The Gospel Observer (November 26, 2017)

Contents:

1) Confessing Christ (Tom Edwards)
2) The Power of Influence (David Padfield)
3) News & Notes
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Matthew10_32

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Confessing Christ
Tom Edwards

How much more meaningful certain Bible passages can be when they are considered in the light of their context rather than as isolated quotations.  For example, the familiar quote of the words of Jesus from Matthew 10:32-33 says, “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven.”

How often have we heard that passage without even taking into consideration the context for why the Lord declared such?

We sometimes view a detached verse of the Bible from the perspective of our own present-day situations, those familiar conditions that we relate to.  Therefore, in thinking of confessing Christ in our time — and here in Waycross, Georgia — is one thing; but in the context of which the Lord made that statement, He is referring to a much different circumstance.

In the context, the Lord shows what times would be like during that early period, and the ordeals that some Christians would be up against.  Notice, for instance, in the previous verses of that chapter, His instruction to His twelve apostles when sending them out to preach: “But beware of men, for they will hand you over to the courts and scourge you in their synagogues; and you will even be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. … Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved” (Matt. 10:17-22).

To help His disciples face such persecutions and even martyrdom, the Lord then tells them, “Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (v. 28).

His followers could, therefore, draw comfort in knowing that the most important part of them – their eternal soul – could not be destroyed nor harmed by the foe.

And the Lord continues with His encouraging words to help strengthen the disciples: “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows” (vv. 29-31).  We should be comforted in knowing how well God knows us — and even in the smallest details of our lives —  and that to Him, we are worth something.

It was after Jesus told His apostles, “So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows,” that He then went on to say: “Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 10:32-33).

So we are seeing in this a connection of confessing one’s faith in Christ with persecution and even death.  For acknowledging or denying the Lord could make a great deal of difference in how the Christian would be treated by the world — since there were times in which confessing faith in Christ would lead to not only death, but also a torturous one, while denying the Lord could save one’s physical life at the cost of one’s soul.

Even while Jesus was on earth, some were not willing to admit their belief in Him, due to what that could lead to.  For example: “Nevertheless many even of the rulers believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, for fear that they would be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God” (John 12:42-43).

Also, when the parents of the blind man whom Jesus healed were questioned concerning their son’s healing, they would not answer because “they were afraid of the Jews; for the Jews had already agreed that if anyone confessed Him to be Christ, he was to be put out of the synagogue” (Jn. 9:22).

The persecution, of course, became much worse than merely being put out of the synagogue.  It sometimes involved scourging; imprisonment; loss of property; and, as mentioned above, even a torturous death (cf. Acts 8:1-4; Acts 22:4-5; Acts 26:9-11).  Numerous examples of persecution are recorded in the New Testament.  Soon after the church was  established, the cruel treatment upon the Christians was first inflicted by the Jews.  Later, during Nero’s reign in A.D. 64, following the great fire of Rome, Christians were persecuted and put to death in that city.  And when under the rule of Domitian, who reigned from A.D. 81 to 96, Roman persecution was even worse in having become more extensive, beyond the boundaries of Rome.

In metaphorically describing how bad the persecution had been in Smyrna (a city in Asia Minor), Jesus states, “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to cast some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).  The King James Version renders “until” in this passage as “unto,” which better expresses the willingness on the part of the Christian to remain faithful to the Lord even if it resulted in death!  Satan, of course, was not literally the jailer in that city of Smyrna; but the evil that was being inflicted upon the Christians, through persecution, was by those who, in a manner of speaking, were in league with the devil and his opposition to the gospel, though they probably had no idea they were acting as his servants.

Similarly, in addressing the church at Pergamum, Jesus says, “I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold fast to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful  one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells” (Rev. 2:13).  Again, Satan did not actually have a physical throne there; but the Lord is figuratively indicating just how given over that city was to the opposition of the gospel and the persecution toward those Christians who would strive to obey the Lord.  How much more wickedly could a city be described than being one where Satan has his throne to rule over others?

Even in our times and in some places of the world, we are hearing more and more of people being persecuted and even put to death for simply believing in the Deity of Jesus.  Such atrocities have been inflicted by those who are ignorant of the gospel of Jesus Christ, or do not believe it, or simply refuse to submit to it.  But they will all give an account before God in the great Judgment Day.

