Baptism and 1 Corinthians 1:17

1 Corinthians 1:17 is a key passage that some have used to deny the necessity of baptism in connection with salvation.  It is claimed that if such was essential for salvation, then this passage would say that Christ sent Paul to baptize.  But, instead it says, “For Christ did not send  me to baptize, but to preach the gospel…”

In response, let me suggest that this may be a “relative negation.” In a relative negation the  “Not… but…” construction is used to demonstrate a contrast in priority, with the more valuable priority or emphasis being upon the second clause, but not implying that the first clause is sinful, or intending to totally negate it. The Bible contains many relative negations. For instance: (1) John 6:27 reads, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life…”  Question,  is it sinful to labor for the physical needs such as meat?  Absolutely not! (cf. Genesis 3:19; Ephesians 4:28; 2 Thessalonians 3:10, etc.).  The point is that there is something far more important than physical needs (Matthew 4:4; Mark 8:36-37; Luke 12:18-21).  (2) Matthew 6:19-20 says, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”  Question, is this forbidding every type of laying up of physical things?  Answer – Absolutely not (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:14).  Question, is this forbidding us to prepare ourselves for the future physical needs of ourselves and our families?  Certainly not!  Consider the instructions of 1 Timothy 5:8, 16 which says that we are to “provide” for our own.  The term translated “provide” means to literally, according to Thayer, “to perceive before, foresee.”  There is not one thing wrong with preparing for the future ( Proverbs 6:6-11; 10:4-5; 19:14; 20:4; John 12:6; John 13:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:11-12; 1 Timothy 5:8; James 5:7; etc.).  The emphasis is upon what is lasting; what is eternal. This is what should be treasured.  (3) 1 Peter 3:3-4, “Do not let your adorning be merely outward – arranging the hair, wearing of gold, or  putting on fine apparel – rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.”  Note the term “fine” is not in the original text. If the first clause be taken literal then this teaches that wives should never wear clothing on their bodies!  Absurd!  No, this passage is setting forth where one`s emphasis needs to be.  It needs to be upon the inner man and not upon outward appearance.  People need to see the Christ-like spirit within us, more than they need to see the latest fashion upon our bodies.

Further, let me also suggested that this may be an elliptical statement and that the meaning is “For Christ did not sent me to baptize (only), but (also) to preach the gospel.” This is also a possibility. There are other examples of the ellipses in the Bible. (1) Genesis 45:8, “So now it was not you (alone) who sent me here, but (also) God…” (2) Mark 9:37, “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me (only), but (also) Him who sent Me.” In reality, there is little difference between an ellipses and a relative negation. A relative negation may be viewed as a type of ellipses.

1 Corinthians 1:17 must be either a relative negation, or an ellipses. Consider: (1) If this teaches that baptism is non-essential to salvation, then it conflicts with many others passages ( Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; 1 Peter 3:21 etc.). Such cannot be (Galatians 1:6-9). (2) If Paul was not to baptize at all, why did he do such? He baptized Crispus and Gaius (1 Corinthians 1:15-17). Did he dare do that for which he had no authority?

Let’s consider the text.  Jealous and prideful divisions were occurring in the church at Corinth over who was baptized by whom (1 Corinthians 1:11-15; 3:3-6).  They were exalting men.  Paul’s point was this – let me paraphrase – “I was sent not just to baptize you in water, but I was sent to preach the Gospel, revealing the truth about Christ, and the cross, and the power of God.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:17-31).  “I was sent not just to teach you about water, but primarily to teach you about Christ.”  If all they learned was about water they missed the main point.  Look at Romans 6:1-4.  Baptism symbolized something (the death, burial, and resurrection).  Look at 1 Corinthians 1:13- “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” The original wording is “into (eis) the name of Paul.”  Proper baptism makes one a Christian. {Brother Ed Wharton says, “eis to onoma, ‘in the name of,’ or more correctly ‘into the name of’ does not mean that we are to be baptized ‘at the command of’ or ‘on the authority of’ [as in Acts 2:38 where the phrase is different, (epi to onomati)]…’into the name’  was a common phrase for transference of ownership… They were Christ’s  possession, not Paul’s… Paul is saying that they do not belong to him” (The church of Christ, pp.46-47). Note: Matthew 28:19; Acts 19:5-6 and 1 Corinthians 1:13 are similar in wording. Arndt-Gingrich “through baptism…the one baptized becomes the possession of and comes under the protection of the one whose name he bears” (p. 572)} Paul’s point seems to be that he was sent to teach them, so that they might be converted and truly belong to Christ.  He was not sent just to baptize. He was sent to preach. The message was much bigger and more important than the act of baptism. It definitely was more important than who administered baptism. The message, if properly heard, pointed people to Christ and not Paul ( 1 Corinthians 1:23-24; 2:2; 2 Corinthians 4:5; Ephesians 3:8; Colossians 1:27-28).

