Self-Discipline

An often repeated story, found in scripture, is one of great success followed by great failure. David, Solomon, Elijah, and Peter all serve as examples for us to beware that victory attracts Satan’s attention. These men all stumbled after (some immediately after) experiencing a spiritual high point in their life. Most likely, everyone reading this (as well as this writer) has experienced the same thing. Borrowing the theme from Billy’s lessons last week – How can we overcome this tendency? Continue reading “Self-Discipline”

Off To A Good Start

Our meeting with Billy is now fully underway. Sunday we were blessed with three great lessons from God’s word, with another added Monday evening, all of them intended to help us overcome things that have shipwrecked the faith of many.

Sunday morning during our regular class time brother Randolph taught on the importance of being present. When we are absent we miss out on so many blessings regardless of why we are absent. With strength that comes from God and encouragement from one another we can overcome the habit of being absent.
Perhaps my favorite lesson was Overcoming Worldliness, presented Sunday evening. When we got in the van to come home, the kids were talking about their favorite points made in the lesson. Satan is cunning, and if we are not careful he will have us wrapped up in this world so tight that our faith is choked out. This is what Jesus warned about it Matthew 13:22. Here are the three applications Billy made in conclusion to help us overcome the sin of worldliness:
– Be humble enough to change
– Be diligent in service
– Live like Christ will return

Take the time to listen carefully to these lessons, as well as the others that are posted, so that together we can overcome the things that would keep us from our God!

If you are in the area, come and be with us during the remaining assemblies; if you want to find encouragement from God’s word you will not be disappointed.

 

Gospel Meeting With Billy Randolph

The Nature of the Church

Written by Robert Turner

Our “Getting to the Bottom Line” series has taken us through a consideration of How We Know Things of God, Grace, and Faith; all very basic subjects. Members of the church of the Lord need these fundamental studies, and yet, strange as it may seem, there is probably more need for a basic understanding of the Nature of the Church than for any other one subject. The reason is obvious to all who give reflective thought to the study of church history. Within the first one hundred years of the church there is evidence that the concept of its nature was being corrupted. Nearly one thousand, nine hundred years have passed, during which that corrupted concept has maintained a predominate position among historic “Christians.” Despite manful efforts for “restoration,” we live among and draw converts from people who have accepted the corrupted concept. What could we rightfully expect but that our small minority of people will be affected by this overwhelming burden?

Recently I was told of two preachers who tried to discuss product of truth, some points of difference. After three or four matters were measured by the Scriptures and not the mother it became apparent they were poles apart in understanding, one remarked, “You know, I don’t believe you are a member of the Church of Christ. I have never met a Church of Christer who believed as you do.” It was a clear case of “you don’t believe as we do, so you are not ‘Church of Christ.”‘ Reminded me of a statement from Irenaeus (120-202 A.D.) about the church at Rome: “. . which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its preeminent authority. . .”(Against Heresies, Bk.III, Ch.3, par.2; subject to various translations of the Latin). This tells us how early the nature of the church was corrupted, and the direction that corruption took.

The concept puts “Church authority” in the hands of a body politic, whose true core consists of its administrators. Perhaps this strikes a familiar note to those who read some recent literature, but do not let that turn you off. If the current examination of local church “entity” and elders succeeds in raising another divisive “issue” it will be because we have too few truly taught in the nature of the N.T. church — not because the Examiner was logical or understood that nature correctly. It is a shameful state that should enlist careful study on the part of us all.

Catholicism sees the church as “the society founded by our Lord Jesus Christ” (Catholic Encyclopedia, V. III, p. 744). It is defined as “a body of en united together by the profession of the same Christian Faith, and by participation in the same sacraments, under the governance of lawful pastors . . .” (Ibid, p. 745). Look carefully for the nature of the church in any reliable Catholic source. It is a society (a body politic), having lawful pastors (administrators), who dispense grace (blessings of the sacraments), bought by the blood of Christ. (See Understanding the Catholic Faith, John O’Brien, 1955.)

Allow me to put this pragmatically. (1) Such a church must perpetuate itself, sanctioning and authorizing additional churches. Mormons, accepting this concept in principle, conclude that since the church had been “lost” the original “authority” had to be restored – hence, Peter, James and John appeared to Smith and others, laying hands on them (?). Baptists, accepting this concept in principle, conclude they must “rattle the chain” of succession back to the original “church” – to prove validity. (2) “The church” (via bishops) baptizes, validates public worship, etc. The Great Commission was given to “the church,” hence none but the institution is authorized to go, teach, baptize. Growth of this idea can be traced through Ante-Nicene writings (cf. Constitution of the Holy Apostles, Bk. III, Ch. 10, ca. 120 A.D.). However, as late as 193 A.D., one writer says in special cases “other disciples are called i.e., to the work” (On Baptism, ch. 17). The concept that the institution was the authority, the validator, and the testing stone for heaven, was developed at a very early date. Little wonder, when the institution apostatized it took “Christianity” with it.

I believe the Scriptures teach a much different nature of the church. The word itself is a collective noun, and refers to saints metaphorically assembled. We have put far too much emphasis upon the establishment of the Church, when we should be emphasizing the establishment of the rule of Christ (Study Isa. 2; Acts 2 objectively). It has caused us to think of an institution, when we should have been thinking of a certain kind or quality of people – the saints. Christ rules His people via His word, and even the Apostles were not “the authority,” but were the king’s Ambassadors, who delivered the authoritative word. They have no successors – need none, being still active via their inspired message. I am not arguing the case here, for I believe my readers who will take time to think, will agree with what I am saying. The church (visible) is the product of truth, not the mother of it. Take the word to people, cause them to believe and obey it, and they become Christ’s church.

