore, then urges the brethren to “Stand firm” by “HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH…” (v. 14).  The literal act of girding one’s loins involved  pulling up one’s long, flowing robe and fastening it with a belt to the waist, so that it would not get in the way when engaging in battle or some other physical activity.  From that meaning, it is also easy to see its figurative usage of preparing oneself.  But we also note that what we are to prepare ourselves with is the “truth.”  So being a good soldier of Jesus Christ involves studying God’s word.

In the same verse, we also see the next instruction of “HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.”  You probably also notice a logical order in this. For we must first study God’s word so we can know and prepare ourselves with it.  Then we are to put it into practice.   As we have seen in the Old Testament, all of God’s  “commandments are righteousness” (Psa. 119:172).  So this is also true of the Lord’s commands for us today in the New Testament.  Furthermore, John shows in 1 John 3:7 that to be righteous one needs to practice righteousness; and, in verse 10, he states that “anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God…”  So having the “breastplate of righteousness” also involves our being doers of the Lord’s word – “…and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (Jms. 1:22).

The next instruction Paul gives for the Christian is that of “having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE” (v. 15).  When we think of feet in connection with the gospel, it evokes a picture of taking God’s message to others, which is an important part of being a Christian.

These first three instructions — which pertain to 1) acquiring a knowledge of God’s word, 2) obeying it, and 3) teaching it to others — might also remind us of the great example that Ezra sets forth: “For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel” (Ezra 7:10, emphasis mine).

Again we also see a logical order in these instructions.  For after one begins studying God’s word and putting into practice what he learns, he is then to teach it to others. And would we not think that by his doing the first two steps, he will also then, as a result, have better success with the third?

But let it also be pointed out that one does not need to know all of the Bible before being able to instruct others with what one does know about it.  For how much did that woman at the well know before she went into the city to tell others about the Christ? Her testimony led to “many of the Samaritans” believing in Jesus (John 4:39) – and they also came out to hear the Lord for themselves, and then believed based on His message to them (v. 42).  This can also be said about Paul who began preaching in Damascus, soon after his conversion, and before he spent about 3 years in the Arabian Desert where he was then instructed by God and obtained a fuller knowledge of His truth (cf. Gal. 1:11,12, 15-18).

Paul then exhorts the brethren in Ephesians 6:16 to take up “the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.”

Again we see the logical order in this. For the one who studies God’s word, puts it into practice, and is teaching it to others, truly does have that kind of saving faith that the Bible speaks of.  For it is an obedient faith, a faith that pleases God; and a faith that will save one’s soul – rather than being merely a mental acceptance toward the Deity of Christ.  As Jesus declares in Luke 6:46, “And why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”  And “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).   James also teaches that “faith without works is dead” (Jms. 2:26).   And the objective faith, which is the gospel itself (Jude 1:3; Acts 6:7), protects like a shield from the poisonous darts of false teaching.

The one who studies God’s word, strives to live according to it, teaches it to others, and as a natural result is increasing in the faith, is also the one who can have great assurance in his salvation.  Or as Paul metaphorically speaks of it, this is the person who has truly put on that “HELMET OF SALVATION.”  Being sure of one’s salvation can give a person great confidence, a positive outlook, and the zeal to endure the most difficult circumstances or trials, which is just what a person needs when facing and engaging in spiritual battles.  And this assurance is not based on mere feelings; but, rather, on God’s word.  As John declares: “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:13).

All these components that we have briefly considered will help protect us from the enemy; but, as soldiers of Christ, not only are we to be protected, but we are also to fight back.  So the Lord, in addition, provided us with a spiritual weapon — “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17).  This is what Jesus used, following his 40-day fast, when He was tempted by Satan three times in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1-11).  For to each of those temptations, the Lord responded with an “It is written…”  He quoted Scripture, and we must look to it as well and use it.  The need to do more than to merely protect ourselves can also be seen in Ephesians 5:11: “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.”  Paul had warned Timothy of the “many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers…who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach, for the sake of sordid gain” (Titus 1:10,11). So just as soldiers have often fought the enemy in order to protect others, we as soldiers of Christ are to similarly engage in these spiritual battles – not only for our selves, but also for the safety of others.

Seeing the sword being mentioned last is also in logical order.  For before we go into battle, it is important that we do have on the proper armor that will protect us while we strive to fight in confronting the foe.

Notice, too, that — even after we have prepared ourselves by putting on this spiritual armor and taking the Spirit’s sword — there is still another important thing to help us through, and that is prayer!  As Paul writes, “With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Eph. 6:18-20).  Yes, we need to pray for ourselves — and we need to pray for one another!  And as we see here, even the apostle Paul wanted the brethren to be praying for him!  So if someone as devoted as Paul needed the prayers of the saints, how much more do we?

May we each realize the importance of putting on the Christian’s spiritual armor, which the Lord is providing, and not neglect the power of prayer.  For through these means, the Lord will lead us into victory as we engage in whatever spiritual battle we encounter!