Another point for considering – some today seem to believe that one of the primary duty of the preacher is baptize.  Paul’s primary duty was to reveal God’s truth, especially unto the Gentile people (cf. Acts 22:21; Romans 11:13; Ephesians 3:1-8; 1 Timothy 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:11).  Furthermore, I do not read anywhere in scripture that the preacher’s primary task is to baptize. However I do read that he is to proclaim God’s will (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Titus 2:15),  and reveal the good news (Romans 1:14-16; 9:16).  If he does such, those with good and honest hearts will respond (Luke 8:15). Let us preach the word. God will give the increase.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Wisdom for Worry/ Answers for Anxiety

The word “anxiety” word is from a Latin word meaning “to strangle.” The word “worry” is from an old English word meaning “to strangle.” Adam Clark indicates that the Biblical word, merimnao, can be used of “dividing or distracting the mind” (Commentary on Matthew – Acts, p. 91). This clearly is the context of Matthew 6:25-ff cf. 6:24 and Luke 12:22-ff cf. 12:21. Some people are strangling their happiness, health, energy, and productivity by useless worry.

  1. Determine your master

“No one can serve two masters… You cannot serve God and Mammon” (Matthew 6:24). The decision to allow God alone to be your Master will lessen stress. Some strive for riches but are never satisfied (Ecclesiastes 5:10). Some fall into temptation and pierce themselves through with many sorrows because they are obsessed with material things (1 Timothy 6:9-10). Some are not productive Christians because they try to serve both God and Mammon (Luke 8:14). Let us be clear in our minds about who is master.

2. Focus on the important

“Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25). “Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing” (Luke 12:22). Staying focused on what is important will lessen stress. “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or, what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:17). “We do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:18). Let us stay focused on that which is eternally important. The state of “The Rich Man” and Lazarus was very different in the after-life, than it was in this life (Luke 16:19-ff).

3. Trust in God’s general providence

“Look at the birds… your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” (Matthew 6:26; Luke 12:24). “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow …Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you…?” (Matthew 6:28-30; Luke 12:27-28). The very reason that life exists is because of Him. He has set His general providence on humanity. “He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). He created plants and animals for mankind’s benefit (Genesis 1:28-30; 9:1-3; Psalm 8:4-9). He provides for them. His general providence is upon us as well. Let us not forget this. A point to ponder – while God does provide for the birds, He does not drop food into their mouths. “The early bird gets the worm.”

4. The promise of special providence

“Therefore, do not worry saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’… But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all of these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:31-33; Luke 12:29-31). While God’s providence is upon all of humanity, He has promised those truly living for Him special providence. Let us pursue righteousness and put the kingdom first in this life.

5. Accept things you can’t change

“Which of you by worry can add one cubit to his stature?” (Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25). Some translations take this as a reference to height (KJV, NKJV). Others take this as a reference to length of life (ASV, NASB, ESV). The point is the same, either way. There are some things we cannot change. “God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” (Reinhold Niebuhr). Let us realize that worry itself will change nothing.

6. Live in the present

“Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).  This is not suggesting that it is wrong to plan for the future (Genesis 41:33-51; Proverbs 6:6-8; 1 Timothy 5:8). However, some people are so overly concerned about the future that they fail to live in the present. They make themselves and others miserable. Let us live in the present. “I don’t know about tomorrow, I just live from day-to-day; I don’t borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray. I don’t worry o’er the future, for I know what Jesus said; and today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what is ahead. Many things about tomorrow I don’t seem to understand, but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand” (Ira Stanphill).

While some are overly concerned about the future, others won’t get beyond the past. Their past mistakes, and sins haunt them, and even paralyze them in the present. Paul once persecuted the church. Yet, while he never forgot what he had done, he did not allow such to hinder his productivity in the present. He wrote, “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14). Let us repent of the things we need to repent, and let us live to the glory of God in the present, and let us reach for the prize.

7. Caution about fear-mongers

The world is filled with fear-mongering. Their sensational words grab headlines and air-time. Their words raise money. Their words can also create needless worry, discourage, and even paralyze productivity.