Putting that pragmatically, we would say a New Testament could be tossed from a boat to an island where people never heard of Christ’s church, and if translated, studied, believed and obeyed, the “church” would exist on that island. (Consider: put sheep on that island, and a “flock” exists there.) This concept says anyone can teach the word, and if it is taught accurately, and obeyed, it produces the same thing every time. Succession is in the seed, not in the sower. Baptism is not “administered” by some “office,” nor is public worship validated by such administrators. Saints assemble and worship because they want to follow the Lord’s instructions, and have a perfect right to do so, without some “mother church” giving them this right. The “nature” of the church in this sense, is the character of its units, the saints. We speak of the “body” of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), the whole family of God in heaven and earth (3:15, KJ), the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven (Heb. 12:22-23).

We are aware some seem to think this is the only possible use of “church,” and that every passage which speaks of “the church” doing something simply means that “saints” did something. Well, saints did it all right, but not always individually or distributively. Such limitations are inexcusable. They sometimes did something as a team, or collectively; and that team has “entity” and is called a “church.” “Churches” paid wages to Paul (2 Cor. 11:8). This can be broken down to no smaller unit than “church.” “Let not the church be burdened” (1 Tim. 5:16) can not refer to saints individually, because of the contrast in the context. Saints (distributively) have an obligation, and are to perform it and not let saints (collectively) be charged with that obligation. The saints at Philippi, with their overseers and servants (1:1), were called “church” in chapter 4:15, and here “church” is the subject of a singular verb – indicating the saints are not being considered distributively.

There is nothing unusual about a term having more than one application. The word “elder” means older, and sometimes refers only to age. But it is not so limited. Presbuteriou (1 Tim. 4:14) “is a late word (ecclesiastical use also), first for the Jewish Sanhedrin (Lk. 22:66; Acts 22:5), then (here only in N.T.) of Christian elders. . . ” (Word Pictures, Robertson). In “The high priest . . . and all the estate of the elders” (22:5) the high priest was also “elder” but has a separate designation. Adolf Deissmann (Light from Ancient East) confirms the ecclesiastical and official use of “elder” in the N.T., and even mentions a scholar who has written a “history of the title ‘presbyteros. “‘ The dual use of “church” is so commonly confirmed it is foolish to ignore it. All of which brings us to consider “church” when it refers to a group of saints who have covenanted together to act as one – to “organize” if you please. Our study on the nature of the church is incomplete without much more consideration of the nature of the local church, so we promise that in our next article.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 19, pp. 583-584
October 2, 1986

Oh Yes, He Cares

Written by Leon Mauldin

An article entitled Does God Care? appeared in the Cullman Times (4/25/08), written by Mr. Bill McCartney (hereafter referred to as Mr. M. for brevity). The position set forth was this: “Who is right and who is wrong in the way they worship? I suggest that God simply doesn’t care because there is not a wrong way to worship Him.”

I maintain that God does care how we treat His word, and for that reason He cares how we worship. As Mr. M. told us what God does and does not care about, he did not share with us upon what scriptures he based his conclusion. But as I respond to his article, I want to include several passages, and I ask that you give them a fair hearing.

Mr. M. asked, “Which does God care about: how we worship or how we live our lives?” That’s a bit like asking, would you like to breathe, or would you like to eat? Mr. M’s fallacy is making worship and conduct “either-or” – thus creating a false dilemma. Are those the only alternatives? Could it not be that God is concerned with both? Let us not presume to speak for God. He is capable of doing that Himself, and He has done so in His word. That’s why we have the Bible.

Old Testament Examples. You remember the biblical account of Cain killing his brother Abel. But what was Cain so angry about that he took his brother’s life? Genesis 4:3-5: “And in the process of time it came to pass that Cain brought an offering of the fruit of the ground to the LORD. Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat. And the LORD respected Abel and his offering, but He did not respect Cain and his offering. And Cain was very angry, and his countenance fell.”

Remember, Mr. M. said there is not a wrong way to worship. If that’s true, why didn’t God accept Cain’s worship? The Bible plainly says He did not. The difference between the two brothers is this: Abel did what God said, the way God said it (Hebrews 11:4; Romans 10:17). Cain did what he wanted to, but God did not accept it. You see, God really does care how we worship Him.

If the priests, Nadab and Abihu, could talk today on the subject of worship, would they say that “God simply doesn’t care”? Would they conclude there is no wrong way? Leviticus 10:1-2 (NIV): [they] took their censers, put fire in them and added incense; and they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD, contrary to his command. So fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them, and they died before the LORD.”

I understand that we today live under the authority of the New Testament. But we are to learn from the Old, as Paul said in Romans 15:4, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

New Testament Warnings. Take your New Testament and see how Jesus warned about ignorant worship… “you worship what you do not know” (John 4:21), vain worship (Matt. 15:9), will worship (Col. 2:23, KJV). How can this be, if God doesn’t care?

Jesus showed that acceptable worship has two essential elements: “God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24). The spirit here is the human spirit; that is, the heart, the inner man is involved. Truth is God’s word (John 17:17). Further, notice that word must – worship must be both from the heart and in accordance with the directives of scripture (truth) if it is to be acceptable. Can you read these verses and conclude that God doesn’t care???

