Know Your Bible
Tell Us Plainly
There are people who say that they have a hard time understanding the Bible on certain subjects. According to them, the Bible just is not plain enough. Far too many times a misunderstanding is not because the Bible is not plain enough nor because the Lord has not been clear enough in His teaching. For example: 1. Salvation by faith only? If the Lord had wanted to teach that salvation was positively NOT by faith only, could He have been any plainer than He was in James 2:24,"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" 2. Can a child of God fall from grace? If Jesus had intended to teach that it is possible to fall from grace could He have done it any plainer than He did in Gal 5:4, "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace." 3. Is it ever permissible to swear or take an oath? The New Testament has something to say about oaths and swearing. If that book had meant to forbid all conceivable kinds of oath-taking and swearing, what words would it have used that would convey that idea clearer than, "Swear not at all; neither by heaven; for it is God's throne; nor by the earth; for it is his footstool; neither by Jerusalem; for it is the city of the great King," (Matt. 5:34-36) or "But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath."(James 5:12) 4. What's wrong with religious titles? Had the Lord intended that His people not be given religious titles, would He have used language other than, "Be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your Master, even Christ." (Matt. 23:8-10) 5. Is baptism essential to salvation? What clearer words would the Lord have used had He wanted people to get the idea that they must be baptized, than He did use when Saul was told, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." (Acts 22:16) Since inspired men claimed to "use great plainness of speech" (2 Cor 3:12), let us then believe what they wrote.
Duplicating The Original
People today are often looking for something new and different in their religious experience. In trying to lure people who have this mind-set, many churches are using catchwords like "contemporary" and "casual" to describe their assemblies. Social programs (such as day-care and counseling) and recreational facilities (such as gymnasiums and fellowship halls) are constantly being added, revised and updated in order to stay on the cutting edge. Churches that don't modernize themselves in these ways are ridiculed as still being in the Dark Ages.
In Jude 3, God's word exhorts us "to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Notice that we are to contend for a faith that was delivered once for all time in the first century AD. Since the Dark Ages occurred hundreds of years later, a church still in the Dark Ages would actually be too modern!
Our goal should not be to find the new and different, but to discover and hold onto the ancient and unchanging. The Scriptures teach this concept in a number of different ways:
(1) We Are To Sow The Seed. God's word is like seed (Luke 8:11). The apostle Peter described God's word as "incorruptible" seed which "lives and abides forever" (1 Peter 1:23). Seed brings forth after its kind (Genesis 1:11-12). You can't grow watermelon from cantaloupe seed! Just so, you won't grow new and different, ever- changing churches if all you are planting is the unchanging seed of God's word! Jesus warned, "Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted" (Matthew 15:13).
(2) We Are To Follow The Pattern. In 2 Timothy 1:13, Paul charges Timothy to "hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus." Consistently following a pattern will produce the same results every time. It is simply impossible for new doctrines and innovative programs to come from following the same old pattern.
(3) We Are To Go Back To The Beginning. In 1 John 2:24 we are instructed to "let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning." We are assured that, "if what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father." Our relationship with God depends not on some novel church program, but upon sticking with the original gospel and doctrine of Jesus Christ.
We are living in a world that believes that everything can be improved. And perhaps many things can be. The gospel and the Lord's design for the church are not among them. We will not improve on the original no matter how hard we try. Let us in humble faith simply strive to duplicate the original.
The Last Bulletin
This will be the last bulletin you will receive for at least the foreseeable future. The decision to end the mail-out bulletin has not been an easy one but a necessary one. It is difficult to end something you have been doing for over fifteen years. Some of you are among the first two hundred people that received Volume 1 Number 1 back in February 1991. The postal service, at that time, required a minimum of two hundred to validate our newly acquired mailing permit. As of this mailing, the mailing list is at 987.
We wish to thank those of you who responded in July to our request to hear from you. Your response was far beyond what we had anticipated. In such an effort as this, you never know how many of the bulletins are actually being read or whether they are being thrown away. Therefore, from your response, we were made to realize there are many of you who do read and benefit from this bulletin. To you who do read and enjoy receiving this bulletin, we truly regret having to bring this aspect of our work to a end.
We are in hopes of continuing the handout bulletin each week at the building as well as the email bulletin, along with the weekly television program on the local cable company. If you would like to receive the electronic version of this bulletin, we would be glad to have you do so. Simply send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and indicate your desire to be added to the email bulletin and we will add your email address to our mailing list. The email bulletin was started about five years ago and contains the articles used in the weekly handout bulletin as well as the monthly mail-out bulletin. Please do not hesitate to send us your address if you wish to be put on our email list.
---E.R. Hall, Jr. Editor
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