Consider some stories from the past: (1) The headline of April 28, 1975 Newsweek was, “The Coming Ice Age.” In it, Peter Gwynne wrote an article entitled, “The Cooling World.” It reported that the temperature in the Northern Hemisphere had dropped ½ a degree F between 1945 and 1968, and that growing seasons had been shortened by 2 weeks since 1950 (Sweetness – light/archive/Newsweek-1975). I was taught in school that an Ice Age was coming. Now they speak of global warming. (2) The January 1970 issue of Life said, “In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution… by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half” (Sweetness-light.com/archive/13worstpredictions-from-earth-day-april22-1970). (3) Paul Ehrlich said in 1970, “In 10 years, all important animal life in the sea will be extinct. Large areas of coastline will have to be evacuated because of the stench of dead fish” (Covnews.com/archive/41466). (4) He also predicted that “In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions will starve to death” (Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed, p. 67). The concern was over-population. Thomas Sowell writes, “Now that the 1970s and 1980s have come and gone, it is clear that nothing faintly resembling Ehrlich’s prediction has come to pass. Moreover, such local famines as struck sporadically had nothing to do with overpopulation and everything to do with this disruption of local food distribution systems, due to war or other man-made disasters” (ibid). Many believed that India would surely face starvation. It has not happened. Yield per acre has greatly increased. India is currently a net exporter of grain. (5) In 1972 The Club of Rome warned that the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987, and petroleum, copper lead and natural gas by 1992 (creators.com/opinion/walter-williams/environmentalists-wild-predictions). (6) I have heard of those years are who predicted that with machines taking over more and more work man would not have much to do. He would need to fill his time with some hobby like water-color painting or macramé. I don’t that such has happened. (7) “Remember back in the early 1990s when one of the biggest stories in the news for several weeks was a rash of tourist murders in Florida? Several million potential visitors changed their vacation plans and went elsewhere. They did so without ever doing the make to make an informed decision because the media focused only on twenty-two murders. The reporters didn`t point out that Florida had forty million tourists that year, and if you figure they each stayed an average of one week, the murder rate was only one-third that of the average American city” (Ben Carson, Take The risk:learning to identify, choose, and live with acceptable risk, p. 57). (8) “Since any commercial plane crash anywhere in the world makes CNN, the Fox News Channel, the network evening news, plus all the local evening news roundups, we forget that the chances of being killed driving to the airport is far greater than the odds you will die in a life-time of flying” ( ibid).  (9) ” How many Americans go to the beach every year more concerned about and alerted of a deadly shark attack (which may occur only a time or two or three – if at all – this year on US beaches) than the likelihood of someone in their party drowning (which happens thousands of times every year, year after year)?” (ibid, p.58)

Mark Twain once said “I’ve seen a heap of trouble in my life, and most of it never came to pass.”

8. Even bad circumstances can be survived.

In battle of Gettysburg there were 70,000 Confederate troops and 94,000 Union troops. The Confederate troop losses: 4,400 dead, 12,950 wounded, 5,350 missing. The Union troops losses: 3,150 dead, 14,506 wounded, 5,165 missing. (Stats from gettysburgstonesential.com). If I told you that tomorrow you would be a soldier at Gettysburg, you might say “I am a dead man.” Yet 47,300 confederate troops and 71,185 Union troops were neither dead, wounded, or missing.

In the Vietnam War, 58,202 U.S. personnel lost their lives. Yet, there were 2,594,000 who served within the borders of Vietnam between January 1, 1965 and March 28, 1973 and an additional 50,000 who served between 1960-1964 (stats from veteranshour.com/Vietnam-war-statistics). In 1968 alone 563,000 military personnel were present in Vietnam. My point is not minimize the lives lost. But, I do want you to understand that most survived.

Dale Carnegie wrote, “The United States Navy used statistics of the law of averages to buck up the moral of their men. One sailor told me that he and his shipmates were assigned to high-octane tankers, they were worried stiff. The all believed that if a tanker loaded with high-octane gasoline was hit by a torpedo it would blow everyone to bits. But the U.S. Navy knew otherwise, so the Navy issued exact figures showing that out of one hundred tankers hit by torpedoes, sixty stayed afloat; and of the forty that did sink, only five sank in less than ten minutes. That meant time to get off the ship – it also meant casualties were exceedingly small. Did this help moral? ‘This knowledge of the law of averages wiped out my jitters,’ said Clyde W. Mass of St. Paul, Minnesota” ( How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, pp. 81-82).

The point is this: Things usually are not as bad as you think. Don’t let worry of tomorrow cause you to cease living today, and doing what you should.

9. Faithful have no reason to fear death. “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21). “To depart and be with Christ is far better” (Philippians 1:23).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Testing of Israel

Some have wondered – why God did not better supply the children of Israel as they journeyed towards the promised land.  At times, they went without adequate water (Exodus 17:3; Numbers 20:2).  At times, they hungered (Exodus 16:3; Deuteronomy 8:3).  Now, it is true that God miraculously was with them (Deuteronomy 8:4; 29:5; Nehemiah 9:21).  But, why would God put them through such hardship?  Didn’t He know what they needed?