This subject is important because it deals with our souls. God holds us responsible for what we accept (read Matt. 15:14; 1 John 4:1). Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). Oh yes, He cares!

Fall Gospel Meeting With Heath Rogers

Love of Self

“Smile and say cheese!” the young lady says to herself.  She snaps the picture and promptly posts it to Facebook where it will join the dozens of others she has previously posted. Now, the entire world will be able to see and comment on how she is just the most beautiful young lady they have ever seen. The selfie is a disturbing trend for many reasons but at the top of the list has to be its relationship to the perilous times described by Paul in which he says people will be “lovers of themselves” (2 Tim. 3:2). As disturbing as this trend is I don’t see it as a new one among God’s people.  While smartphone cameras have certainly provided new opportunities for one to show their love of self, it has not led to a new problem in general. Consider the following examples:

A man writes a book; he has something to say and wants to share it with the world. He has information that everyone needs to read and in order to get it into the hands of the masses it must be marketed in just the right way. He asks himself, “What can I do in order to draw attention to the most important aspect of the book?” The answer finally hits him, “I’ll place a picture of myself on the front cover! What better to let the potential buyers know what the book is all about?”

A group of folks are sitting around after dinner one night telling stories of days gone by. Many stories are told but none of them compare to the adventures of one young man. In each round of stories he makes sure to go last so all can see that he has done more, been farther, ran faster, and jumped higher than anyone else could even dream of. He’s just sure that everyone is as interested in listening to his stories as he is in telling them.  After all, without the stories how could they ever come to love him as much as he loves himself?

A married couple sees that some other members of the church are being praised for their generosity and love of the brethren. They too would like to receive such praise so they devise a plan to draw some of this much coveted attention their way. They sell a piece of land and give part of the proceeds pretending that all had been given.  Surely now others will praise them for their wonderful example of charity. Much to their dismay we know how this story from Acts 5:1-10 ends. Instead of the praise of men they meet the wrath of God. Yes, lying is the sin pointed out in verse 4 but it’s easy to see that love of self was a motivating factor behind the lie.

The sad part is this, the first three stories could all end the same way. I realize not everyone who takes their own picture, has their picture on the cover of a book, or tells stories about themselves is motivated by a love of self. I also realize that if I find myself doing these things I need to really consider my motives as well as the impression I may be giving to others. Those found to be lovers of self will all face the wrath of God at some point unless they repent and become lovers of God.  May each of us take Paul’s warning seriously and instead of putting our self out there for all to admire we should be looking in the mirror and asking, “Who do you love?”

The Wisdom of The Proverbs

Solomon Quote“The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel:” – The opening verse of the book of Proverbs tells us a great deal about the book. Sure, it names the author of the proverbs, but in doing so it gives us much more.

In 1 Kings 3:4-15 and 2 Chronicles 1:7-12 we read that God visited Solomon in a dream and spoke to him saying, “Ask! What shall I give you?” (1 Kgs 3:5b) Of all he could have asked for Solomon requested wisdom from God – “Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours.”(1 Kgs 3:9) The Lord granted Solomon’s request and said “I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you.”(1 Kgs 3:12) Solomon was wiser than any other man because the wisdom he possessed was from God.

Yes, Solomon is named as the writer of the proverbs (at least most of them), but God is the author. As we read through the proverbs we are not just reading some wise sayings from a wise man; we are partaking of the wisdom of God passed down through His servant Solomon.  Lately it seems as if many have traded in the book of Proverbs for ecards and quotes from Facebook, Pinterest, and other popular social media sites. They are choosing the supposed wisdom of the world over the true wisdom of God. While some of those quotes have a biblical basis, many of them are simply wrong and if followed will lead people into sin and eternal condemnation.  Take for instance the following quote found on the internet: “If you can’t get someone out of your head, then maybe they’re supposed to be there.” It sounds pretty clever on the surface but compare it to what we find in Proverbs 16:2,3“All the ways of a man are pure in his own eyes, But the LORD weighs the spirits. Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.” The first quote may cause someone to continue in their lust or enter into a relationship they have no business being in.  The second quote will always lead us to God because it’s from God. Don’t ever mistake the proverbs as being just cute saying meant to entertain, and on the flip side, don’t confuse cute sayings with the wisdom of God which leads us in the ways of righteousness.

The Book of Proverbs is filled with practical advice, short illustrations, and simple truths to help guide us in our walk with God. In it we read of the source of righteousness: “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly; He guards the paths of justice, And preserves the way of His saints. Then you will understand righteousness and justice, Equity and every good path.”(2:6-9) We also find many blessings that may come as a result of living a righteous life: “Blessings are on the head of the righteous, But violence covers the mouth of the wicked. The memory of the righteous is blessed, But the name of the wicked will rot.”(10:6-7) Through the Book of Proverbs we have the wonderful blessing of being able to approach God, ask our questions, and receive clear, understandable answers. Do you have a question about God Himself, His wisdom, marriage, children, friends, business, economics, entertainment, or citizenship? Answers to all these and more can be found in the Book of Proverbs. Good, solid answers that we can have faith in; answers from the Lord Himself.

