Memorial Day (Remember)

“Memorial Day is an American holiday, observed on the last Monday of May, honoring men and women who died while serving in the U.S. Military… originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971.  Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades” (History.com, Memorial Day).

A Dennis Prager video, The Fallen Soldier, portrays a fallen soldier saying this: “I sacrificed everything for you.  This Memorial Day remember me, the fallen warrior, not for my sake, but for yours.  Remember what I sacrificed, so that you can truly appreciate the incredible treasures you have – Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of happiness… Live a life that honors us, and make every day Memorial Day.”

It is true that we should never forget that many have made the ultimate sacrifice for us.  Many have given their lives so that we may live in “the land of the free.”

The Bible also calls upon us to remember certain ones.

1. Jesus. The Lord’s Supper is to be partaken “in remembrance” of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).  Jesus said of the bread, “Take, eat; this is My body” (Matthew 26:26).  He said of the cup, “Drink from it, all of you.  For this is My blood which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

God did not want Israel to forget what He had done for them, in the Exodus.  He wanted them to “remember” (Deuteronomy 5:15; 7:18; 8:2; 8:18; 9:7; 15:15; 16:3; 16:12; 24:9; 24:18; 24:22; 32:7), and not to “forget” (Deuteronomy 4:9; 4:23; 6:12; 8:11-17; 9:7; 25:19).  To help them remember, He gave them the Sabbath (Deuteronomy 5:12-15), the Passover (Deuteronomy 16:1-8 cf. Exodus 12:24-26), the Feast of weeks (Deuteronomy 16:9-12); and the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 16:13-17 cf. Leviticus 23:33-44).

Similarly, He wants us to remember and not forget.  To help us, He gave us the Lord’s Supper.  In which, we have communion with the body and blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:16).

“Lest I forget Gethsemane; Lest I forget Thine agony; Lest I forget Thy love for me, Lead me to Calvary” (Song: Lead Me to Calvary by Jennie Evelyn Hussey).

2.  Those who strive to help us. While these may not have given their lives for us (as Jesus), and while these may not be flawless individuals (as Jesus), still they should be remembered and appreciated. I admit that I stand on the shoulders of other. Most of us (if not all of us) do.

Joseph told the chief butler, “Remember me when it is well with you” (Genesis 40:14).  However, he “did not remember him” (Genesis 40:23).  We should not be like this.

We should remember our teachers.  Timothy was instructed, “But you continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the holy scriptures, which is able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).

We should remember those who watch for our souls.  The writer of Hebrews instructs, “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct… obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch for your souls, as those who must give account.  Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Hebrews 13:7, 17).

Some would be willing to spend and to be spent for our souls sake (2 Corinthians 12:15). These should be held in esteem (Philippians 2:29; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13)  May we appreciate such people, and be thankful. “Honor all people, Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17).

God remembers. “For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” ( Hebrews 6:10). Jesus said,  “And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of water in the name of  a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:42).

 

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Sacrificing The Abomination

“Then Pharoah called for Moses and Aaron, and said, ‘Go sacrifice to your God in the land.’

“And Moses said, “It is not right to do so, for we would be sacrificing the abomination of the Egyptians to the LORD our God.  If we sacrifice the abomination of the Egyptians before their eyes, then will they not stone us?’” (Exodus 8:25-26).

To what does “the abomination of the Egyptians” refer?  (1) Some believe that it is sheep.  It is stated that shepherds were an abomination to the Egyptians (Genesis 46:34, cf. 43:32).  It is not clear that sheep, themselves, were an abomination to the Egyptians (Genesis 47:6, 17).  Some believe that shepherds were abomination to the Egyptians “because of the potential damage large flocks and herds could do to Egyptian crop and farm land (William W. Grasham, Truth For Today Commentary, Genesis, Vol. 2, p. 521).  Some have suggested that shepherds were abominable to the Egyptians due to “a common distrust of nomadic peoples by urban dwellers” (G.J. Wenham, The New Bible Commentary quoted by Ferreljenkins.blog).  Perhaps, the more common explanation is that shepherds were abominable because of the eating and sacrificing of sheep and and other animals.  Dennis Prager comments, “Rashi points out that sheep were Egyptian deities, and the twelfth-century commentators Ibn Ezra offers the explanation that ancient Egyptians, ‘like modern Hindus,’ did not eat meat” (Dennis Prager, The Rational Bible, Genesis, pg. 518).