The “why” of God’s allowance of this is found in Deuteronomy 8:2-3, 16.  God was testing them.  He wanted them to humbly submit unto Him.  Some did.   Many others grumbled, murmured, and disrespectfully and rebelliously complained every step of the way.  Others even sought to return unto Egypt (Numbers 14:4; Nehemiah 9:17; Acts 7:39).   They should have humbly and respectfully prayed to Him when in need. God was testing and proving the character and faith of each man and woman.  He was revealing what was in the heart.  Understand, if these tests were properly received they matured and perfected those tested (Deuteronomy 8:3, 16).

Application

When we experience hardships in life remember that such may well be a test.  God is separating the wheat from the chaff.  He is revealing the heart.  Don’t let the testing of life derail you and keep you out of the promised land.  Trust in Him.  Don’t give up.  “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Galatians 6:9).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Galen’s Influence

Imhotep (Egypt c. 3500 B.C.), Hippocrates (KOS, Greece 460-377 B.C.), Galen (Pergamum, Asia Minor 130-201? A.D.): Those are the celebrated physicians of ancient times.

It is Galen that is the subject of this article.  Galen learned much by dissecting animals – pigs, goats, and even apes.  He worked as a physician for a gladiator school.  His repair of injured fighters also helped him to learn about the human body.  Roman law, however, prevented him from doing any dissection of human bodies, even of dead gladiators.  Hence, his understanding of the human body was limited.

He once treated a man, Eudemus, a well-known physician.  Through his effort, the man recovered.  Galen figured out that injuries in one part of the body, such as the head and neck, could affect other areas of the body such as the limbs, hands, or feet.  Galen treated the nerve in Eudemus’ neck and not his fingers that had mild paralysis.

Galen’s fame grew.  Marcus Aurelius, the emperor, hired Galen as his personal physician.  He even said, “Rome has but one physician – Galen.”

Galen’s writings and opinions became the final authority in medicine for some.  “Galen’s authority remained supreme until about the time when the colonies began to occupy the Atlantic coast of North America.  As late as the middle of the sixteenth century a London physician, who had assailed the teachings of Galen, was obliged to take back what he has said, and to hand in a written apology on penalty of expulsion from the college of physicians” (New Standard Encyclopedia).  “Medical schools used Galen’s books as textbooks for more than a thousand years.  He became the undisputed authority.  No one dared to ever differ with him” (John Hudson Tiner, Exploring the History of Medicine from the Ancient Physicians of Pharaoh to Genetic Engineering, p.14).  The Middle Ages were not good times for studying medicine, or studying anything.  The economy suffered to the point that few could afford to devote much time to medical research. Many libraries were burned when Rome fell. Writings from Hippocrates and Galen survived.  Thus, they became ” the last word in medicine” (ibid, p.13). In the 1500’s, some medical schools did little more than study Galen’s writings.

However, Galen did not have accurate knowledge of everything.  Example: Galen taught that the human breastbone had seven segments (based upon his dissection of an ape).  Andreas Vesalius ( 1514 -1564, Belgian) studied the human skeleton and found that the human skeleton has three segments. Example: He assumed that the rete mirabile, a plexus of blood vessels at the base of some animal brains was also present in humans. Example: He assumed that the lower jaw in humans was made up of two bones, as it is in dogs. Eventually Vesalius would find over 200 mistakes in Galen’s books (ibid, p.20).

William Harvey (1578-1657, English) also found that Galen`s understanding of the circulatory system incorrect.  Galen did not consider the heart a pump.He thought that the blood surging through the heart caused the beating.  Galen taught that veins carried blood away from the heart.  Galen taught that blood was constantly being manufactured by the liver and burned my the muscles. He had no concept of blood circulating.  It was in 1616 that William Harvey (an English Physician) announced before the College of Physicians lectureship, “Thus is proved a perpetual motion of the blood in a circle caused by the beating of the heart.”  Doctors who rejected his findings just quoted Galen instead of repeating his experiments (ibid, p.35).

Galen`s influence persisted. In 1796, Edward Jenner (1749-1823, English) came up with a vaccine for Small Pox.  The British Royal family, Napoleon, and Thomas Jefferson were all soon vaccinated thereafter.  He was nominated to the College of Physicians.  The doctors agreed to admit him only after he first passed a test over the teachings of Hippocrates and Galen.  He refused.

 Joseph Lister (1827-1912; an English surgeon who worked in Scotland) found Galen to be wrong on infections.  Galen taught “infections is useful. The pus cleanses wounds and helps healing” (ibid, p.87). Lister was troubled that more than half of those with compound fractures died.  He began to test antiseptics in treating such wounds.  It worked.  The death rate dropped [Note: Listerine mouthwash is named in honor of him].

Galen’s terminology is still used today.  We say that one is in “good-humor” if he feels well, and is in “ill-humor” if he feels poorly.  The term “humor” refers to fluids.  Galen theorized that there were four fluids that must be in balance to feel good.  Blood letting was based in part on this theory.