Let us continue to pray for the world that all will come to know the saving message of the gospel.  That all will believe it, love it, and submit to it, that we may all strive to do our part in making the world a better place and showing our love to God and one another, and that His peace may abound.

May we each be encouraged by all those, down through time, who continued to confess their faith in Christ — regardless of the difficulties, the persecutions, and even the loss of their own physical lives that it led to — and be motivated to do likewise in acknowledging the Lord Jesus Christ by our words and by our actions!

(All Scriptures are from the NASB, unless otherwise indicated.)
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Young man with hat and Bible

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The Power of Influence
David Padfield

Webster defines the word influence as “the power of persons or things to affect others, seen only in its effects.” Though the word influence is only found one time in the King James Version, its meaning is on every page.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells his disciples that they are the “salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13-16). There are many interesting things you can say about this figure of speech. Salt is totally worthless while sitting on a shelf, it has to be applied. Salt can also lose its saltiness.  When it loses its power to flavor, it is good for nothing and must be discarded.

Paul told the brethren at Corinth they were an “epistle of Christ known and read by all men” (2 Cor. 3:1-3). Whether we like it or not, every Christian is an advertisement for Christ. It is rather scary to think the honor of Christ is in the hands of his disciples. Men of the world will judge Christ by the character of his followers.

Have you ever considered what type of an advertisement you are?  One of our songs suggests that…

“We are the only Bible the careless world will read,
We are the sinners gospel, we are the scoffers’ creed,
We are the Lord’s last message, given in deed and word,
What if the type is crooked? What if the print is blurred?”

The majority of worldly people will pay very little attention to what we say, but our actions will always be scrutinized.  When they think of our character and reputation, our actions will speak louder than our words.

— Via the bulletin of the Collegevue church of Christ, November 12, 2017
——————–

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News & Notes

Let us continue to remember the following in prayer:

Meadern Anderson whose brain tumor of about two years has been recently giving her more trouble and requiring hospital tests.

Belinda Medlock who has spent several weeks in the hospital with pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Kathy Crosby who is now healing from surgery she had on November 27.

James Green who is going through some difficult times.

Penny Medlock who has had to remain housebound for several days while on a z-pack for sinus infection and a bad cough.

Pat Joyner whose health has been poor and has been suffering much pain. Due to a pseudoaneurysm, her leg became swollen and has been kept elevated for the last few weeks.  She is also in need of an aortic valve replacement and has other complications.

Myrna Jordan has been a little under the weather.

Let us also remember in prayer the loved ones of those who recently passed away: James “Buddy” Gornto, Mae Ila Highsmith Todd,  and Melissa Benson; and those with physical ailments: Nolan McLaine,  Charles Crosby, Shirley Davis, Judy Daugherty, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Jarvis Williams, Cedell Fletcher, 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)

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The Gospel Observer (November 19, 2017)

Contents:

1) Is Jesus Not As Great As God the Father? (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
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john1_1c

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Is Jesus Not As Great As God the Father?
Tom Edwards

Based on John 14:28, one might wonder if Jesus is a “lesser” God.  For Jesus says in the last part of this verse that “the Father is greater than I.”  But when did Jesus say this, and what was His relationship with the Father at that time?  It, of course, was after Jesus had greatly humbled Himself to come to earth and had taken on “the form of a bond-servant” (Phil. 2:7), where He, as “the Son of God,” had been living in submission to His Father in heaven.

Normally, we think in a father-son relationship that the father is greater than the son. Therefore, it is the son who is in subjection to the father — and not the father to the son.  So these terms serve as  accommodating language to express the role Jesus took upon Himself when coming to earth.  For it appears that prior to the creation, there was not a Father-Son relationship, as also indicated in Hebrews 1:5: “For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU’? And again, ‘I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME’?”  The “will be” and “shall be,” which I underlined, indicate a time when that type of relationship would begin.  So what was it prior?

The very same chapter also declares that Jesus “is the radiance” of His Father’s glory and “the exact representation” of His Father’s nature (Heb. 1:3).  So Jesus was not just 50%, 75%, or 99% — but, rather, was 100% of the “exact” nature of Deity that His Father also possessed.