(2) Some believe that it was cows.  It is well known that the Egyptians worshipped the bull.  The I.S.B.E. states, “The Egyptians, close neighbors of the Hebrews, in all eras from that of the Exodus onwards, worshipped living bulls at Memphis… and Heliopolis as the incarnations of Ptah and Ra, while one of the most elaborate rituals was connected with the life-size image of the Hathor-cow… while the sun was revered as the ‘valiant bull’ and the reigning Pharoah as ‘Bull of Bulls.’” (I.S.B.E., Vol. 1, pg. 543).

Something about their sacrifice was abominable to the Egyptians.  This is true, whether the abomination was the offering of sheep, or cows, or goats, or all of the above

Application For Us

The sacrifices of God’s people are often contrary to the world’s values.  James Burton Coffman comments, “Christians must sacrifice that which the world worships” (Coffman, Exodus, pg. 105).

Consider the following: (1) Christians are taught to present their bodies as living sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1-2 cf. Galatians 2:20).  Many in the world have the mindset expressed in the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley – “It matters not how strait the gate, how charged with punishment the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.”  (2) Christians are taught to live a sanctified life (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4).  Many in the world live by the code, “If it feels good, do it.”  (3) Christians are taught to be cheerful givers (2 Corinthians 9:6-7).  Many in the world think this is a waste.  There are so many things to be acquired in this life.  (4) Christians are taught to not forsake assembling (Hebrews 10:24-25).  Many in the world say Sunday is my day off.  It is mine to enjoy.  (5) Christians are taught to bring up their children in the training and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).  Many in the world have little time for this.  There are so many other things that must have priority (school work, sports, band, work, family time, sleep schedule, etc., etc., etc.).

Jesus told his disciples, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  If you were of the world, the world would love its own.  Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

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Rethinking Our Role as a Church

It is my educated opinion that many Christians have much too narrow of a view of the role of the church.  They are comfortable with the church proclaiming the Gospel, what one must do for salvation, how the church is to be organized, and how it is to worship.  They are comfortable with the church educating and edifying by teaching the Bible, typically in a public Bible class setting (“We offer Bible classes”).  However, when people are struggling, they don’t want to get too close.  More than once, I have heard the line, “They church simply isn’t equipped to deal with that.”  Yet a brother or sister really needed help.

Here are some real-life examples of what I am speaking.  (1) A sister went to the elders of the church claiming that she was being physically abused by her husband.  They did not want to get involved.  They said that they were not marriage counselors, and suggested that she find one.  (2) A brother went to the elders of the church asking for help with his drinking problem.  They said that they were not A.A., and suggested that he go to A.A. meetings.  The man knew they were not A.A..  However, he did think that they could become more involved in his life and help him deal with his temptation and help hold him accountable.   He told me that the church was not much help when he really needed it.  (3) A brother suffers from depression.  He turned to a Christian friend for help.  The answer was “just snap out of it.”  (4) A brother wanted to present some lessons on PTSD.  The attitude of some was that he could do that in another setting.  This was not a subject for the church to address.  (5) A sister has mental issues.  She reached out for help.  Not knowing exactly how to help, someone replied, “the church simply isn’t equipped to deal with that.”  That is the easy answer.  Let’s wash our hands and move on.  Here are my thoughts…

 1.  We are a family. We are born into a family, the family of God (Galatians 3:26-28).  We are to treat other members of the church as family members (1 Timothy 5:1).  “Brotherly kindness” should characterize us (2 Peter 1:7).  Remember that “a brother is born for adversity” (Proverbs 17:17).  We are to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15).  Paul instructs, “Warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

2.  We need to have the heart of a servant. Jesus washed the feet of the disciples (John 13:3-17).  Paul instructs “through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13).