APPLICATION

1.  “(Galen’s) books contained a curious mixture of fact, opinion and outright errors.  With his usual cheerful self-confidence, Galen stated it all as fact.  He did not keep apart what he knew as fact from what he merely believed to be true” (ibid, p.10).

We who teach should make a distinction.  When we state an opinion, we should let folks know it is such  (cf. Philemon 15).

2.  We should never place too much confidence in men.  We must do our own research (1 Thessalonians 5:21; Acts 17:11).  God and His Word is our final authority, not man.  Let us use commentaries for the evidence which they can provide, but not as popes with final authority.

3.  Many in the Middle Ages spent too much time studying Galen and not enough studying the human body.  We today can spend too much time studying what someone says about the Bible, and not enough studying the Bible itself.  Read Acts 20:32; 1 Peter 2:2.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Debate

All around the world preachers preach to people who generally agree with them. If they did not generally agree, they would not keep on attending and supporting such preaching.

It is my contention that if we are truly interested in truth, and the souls of men, we should be willing to come together and discuss our differences. We are to be “prepared to make a defense” for what we believe (1 Peter 3:15 ESV). Truth has nothing to fear by being examined. It has been said that the more truth is rubbed, the brighter it shines.

Logic accepts there to be certain laws of thought. (1) The Law of Excluded Middle States – “every precisely stated proposition is either true or false. There is no middle-ground between a proposition being true and being false.” (2) The Law of Contradiction States – “no proposition can be both true and false, in the same respect.” (3) The Law of Identity States – “if a proposition is true, then it is true.” It is not true for me and false for him.

Application: If “Man A” argues that we are bound to keep the Sabbath today, and “Man B” argue that we are not so bound – both cannot be correct. If “Man A” argues that the use of mechanical instruments of music is acceptable for worship today, and “Man B” deny such – both cannot be correct. If “Man A” argues baptism is not essential to man’s salvation today, and “Man B” affirm that it is essential – both cannot be correct. If “Man A” argues that there is but one permitted reason for divorce and remarriage, and “Man B” argues that there other permitted reasons – both cannot be correct.

Early Christians` Example/Word Study

The early Christians did not proclaim their beliefs just before the church. They preached in such public places as: (1) The temple – (Acts 3:11-ff; 14:1; 17:1-ff; 17:10-ff; 17:16-ff; 18:4; 18:19); (2) synagogues (Acts 9:20; 13:5; 13:14; 14:117:1-3; 17:10-12; 17:1718:4; 18:19; 19:8); (3) Marketplace (Acts 17:17); and (4) The Areopagus of Mar’s Hill (Acts 17:22-ff). They taught both publicly and from house to house (Acts 5:42; 20:20).

A study of the words used to describe what Paul did is helpful.

1.  He reasoned or disputed (Acts 17:2; 17:17; 18:4; 18:19; 19:9; 24:25).

The word is dialegomai, from dia (through) and lego (to speak). This word is defined to mean – (a) Vine’s: “‘to think different things with oneself, to ponder,’ then ‘to dispute with others.’” (b) B-A-G: “discuss, conduct a discussion.” (c) Thayer: “to think different things with oneself, mingle thought with thought . . . to converse, discourse with one, argue, discuss.” (d) Thomas Warren said – “Basic Meaning: to argue, discourse, debate, discuss, contend” (The Work of The Gospel Preacher, p. 3).

2.  He explained or opened (Acts 17:3).

The word is dianoigo, from dia (through) and oigo (to open). This word is defined to mean – (a) Vine’s: “to open up completely . . . metaphorically . . . of the mind.” (b) Thayer: “to open the sense of the scriptures, explain them . . . to open the mind of one, i.e. cause him to understand a thing.”

3.  He demonstrated or alleged (Acts 17:3).

The word is paratithemi, from para (beside) and tithemi (to put or place). The context refers to the placing of the life of Christ next to the message of the prophets (Acts 17:3 cf. Lk 24:25-27).

4.  He explained or expounded (Acts 28:23).

The word is ektithemi, from ek (out) and tithemi (to put or place). The context refers to bring out the meaning from “both the law of Moses and the prophets” (Acts 28:23).

5.  He persuaded (Acts 13:43; 18:4; 19:8; 28:23).

The word is peitho. This word is defined by Thayer to mean “(a.) to persuade, i.e. to induce one by words to believe . . . (b.) to make friends of, win one’s favor, gain one’s goodwill . . . (c.) to persuade unto i.e. move or induce one by persuasion to do something.”

6.  He disputed (Acts 9:29).

The word is suzeteo, from sun (with) and zeeleo (seek). This word means – (a) Vine’s: “lit. to seek or examine together.” (b) Thayer: “to seek or examine together.” (c) B-A-G: “discuss, debate, argue.” (d) Thomas Warren said – “to discuss, dispute, question, debate.”