(All Scripture from NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)

I appreciate the interesting 3-D scene that Sherri Crews made for the young people’s class, as seen in the above picture for this article.  She makes a different one every quarter.
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

Let us continue in our prayers for all who have been affected by Harvey and Irma, along with the ongoing situation of fires covering more than a million acres in Montana.

Our sympathies and prayers go out for all the family and friends of Ronald Ray Renfrow who passed away September 12.  He is a Christian who had also served as an elder for about 15 years for the Parkway church of Christ in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and had also worked as a pharmacist for 50 years and was the husband of Patricia Byers Renfrow for 51 years.

Let us also be remembering Kelli Fleeman in our prayers who has now been put on hospice care.  She has been battling with lymphoma.

Also for prayer: friends and family of Ladonna Andrews who recently passed away, Shirley Davis, Charles Crosby, Cedell Fletcher, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Cheryl Crews, Cicily Thompson, and Mary Vandevander.
——————–

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,
living for the Lord; 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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)

The Gospel Observer (September 3, 2017)

Contents:

1) Armageddon (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Rev16_16

-1-

Armageddon
Tom Edwards

To the premillennialist, Armageddon will be where the final decisive battle of the world will take place. According to their doctrine, it will occur when Jesus returns at the end of the seven-year Great Tribulation to set up His kingdom on earth for a thousand years. Of course, if it were to be a literal warfare, as they teach, would not a weaponless ant, in comparison, have more probability in defeating a mighty herd of stomping elephants than for the forces of evil to have any success in triumphing over Christ in this final conflict between good and evil?

Armageddon is mentioned just once in the Bible: “And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon” (Rev. 16:16, KJV).

It is rendered in the New American Standard Bible as “Har-Magedon.” “Har” is a Hebrew word used in 497 verses of the Old Testament and translated as  “mountains” (161), “mountain” (156), “mount” (118), “hill country” (91), “hill” (18), and “hills” (6), to mention most of them. “Magedon” is referring to “Megiddo.” So together it can mean the “hill of Megiddo.”

Some archaeologists today refer to the “tell of Megiddo.” For a “tell,” as Daniel Webster points out, is “an artificial mound consisting of the accumulated remains of one or more ancient settlements (often used in Egypt and the Middle East as part of a place name)” (Random House Webster’s College Dictionary).  And at Megiddo, 25 layers of settlement, which have been built atop each other over a period of many centuries, have been discovered!

According to the Jewish Virtual Library, “The city of Megiddo…ceased to exist after the Persian invasion of Palestine some 2,300 years ago and, today, nothing is left but the ruins of what once was a regional administrative and military center during the reign of King Solomon.”

So though the city of Megiddo no longer is, yet the area still remains; and it is being used symbolically in Revelation 16:16 because of what that region, down through the centuries, has been noted for.  For it is where many armed combats and deaths have occurred. “In the history of Israel it had been the scene of never-to-be-forgotten battles… These low hills around Megiddo, with their outlook over the plain of Esdraelon, have witnessed perhaps a greater number of bloody encounters than have ever stained a like area of the world’s surface” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).

Interestingly, if you do a Google search for Megiddo, you might first of all find mention of the “Battle of Megiddo” way back in the 15th century B.C., which involved Pharaoh Thumose III and his army against “a large rebellious coalition of Canaanite vassal states led by the king of Kadesh.” It is said to be “the first battle to have been recorded in what is accepted as relatively reliable detail.” The HistoryChannel.com not only mentions of it being the first in that, but also “the first recorded battle with a body count, and the first use of the composite bow.”

Megiddo, Jezreel, Esdraelon (which is the Greek rendition of “Jezreel”), and Mount Gilboa are all places near the same area.

Other battles fought in that area:

* The King of Megiddo was one of the many kings that Joshua and the children of Israel had fought against and defeated (Josh. 12:7,21), and that latter verse is where we first see mention of “Megiddo” in the Bible.

* The judge Deborah, along with Barak, had defeated Canaanite kings “near the waters of Megiddo” (Judges 5:1,19).

* It was in the area of Megiddo where Gideon, with just 300 of his men, had defeated the large Midianite army (Judges 7).

* Israel’s first king, Saul, and three of his sons (Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua) were all killed in the area of Megiddo (1 Chron. 10:6; 1 Sam. 31:1-3, 8).

* Ahaziah, the 6th king of Judah, and a wicked one at that, had fled to Megiddo, after being struck by an arrow; and there he died (2 Kings 9:27).

* The archers of Pharaoh Neco had mortally wounded Josiah, a good king of Judah, at Megiddo (2 Chron. 35:22-23), who had come out to battle against him (vv. 21-22); and all Jerusalem and Judah mourned, and Jeremiah chanted a lament (vv. 24-25).  (The account in 2 Chronicles indicates that the “death” of King Josiah, recorded in 2 Kings 23:29, must have been a fatal wound he received in Megiddo that led to that death, though not immediately.)

The great mourning that was coming to Jerusalem is likened to “the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddo” (Zech. 12:11), which is referred to as the national mourning over the death of King Josiah.