Some years ago, I was teaching in James.  James 5:14 reads, “Is anyone among you sick?  Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”  I set forth my view that this was teaching that elders are to: (a) depend upon God (pray for the person); (b) Serve [anoint with oil, which I understand to either be done to refresh or for medical purpose (see B.H. article Pray/Sing/Call)].  Someone spoke up and said, so the elders are to be medical experts?  My response was no, but they are to be servants (I believe that this point is true, whether one agrees with my understanding about anointing oil, or not).

3.  It is my belief that many of the issues of life, even many mental health issues (not all, but many) have a spiritual dimension. Some are overwhelmed with grief, guilt, shame, fear, worry or anger.  Some have an improper view of self.  Some have an improper view of God.

Steven Lloyd has come to the same conclusions.  Consider these excerpts from his book, Coping: A Biblical Approach- (a) “Martin and Deidre Bobgan, in their book How to Counsel from Scripture, quote research psychiatrist, E. Fuller Torrey, who argues that about 75 percent of the problems psychiatrists address are problems of living, 5 percent are organic brain disorders, and 20 percent ‘will require closer examination to make a final judgment.’  The Bobgans conclude: ‘Therefore, most people seeking help need the kind of counsel in which the Bible excels: how to live, how to relate to others, how to find meaning in life, how to know God, and how to become the kind of person God wants.”’ (p. 42).

(b)  “It is amazing how many people hinder God by believing that he deals only with those things they believe relate to their initial salvation and ‘spiritual’ matters… and yet… God’s word addresses even the practical matters of life (that is, friendships, marriage, family matters, finances, addiction, unbelief, communication problems, etc.) (p. 45).

(c)  “It has been my experience that those who claim the Bible was insufficient to help them either did not search the scriptures for their answers or they did not search them enough.

“After one man told me he could not find help in the scriptures for his problem, but that he found help through a secular support group, I asked him to look back at what he had learned, to reflect on his knowledge of the word, and to tell me what he could not have found in the Bible.  After reflecting on the question, he admitted that there was nothing he learned that he could not have found in the Bible, if he had only thought through it more completely.  He has become a great advocate for the sufficiency of God’s word.  He came to realize that the only thing the support group supplied for him was other people who could commiserate with his experience as a child of an alcoholic” (pp. 49-50).

(d) “I would have to say that most of the counseling I have ever been a part of centered around helping a person change the way they think.  It has involved correcting some wrong or false notion about God or it has involved correcting someone’s thinking about the very nature of man.  Consequently, most counseling sessions become Bible studies.  Once I have listened to the case and have asked whatever questions I felt were necessary to get at the heart of the problem, I would then direct our attention to the light of the scripture.” (p. 63).

Let us remember this, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3).

4.  It is my belief that we can do better. We should be able to confess our trespasses to one another, and pray or one another (James 5:16).

Steven Lloyd writes, “Because some Christians think that the church does not deal with their kind of problem they have sought help from support groups outside the fellowship of other Christians.  I have asked some of them, ‘What is it that your support group offers you that you did not find in the church?’  They tell me that they found ‘openness’ and someone to talk to who has been where they have been.  You see, people are not going to open up unless they think they are in a ‘safe’ environment” (pp. 144-145).

Jimmy Jividen gives these thoughts in his book Koinonia – (a) “The need for such openness in relationships is well documented by the rise of counseling professionals. People desire to open their souls to someone who really cares and understands. Psychologists and counselors are more and more filling the void which has been created by the neglect of this important part of Christian fellowship.  These people – helping professionals certainly have their place, but they are only a counterfeit of what God intended Christian fellowship to be” (p. 118).