Listening

Debating is not a game. It is not about personalities, or should not be. It is about examining the truth. Every precisely state proposition is either true or false. The hearer should operate under the Law of Rationality which says that man should weigh the evidence and draw only such conclusions as are warranted by the evidence (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Shun Debates?

Debating is nowhere near as common as it once was. Joe Warlick (1866-1941) had 399 debates, 23 with the same man – Ben Bogard. Joe Blue (1875-1954) had at least 107 debates. Debating has become less common in our days for several reasons.

1.  Denominations do not like to be exposed. Brother Carl Heckel has written, “Many people are afraid of the truth. Debates tend to force confrontation with the word of God. Such confrontation demands change in conviction and/or behavior. To avoid this unpleasant encounter some have been prone to advance unwarranted criticism of debating itself” (Jerry Moffitt, Do Debates Do Any Good? Seventh Annual Shenandoah Lectures – Denominationalism versus the Bible, p. 564). Some religious groups, such as the Jehovah Witnesses, will no longer debate.

2.  Some brethren have become uncertain, and unconvinced about what they believe. One is not likely to be willing to defend a position publicly, if one is unsure about that position. Some have become out-right agnostics in regards to truth. They like Pilate say, “What is truth?”

3.  Some are confused over Romans 1:29 (KJV). “Debate” in this verse is negatively used.

Many words have more than one usage. The term “desire” or “lust” (epithumia) can be used of evil desires (Colossians 3:5) or of good desires (Philippians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17). It all depends on what is desired. The term “jealous” or “zealous” (zelos) can be used of evil jealousy (Galatians 5:20), or of good zeal (1 Corinthians 14:12; Titus 2:14). It all depends on for what one is burning. Even so, the term “debate” can be good (Proverbs 25:9a), or bad (Romans 1:29). If one is speaking of needless controversy, needless fussing, and fighting, then such is wrong. However, if one is speaking of reasoning together concerning the truth, such can be good.

“Argue” is another such word which has two meanings. The term “argue” can refer to “needless fussing and fighting”. However, in logic the term “argument” refers to “a number of propositions, some of which function as premises (that is they serve as evidence) and one (or more) function as the conclusion”. In other words, an argument is “a group of statements which are used to prove or support a conclusion”.

4.  Some are confused over what Paul was forbidding in 1 + 2 Timothy and Titus (1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7; 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14; 2:23; 4:4; Titus 1:14; 3:9). Didn’t Paul say that foolish disputes were to be avoided?

Look closely at these passages. These passages involve the following words – (1) Fables or myths (1 Timothy 1:4; 4:7; 2 Timothy 4:4; Titus 1:14). (2) Genealogies (1 Timothy 1:4; Tit. 3:9). (3) Questions (1 Timothy 1:4; 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9), and (4) Unprofitable words (1 Timothy 6:4; 2 Timothy 2:14; Titus 3:9). Bill Lockwood comments “The questions and ‘dispute of words’ of which the apostle speaks refers to Jewish efforts to press traditions surrounding the Law of Moses upon Christians. They were referred to as ‘myths’ because of the lack of historical character . . . the ‘striving’ which Paul forbade included the entanglement in untaught questions upon which the Bible was silent. They were ‘myths,’ ‘fables,’ ‘genealogies,’ traditions about people’s origins and were ‘quarrels’ specifically related to the law of Moses. . . . H. Wace, in Cook’s Commentary offers this notion. Philo, the Jew, who was teaching at Alexandria during the time of our Lord’s ministry, dividing the writings of Moses into historical and genealogical . . . found in the genealogies a whole system of psychology. The names with him represented the various conditions of the soul . . . something of this kind were probably the ‘endless genealogies’” (Hammer & Tongs, May-June 95, p. 6). Forbidden is striving over words of no profit (2 Timothy 2:14). However, let us remember that when it comes to God’s word “All scripture is given by the inspiration of God, and is profitable. . .” (2 Timothy 3:16).

5.  Some debaters have admittedly not always behaved in a christian manner. Alexander Campbell warned “the man that cannot govern his own spirit in the midst of opposition and contradiction is a poor christian indeed” (Jerry Moffitt, p. 565). I agree. Although, I would point out that things like – pressing a point, holding a debater to the proposition which he signed, showing inconsistencies in one’s position, etc. – are not mean-spirited, but necessary to make any progress in a discussion. Attacking the person is off-limits. Exposing a doctrine is not.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Church Growth

Problem Stated

Christians today have become discouraged.  In our classes we read the book of Acts.  We see how rapidly the church expanded during this period of time.  Then we turn, examine ourselves, and want to know why similar results do not occur in this present age.  Certainly, our labors are not without efforts.  Certainly, we desire the church to grow.  Yet, the dynamic and exciting growth of the first century never seems to occur.  Why, we ask, why?