It has been said that there were no fewer than 34 wars that were carried out in the area of Megiddo, much which had to do with the invading army’s attempt to control the plain of Jezreel for their own financial gain.

So all of this adds to the symbolism of the area of Megiddo and should not be thought of as the specific geographical location where a literal, physical battle will take place, sometime in the future, between Christ and those opposed to Him.  For much in the Revelation letter is highly symbolic. This can also be inferred from the word “signified” in Revelation 1:1. The verse says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John” (KJV). Daniel Webster shows the primary meaning of “signify” to be “1. to make known by signs, speech, or action.” So those signs are the symbolic imagery often used in the Revelation letter to convey God’s message. And note, too, that God revealed to John things that “must shortly come to pass” (Rev. 1:1).

The Revelation letter was written mainly to help Christians at that time who were undergoing an intense persecution for their faith. Life was difficult for them. Some were boycotted and no longer able to make a good income from their businesses; some were being persecuted in other ways; some were being imprisoned; some were being tortured; and some had even died as martyrs for the cause of Christ. But the message of the Revelation letter was to bring hope to all of them. That they could know that regardless of what they would have to endure for the Lord – even if it meant losing their own lives – they would ultimately be the victors! And their victory, because of Jesus, would eventually lead to its fullness in heaven’s glory for all eternity!

The battle of Armageddon mentioned in Revelation 16:16 is seen more of in Revelation 19:11-21: “And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. And on His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, ‘KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.’

“Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, ‘Come, assemble for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.’

“And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. And the beast was seized, and with him the false prophet who performed the signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image; these two were thrown alive into the lake of fire which burns with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse, and all the birds were filled with their flesh.”

This quote from Revelation 19 is not referring to the time of the final judgment. Rather, it pertains to many centuries ago, when Rome, the “beast” of Revelation 19:19, was still that ruling empire that was bringing persecution upon the Lord’s people.  As Rodney M. Miller writes, “Thus, the bowls of wrath in Revelation 16 represent God’s judgment on this wicked empire that has single-handedly sought to destroy God’s people. …the bowls of wrath described not an end of the world scene, but a coming of Christ on the Roman Empire. … The meaning of the battle is a decisive conflict between truth and evil. The Judgment of Christ on a pagan empire who sought to remove the force of Christianity from the world will in truth be a decisive struggle. …Revelation 19:1-10 shows the rejoicing of the saints when the truth has triumphed and the cause of the Lord has been vindicated.  Rome has been brought down” (The Lion & the Lamb on Planet Earth, pp. 200, 201).

To an intensely persecuted people of that day, God’s word gave hope — and it can do the same today!  As Paul writes to the Romans: “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, ‘FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.’ But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:35-39).

The Christians of John’s day could receive encouragement through the Revelation letter. Its principle of the Lord triumphing over evil and, thus, enabling His people to also have that victory because of Him, is still true for all of God’s children today!

(All Scriptures from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
——————–

-2-

News & Notes

Let us continue in our prayers for all who have been affected by Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey; and now also for those that Irma has reached and others who will be in its path, along with the ongoing situation of fires in Montana covering more than a million acres.

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of LaDonna Andrews who passed away September 7, after battling with cancer for about a year.  Though her passing is sad for all her loved ones, yet they can have comfort in their grief by knowing that she was a Christian, along with all their good memories of her.

Doctors are trying to determine how to help Kelli Fleeman be more alert and keep awake.  It has been difficult to bring her out of a sleep state.  She had another MRI on the 6th and an EEG all night.  On the 7th, following a lumbar puncture to the spine, she was able to keep awake more so then she had been over the last couple weeks. She knew all the senders for the fifty or so birthday cards that she had received and had the lengthiest conversation in weeks with her husband. She was also able to be on the phone with her sisters, which was her first use of the phone in a couple weeks. Her husband writes, “As we know, she’s in there; if they can just find a way to waken her without jamming needles in her.”

Shirley Davis is now back home, following the surgery she had on her shoulder and a temporary stay with one of her sisters.  The shoulder pain, as she heals, has been difficult for her.

Charles Crosby is still healing from his recent knee surgery and continues on strong antibiotics.

Doyle Rittenhouse is having some back trouble, which occurs from time to time, and is on a muscle relaxer.  He has also been experiencing “spinning” for several days, which causes imbalance.

Joyce Rittenhouse, who had been having bad reactions to medication for kidney infection, following a stone that had passed, has also been down with a virus and sinus allergies.

Also for prayer: Cedell Fletcher, Ronald Renfrow, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Cheryl Crews, Cicily Thompson, and Mary Vandevander.
——————–

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,
living for the Lord; 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 a.m. (Bible class); 10 a.m. & 5 p.m. (worship)
Tuesday:
7 p.m. (Ladies’ Bible class)
Wednesday: 7 p.m. (Bible class)
evangelist/editor:
Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
Tom@ThomasTEdwards.com
https://thegospelobserver.wordpress.com (Gospel Observer website with pictures in WordPress)
http://thomastedwards.com/go (Older version of Gospel Observer website without pictures, but back to March 1990)
http://tebeaustreetchurchofchrist.org/
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)