Paul, too, speaks of that in Colossians 2:9: “For in Him ALL THE FULLNESS OF DEITY dwells in bodily form” (emphasis mine). The “Him,” of course, refers to Christ, as mentioned in verse 8. Again, Jesus is as much God as the Father; but was in subjection to Him while on earth.

This might also remind you of what Jesus says in John 14:7: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him” (Jn. 14:7); and “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (v. 9).  Though two distinct persons, yet same in Deity.

And what about the Holy Spirit?  He is also a divine person who makes up the Godhead, but why is He never referred to as a “Son”?  Though the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” see Him as a power  — and not a person — yet  the Bible speaks of Him as a person when using masculine pronouns, such as “Him” (Jn. 16:7) and “He” (v. 8).  Furthermore, the Holy Spirit is One who can “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment” (v.  8); and He can “guide,” “speak,” “hear,” “disclose,” “glorify” God, and take from God (vv. 13-15).  He can also be “grieved” (Eph. 4:30).  How could just a power, like electricity, be grieved?

Paul speaks of that “sacrifice” Jesus made in humbling Himself to leave heaven and lay aside that glorified state He had there — in order to become a man: “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard EQUALITY WITH GOD a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being found in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:5-8, emphasis mine).

So Jesus was in an “EQUALITY WITH GOD” before coming to earth. And what He “emptied Himself” of was not His Deity, but the blessings of dwelling in heaven and His heavenly “body” that was replaced with a human one that would experience hunger, thirst, weariness, pain, and temptations — a body that was much inferior to what He had in heaven. This is why the Hebrew writer says, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9).  Jesus was not “lower than the angels” when it came to rank because He was still God, and angels were part of His creation. The angels worshiped Christ, but He did not worship them. But He became “lower than the angels” by taking on an inferior body compared to the perfect, heavenly body that they possess. And this verse also shows why Christ did that: “so that…He might taste death for everyone.” Jesus had to become a man so that He could make an atonement for sin by His death on the cross.

So though He had been in “equality with God” in heaven, He did not feel that He had to cling to that and all the blissfulness that goes with it, but willingly gave up the privileges and blessings He had there in order to come to earth, humbly take on “the form of a bond-servant,” and subjectively and faithfully carry out His role as the Son of God in submission to His Father in heaven.

In thinking more of the Lord’s equality with His Father, John 1:1-3 is an excellent passage.  It declares: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (emphasis mine). This “Word” is Jesus, and He is not referred to as a “lesser” God, but as “God”! John then goes on to say in verse 14, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Recently, I was talking with a couple “Jehovah’s Witnesses”; and when pointing out this passage to them to show how much Jesus is God, and asking why their New World Translation renders Him as “a god” (in John 1:1), one responded by saying that it is a different Greek word than the previous one referring to the Father.  But that is incorrect, for they are both from the same Greek word “theos.”

The “Jehovah’s Witnesses” do not see Jesus as being as great as He really is. For they not only teach of Him as being a “lesser” God, but also as one that is a created being — and, therefore, not eternal like His Father.  To them, Jesus is Michael the archangel and the first of God’s creation.

One passage they misused was Colossians 1:15 to assert that Jesus was created.  For that verse speaks of Him as being the “first-born of all creation.”  But if “first-born” is to be taken literally, who gave birth to Christ prior to the creation?  So even in that, we can infer that “first-born” is being used figuratively.

During the Mosaical Age, the firstborn son was to receive a double portion of the inheritance from his father (cf. Deut. 21:15-17).  So in that, we see of a preeminence the firstborn had over his siblings; and that idea also came to take on a metaphorical usage in the Scriptures.  For example, Isaiah 14:30 says that “the firstborn of the poor shall feed, and the needy shall lie down in safety…” (KJV).  But “firstborn” is not used literally in this passage.  Rather, it is referring to those who were most poor.  Notice, for instance, how this is rendered in some other Bible translations: “Those who are most helpless will eat, And the needy will lie down in security…” (NASB).  And in the NIV: “The poorest of the poor will find pasture, and the needy will lie down in  safety…”  Consider, too, Psalm 89:27: “I also shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth” (emphases mine in these passages).