(b) “An unknown author has penned these words which fit so well what fellowship in       Christ should be.

‘If this is not a place where tears are understood, where do I go to cry?

I this is not a place where my spirit can wing, where do I go to fly?

If this is not a place where my questions can be asked, where do I go to seek?

If this is not a place where my feelings can be heard, where do I go to speak?

If this is not a place where you’ll accept me as I am, where do I go to be me?

If this is not a place where I can try and fail and learn and grow,

          Where can I be – just me?’”

(p. 119).

 

(c)  “Fellowship in Christ provides a forum of caring Christians with whom he is able to share his real self.  He is able to take the risk of being vulnerable with others… He has a community in which he can let down his guard and still find acceptance.  His concern is not ‘What if people really find out about me?’  It is rather: ‘How can I be more open and honest about my needs?’  In this fellowship there is forgiveness, openness, acceptance, and caring confrontation” (p. 118).  May it be.

 

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Don’t Be Too Subtle

Yes, we are to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).  We do not want to be unkind, rude, or unnecessarily offensive.  However, neither should we be so subtle that the point is missed.  The LORD told Habakkuk, “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it” (Habakkuk 2:2).  Peter’s words cut to the heart, prompting the response, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).  Paul was plain enough that he asked, “Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).  There is a time to be plain in our speech.

In the book “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, there is a chapter entitled, “The Ethnic Theory of Plane Crashes.”  Some cultures are very subtle in their speech.  They use mitigating speech, especially when an authority figure is being addressed.  Gladwell explains, “Mitigated speech… refers to any attempt to downplay or sugarcoat the meaning of what is being said.  We mitigate when we’re being polite, or when we’re ashamed or embarrassed, or when we’re being deferential to authority” (Gladwell, Outliers, p. 194).  In some cases, this can be dangerous.  Gladwell writes, “Mitigation explains one of the greatest anomalies of plane crashes.  In commercial airlines, captains and first officers split the flying duties equally.  But historically, crashes have been far more likely to happen when the captain is in the ‘flying seat.’  At first, that seems to make no sense, since the captain is almost always the pilot with the most experience… Planes are safer when the least experienced pilot is flying, because it means the second pilot isn’t going to be afraid to speak up.  Combating mitigation has become one of the greatest crusades in commercial aviation in the past fifteen years.  Every major airlines now has what is called ‘Crew Resource Management training,’ which is designed to teach junior crew members how to communicate clearly and assertively” (Gladwell, p. 197).

Malcolm Gladwell gives a few examples.  Let us consider one: Aviana Flight 052, January 25, 1990.  The Columbian Airlines was flying from Bogata to New York’s Kennedy Airport via Medellin.  The weather in New York was poor, causing delays.  The 707 ran out of fuel while circling and crashed on a hill side on Long Island, killing 73 of the 158 people on board.  The N.T.S.B. determined that the crash occurred due to the flight crew’s failure to properly declare a fuel emergency (Wikipedia).  When asked if the fuel was Ok for another pass, the first officer told Air Traffic Control, “I guess so.  Thank you very much.”  Yet they knew better.  One flight attendant asked how serious the situation was.  The flight engineer pointed to the empty fuel gage and made a throat-cutting gesture with his fingers.  Yet, one Air Traffic Controller said they talked with Air Traffic Control “in a very nonchalant manner… There was no urgency in their voice.”  They seem to have been intimidated by Air Traffic Control.  One pilot commented after the fact, “The thing you have to understand about that crash is that New York air traffic controllers are famous for being rude, aggressive, and bullying.  They are also very good… All the guys had to do was tell the controller, ‘We don’t have the fuel to comply with what you are trying to do.  We can’t do that.’  …Look, no American pilot would put up with that… They would say, ‘Listen, buddy.  I have to land.’”  They did, a half hour earlier, tell Air Traffic Control, “We’re running out of fuel.”  But what did they mean?  Did they mean that they were critically low?  If so, this was not understood by Air Traffic Control.  There seemed to be no panic or worry in their voice.  Nothing more was said.  (Story told in Outliers, chapter 7).

Application for us.  Sin, salvation, and eternity are serious matters.  There should be enough concern to speak plainly on these matters.  Let us not be so subtle that the point is missed or dismissed as not urgent.

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Misused Passages (Part 2)

This series concerns passages which are commonly misused.  Specifically, this series concerns passages misused by brethren (later we will deal with passages misused by others).

 

6.  “Do not lay hands on anyone hastily” (1 Timothy 5:22).

This passages is used to teach that congregations should move slowly and cautiously in selecting elders.  However, this is a misuse of the passage.

It is true that congregations should not move quickly.  The Bible says of selecting deacons, “let them also fist be tested; then let them serve” (1 Timothy 3:10).  This makes sense when appointing elders as well (reasoning from the lessor to the greater position).

However, The context of this has to do with correction, not selection (1 Timothy 5:19-22).  One should be cautious not to rush to judgment.  Sufficient evidence is needed (note: Evidence can count as a witness.  Cf. John 5:31-34, 36, 37-39).  If an elder is found to need correction, then he should be corrected.  David Lipscomb well said, “When we cover up sins in the church, we corrupt the morality and virtue of the church and destroy its efficacy to honor God or save men.”

7.  “Be faithful until death” (Revelation 2:10).

This is used to teach that one should be faithful until the end of life.  Endurance through time is needed.

It is true that such is needed.  Various passages teach this (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:58; Galatians 6:9; 2 Timothy 4:6-8; Hebrews 3:14).

However, this passage is teaching us to be faithful even if it cost us our lives.  This is the context (Revelation 2:10 cf. 12:11).  This same point is taught elsewhere (John 12:25; cf. Revelation 12:11; Hebrews 11:35b).

8.  “Study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15 KJV).

This passages is used to encourage Bible study.  The rendering in the KJV is quoted for this.

Bible study is important.  There are passages which make this point (Acts 17:11; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 3:18).

However, the passages is not specifically about Bible study.  The word “study” in the KJV, leaves the wrong impression to modern readers.  The original word “spoudazo” means “to hasten to do a thing, to exert oneself, endeavor, give diligence” (Vine’s).  The NKJV reads, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God…”  Wayne Jackson comments, “The term is much broader than the KJV ‘study,’ but as a practical matter, it surely does include that” (Jackson, Before I Die, p. 238).  This is true.  Still, we should remember that this passage is not specifically about study habits.  It has much greater appreciation.

9.  “…rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

This passage is used to teach that one must be careful to distinguish between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  Moreover, many believe that this is what this passage is primarily teaching.

It is absolutely true that this distinction should be recognized (Romans 7:4, 6; 2 Corinthians 3:7-18; Galatians 4:21-31; Ephesians 2:14-15; Colossians 2:16-17; Hebrews 7:12; 8:1-13).

However, the meaning, while it may include such, is not so specific.  The word orthotomeo, which is translated “rightly dividing,” literally means “to cut straight.”  Thayer reads, “to cut straight… hold a straight course… to do right.”  Vine’s says, “What is intended here is not dividing scripture from scripture, but teaching scripture accurately.”  Vincent says, “expound soundly.”  Denny Petrillo comments, “To cut straight and rightly; to cut a straight path through the word, giving it the proper interpretation.  Because of that, some have said it is the cut between the two covenants.  While this would include the correct treatment of God’s word, this is not specifically what Paul is dealing with.  Paul has the idea of treating the word correctly” (Petrillo, Commentary on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, p. 122).

The A.S.V. reads “handling aright the word of truth.”  The NASB reads, “handling accurately the word of truth.”  It is possible to mishandle the words of the Bible (2 Peter 3:16).

10.  “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9 cf. Isaiah 64:4).

This passages is used in speaking of heaven.  Some think that this is specifically what is in view.

It is true that heaven is to be desired.  It is a glorious existence (Matthew 6:19-20; Romans 8:18; 1 Corinthians 2:7; 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:1; Philippians 1:21-24; 3:20-21; Colossians 3:4, etc.).

However, while this may be included, this is not specifically what is in view.  This is about revelation.  Dub McClish comments, “His point in this verse is to emphasize the fact that no man or group of men possessed enough knowledge or wisdom to ‘figure out’ God’s gracious plan of salvation.  Rather, the only way that man could know God’s will was by the revelation of it (v. 10)” (McClish, Commonly Misapplied Scriptures, Part 3).

What is the purpose of this series?  It is to encourage us to be better Bible students, and to know the context before using a passage.

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Misused Passages (Part 1)

There are certain passages which are commonly misused.  I am speaking of passages which are misused by brethren, not the passages which are misused by the world at large.  These passages are sometimes used as crutch passages, to support a position which is otherwise weak.  These passages are sometimes used as catch-all passages, flexible enough to use to cover many issues, when other passages are more difficult to find.  These passages are sometimes used in ignorance of the true context.  In this writing, we will consider some of these misused passages.

1. “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

This passage is used to condemn any practice that one has personal scruples against.  Moreover, it is used by many to bind personal opinions on others.  I wrote a recent article on Easter.  I made the point that Easter should not be considered a special holiday.  We should honor our Savior by assembling for worship each first day of the week.  However, I did not believe that there was anything inherently sinful about children hunting colored eggs or eating chocolate bunnies.  A reader replied by citing the above passage.

It is true that one should not partake in anything that has an appearance of evil to one personally (Romans 14).  Moreover, it is true that we should be concerned about how things appears to others (2 Corinthians 8:21).  These things are true Biblically.

However, the passage under consideration does not teach what so many use it to teach.  The NKJV reads, “Abstain from every form of evil.”   James Burton Coffman comments, “Despite the traditional usage of this verse (as in the AV) to warn against ‘the appearance of evil,’ the actual meaning, in this context, is that having tested what is true and false, the believer should cling to the true and abstain from the false.”  J.W. McGarvey comments, “These words close the sentence; the full thought is this: despise no prophecy, but prove it; if it is good, hold fast to it, but abstain from every form of evil teaching or practice.”  Leon Crouch comments, “best taken as describing the false prophecy no matter what its form.”

2.  “God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34).

This passages is used to deny various distinctions.  I wrote an article on what it means to marry “only in the Lord.”  I believe that this means that Christian widows, if they remarry, should marry Christians.  A reader replied by citing the above passage.  Others have used this passage to defend using non-Christians to teach or lead worship, and to defend women preachers, women deacons, and women elders.

However, the passage under consideration has nothing to do with these things.  The passage concerns the offer of salvation.  J.W. McGarvey comments, “There is to be no further national limitation to the gospel… It is a positive declaration that God respects not persons but character.”  This chapter is about the first gentiles receiving the gospel message.

3.  “Teach them, baptizing them, and teaching them some more,” is how some understand Matthew 28:19-20.

It is true that teaching is needed both before and after baptism.  Teaching is needed before baptism (Acts 2:36-38; 8:12; 8:26-38, etc.).  Teaching is needed after baptism (Acts 14:21-22; 15:36-41; 18:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:1-2; 5:14; etc.).

 

However, this is not what the passage is teaching.  Dave Miller writes, “Observe that the English reader might be tempted to interpret Jesus’ command to mean that the apostles were first to make disciples… and then baptize them to teach them additional Christian doctrine.    However, the Greek grammar of the passage… weighs heavily against this interpretation… The main verb of the sentence, ‘make disciples.’ Is followed by two present participles that represent actions that occur at the same time as the action of the main verb” (Dave Miller, Baptism & the Greek Made Simple, p. 12).  The participles “baptizing” and “teaching” are both necessary to make disciples.  The order of these two things is not necessarily implied.  Consider: “Go clean the yard, mowing the lawn, raking the leaves.” (ibid).  Consider: He had mercy on the man clothing, housing, and feeding him.  The participles explain how he had mercy on the man, without necessarily implying order.

Some have used this passage to suggest that one should initially teach only enough to bring one to baptism.  The harder demands of discipleship should not be set forth up front.  Those things can be set forth afterwards.  This is not what this passage is teaching, and is contrary to what Jesus said about counting the cost (Luke 14:26-33).

4.  “Moderation in all things,” is how some understand Philippians 4:5.

This passage is used in a couple of different ways.  Some have used it to teach against overeating.  The Old Testament does teach against such (e.g. Proverbs 25:16).  The New Testament teaches the principle of self-control (e.g. Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 6:12b; Galatians 5:23; Titus 1:8; 2:2; 2 Peter 1:6), and stewardship (e.g. Matthew 25:14-30; Luke 19:11-27; 1 Corinthians 6:20).

Some have used this passage to justify the moderate use of certain substances, such as alcohol and marijuana.  This is a subject for another time.

However, this passage is not addressing either of these things.  Consider: (1) The word “epieikes.”  It is translated “moderation” (KJV), “forbearance” (ASV), “gentleness” (NKJV), “reasonableness” (ESV).  Wayne Jackson comments, “The term suggests the disposition of one who is willing to forego his own ‘rights’ in the interest of the higher good of others” (Wayne Jackson, Philippians, pp. 79-80).  Thayer’s Lexicon says, “equitable, fair, mild, gentle.”  (2) The context.  Christians should not live only thinking of themselves.  Christians should be considerate of others (Philippians 2:1-8), Timothy (Philippians 2:1-8), Timothy (Philippians 2:19-21) and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25-30) are set forth as examples of those who lived thinking of others.

What is the origin of the phrase, “Moderation in all things”?  It is credited to the Greek poet, Hesiod (c. 700 B.C.).

5.  “In honor giving preference to one another” (Romans 12:10).

Many have used these words to teach that in association, and in business, Christians should prefer Christians.  I do believe that a case could be made for this principle (cf. Galatians 6:10).

However, this is not the point being made in this passage.  The word translated “giving preference” is “proegeomai.”  Thayer’s Lexicon says, “to go before and lead, to go before as a leader.”  J.W. Shepherd comments on Romans 12:10, “Instead of waiting around for others to honor us, we should lead them in the manifestation of esteem and respect” (David Lipscomb, Romans).  Roy Deaver comments, “The point is, in having the attitude of love and respect, and high esteem for others, Christians ought to be examples to each other” (Roy Deaver, Romans).  This seems to be the meaning, and this is a point clearly taught by Jesus (Matthew 20:20-28; 23;11; John 13:1-17).

               

 

 

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Rest From Labor

In 1844, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a Federal Holiday.  “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well being of our country” (History of Labor Day, dol.gov).

 American workers are consistently listed as among the most productive in the world.  In 2017, the United States ranked fourth in GDP per hour worked ($72).  This was behind Ireland ($99.5), Norway ($83.1), and Germany ($72.2); but ahead of the rest of the world including – Canada ($55.2), Japan ($46.2), South Korea ($37) and Mexico ($21.6), according to Forbes (Where Labor Productivity is Highest by Niall McCarthy, February 05, 2019, Forbes.com).

The country music group Alabama paid tribute to the American worker in the song, “40 Hour Week (For A Livin’).”  The song closes with these words, “Hello America, let me thank you for your time.”

Here are some thoughts on work.

1.  Let us remember for whom we ultimately work.

Christians ultimately serve the Lord.  Paul wrote, “And whatever you do, do it heartily  as to the Lord and not to men… for you serve the Lord” (Colossians 3:23-24 cf. Ephesians 6:5-8).  Let us honor Him in what we do.

2.  Let us give our best.

Our service should be done “Heartily, as to the Lord and not to men” (Colossians 3:23). Our work ethic should be one of integrity and sincerity, and “not with eye-service, as men-pleasers” (Colossians 3:22 cf. Ephesians 6:6).

 If we are going to do a work, let us give our best.  Martin Luther King Jr. said this to a group of street sweepers in Memphis, Tennessee on March 18, 1968, “If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well’” (William J. Bennett, The Book of Man, p. 92).

3.  Let us give our best when doing spiritual work, or work in and for the church.

 Let us be “fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).  Roy Deaver commented, “‘Fervent in spirit’ is the very phrase used in Acts 18:25 to describe Apollos.  Christians are to be earnest, sincere, devoted, dedicated, zealous in the Lord’s work.  They are not to be cold; they are not to be indifferent” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 476).

Bible class teachers should give their best.  Time should be spent in prayer, study, and meditation on the text.  The teacher should be enthused about teaching.  If the teacher is not enthused, likely the students will not be.

Preachers should give their best.  Hours should be spent in prayer, study, and meditation about the lesson.  I have known of preachers who get their sermons word for word off the internet.  I am not talking about a sermon idea or outline.  I am talking about word for word, even the “personal” references, and stories.  I was told by a preacher about another preacher who calls him on Saturday night asking for a sermon manuscript to preach the next day.  This disgusts me.  Paul told Timothy, “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13), “Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all” (1 Timothy 4:15), “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15), “do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

Song leaders should give their best.  They really set the tone (pun intended!).  They should know the song before leading it (note: I am not speaking of a singing in which new songs are tried).  I heard a song leader apologize to a guest speaker saying, “I am sorry, the members did not know the song.”  The guest preacher replied, “neither did you!”  He had the words all wrong.  The words of the song should be carefully considered.  Thought should be given to the song selection.

 Those who lead prayers and serve on the table should give their best.  All should make effort to be holy (1 Timothy 2:8) and faithful (2 Timothy 2:2).  Thought should be given to what is said.  Vain repetition should be avoided (Matthew 6:7).

Those who publicly read scripture should give their best.  The scripture should be read beforehand and pondered.  Pronunciation should be considered.  Punctuation should be observed.  They should make effort to “read distinctly from the book” (Nehemiah 8:8).

Those in supporting roles (A\V, custodial, deacons) and all members should give their best.  We should be one body working together for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 12; Romans 12).

4.  The rest is to come.

Sometimes we do need a break.  Jesus told the apostles, “Come aside by yourselves to a desert place and rest a while” (Mark 6:31 cf. Luke 5:15-16).

However, no Christian should retire from duty in this life.  We are able to “be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58 cf. Galatians 6:9).  We are to be “zealous for good works” (Titus 2:14).  We are to be careful “to maintain good works” (Titus 3:8, 14).  The rest is yet to come (Hebrews 4:9-10).

5.  In the words of the song, “let me thank you for your time.”

I sincerely wish to express my appreciation to all who labor with me in the Lord, in church of Christ Youngsport.  Any good that we are doing in Youngsport, Killeen, Central Texas and beyond is being done together.  Your work is important, and appreciated. Moreover, we are told, “God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).

Note: I wrote this for Labor Day. However, I believe that it is appropriate to publish this at this time. Things are beginning to open up in Texas following shelter in place orders. What now? Let’s cautiously and wisely get to work, and let’s give our best. Church, we have work to do.  Let’s give our best.  “To the work! to the work! We are servants of God, Let us follow the path that our Master has trod; With the balm of His counsel our strength to renew, Let us do with our might what our hands to do. Toiling on, toiling on, Toiling on, toiling on, Let us hope and trust, Let us watch and pray, And labor till the Master comes”(Song: To The Work by Fanny Crosby).

 

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