False solutions

As a result of this troubling question, church growth seminars tend to emphasize method rather than message.  Symbolism is placed over substance.  Many of these seminars have changed Gospel preachers into warmed over motivational speakers (Dale Carnegie, Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins) cheerleaders and clowns.

Many members have misplaced emphasis.  This shift in value has caused some to make statements such as follows: “If only  we could procure on to lead us in song that has a voice like Elvis Presley – then we would grow”…  “If only  we hired a preacher that was a great orator like Jimmy Swaggart, Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, or Martin Luther King Jr. – then we would really see growth”… “If only we could find a preacher with a voice like Orson Welles, James Earl Jones, or Morgan Freeman”…”If only the preacher looked like Burt Lancaster, or Brad Pitt”…”If only  we had a nicer auditorium then people would come.”

This writer understands the importance of presenting ourselves in an attractive way. However, this mentality has gone to an extreme that is leading us down a very dangerous path.

Several false assumptions have developed as a result of this current thinking.  Today, members honestly believe that if the preacher presented himself in proper fashion and worked hard, the church would grow.  They also assume that if the church does not grow the preacher must not be doing something right, and therefore, must be relieved of duty.  Though most would never explicitly state it, they believe it is no longer the Gospel that saves (Romans 1:16) but growth is the result of having proper programs and pleasing personalities in place.

How does this reasoning fit with Bible teaching?  First, it would imply that Jesus needed to attend a church growth seminar (John 6:53-6:66).  Many rejected Jesus (John 1:10, 11).  It would imply Noah did something wrong (2 Peter 2:5).  It implies the same of Abraham (Genesis 18:24-32), Jeremiah or Ezekiel would also be guilty of being poor preachers by implication (Jeremiah 5:1-ff;Ezekiel 23:30).

How should we view the situation Biblically?

First, the Bible clearly affirms that few will make it (Luke 13:23, 24; 1 Corinthians 1:26).  In Mark 4 only one of the four soil types received the seed the way  it should be received.  We must not set our expectation level too high or we will become discouraged and give up.

Second, we must never put method and style ahead of message and substance.  Paul was not the best pulpit preacher (2 Corinthians 10:10; 1 Corinthians 2:3-5).  Nevertheless, He is our proper model (1 Corinthians 4:16; Philippians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:9).  Members and elders should demand that the preacher preach the truth, and the whole truth (2 Timothy 4:1-2; Acts 20:20,27).

Third, we must remember God gives the increase (1 Corinthians 3:6).  If the seed is being sown both publicly and house to house by the preacher and members and numbers are not being converted, then, it is not the fault of the local church or the preacher. The fault is in the hearers. {Note: This assumes that the work is actually being done. This also assumes that the truth is being preached in love (Ephesian 4:15). In many cases the work is not being done, and it is not being done with love.}

Fourth, we must realize evangelism is only part of our purpose as a church.  We are first and foremost here to bring glory to God (1 Corinthians 6:20; 1 Peter 4:11).

Fifth, let us realistically look at reasons accelerated growth occurs.  Sometimes growth occurs simply because the area is growing in population.  We have little control of this.  Rapid growth also occurs because of a watered-down message (2 Timothy 4:3).  This is not the kind of growth for which we should strive. Growth sometimes comes from sister churches having problems. This is not really growth, but a shifting of numbers. The last reason growth occurs is because of fertile soil (Acts 2; Matthew 13).  This is the kind of growth we desire, but we must realize we can’t control this either.  Some parts of the world are ready and hungry for the Gospel. Other parts are not. These things sometimes change over time. {Note: I have preached in places where dozens of baptism per year occurred. I have preached in places where few baptism a year occurred. I have held meetings which resulted in many baptism. I have held meetings in which no one was baptized. I have done mission trips which have resulted in hundreds of baptisms. I have done mission trips with hardly any responses. Yet, the same message was preached. The message did not change. Further, I have seen different responses, and different levels of interest even in the same place at different times}

Let us simple continue to sow the seed where ever we are, and whenever we have opportunity. This pleases God.  Let us seek to magnify Him in this life. Don`t get discouraged. Preach the word! Live for Him! Do so whether others choose to follow Him or not.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Anti-Semitism

Many Jews were offended over the movie, “The Passion of the Christ.”.  They did not want it to appear as if they were the ones who caused Jesus to be crucified; but of course, their ancestors were responsible (John 19:11; Matthew 27:24-25; 1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

Having said this, should we be anti-semitic?  Absolutely not!  Jesus Himself was a Jew.  Moreover, let us remind ourselves that Jesus really did for us all (Hebrews 2:9).  Further,  the fact that just because someone`s ancestors might have done this or that in the past does not mean that one should be held as guilty of such (Ezekiel 18:20).