Many times when trying to teach others from the proverbs we are met with the objection, “Yes, I know that’s what it says, but these are just general truths and cannot be applied to every situation.” Are there exceptions to the truths revealed in the book of Proverbs? Yes.  Those who fear the Lord may die at any early age (10:27). The righteous may go hungry while the wicked has plenty (13:25). And there are those who love the finer things in life who are rich with this worlds goods (21:17). But do these exceptions nullify the truths given? Absolutely not!  Those who fear the Lord and pursue righteousness will be blessed by God and the wicked will ultimately perish: “The fear of the wicked will come upon him, And the desire of the righteous will be granted. When the whirlwind passes by, the wicked is no more, But the righteous has an everlasting foundation.” (10:24-25)

Again, yes there are exceptions to the things stated in the Book of Proverbs, but they are just that, exceptions. The principles set forth in the proverbs will prove true over and over again. They are God’s principles, His proverbs, His wisdom; handed down through his servant Solomon and revealed to us through His inspired word. Let us read them, implement them, and share them with others.

“To know wisdom and instruction, to perceive the words of understanding, to receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, judgment, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, to the young man discretion – A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel, to understand a proverb and an enigma, the words of the wise and their riddles. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (1:2-7)

Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

Kitchens and Fellowship Halls

What Was the Issue?

by Bill Hall

I don’t know how to thank you enough for the opportunity to come and deliver these lessons on these Sunday afternoons.  It has been a very challenging experience for me, and I hope the lessons have been challenging to you.  To see the number of people who have come each Sunday afternoon to visit with us, to listen to these lessons, and to study them and consider them has been an encouragement to me.  Thank you so much for this opportunity.

We are on our third of these lessons.  Two weeks ago we talked about the question of the orphan’s home, what was the issue?  And then last Sunday, the sponsoring church.  We included in that study questions concerning the Herald of Truth and the more recent “One Nation Under God” campaign.  What was the issue?

This one is a little different in some ways from the other two in that this one has gained acceptance for the most part in my own lifetime and in my own memory.  There were church-supported orphan’s homes when I was born.  There weren’t many of them, but there were a few.  There were some sponsoring church arrangements when I was born.  They occurred on a rather small scale, but they existed then.  But the general acceptance of dining areas and kitchens in the buildings owned by churches of Christ has come, not only within my lifetime, but within my memory.

In 1947, M. Norvel Young, on the lectureship in Abilene, encouraged churches to build new buildings, to build them in good locations, and to include in their buildings, among many other things, a large fellowship room and cooking facilities that would be near this large fellowship room.  He followed that up with some articles in some of the papers that were circulated, lending his encouragement to the idea of building fellowship halls and kitchens.  Now, that didn’t catch on very well.  I remember when I was in high school, one of the churches in the city where we lived built an addition on their building, and indeed, they put in it a place for eating.  But they felt a little pressure about this and defensively said, “We’re also going to have a Bible class in this room.” That’s the way they excused themselves.  But they felt pressure in doing that.  And I just couldn’t believe that a church of Christ would do that.

In 1954, I went to school in Montgomery.  I attended meetings in churches all around Montgomery.  To my knowledge, there was not a church in Montgomery in 1954 that had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its building.  Now, such might have existed, but I didn’t know it if it did.  For a number of years while I was in college and after I graduated from college, I would indiscriminately either lead singing in meetings or preach in meetings for churches that supported institutions.  I was not aware of it if any of these churches had a fellowship hall and kitchen in its building.  Few churches had them in those days.  But toward the end of the ’60s and on into the ’70s, churches that planned new buildings would include a fellowship room and kitchen in their plans.  It became an accepted practice.  But that is something relatively new among churches of Christ, and I think many people are not aware of that.

Now we raise the question, what was the issue?  On what basis did many object to this practice?

What Was Not The Issue?

Let’s first of all ask the question: What was not the issue?  The issue never was whether one could eat something in a building owned by the church.  There were people who said, “Why, if these people are right, a mother couldn’t even give her baby a bottle of milk in the building.”  Well, of course we never said anything like that.  That was never the issue.

Second, the issue was not whether or not the building is sacred.  Now, I’m not sure how we are using that word “sacred”.  The building is certainly built to be used for spiritual purposes.  If it is not to be used for spiritual purposes, then it has no right to exist in the first place.  But at the same time, if we’re talking about the brick and mortar, the roof, the carpet, and other materials that go into the building – No, they are not sacred.  That was never the issue.

Let me say again, that when differences arise, and it doesn’t matter whether it’s over these things that we’ve been talking about, or over divorce and remarriage, or whatever, one of our problems is we don’t listen to one another.  We either already have our minds made up, or we are thinking about what we are going to say next, or how we’re going to answer this person, that we really don’t listen.  And consequently, a lot of times, we try to answer an argument before we even know the argument.  We try to answer an issue before we even know what the issue is.  And we make a very sad mistake.  I may have been guilty of that.  Any of us may have been.  But we need to listen to one another.

What Was The Issue?

What was the issue?  Well, here basically is what the issue was:  Is there New Testament authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work?  There’s the issue.  Let’s read it again.  Is there New Testament authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work?  Now there’s the issue.

I want to emphasize what we have emphasized throughout this series of lessons: Is there New Testament authority?  Is there authority for that institutional board that stands between the churches and their work with the institutional board taking the oversight of the work for the churches?  That was our question two weeks ago.  Is there authority for one eldership to take the oversight of the work of a thousand churches?  That was our question last week.  We keep coming to the question of authority.

We’ve quoted all these Sundays II Timothy 3:16 and 17: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” If it is a good work, you’re going to find the authority in the Scriptures.  If you cannot find the authority in the Scriptures, it’s not a good work no matter how good it looks to us.

Consider Colossians 3:17, which we have just sung: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus.”  But you can’t do anything in someone’s name unless that person has authorized it.  II John, verse 9: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.”  Is it in the doctrine of Christ?  Can we do it in the name of Jesus?  Is it authorized by the Scriptures?  Those are the questions that we must constantly ask.

I have before me a list of activities that brother Franklin T. Puckett gave in the Arlington meeting concerning what a local church, a local congregation, ought to do.  And I’ve just borrowed that.  I have looked over it and agree with it, and I don’t know of anything else myself that a local church is to do.  Let me just give you some of the things that a local church is authorized to do.

He says, first of all, to have an assembly of the saints.  And he gives us a Scripture, Hebrews 10:24and 25.  I might add Acts 20:7.  The local church is to provide an assembly for the saints.  Now, in keeping with that, the Pepper Road church has a comfortable and commodious building.  Where is the authority for this in which we’re sitting right here today?  Well, it is in the fact that the church is to arrange for assemblies of Christians.

Then he says, number two: In such an assembly, the saints are to observe the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week; Acts 20:7I Corinthians 11:33.  All right, in keeping with that, the church here has provided a table, bread plates, a tray with glasses, and buys bread and fruit of the vine.  Why?  Because that’s one of the things that the church is to do.

Number three: They are to sing psalms unto the Lord and with spiritual songs teach and admonish one another; I Corinthians 14:23, Ephesians 5:19Colossians 3:16.  All right, in keeping with that, the church here has furnished song books.  Where’s the authority for the song books?  We answer: One of the things the church is to do is to arrange for singing.  They arrange for Tony to lead the singing.  Where’s the authority for that?  The church here is providing for singing.

Number four:  They are to pray together.

Number five:  They are to preach and attend to the teaching of God’s word; Acts 20:7I Corinthians 14:26.  In keeping with that, a pulpit is provided and an overhead projector as an aid for our teaching.  There is a board here and a public address system.  What’s that for?  To enable us to efficiently teach the word.  Over on this other side there are some classrooms with various types of equipment there to help in the teaching of the word.  Where is the authority for these classrooms?  It’s in the fact that the church is to provide for the teaching of the word, and so this church has furnished an auditorium that is comfortable and commodious and classrooms where the teaching of the word can take place.

Number six: They are to lay by in store on the first day of the week as they have been prospered to finance their collective responsibilities; I Corinthians 16:2.  I don’t see them, but somewhere around here I guarantee you there’s a hat or something that can be passed around to collect some money.  Where’s the authority?  It is the command to give of our means.

Number seven:  They are to support the preaching of the gospel.  I suspect you’ve got a treasury, and you not only support Bruce, you support men in other places.  I think I know some of them that you support.  Where’s the authority for that?  Well, that’s exactly what the church is to be doing.

Number eight:  They are to provide for the fulfillment of needs of certain destitute saints; Acts 4:34,35; II Corinthians, chapters 8, 9 — we went through all those two weeks ago.  And we made the point two weeks ago that in keeping with the care of destitute saints, the church, under the oversight of its elders — let me emphasize that — the church under the oversight of its elders, could buy a house, pay somebody to supervise, buy groceries.  Where would the authority for that be?  It is in the command to care for the destitute saints.  Now, they wouldn’t send it to a board of directors, who in turn would take the oversight, but under the oversight of the elders they could furnish such things.  Are you getting the point?  When we see what the Lord has authorized the church to do, then that gives us the authority for providing whatever is needful for the efficient carrying out of what God has told the church to do.

Now, if we could just find the Scripture where the church is to plan and provide materially for social activities, then, in this building, we need to provide a room for eating together with a kitchen nearby.  How did Norvel Young say that?  A large fellowship room with cooking facilities near this room in order to facilitate this particular activity.  But if the authority is not there for this activity, then the authority is not there for building the nice fellowship room and the kitchen to go with it.  There’s the problem.  So in order to have our kitchen, and in order to have the large fellowship room, what we’ve got to find is the authority for the local church to plan and provide materially for social activities in its program of work.  That’s what we’ve got to find.  The issue is simply this: Do we add a ninth activity to the eight we have just listed, the ninth being that the local church is to plan and provide materially for social activities?  If so, we have authority for kitchens and dining areas.  If not, there is no authority for them.

The Water Cooler

Well, somebody says, “Surely somebody came up with some arguments that would favor that.”  Yes, that’s right.  Now let me just say that, as far as I’m concerned, at least the first argument should never have been taken seriously.  But some tried to compare the fellowship halls and the kitchens with a water fountain.  Those of us who were living back at that time will remember an article, and it was circulated widely, on “Willie the Water Cooler”.  Does anybody remember “Willie the Water Cooler”?  It was a satire type of thing.  Willie the Water Cooler in this article was getting very concerned because Willie had learned that some of the people thought it was wrong to eat in the church building, and if some of the people thought it was wrong to eat in the church building, they might decide it was wrong to drink in the church building, and therefore Willie the Water Cooler might be moved out of the church building.  That was the argument they made.  They missed the point.

The point is not whether we can drink some water in the church building.  The point is: Can we plan and provide materially for social activities as a program of the local church’s work?  Lynn Headrick, my brother-in-law, who, of course, passed away a little over a year ago, made a very astute observation when he said, “When we find the church planning social activities around the water cooler, then we’ll take the water cooler out.”  Now that gets right to the issue.

May I make another point with you: Nothing is right (and let me make sure we say this right) — nothing is right because it is consistent with something we’re already doing.  A thing is right or wrong on the basis of whether it agrees with this book.  Do you know how churches get into apostasy?  They don’t go into apostasy in one giant leap.  They take just a little step, sometimes it’s only a half step, in the wrong direction.  And then the first thing you know, they get to thinking, “Well, I don’t see any difference in that and this.”  And so they take another step.  “And I don’t see anything different about this and this.” And they take that step.  “Well, what’s the difference in this and this?”  And the first thing you know, each thing they do, they justify on the basis of something they have already been doing.  That is not how you establish authority for anything.  Everything we do in the Lord’s work must be established on the basis of what the Scriptures teach, not on whether it’s consistent with something we’ve already been doing.  If the water cooler argument proves anything, maybe it proves that the water cooler ought to have gone out.  But I don’t think it is the issue.  That was not a serious argument.

Love Feasts

Now, there were at least two serious arguments that were made.

One had to do with the love feasts that the Bible talks about.  If you have your Bible, turn to II Peter, chapter 2.  You remember that the book of II Peter is written to a great degree to combat false teaching that had arisen, and apparently these false teachers were just as corrupt as men could have possibly been.  And in describing them, Peter says, verse 13 of II Peter 2, they “will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime.  They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you.”  While they feast with you.  Now turn to the book of Jude.  The book of Jude is almost a repeat of II Peter 2.  Look at verse 12.  In Jude verse 12, the writer says, “These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves.”  Now, some looked at that and said, “Now, here are love feasts that people had back in the first century, and that’s basically what we have in our fellowship halls, so here is the authority for it — it is in the love feasts.”

In the first place, I don’t know that anybody knows what these love feasts were.  It’s interesting to me that Albert Barnes just says it’s the Lord’s Supper.  And he makes his argument as to why this just has reference to the Lord’s Supper.  I don’t know that that’s correct.  Others have said that they were dinners that wealthier people in the church gave for the sake of the poorer people in order to show their love for those who were poorer in this world’s goods.  That may be correct.  I don’t know what these love feasts were.  The one thing I know is, there is nothing in II Peter 2 or Jude that suggests that they were activities planned by the church.  And I seriously question that they were the same thing that’s taking place in the typical fellowship halls and kitchens of our day.  But that is one of the arguments that was made.  One thing is certain: We do not have enough information concerning love feasts for them to serve as authority for kitchens and dining rooms in our buildings.

Fellowship

Probably the argument that most of us who are sitting here are wondering about is simply: “What about fellowship?”  Doesn’t the Bible teach that the church is to have fellowship?  Indeed!

The Bible does teach that the church is to have fellowship.  But what a lot of people have overlooked is the fact that the word “fellowship” in the Scriptures has to do with spiritual activities.  I have before me a photocopy out of a book that I have which contains every Scripture that uses the Greek word for fellowship, koinonia.  An interesting thing about this is: not one time does it have reference to social fellowship.  Here really we’re getting to the basics: fellowship.  What does the word fellowship mean?  Sharing, communion, participation in, joining together.  The very definition itself suggests that we have to decide what we’re “joining in”, what we’re “sharing”.

One interesting thing is the word “fellowship” in the Scriptures — that is, the Greek word — is used for a business partnership.  Turn to Luke, chapter 5.  Let me show you this usage.  Do you remember the time that Jesus told Simon to launch out into the deep, and let out the nets for a catch — “a draught”, I believe the King James version says — and they caught so many fish that their nets began to break?  Now look at verse 10 of Luke chapter 5, “and so also were James and John the sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon” —  Partners.  This is the same word that is translated “fellowship” in other places.  Business partnership.  They were having fellowship in the business of fishing.

Now, another usage of “fellowship” is social fellowship.  This is where we smell the doughnuts and coffee.  Friday night a bunch of us got together and had some elk stew, and I tell you it was all right.  We had a good time together.  We socialized together.  We shared in the eating of elk stew and a few other things that some of the people brought.  Are you aware that the Bible never uses the word “fellowship” in reference to such social activities?

Now, another use of “fellowship” has to do with spiritual things.  Every time, every time the word is used in regards to the church’s activity, it is always this.  And to my knowledge, there is not one Scripture in the Bible that uses the term “fellowship” in regards to eating elk stew, or whatever socializing we do together.  Not one Scripture that uses the word “fellowship” like that.  Let me show you, for instance, I Corinthians 1:9 (We’ll not turn to these).  We were “called into the fellowship of His Son.”  In Philippians 1:5, Paul commends the Philippians for their “fellowship in the gospel.”  Fellowship in the gospel.  He says in Philippians 2:1, “if there is any fellowship in the Spirit…” Philippians 3:10, he wants to know the “fellowship of the suffering of Christ.”  Notice none of that has anything to do with having a good time together.  It has everything to do with our relationship with God and our relationship with one another as Christians.

I John, chapter one.  I want to turn to that one with you.  Look at I John, chapter 1.  Here is the fellowship that the Bible emphasizes.  If we could ever learn this, then we’re going to realize that this term “fellowship hall” is really a misnomer.  It may be for social fellowship, but it’s not for the fellowship that the Bible talks about.  Now, I John 1, beginning with verse 1.  John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.”  John says, I am writing these things concerning Jesus Christ that you might have fellowship with us.  I want to tell you, there’s not a thing in the world you can read in I John that has anything to do with doughnuts and coffee and elk stew.  It has everything to do with our sharing together in spiritual things.  And then he says our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.

What has happened to us, brethren, when every time we hear the word “fellowship” we immediately think in terms of fun and games and eating and drinking together?  What has happened to us that we see that, every time we see the word “fellowship”, when it’s never even used in the Bible that way?

No, you cannot find the authority for a local church, as a part of its program of work, planning and providing materials for social activities in the word “fellowship” in the Bible, because it doesn’t use the word “fellowship” for that.

May I make this point?  The church at Pepper Road has a fellowship hall.  Let me say that again.  The church at Pepper Road has a fellowship hall.  You’re in it.  We’re in it right now.  We are sharing in worship to God, in the study of His Word.  We are learning what John wrote to us, that we might have fellowship not only among ourselves, but that we might have fellowship with the apostles.  And indeed, our fellowship is with God and with Jesus Christ.  We must learn that this is the kind of fellowship that the Bible talks about.

May I make another point?  The Pepper Road church has a fellowship meal in this fellowship hall.  It’s called the Lord’s Supper.  Turn to I Corinthians, chapter 10.  Look at verse 16: “The cup of blessing which we bless, it is not the communion of the blood of Christ?  The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?”  What is the word communion?  Same word.  You know, sometimes we just refer to the Lord’s Supper as the “communion”.  I don’t know how we got started doing that.  That’s the same thing as saying “I’m going to go prepare the fellowship for Sunday.”  That’s what the word communion means.  And what that passage is saying is when we eat the bread and drink the fruit of the vine, we are having fellowship, communion, with the body and blood of Jesus Christ.  Now, let’s read further, verse 17: “For we, being many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.”  Oh, now, that’s not just communion with the body and blood of Christ, but there’s communion among all of us within the one body.  And let me tell you, that one body is not a local church.  That one body is God’s people.  When we partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are having not only communion with the body and blood of Jesus Christ, but we are having fellowship around a fellowship meal, if I may use that term, with all of God’s people, all over the world, who can legitimately eat of that bread and drink of that fruit of the vine.  There’s one bread and one body, and we all partake of one bread.  You may have five or six pieces of bread.  At New Georgia, we may have four pieces of bread.  But there is one bread, one bread, and all of us partake of that.  What a fellowship!

One of my favorite passages in the Scripture is that passage that talks about us all sitting together in the heavenly places in Christ (Ephesians 2:1-7).  It is as though this building were one huge building that is constantly expanding, and we look over here and we see Paul and Peter and Stephen and Barnabas and Lydia and Dorcas, and we see faithful Christians we’ve known in our lifetimes who’ve already passed on, and there are the faithful of our present generation, and all of us are sitting together.  And the central figure with whom we sit is Jesus Christ.  And we have a fellowship meal; it’s called the Lord’s Supper.  And what a fellowship!  And then somebody comes along and every time he sees the word “fellowship”, he thinks in terms of having a good time.  What we have done is just missed the whole principle of Bible fellowship. But somebody says, “Doesn’t the Bible talk about people eating together and enjoying one another?”  Yes.  Before the church was ever established, I remember Jesus went to a feast that Levi gave — Matthew.  A great feast.  Publicans and sinners were present.  I remember another time when Jesus went to a feast, and apparently Martha gave the feast.  Lazarus sat at the table, John, chapter 12.  You might want to look at Acts, chapter 2.  Here were Christians eating together.  In Acts chapter 2, verse 46, we read concerning the activities of some of those early Christians.  We are told, “So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart.”  May I pause to say that the term “breaking bread” may sometimes refer to the Lord’s Supper, while sometimes it may refer to eating a common meal.  You have to let the context determine.  In this case, we’re talking about a common meal.  But notice they broke bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people.  But nothing here would imply that it was part of the church’s program of work to provide for that.

Consider also I Corinthians, chapter 11.  The church at Corinth was not observing the Lord’s Supper as Jesus had instructed.  It seems that there were two problems.  First, they had turned the Lord’s Supper into a common meal, and, second, in their divided state, some were eating while others had nothing to eat.  There was total disregard for the poor among them.  In dealing with this problem, Paul writes, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?  Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing?  What shall I say to you?  Shall I praise you in this?  I do not praise you.”  You have houses to eat and drink in, Paul said.  “But Paul is correcting abuses of the worship”, someone may be thinking.  That’s right.  But he did not say, “You should wait until after the worship for the church to provide for eating and drinking.”  He said, “You have houses for these activities.”

Turn with me to I Timothy 5:16.  Let’s bring all this, hopefully, to a conclusion.  I Timothy 5:16: “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them relieve them, and do not let the church be burdened, that it may relieve those who are really widows.”  Now, I’m going to take that and enlarge on it.  I’ve got a widowed mother.  Now, whose responsibility is that widowed mother?  Well, I’ll tell you what, it’s not the church’s responsibility.  It’s my responsibility, and my two sisters’ and Sewell’s to take care of my widowed mother.  Charlotte has a widowed mother.  Whose responsibility is Charlotte’s widowed mother?  Not the church’s responsibility.  It’s the responsibility of me and Charlotte, and Charlotte’s three sisters.  Let me do this so the church won’t be burdened.

May I just enlarge on that a little bit?  Suppose that I want my children to be educated in math and English.  Let me provide for the education of my children.  Don’t let the church be burdened with that, so the church can do the wonderful work that God has given the church to do.

Suppose I want my children to have recreation.  Suppose there are not only my children, suppose there are other young people within the group, and I want them to have good wholesome recreation.  Let me provide recreation for my children.  Don’t let the church be burdened with that, so the church can do those things that God has given His church to do.

Is there a place for social activities?  Indeed.  I enjoyed that good elk stew we had the other day.  I wouldn’t want to eat it every day, but that was good!  But let me provide for hospitality.  Let me provide for social events.  And if others want to join with me in that, that’s fine.  But let not the church be charged or burdened with providing for social activities, so the church can do the things God has told His church to do.  It’s just that simple.  And nowhere in the Scriptures is there anything to indicate that the church is to provide materially and plan for social activities.  That is the issue.  That’s where it lies.

Let me close this series of lessons with this.  We are either going to take this matter of restoration of New Testament Christianity seriously or we’re not.  We are either going to take the idea of “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent” seriously or we are not.  If we are not going to take the concept of restoring New Testament Christianity seriously, then by all means let’s quit giving it lip service.  Let’s just forget the whole thing and do anything we want to do, whether we have Bible authority for it or not.  But, on the other hand, if we are really serious about restoring New Testament Christianity — if we are really serious about making the local church according to the pattern given in the New Testament — then let’s rid ourselves of these things that have been introduced into the church for which there is no New Testament authority.  Let’s go back and become what the Lord intended His church to be.  It’s one way or the other.  We can’t have it both ways, talking about restoring New Testament Christianity while accepting all kinds of innovations for which there is no New Testament authority.  It just won’t work.

You have listened well.  I appreciate it.  And I hope you’ve understood where the issue lies.  That’s been our goal.  I hope you have been able to focus on the issue, two weeks ago, last Sunday, and today, to know what really caused all the divisions that took place in the ’50s and ’60s and created so much trouble among families and among churches — preachers being fired, churches being divided; it was a sad time.

Remove The Plank!

crowbar“Judge not, that you be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)  Oh, how people love this verse! It is the first line of defense for those who do not wish to have their sins brought to light. They might as well say, “Don’t bother me with the truth.” Or more clearly, “I don’t need you to point out that what I’m doing is wrong, I already know it and I don’t really care.” I guess they somehow feel that if others don’t point out the sin in their life that God will overlook it Himself.

Anyone who has read past verse one in Matthew 7 can see that Jesus was teaching against hypocrisy and not against pointing out sin in the life of another. When Peter, in Acts 2, told those gathered on the day of Pentecost to repent he was telling them they were in sin; he had called them murderers (v.23) and with many other words told them to “be saved from this perverse generation” (v.40).  In doing so he was making a judgment but he did not violate Jesus’ teaching in Matt. 7:1.

Many times our response to those who would misapply Matt 7:1 stops here. Once we have proven that we do in fact have the right to judge with righteous judgment (Jn 7:24) we move on without regard to the rest of the passage. Yes, we point out that Jesus was warning against hypocrisy but do we actually stop and apply the teaching?

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to see sin in the lives of others than it is to find fault in ourselves? We overhear Sally tell Suzy something that is really not her concern and we are outraged that she is gossiping. We then repeat the scene to someone else (because we are really concerned for her soul) and fail to see that we are now just as guilty as we thought she was. We should not overlook sin in the lives of others but we must first examine ourselves, perhaps we’ve been overlooking a few things within ourselves.

“Judge not”.  Those are pretty forceful words our Lord used. He did not say “be careful” or “judge, but make sure you judge yourself as well.” The command is for us not to judge so long as we have the plank in our eye. At this point some might suggest that there would never be a time that we could judge a brother properly; after all, none of us are perfect. Peter wasn’t perfect. He had denied Christ three times on the night He was betrayed.  However, between that night and the day of Pentecost, he repented. No, none of us are perfect; we have all sinned. But we can be forgiven of those sins and then live blameless before the Lord.

Each night when we go to sleep let us be forgiven and blameless. If the snares of the devil have caused us to sin we need to repent and take the necessary steps to make sure we do not fall again. We must pray to God for forgiveness; not presumptuously but with a humble spirit. Then we can awake the next day ready to walk blameless before the Lord and when we come upon those in need of salvation, those lost in sin, we can show them the error of their way without playing the hypocrite. We remove the plank and cast it away!

So often we think we can just stick the plank in our back pocket or place it on a shelf until we are finished removing the speck from our brother’s eye. We leave the brother, satisfied that we have kept the Lord’s command, and promptly place the plank right back where it was. How ridiculous! Remove the thing and get rid of it.

It’s easy to see how many in the world have a hard time taking “Christians” seriously. There they are with their specks while those who call themselves Christians are stumbling around with their planks trying to remove their speck; all they end up with is a sore eye. They will not be excused for rejecting God but neither will those who cause them to stumble. “Woe to the world because of offenses! For offenses must come, but woe to that man by whom the offense comes.”(Matt 18:7)

If we fail to see and remove our plank be sure that it will be seen. We will all stand before the Lord in judgment and there we must give an account for all that we have done. (2 Cor 5:10) He will not overlook our sin. It will be noticed and we will be judged accordingly. Christ shed His precious blood so that the plank can be removed. He has promised us help in removing it. When it is gone He will remember it no more. So what are we waiting for? Let us remove the plank!