Especially with that last verse, we can easily see the figurative usage of “firstborn” to indicate exaltation or the preeminence that God would give to that one.  And that is the way it is used in Colossians 1:15.  For notice the context: After speaking of Jesus being “…the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation,” it then goes on to say: “for by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things have been created through Him and for Him.  He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him” (Col. 1:15-19).

To “have first place in everything” is to have the preeminence over everything, and that is what the idea of Jesus being “the firstborn of all creation” is figuratively expressing.  For He is not merely the firstborn of a particular family, which He was; but, rather, He is said to be the firstborn over “all creation.”  How highly exalted Christ is!  He has “the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:9).  He is the “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:6); and, as He declares in Matthew 28:18, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

We saw also in Colossians 1:16, “For by Him all things were created…”  Every created thing has been made possible by Jesus Christ.  Going along with this, John 1:3 declares, “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

Well, if the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” are correct that Jesus is a created being then it could not be said that “by Him all things were created.”  For if that be so, then Jesus would have had to create Himself!  So what do they do with Colossians 1:16 so that it does not clash with their belief?  They “solved” it with the word “other.”  Quoting from their New World Translation, “by means of him all other things were created in the heavens and on the earth…” (emphasis mine). By inserting the word “other,” they can now say that “God created Jesus, and Jesus then created all other created things.”  But that is not what the Bible teaches.  In the 23 different Bible translations I looked this up in, not even one of them uses the word “other” to imply that Jesus was also a created being.

It is said of Jesus that “they shall call His name Immanuel; which is, being interpreted, God with us” (Matt. 1:23, ASV).  Yes, Jesus was God incarnate, Deity in human flesh while on earth.

But when the Jews said to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?,” the Lord responded by saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM” (John. 8:57-58, emphasis mine). Notice that Jesus doesn’t just say, “I was,” which would have still been an awesome thing to say, and which would have probably been what He would have said if He had been a created being prior to Abraham; but Jesus did not say that. Rather, He said, “I AM,” which expresses His eternal nature. He had no beginning, for He has always been and always will be.

Notice how the psalmist expresses God’s eternal nature:

“Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING, You are God” (Psa. 90:2, emphasis mine). And who did we earlier see as being credited with the creation in John 1:2? Jesus.  Also in Hebrews 1:2: God “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, THROUGH WHOM ALSO HE MADE THE WORLD (emphasis mine). And what does God the Father call His Son in Hebrews 1:8? “But of the Son He says, ‘…O GOD…”

That Jesus was involved in the great work of creation is also seen in the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). We have pointed out that “God” in this passage is from “Elohim,” the plural form of God; and look what we go on to see: “Then God said, ‘Let US make man in OUR image, according to OUR likeness…God created man in His own image…” (Gen. 1:26-27, emphasis mine). Notice the plural pronouns. God the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit were all involved in the work of creation. Concerning the Holy Spirit, Genesis 1:2 says, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” The psalmist declares of God, “You send forth Your Spirit, they are created; and You renew the face of the ground” (Psa. 104:30).

So getting back to that phrase, “FROM EVERLASTING TO EVERLASTING, You are God,” notice that it doesn’t say, “from everlasting to everlasting, You HAVE BEEN God” or “from everlasting to everlasting, You WILL BE God”; but “from everlasting to everlasting, You ARE God” (emphases mine). God already fills all eternity. Eternity is not like our realm of time, which is linear like a timeline. God will not be a day older tomorrow, or a year older next year. He does not age. He does not wear out or diminish in any way. I describe Him as being “eternally new.” The Hebrew writer says that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Do you remember what Micah said when prophesying Jesus’ birth, as to where He would be born and from where He had come? Several hundred years before Christ was born in Bethlehem to the virgin Mary, Micah wrote: “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, FROM THE DAYS OF ETERNITY” (Micah 5:2). Think of the oldest person you know. Can that person be referred to as having come “from the days of eternity”? Even of Methuselah, who lived to be 969 years old, you could not say was from the days of eternity.