Anti-Semitism is nothing new. This is why the Apostle Paul argues that God had not rejected all Israelites. First, he points out that he too was an Israelite (Romans 11:1).  Paul’s salvation demonstrated that God had not arbitrarily rejected Israelites.  Robert Taylor Jr. has written, “Salvation is available for both Jew and Gentile but only if welcomed and obeyed by individuals of each race.  Redemption is individually centered – not nationally accepted” (Studies in Romans, p. 190). Let us consider Romans 1:14-16.  Again, brother Taylor has written, “God had rejected them as a nation for a surety and for good reason… But national rejection had not as much as a particle to do with whether they, as individuals, could be saved” (ibid, 191).

Second, Paul affirms that just as God had a faithful remnant in Elijah’s day, even so He had such in Paul’s day (Romans 11:4-5).  Not all of Israel had rejected the Gospel.

Third, though Paul was primarily working with the Gentiles, he still cared very deeply about the Jewish people (cf. Romans 9:1-3; 10:1; 11:13-14).  Paul’s hope was that the Gentiles might be able to provoke (in a good sense) some of the Jews to obedience to the Gospel (Romans 11:11,13-14).

Fourth, he reminds the Gentiles of “the firstfruit” (Romans 11:16a).  The wording is often used of the first converts in time or area (eg. Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:15; James 1:18).  Let us remember the first of all converts were Israelites (Acts 2).  Bobby Liddell has written, “The believing Jews on Pentecost were the first fruits… As such, they were the pledge of a fuller harvest.  All who will follow their good examples and do as they did will be as they were – saved in Christ” (Annual Denton Lectureship Book, Studies in Romans, p. 215).

Fifth, “the root” is mentioned (Romans 11:16b).  The root, many think, refers to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The promise was made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  All things grew from there.  The Gentiles were beneficiaries of that root.  The root bears or supports the Gentiles, not the other way around (Romans 11:18).  It was Israelites who carried the Gospel into all the world (cf. Romans 15:26-27 with Galatians 6:6).  Salvation was of the Jews (John 4:22; cf. Isaiah 2; Micah 4; Acts 8:4; Acts 10-11; Acts 9:15).

Sixth, they should not boast against the Jews (Romans 11:18).  Why not?  Namely, he mentions that the root bears or supports them (Romans 11:18).  Also, God had not arbitrarily rejected all of Israel (Romans 11:1, 20, 23); nor, had He arbitrarily accepted all of the Gentiles (Romans 11:20-22).

Seventh, Paul compares the Jew and Gentile (Romans 11:19-22).  Some might have thought Israel was broken off due to their own unworthiness and the Gentiles grafted in due to their own worthiness. Some might have concluded –  “Aren’t we special!”  Paul says, you should consider this: Those who know olive trees (or any fruit trees) know that pruning does takes place from time to time.  The fact is – the Jews had no monopoly on unbelief.  If a Gentile did not continue in His goodness, pruning time would come.

Eighth, Paul makes the point that it was indeed possible for an unbeliever to become a believer (Romans 11:23-24).  In grafting an orchard or vineyard one usually chooses the most cultivated branches, branches of similar quality as the stock.  In Paul’s illustration the inferior branch is the Gentiles.  The point is this –  if God is able to graft in an uncultivated branch, then He certainly is able to graft in a branch that had been cultivated (the Jews – Romans 3:1-2; 9:4-5; 10:4).

Ninth, the great point which they weren’t to forget is that Israel could be saved (Romans 11:26-27).  The word ‘so’ (houtos) means ‘in this way’ or ‘by this manner.’  McCord’s New Testament translates the “In this way, all Israel will be saved.”   The context is clear, Israel’s hope is in Christ (Romans 11:26-27).  They must turn from their unbelief  (Romans 11:23).  They must believe the Gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16).  They must obey (Romans 6:16-18; 1:5; 16:26; cf. Hebrews 5:9).

Tenth, Paul again hoped that through the Gentiles living the Gospel, more and more Jews might likewise become obedient (Romans 11:31, 11, 14-15 cf. 2 Corinthians 9:13; 1 Thessalonians 1:8-9).

Eleventh, though Israel had turned out to be (in general) enemies of the Gospel, the Gentiles should not forget that God chose to work His plan through those people due to His love of the fathers (Romans 11:28). The fathers are Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (cf. Deuteronomy 4:37; 7:7-8; 10:15 cf. Romans 11:28).

Twelfth, God’s mercy was what permitted justification (Romans 11:30-31).  This was true of both Jew and Gentile.  So where is the place of boasting? (Romans 11:18, 25a).

Christ is to be Lord of all. The gospel of Christ is God`s power to save both the Jews and the Gentiles (Romans 1:16).  “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12). “For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living” (Romans 14:9).

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment