A monthly publication by the Klang Church of Christ, containing articles written by bro. Roger D. Campbell, to help educate, edify, encourage and equip the saints of God.


I S S U E   N U M B E R :


             April 2011



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“DOING GOOD” AND “DOING EVIL”


According to the Scriptures, “good” and “evil” really do exist in the world. Not every activity is good in the Lord’s sight, but it is equally true that not every activity is evil, either. Jesus said that a good man brings forth good from a good heart, while an evil man brings forth evil out of the evil treasure of his heart (Luke 6:45).

As we discuss religious matters with others, it is quite common to hear people express the idea that all people who “do good” [行善] will go to heaven. There is a widespread notion that any man or woman that has done any type of kind deed for another human qualifies as one that does good, while the term “do evil” [作惡] is often assigned to those who are in prison because they have broken civil law. The problem, though, is these concepts are subjective and do not harmonize with the Bible.

Christians are told, “Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9). Again, God says, “Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22). In both of these passages, we see (1) “evil” put in contrast to “good,” (2) “evil” is something that we are to avoid, and (3) “good” is that to which we are to hold on. Here is a key question: “Good” and “evil” in whose sight, according to what standard? Listen to God’s statement to ancient Israel in Moses’ day: “And you shall do what is right and good in the sight of the LORD, that it may be well with you . . .” (Deuteronomy 6:18). In this verse, the phrase “in the sight of the LORD” is mighty important! God, and God alone, has the right to determine what is good and what is evil. Today the New Testament sets forth the universal, unchanging, objective standard of what is good and what is evil in God’s eyes.

When the Christ spoke about raising the dead, He said that all that are in the graves will hear His voice “and come forth – those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:29). Some people have heard these words and jumped to a false conclusion, giving themselves the false comfort that, as long as they do some deeds of kindness or charity, then they are certainly going to make it to heaven. Why? Because they “have done good,” and the Master said that those who “have done good” will be raised to enjoy life, that is, eternal life.

Where is the flaw in the reasoning noted above? It assumes that to “do good” is limited to helping others or doing kind deeds. Without doubt, to “do good” involves helping the poor and others who stand in need (Mark 14:7). But, when we compare John 5:29 with a couple of other New Testament passages, we quickly see that in God’s sight, to “do good” includes more than showing courtesy and compassion. Consider these truths which Jesus stated: “And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46), and, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Let us make a brief comparison:

Passage Man's Actions Result / Blessing
John 5:29 Do good Raised to life
Matt. 7:21 Do the Father’s will Enter kingdom
Matt. 25:46 (Be) righteous Eternal life

What should we conclude? Answer: In the sight of God, a person who truly does “good” is one that is righteous, that is, he does the Father’s will. To be righteous means to practice righteousness – do what is right in God’s sight (1 John 3:7; Psalm 119:172).

The message of 1 Peter 3:11,12 reinforces the idea that, before our Creator, “good” people are “the righteous,” and not just those who lend a helping hand to others in their time of need. Hear this: “(11) Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. (12) For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” [underlining mine, rdc]. There is a distinct contrast between those who “do evil” and those who “do good.” But note further that, while “evil” is used in both verse 11 and verse 12, those who “do good” (verse 11) are then re-identified as “the righteous” in verse 12. Again, those who are categorized as people that “do good” are only those that live a righteous life. They do more than kind deeds – they live in harmony with the will of God.

In view of what we have seen, it is not enough to tell children to “be good little boys and girls.” And, it is not enough to tell adults to “be good people.” Every person needs to hear and accept the truth that, according to the Bible, “do good” includes doing what God wants us to do – it means to do His will.





“ISRAEL WAS JOINED TO BAAL OF PEOR”


In your mind, try to picture the situation. The Israelites were in the last year of their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. They had conquered mighty nations east of the Jordan River and were now peacefully camped on that side of the river. God’s people were now so close to entering the land which He had promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Sadly, at this late stage of their journey out of Egypt, thousands of them chose a path of rebellious behavior. They paid a huge price. Here is a portion of the record of this event that is found in Numbers 25:

       (1) Then Israel remained in Shittim, and the people began to commit
             prostitution with the women of Moab.
       (2) They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the
             people ate and bowed down to their gods.
       (3) So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the Lord
             was aroused against Israel.
       (4) Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Take all the leaders of the people
             and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun,
             that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel' ...
       (9) And those who died in the plague were twenty-four thousand.

So, there you have it. God’s people committed fornication and worshipped idols. Israel, what were you thinking?! There are numerous lessons that we can learn from these matters. Be sure of this: God wants us to know about and learn from the Israelites’ transgression at Baal of Peor. The Holy Spirit guided Paul to write about it to the church in Corinth, including it with a list of Old Testament events about which he said, “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition . . .” (1 Corinthians 10:8,11).

First, although God has always wanted His people to show honorable conduct (1 Peter 2:12), it does not always happen. That truth does not in any sense prove that God is weak, nor does it mean that God’s people are without proper education about how to conduct themselves or lack adequate means to deal with and overcome temptation. Israel knew God’s will concerning fornication and idolatry. Their “wisdom” in the eyes of the world was to obey God (Deuteronomy 4:6). Unfortunately, in this case they chose to be foolish, and as always, God did not step in to override their freedom of choice.

Second, the Israelites accepted an invitation that they should have refused. Yes, the text says that the Moabites “invited” the Israelites to participate in sin, and they did just that. The devil will always try to make sin look appealing. We must learn to say, “No,” even as Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tempted him on a daily basis (Genesis 37). Here is something to consider. Repeatedly in epistles that were written to Christians, New Testament writers taught and warned about the very sins that Israel committed in this instance, idolatry and fornication. Christians sometimes feel pressured to participate in these or others sins, but we must remain strong and not compromise with evil (1 Thessalonians 5:21,22).

Third, choices have consequences. The decision of some Israelites to worship idols and commit harlotry aroused God’s anger and brought about a plague which resulted in the death of 24,000 people (Numbers 25:3-9). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and people reap corruption when they sow to the flesh (Galatians 6:8). For those in any generation who survive physically following their immoral practice of idolatry, fornication, or other sins, there is still this reality to face: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:9,10). On the other hand, the plague at Peor ceased when Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron, showed a righteous zeal that caused the Lord not to consume the people and God blessed Phinehas and his descendants (read about it in Numbers 25:7-13). Yes, choices have consequences.

Fourth, there was a Balaam connection going on behind the scenes at Peor. Balaam was a prophet that the king of Moab had summoned to curse the children of Israel. Balaam instead pronounced blessings on God’s people, but in the end gave counsel to Moab’s king that helped to drag the Israelites into the dirt of sin. Numbers 31:16 reveals Balaam’s role, stating that certain women “caused the children of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the incident of Peor . . .” The New Testament message is that Balaam “taught Balak [king of Moab, rdc] to put a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality” (Revelation 2:14).

Balaam’s action was a factor in corrupting the children of Israel. The biblical text does not say that he himself committed fornication or worshipped idols at Peor. Nor did he directly encourage the Israelites to have a part in such deeds. What he did was suggest to a third party what he could do in order to bring about the downfall of Israel. It is wrong to do anything, either directly or indirectly, that encourages people to violate the will of God (Luke 17:1,2). Do not be a Balaam, who sold his soul because he “loved the wages of unrighteousness” ( 2 Peter 2:15).

Fifth, was there any good or encouraging news that came out of Israel’s sin with Baal of Peor? Thankfully, not everyone in the camp of Israel participated in those sins (Deuteronomy 4:3,4). This fact reminds us that it is possible to resist Satan and overcome the attraction to do what is wrong, even when those who surround us choose a course of sin.




PEOPLE’S MOTIVES FOR ASKING QUESTIONS


The Bible indicates that all Christians “ought to be teachers” (Hebrews 5:12). We may not all be public teachers, but in some fashion each one of us needs to make an effort to help others learn the word of God. As we communicate the gospel to people, asking questions can be an effective way of helping them to see the truth. We might ask a question to see how much one understands, to see what one thinks or believes, or to emphasize a particular point. Jesus was the Master at using questions to communicate the will of God, and we should imitate Him in this regard.

Not only do we frequently use questions in the teaching process, but as we conduct Bible studies or discuss religious matters, other people often will ask us questions as well. The more that we have contact with and teach people, the more questions we will be asked. But why do people ask questions? What is their motive? From what is recorded in the New Testament and from our personal experience in teaching others, we have observed that folks ask questions for various reasons.

Sometimes people ask questions just out of curiosity. They perhaps have heard something about the Lord’s church and just want to know if the “strange” thing that they heard is true. When Paul preached in Athens, certain philosophers heard his message about Jesus and His resurrection. They wanted to hear more about this doctrine, not because they thought Paul’s message was from the one true God of heaven, but because they found it interesting or curious. They said to Paul, “May we know what this new doctrine is of which you speak? For you are bringing some strange things to our ears . . .” (Acts 17:19,20). The Holy Spirit explained that the Athenians spent their time in nothing else, but either telling or hearing some new thing (17:21).

Some ask questions in order to criticize or attack God and His word. Surely that is what Satan was doing when he asked Eve, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat from every tree of the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1). “Why did God tell the Israelites to kill innocent people?” “Why would God punish someone eternally in hell?” Such questions are often asked with such an attitude that it is obvious that those who ask them are not really searching for the truth, but rather want to attack the Creator or His holy instructions.

A third group of people ask questions in order to try and justify themselves. Once when Jesus told a man to love the Lord and his neighbor as himself, the man asked Jesus a question: “And who is my neighbor” (Luke 10:29). What was his motive for asking that question? He desired to “justify himself” (10:29). Today those who consider themselves as good moral people often ask why they need God or need to be born again. Why ask such questions? In order to justify themselves, that is, to show that they are good enough as they are now.

Be on guard against those who ask good questions but do not really want to learn the truth; they simply want to argue. To continue to study with such a person is almost always in vain. Jesus said, “Do not give what is holy to the dogs; nor cast your pearls before swine . . .” (Matthew 7:6). Our Lord’s idea is that we should not continue to use our time in giving the good things of the gospel to those who have proven by their attitude that they do not intend to receive it. With such people, sooner or later we just have to dust off our feet and move on and try to find an honest person who wants to hear God’s truth.

Yet others ask questions in order to test or tempt us. The Bible often says that the Pharisees asked Jesus questions in order to test/tempt Him (Matthew 19:3). Yes, there were occasions when Jesus’ adversaries “plotted how they might entangle him in his talk” (Matthew 22:15-18). People may want to see if by their questions they can cause us to get angry and say or do something that would be out of place. They may ask us tricky questions that are not at all connected with the salvation of man’s soul. They simply want to try to get us to say something wrong, or want to hear us admit that we cannot answer their questions.

In contrast to those whom we have discussed thus far, there are those people with whom we come in contact that sincerely desire to know the truth. Thank God for them! The questions that they ask come from a good and honest heart (Luke 8:15), and we always welcome such questions. On the Day of Pentecost, the Jews who heard Peter’s sermon were pricked in their heart and because of that, asked what to do to be saved (Acts 2:37). A eunuch truly desired to know whether Isaiah was talking about himself or someone else when he wrote Isaiah 53, so he asked Philip about it. That eunuch’s interest and question gave Philip an opportunity to preach Jesus unto him (Acts 8:31-35).

Let us not try to avoid people who have questions about the Bible, but continue to seek out those who are really interested in learning the truth. Remember, our Lord said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6).




2 CORINTHIANS 5:18-21 – THE RECONCILIATION OF GOD


Reconciliation takes place when two parties that had been estranged or separated are brought back together. Some form of the word “reconcile” is used five times in the last four verses of 2 Corinthians 5, where Paul describes man’s reconciliation with God. Here is how that text reads [all emphasis mine, rdc]:

       (18) Now all things are of God, who has reconciled
       us to himself through Jesus Christ, and has given
       us the ministry of reconciliation, (19) that is, that
       God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself,
       not imputing their trespasses to them, and has
       committed to us the word of reconciliation. (20)
       Therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, as though
       God were pleading through us: we implore you on
       Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (21) For he
       made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we
       might become the righteousness of God in him.

Let us break down this passage and take a closer look. What does it show us about reconciliation?

The Need for Reconciliation – Why do humans stand in need of reconciliation to God? Our “sin” (5:21) or “trespasses” (5:19) separated us from Him, resulting in spiritual “death” (Isaiah 59:1,2; Ephesians 2:1). Be assured, if man’s relationship with God was damaged, it was 100% our fault and not God’s.

The Provider of Reconciliation – That would be God the Father, of course. He is the one “who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ” (5:18). To think of God as the Reconciler should not sound strange to us, as other verses identify Him as “the justifier” of believers (Romans 3:26) and “our Savior” (1 Timothy 2:3). If God had not taken the initiative to reconcile sinners, then all of us would still be left in a helpless, hopeless, lost condition.

The Reconciled Ones – There is a sense in which God reconciled “the world” (5:19), in the same way that He “sent the Son as Savior of the world” (1 John 4:14). The salvation or reconciliation of God is available to the whole world, that is, it is possible for every human to obtain it. The reality, though, is that the Lord’s reconciliation is found only in one place. The Bible refers to that special place as “in Christ.” In the context of 2 Corinthians 5, we learn that anyone that is a new creature is “in Christ” (5:17). Again, in 5:19 we read that the Father reconciled the world to Himself “in Christ.” In the Christ, and in Him alone, does God make available all spiritual blessings, including reconciliation.

The One to Whom Sinners Are Reconciled – Twice in our text we read that God reconciled people “to Himself” (5:18,19). Again, in the next verse the appeal is, “. . . be reconciled to God” (5:20). It is obvious that the reconciliation about which Paul writes is both a reconciliation that God provides and a reconciliation that brings sinners back together with Him.

The Sacrifice of Reconciliation – Is there any doubt about the means by which God provides reconciliation? What is the clear message of verse 18? “. . . God, who has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ . . .” It is through-the-Son reconciliation. What was the role of Jesus in providing reconciliation? The Father “made him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (5:21). Jesus never committed a sin (1 Peter 2:22), and He did not become a sinner for us. What He did do was bare our sins in His body on the cross (1 Peter 2:24); by God’s grace Jesus tasted of death for every man (Hebrews 2:9). He became, as it were, a sin offering for us – the blameless, spotless Lamb of God laying down His life for lost sheep (1 Peter 1:18,19). If we are grateful for what the Lord did for us, should we not be telling that great message to others?!

The Ministry of Reconciliation – This is a service – trying to help others be reconciled to God (5:18). It is the work of telling others how to be reconciled to Him, encouraging them to take the necessary action, and then instructing and exhorting them to continue walking with God in order to remain in a saved state.

The Word of Reconciliation (5:19) – What word or message does the Lord use to reconcile sinners to Himself? It is the gospel. By the gospel He calls men to Himself (2 Thessalonians 2:14), people are born again via the gospel (1 Peter 1:23-25), and men are saved by the gospel (Romans 1:15,16). Thank God for the revelation of reconciliation, the great news that through and in the Christ we can be redeemed. Without that revelation we would be lost in ignorance.

The Ambassadors of Reconciliation (5:20) – The apostles were witnesses of and for the Christ. We are not. In the same way, the apostles were special, qualified, Holy Spirit-empowered ambassadors of the Christ. You and I are not. It was to and via the apostles and 1st-century prophets that the Spirit miraculously revealed the way of salvation (Ephesians 3:5).

The Active Participants in Reconciliation – “All things” of the reconciliation were planned by the Father (5:18), the Son gave Himself as the sacrifice of reconciliation (5:21), and the Spirit revealed the way of reconciliation. But, what about humans? Are we active, or passive, in the process or reconciliation? Active. True, the Bible says that God “reconciled us to himself,” but lost people still must respond properly to God’s offer of reconciliation. How? By obeying the gospel from the heart (Romans 6:3-5,17,18).


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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