In thinking more of Christ’s eternal nature, and that He was not a created being, look at Isaiah 9:6: “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” So not only is Jesus called “God,” but also  “Eternal Father.” This probably sounds very wrong to many to refer to Jesus as “Father”; but, as one commentator writes, when Isaiah had said this, “the distinctions of Persons in the Godhead had not yet been revealed” (Pulpit Commentary). The thought of Jesus being the “Eternal Father” has also been viewed as His being the “Father of Eternity.” In other words, eternity did not bring about God, but eternity is because God is! And here, Jesus is the One in the Godhead being referred to and being shown in His relationship — not to the other two persons that make up the Godhead, but to eternity itself. He is the Father of it.

Is it not important that the world comes to believe in Jesus for who He truly is – and not some lesser being?  For Jesus says, “unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

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

People to be praying for:

Let us continue to remember in prayer the family and friends of James “Buddy” Gornto whose memorial service was last Friday.

Meadern Anderson was recently in the hospital for tests, due to a brain tumor she has had for two years and which now has been giving her more trouble.

Belinda Medlock has been in the hospital for 5 weeks with pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

James Green is going through some difficult times.

Penny Medlock has been on a z-pack for sinus infection and a bad cough and was told to remain housebound for several days.

Pat Joyner’s health is very poor. As mentioned last week, her leg has swollen and needs to remain elevated for a couple more weeks, due to a pseudoaneurysm.  She has also been undergoing much pain and is in need of an aortic valve replacement.

Frankie Hadley was recently in the hospital, due to a fall; but is now home.

Let us also continue praying for the loved ones of those who recently passed away: Mae Ila Highsmith Todd and Melissa Benson; and for those with physical ailments: Nolan McLaine, Charles Crosby, Shirley Davis, Judy Daugherty, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Jarvis Williams, Cedell Fletcher, 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 (November 12, 2017)

Contents:

1) Setting Forth the Right Example (Tom Edwards)
2) Paul’s Commitment to God (Tom Edwards)
3) “I’ve Been Studying This For A Long Time” (Greg Gwin)
4) News & Notes
——————–

Matthew5_14c

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Setting Forth the Right Example
Tom Edwards

Back in the early 80s, I heard a sermon by Raymond Castillo about “the legacy parents leave their children.”  Though, perhaps, we would normally think of a legacy as something tangible, such as property or money obtained through a will, it has also come to have a broader meaning.  And the preacher then went on to point out the most important kind of legacy that a parent can leave to his children — and it did not pertain to personal property nor material wealth; but, rather, to the example of a godly life!

Setting forth the right example is what we are to do for the Lord.  As Paul instructs, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:14-15).

Yes, we are to be “lights”; and Jesus also spoke about that in Matthew 5:14-16: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”

As the “light of the silvery moon” is but a reflection of the sun, the light that we are to shine as Christians is a light that comes from Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  For as He states in John 8:12: “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And we learn how to follow — and thus acquire that Light — through “the light of the gospel” (2 Cor. 4:4).  For God’s word is, as the psalmist declares, “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psa. 119:105).

People glorifying God because of the good works they had seen in others was certainly true of the many whom the Lord’s life had made an impact upon: “So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel” (Matt. 15:31).  “But when the crowds saw this [Jesus healing the paralytic], they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matt. 19:8).

Though we do not perform miraculous works today, yet our lives, when following the Lord, can still cause others to look to and glorify God.  In writing to the Christians who were “as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia” (1 Pet. 1:1), Peter exhorts, “Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation” (1 Pet. 2:12).

Commenting on this passage, E.M. Zerr writes: “When the test comes upon these disciples in the form of persecutions (the day of visitation), and the heathen see how they are patient and law abiding, it will disprove the false charges they have been making.  It will then be evident that such a conduct is caused by their faith in God and as a result these heathen accusers will give God the glory.”

So being a light is being the right example; and Paul specifies several things to Timothy to be an example in, which sum up how we each should also be.  He states: “…in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12).

We are each probably often reminded of someone or of others whose godly lives have made a lasting impression upon us.  That though these people are no longer in the land of the living, yet they have left behind an encouraging, godly example that continues to live on in the memory of those who knew them. And though these deceased ones have not been gone as long as Adam and Eve’s son Abel, yet the principle is still true with them as it was with him that “though he is dead, he still speaks” (Heb. 11:4).

May we each live our lives in such a way that we, too, will be good examples for the Lord that will encourage others toward doing the same.  For what better legacy can we leave behind for our children and for anyone else as well?

