Know Your Bible

VOL. 12                                                                                                                          July 21, 2013                                                                                                                            NO. 24



At the close of Paul's first epistle to the saints at Thessalonica, he exhorts them to "edify one another" (5:11I). The word here translated "edify" is the Greek word oikodomeo. It is found thirty-nine times in the original text and all but eight times it is translated as "build" or "built." This is the same word that our Lord used in Matthew 7:24 when He spoke of the wise man who "built his house on the rock."

The idea that Paul had in mind was that Christians should "build" one another up in the faith. After defining the word, Thayer adds an additional comment. He says it is "the act of one who promotes another’s growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, happiness."

One of the highest duties that a Christian has is to encourage others. In a world filled with pessimism, violence and despair, the need for encouragement is evident. While at work we become painfully aware of the defeatist attitude that has permeated the society in which we live.

After a week of listening to the gripes and complaints of this sin-sick world, Christians should look forward to an isle of retreat on the Lord's day, A place where the name of God is blessed and not cursed, a place where we can enjoy those "seasons of refreshing" that flow down from the bountiful hand of the Father.

It is truly a shame that Christians do not spend more time in one another's company. The Hebrew writer tells us to "consider one another so as to stir up love and good works," after this command he tells us how this is to be done, i.e., "not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another" (Heb. 10:24-25).

In Haggai 2:4, God told the people to get back to the work of rebuilding the temple. With this command God gave a word of encouragement, "For I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts." Please pause and consider what it meant for those Jews to whom Haggai spoke, to know that the Lord was with them. Surely they could remember the stories of how Jehovah had been with their fathers as they passed through the Red Sea, how he had led them "by the hand" through all their wanderings in the wilderness, and now how He had released them from Babylonian captivity. Realizing their God was real and powerful, how could they question his guidance now?

As we run our race toward eternal glory, let us all learn the many virtues of encouragement and "run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.”

---David Padfield

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Practically every day of Jesus' ministry found Him either  opposed by or opposing error and sin. We read of conflicts with the Pharisees in Matt. 12,13. And, in Matt. 16, Jesus even found Himself in conflict with His disciples. Jesus taught His followers to expect trouble, opposition, and controversy. It has been said that in all of the history of our Lord Jesus Christ, we never find Him out of controversy. There is no doubt that Jesus powerfully and honorably stood against error, and in doing so He exposed the false teachings and hypocrisy of His day. 

The New Testament writers were not afraid to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. Paul wrote about how he was set for the defense of the gospel, Phil. 1:16. Acts tells us of how he spoke boldly and reasoned from the Scriptures. Jude boldly warned believers to stand up against religious error. He made it perfectly clear of our need to engage in whatever controversy the forces of the devil make necessary. Christians should contend earnestly for the faith, Jude 3. There is an unmistakable concept presented in the gospel: Christians have the responsibility to stand for truth and defend God's ways against those who are willing to compromise. 

While there is a clear need to stand for God's way of doing  things, Paul also wrote: "Conduct yourselves with wisdom toward outsiders, making the most of the opportunity. Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person" (Col. 4:5,6). When communicating the fact of religious error to those who are outside of the body of Christ, or to those who are new Christians, how do we come across? What is the perception we leave? We must exercise caution with the words we speak, lest a few careless words slam shut the doors of opportunity to teach. 

Sometimes we can leave the impression that our religious friends in denominations are less than smart, insincere, and at best, willfully deceptive. And with an overwhelming majority of cases, that is simply not the case. While I'm sure we know that, is this always the impression that comes across? We need to be on guard lest our Bible classes or sermons denigrate into little more than discussions of us versus them and of our disbelief of how anyone could believe the Bible that way. While our intention is noble, in that we wish to objectively contrast denominational doctrine with Christ's, we must not make the conversation personal. And things can go that way in a hurry. An alleged defense of the truth at the expense of a sincere heart and peaceful disposition is illogical and irrational. It is absurd to attempt to do right by doing wrong. Men have made themselves murderers on the pretense of doing God's Will. Remember Paul didn't make his argument personal, he reasoned from Scriptures, Acts 17:2. 

Some are governed by the mentality that having the truth somehow excuses them from using tact and godliness in the way they speak of others. However, Christians are to be governed by the principles found in Col. 3:12: "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience." While the truth may be on the side of the New Testament Christian, truth does not excuse him to judge motives, doubt sincerity, and treat issues with brute force that should be handled in love. When speaking about denominational doctrine or other religious errors propagated by those outside of Christ, God's kind of person will make sure God is glorified by the way truth is shared with others. 

Accomplishing this takes wisdom. Christians need to pray for wisdom, Jas. 1:5. In Jas. 3:17 the writer describes how those with wisdom conduct themselves: "the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy." This is the effect New Testament Christianity is to have upon our heart and life, and it will be revealed by the way we speak! We have been created to have this kind of disposition. Wisdom understands that gentleness is not always to be equated with weakness. Wisdom knows that we must speak the truth in love, Eph. 4:15. Place yourself in the shoes of an average guest from the community who visits Bible classes and services. What would you think of the conversations that take place in some Bible classes? Are there impressions cast that would cause a person to come away thinking of those in Christ's church as being arrogant and condescending? 

While speaking the truth in love, some will be offended by an objective effort to contrast truth with error. And when truth is explained in the spirit of Christ, we make no apology. God calls everyone to treat His Word honestly and soberly, 1 Thes. 2:13. Some persons are in no way interested in truth or making correction. These have closed their hearts and they will answer to God for that. But let us be aware of how we come across and always keep the words of Jesus near our hearts: "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets," Matt. 7:12.

---Matthew H. Allen

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

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