(All Scriptures are from the NASB unless otherwise indicated, and all emphases mine.)
——————–

2Timothy4_7

-2-

Paul’s Commitment to God
Tom Edwards

In our previous article, we considered the need to let our light shine for the Lord by living that right kind of example that can also encourage others to do likewise and give glory to God!

The apostle Paul was one who lived such a life — a life of great dedication to the Lord.  And many of us have come to admire, respect, and be encouraged by that dedication.

For those of us who are already familiar with the following passages, how can we ever forget Paul’s great commitment, zeal, and determination to carry out the Lord’s will in his life?  For Paul loved the Lord and His word and strove to live according to that truth in spite of the adversities it led to, such as the “shipwrecks,” “afflictions,” “hardships,” “distress,” “imprisonments,” “tumults,” “sleeplessness,” “hunger” (2 Cor 6:4-6); being “stoned,” “beaten times without number,” “in danger of death,” having received “195 lashes,” experiencing “dangers from rivers…from robbers…from countrymen…from the Gentiles,” undergoing “dangers in the city…in the wilderness…on the sea…among false brethren,” “in cold and exposure,” and “a night and a day…spent in the deep” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).  In spite of all of these adversities that living for the Lord had brought upon Paul, yet he continued to do so.

The Bible does not give graphic detail about the scourging Paul underwent.  But how terribly and permanently lacerated his body must have been from those 195 lashes, mentioned above, that he received.  In Galatians 6:17, Paul declares, “…for I bear on my body the brand-marks of Jesus.”  Here, he is referring to those lashes.  But Jesus, of course, was not the one who had inflicted those upon Paul; but it was because of Paul’s service to Christ, and the persecution that led to, that those brand-marks were made.

This is also the case with many of these other adversities and sufferings that had befallen Paul.  They happened because he was living for the Lord.  So this was all part of Paul’s carrying his “cross” for Jesus (cf. Luke 9:23).  For when we think of a cross we think of suffering; and when bearing our cross for Christ, it refers to those sufferings, such as persecution, that are incurred for serving the Lord — rather than for just sufferings in general that are for other reasons.

I don’t imagine there is much of anything that anyone would want to persist in, if it brought on the same hardships and tribulations as what Paul’s obedience to the gospel did — unless one strongly believed in that cause.  Paul’s faith in Jesus and love for Him helped him through these difficulties.  The ill treatment and other terrible circumstances did not lead to his giving up, nor did they lessen his love for the truth.  Consider, for instance, his regard for God’s word, in spite of all the troubles that living for it had brought upon him:

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH’” (Rom. 1:16-17).

Paul had a deep, undying respect for the gospel.  He lived it with great dedication and preached it with conviction, humility, and thoroughness.  To the elders of Ephesus, he reminded them that “…’You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.  And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God. And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God’” (Acts 20:18-27).

That Paul practiced what he preached can also be seen in 2 Timothy 4:6-8, near the very end of Paul’s earthly life: “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

Because of the faithful life Paul lived, he was able to say, “Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).  Is that true of us?  Can we say we are following after Paul’s example? Or do we see the need to make some changes in our lives in order to better do so?  May his example, along with that of every righteous soul we know, continue to encourage us to always strive to be the imitators we are to be – until it all becomes a natural part of our lives!  For we are each to set forth that right example, and may that unswerving commitment of Paul toward God also instill within us that same kind of dedication!

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

writing

-3-

“I’ve Been Studying This For A Long Time”
Greg Gwin

It seems there is an increasing tendency to start a religious discussion by claiming a lengthy and  in-depth study of the subject at  hand.  “I’ve been studying this for a long time” is the initial assertion by one of the  disputants.  We think this is a faulty approach to proving one’s position, and we offer these observations in reaction to this common declaration:

1) The very statement (“I’ve been studying this…”) contains an implication that others have not been doing so.  This is an affront to all other serious students and is an insulting way to begin a discussion.

2) The one who argues this way seems to suggest that others have not been clever enough to notice what he has now unraveled.  Not likely!  True scholars have been pouring over the Bible for centuries.  Faithful brethren have devoted their lives to the Word.  Do you really imagine that you have discovered what they did not find!?!

3) Is something learned after one year of study necessarily more accurate than something learned after one day of study?  We are certainly in favor of deep, lengthy, dedicated study of God’s Word.  But the amount of time it took you to unearth the truth is not the determinant of whether or not your conclusions are correct.  Truth is truth, no matter how long it took you to find it.

4)  There is a tendency on the part of some to assume that if a thing has been believed and practiced for a long time by our brethren it is probably wrong.  We think the opposite.  If good men have traditionally held to a position we will not immediately assume it is wrong.  In fact, it’s probably right.  Yes, we want to search it out for ourselves, but we will not start with the assumption that others have ‘missed it’ while we have ‘found it.’

“O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Romans 11: 33).  Let us all apply ourselves diligently to know and obey His will.  Think!

—- Via bulletin for the Collegevue church of Christ, October 29, 2017
——————–

-4-

News & Notes

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of James “Buddy” Gornto who departed this earth-life November 10, near midnight, with his family around him praying and singing hymns. Knowing that Buddy is a Christian can be a comfort.

Due to the pseudoaneurysm and swelling of the leg from her heart catheterization, Pat Joyner had been instructed to keep her legs elevated, and which she still needs to continue to do for about the next 3 weeks.  She has been in much pain and also has need for an aortic valve replacement.

Shirley Davis’ shoulder is doing somewhat better, but there is still some pain when in certain positions — especially when undergoing her therapy. She will be seeing her doctor again toward the end of this month.

Others for prayer: the family and friends of those who recently passed away: Mae Ila Highsmith Todd and Melissa Benson; and those with physical ailments: Nolan McLaine,  Charles Crosby, Judy Daugherty, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Jarvis Williams, Cedell Fletcher, 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 (November 5, 2017)

Contents:

1) Preparation and Working Together (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
——————–

Ephesians4_16

-1-

Preparation and Working Together
Tom Edwards

Numerous Bible passages indicate the need for preparation.  For example: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence” (1 Pet. 3:15, emphasis mine).

Peter’s exhortation toward “always being ready” does not pertain to only the preachers, the Bible class teachers, the elders, the deacons, or to just a certain other few within the body of Christ.  Rather, it pertains to all of us who are Christians!  For in the Hebrew writer’s rebuke of the brethren who had become “dull of hearing” (Heb. 5:11) and had a “need again for someone to teach” them “the elementary principles of the oracles of God” (v. 12), he also points out that they, in view of how long they had been Christians, should have already been able to be teachers themselves (v. 12).

Teaching, of course, is very needful.  For one of the important works of the church is to edify, which Webster defines as “to instruct or benefit, esp. morally or spiritually; uplift; enlighten.”  To edify is to build up; and when that is pertaining to the spiritual upbuilding of Christians, then it involves instructing, exhorting, and reproving with God’s word that the child of God can grow thereby and conform more to the likeness of Christ.  This is one of the reasons why we have God’s word and need to not only study it, but also apply it.  So that “As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Eph. 4:14-16).

Notice especially that the “proper working” together involves “each individual part.”  Everyone, therefore, has an important role toward the upbuilding of the church. This is also seen  in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 where members of the body of Christ (Christians in the church) are likened to different parts of one’s physical body, such as the foot, the hand, the ear, the eye, etc.  They do not all have the same function, but they all work together for the one body.  So each Christian is needed.

In Chinese humor: “Said the feet to the mouth, ‘You are the luckiest thing on earth. You are forever getting the best of me.  Here I am, running around all day, wearing myself out, and all for the sake of your eating.’

“Retorted the mouth:  ‘Don’t accuse me. How would you like it if I stopped eating so that you could stop running around?’”

Again we see that they each had their own role to carry out, but it would be for the one common good.

Sometimes, however, hindrances can get in the way, such as…

Self-Centeredness – An Obstacle Toward Working Together

As the subtitle shows, self-centeredness can be a hindrance toward working together – and this is so in any kind of relationship — whether in the church, in a marriage, in family relationships, and in other affiliations.

People are often too self-centered!  It has been said that Dr. Clyde Miller of Columbia University likes to sometimes play a prank on his friends by using boring books that have been sent to him by their publishers.  He will attach a note, making it look as if it were from the author, saying, “I hope you will be pleased by the references made to you in this volume, and hope that you will not have any objection to this use of your name.”  As you might have already imagined, Mr. Miller’s friends will diligently search through the book, just trying to find a reference to themselves.

A similar illustration concerns a novelists that met an old friend.  After talking for two hours, the novelist said, “Now we’ve talked about me long enough – let’s talk about you!  What did you think of my last novel?”

Self-Centeredness is to be Overcome

According to the Bible, a person is to actually place himself last of all.  For it is God who needs to be placed above ourselves and above all others as well.  Jesus indicates this when saying, “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).  Going along with that, Jesus also declares, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matt. 10:37).  A person would be putting others above God and loving them more when compromising or disregarding God’s word in order to please them. But that would not be true love.

And rather than oneself being next on the list, others are to be, as Paul declares: “…Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4).  Yes, we are to be servants of the Lord; and we have a duty toward others: “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification” (Rom. 15:1-2).

So in this order, we see the acrostic that some have given in reference to true joy, which is…

Jesus first.
Others second.
Yourself last.

When we learn to put God first, others second, and ourselves last, then we can really begin to work together in the best way – in the home, on the job, in the church, in the community, in the world, etc.

Notice that kind of attitude in the following relationships:

In marriage: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her…  So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church” (Eph. 5:25, 28-29).  “but as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything” (v. 24).  “The husband must fulfill his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. But this I say by way of concession, not of command” (1 Cor. 7:3-6).

In the family: It has been said that “The family is the most basic of all social institutions… It was the first social group formed by human beings.”  We’ve just considered the husband and wife relationship, but how about the children?  “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER (which is the first commandment with a promise)” (Eph. 6:1-2).  “Children, be obedient to your parents in all things, for this is well-pleasing to the Lord” (Col. 3:20).

In the work realm We can see a principle in the ancient master-slave relationship to apply to employer-employee relationships: “Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve” (Col. 3:22-24).

In the community: “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET,’ and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10).

In today’s lesson, we have considered the need to prepare ourselves with God’s truth that we might be able to teach others also to their edification.  We also noted the danger of self-centeredness that can  hinder us from being as we should in various relationships of life.

God certainly knew what He was doing when he made man.  But even more important than our physical makeup is that which pertains to our inner man that has been created in the image of God and, therefore, we should strive to develop that kind of godly character.

Think, too, of the unity that exists between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  How well they all worked together in the creation (Gen. 1:1,26; Heb.1:1-2; Psa. 104:30).  How united as “one” they were — and are!  Jesus prayed that all His people will also be that way in relation to one another:  “I do not ask on behalf of these alone [the apostles], but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (Jn. 17:20-21).

During the spiritual renewal of Israel, after their return from captivity, they were truly concerned with hearing the law of God and conforming to it.  Nehemiah 8:1 reads: “And all the people gathered as one man at the square which was in front of the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses which the LORD had given to Israel.  Then  Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men, women, and all who could listen with understanding… He read from it…from early morning until midday…and all the people were attentive to the book of the law” (Neh. 8:1-3, emphasis mine).

For this gathering to be “as one man” truly indicates how united they were in the common interest of hearing, reverencing, and submitting to God’s word.  How well — minds like that can work together!  And may that also be the kind of mind we continue to develop even more, as we mature in Christ and work together for His cause.

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

-2-

News & Notes

Folks to be praying for:

We extend our condolences to all the family and friends of Mae Ila Highsmith Todd (the grandmother of Mark Cox) who passed away October 29.  Among her survivors are also 13 grandchildren and 23 great-grandchildren.

Our sympathies also go out to the loved ones of Melissa Benson (Samantha Rittenhouse’s sister) who recently passed away.

Nolan McLaine, owner of Westside Auto in Homerville, Georgia (whom Kevin Rittenhouse works for), has an aggressive leukemia.

James “Buddy” Gornto is still in the hospital and on a respirator, but continues to slowly improve.

Others for prayer: Shirley Davis, Anita Abbott, Charles Crosby, Judy Daugherty, Pat Joyner, Misty Thornton, Michelle Rittenhouse, Rachael Gerbing, Jarvis Williams, Cedell Fletcher, 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)