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 :


            August 2012



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LESSONS FROM THE HISTORY OF THE CHURCH IN EPHESUS


We read about the Lord’s church in the city of Ephesus in three different New Testament books: Acts, Ephesians, and Revelation. When we examine some basic facts about the church in Ephesus, there are a number of lessons for us to learn from her history and happenings.

The church in Ephesus had a beginning. The details of its establishment are not recorded in the Bible. Paul briefly visited and preached in the city with Aquila and Priscilla near the close of his second-recorded preaching trip, but no conversions are mentioned at that time (Acts 18:18-22). Apollos came there to preach, and when he departed from Ephesus, “the brethren” in Ephesus wrote a letter on his behalf (Acts 18:27). So, there were “brethren” there at that time, though none are named except Priscilla and Aquila. All of that took place before Paul went there and immersed about twelve men (Acts 19:1-7). Lesson: It does not matter which faithful servants of the Lord start a new congregation. It takes the preaching of the gospel and hard work to get it accomplished (Romans 10:13-17), but emphasis should be on the message and commitment to the Lord, not the messenger(s).

The church in Ephesus had elders. Paul met with them, reminding them of their obligations to the flock of God (Acts 20:17-38). Lesson: It is the Lord’s will for every congregation to have faithful brothers serving as pastors (Acts 14:23). Any local church that currently does not have elders ought to be working diligently toward the goal of having qualified shepherds watching and ruling over it as soon as possible. Such is God’s plan for His church.

The church in Ephesus received a letter from the apostle Paul. Written from a Roman prison in 62/63 A.D., we call it “The Book of Ephesians.” In this epistle, there is no mention of specific moral or doctrinal issues plaguing the congregation at that time. Lesson: What a blessing it was to receive an inspired message from the God of heaven! However, such a wonderful revelation could benefit its recipients only if they would accept and apply it in their lives. The same is true of us today. Also, though the affairs of the church seemed to be “in order” when Paul wrote the Ephesians epistle, that scenario was no guarantee of her future faithfulness.

The church in Ephesus had some outstanding gospel preachers work with it. Paul preached in Ephesus for three years (Acts 20:31), and Timothy labored there for a period of time as well (1 Timothy 1:3). What a blessing it was to the saints to have faithful evangelists labor among them! Lesson: When it comes to the efforts of God’s faithful servants, He wants His people “to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake” (1 Thessalonians 5:13). Let us remember, though, that having a sound gospel preacher (or more than one) does not guarantee that the members will grow or that no false teaching can creep in. Having a sound evangelist is a blessing, but he is not the Savior, nor can he force people to love and live the truth. The later, sad developments in the congregation at Ephesus remind us of this truth.

The church in Ephesus was attacked by wolves. Not literal animals, but false messengers who come in sheep’s clothing, though inwardly they are as ravenous wolves (Matthew 7:15). Paul warned the elders from Ephesus with these words, “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (Acts 20:29,30). What a tragedy that at least some of the destruction to the congregation in Ephesus came from her own elders! Lesson: Every local church needs to be on guard against false teaching. The only way to do this is to be grounded well in God’s word (Acts 20:32), then maintain a love for His truth above everything else.

The church in Ephesus left its first love. Hear what Jesus told them: “Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love” (Revelation 2:4). The Christ implored the Ephesian church members, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works . . .” (2:5). Lesson: It is possible for both individual saints and entire congregations to depart from the faith (1 Timothy 4:1). We always must be on guard against such be ready to work fervently to win back those who have lost their way (James 5:19,20).

The church in Ephesus had a good beginning, had elders, enjoyed the help of faithful evangelists, and received at least two inspired letters to guide and strengthen her. Yet, she struggled and died. Are we listening? Let us learn well from her history.





Daniel 2 – “THERE IS A GOD IN HEAVEN”


The Book of Daniel contains some of the most memorable messages of the Old Testament record. For this study, we are going to focus on chapter two, a section in which the basic thrust is that the king of the Babylonian Empire, Nebuchadnezzar, had a dream, and the prophet Daniel explained it. Daniel informed the powerful monarch that “there is a God in heaven” (2:28). In this chapter we see God’s power, His prediction, and His providence.

God’s Power – Nebuchadnezzar had a dream, but he could not recall what it was. He wanted to know (1) what he had dreamed and (2) the dream’s meaning. Through Daniel, Jehovah revealed the dream’s significance. From Daniel’s inspired message, we are able to see God’s great power.

God has the power of knowledge, knowing what is in the darkness as well as deep and secret things (2:22). God has the power of light, as “light dwells with Him” (2:22). God has the power of revelation, as “He reveals deep and secret things” (2:22). He also has power in the kingdoms of men: “He removes kings and raises up kings . . . the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever he will . . .” (2:21; 4:17). Nebuchadnezzar ruled because the Lord willed it to be so, giving him “a kingdom, power, strength, and glory” (2:37). Brothers and sisters, our Lord is Almighty! Let us take courage and comfort from the truth that He lives, and the whole world is in His hands.

God’s Prediction – God alone knows with 100% accuracy what will transpire in the future. Daniel told Nebuchadnezzar that Jehovah made known “what will be in the latter days” (2:28), foretelling via the prophet “what will be” (2:29). What were the specifics of God’s prediction for Nebuchadnezzar and others?

First, Daniel told the emperor what he had seen in his dream (2:31-35):

          You, O king, were watching; and behold a great image! This great image, whose
          splendor was excellent, stood before you, and its form was awesome. This image’s
          head was of fine gold, its chest and arms of silver, its belly and thighs of bronze,
          its legs of iron, its feet partly of iron and partly of clay. You watched while a stone
          was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and
          broke them in pieces. Then the iron, the clay, the bronze, the silver, and the gold were
          crushed together, and became like chaff from the summer threshing floors; the wind
          carried them away so that no trace of them was found. And the stone that struck the
          image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.

Next, the prophet revealed God’s prediction – the true meaning of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. Yes, the king’s dream and Daniel’s inspired explanation involved symbols, but there is sufficient information provided to understand them clearly. Through Daniel’s message to Nebuchadnezzar, God spoke of five kingdoms. Which five? The fifth is identified in God’s word, and the first four are clearly revealed in world history as well as in the Scriptures.

(1) Babylonian Empire (head of gold) – Daniel plainly told Nebuchadnezzar, “You are this head of gold” (2:38).

(2) Medo-Persian Empire (chest and arms of silver) – a kingdom that was inferior to Babylon (2:39). The Book of Daniel identifies “the Medes and Persians” as successors to the Babylonians (5:28-31; 8:20).

(3) Greek Empire (belly and thighs of bronze), which is specifically named in Daniel 8:21 – World history shows that the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, did, indeed, conquer the Medo-Persian Empire and rule in its stead.

(4) Roman Empire (legs of iron with feet partly of iron and partly of clay) – Called “the fourth kingdom” (2:40), the Romans overthrew the Greeks and were a mighty force in world affairs during the life of Jesus and the early church.

(5) God’s kingdom – “And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever” (2:44). This kingdom would be God’s, it would be set up in the days of the Roman kings, it would conquer all others, and it would never be destroyed. How exciting is that?!

Look at the New Testament record. Jesus was born during the days of Roman rule (Luke 2:1). It also was during the days of the Roman Empire that John the Baptizer and Jesus foretold the nearness of God’s kingdom (Luke 3:1; Matthew 3:2; 4:17), Jesus died at the hands of the Romans (John 19:12-18), and the Lord’s church began under Roman rule (Acts 2).

What was the fifth kingdom, the one that God Himself established? The church – the Lord’s church, which He purchased with His blood (Acts 20:28) and over which He now rules as King (Colossians 1:13,14). Do not look to the future for the start of Jesus’ kingdom; look to the past, look to the first century, when it began in Jerusalem (Acts 2).

God’s Providence – It is true that God granted Daniel the miraculous ability to interpret dreams, but it was by His providence that Daniel was “in the right place at the right time.” By God’s providence, Daniel later was made “ruler over the whole province of Babylon” (2:48) and a high official in the Medo-Persian regime (6:1-3). How did Joseph get into such a high position in Egypt? What about Esther in the Medo-Persian ranks? The same answer: Daniel, Joseph, and Esther were elevated to such high places through God’s providence. The Lord God rules in the kingdoms of men! Believe it. And, that majestic, ruling Lord causes His kingdom to overcome and endure forever. His providence is wonderful! Believe it.




ANGRY OR UPSET ALL THE TIME


I just finished listening to a song in which the singer says, “I don’t know why you gotta be angry all the time.” The truth is, he could be saying those words to a whole lot of people, because the world seems to be running over with folks who seem to be upset about something every time you see or speak with them. They give the appearance of being angry all the time. If one is a child of God, that is not a good reputation for him or her to have, is it?

To be honest, I struggle with how I control my temperament and how I react to certain things which transpire in life, and I suspect that there may be at least a couple of you who do, too. While it is true that a great deal of the news that we hear through the media causes those who love the Lord to be disturbed, and while it is a fact that some humans are self-centered or shamelessly engage in immoral activities, and while it is true that some members of the Lord’s church do not serve Him with zeal and passion, it is not in my best interest or the best interest of our Lord’s Cause for you and me to be angry all the time. I do not want to be known as a mad-all-the-time person, do you?

Followers of Jesus are instructed to “put off” anger and wrath (Colossians 3:8). The type of anger and wrath which are forbidden were part of our pre-Christian life, “the old man with his deeds” (3:9). Oh, yes, Jesus reacted “with anger” due to men’s hard hearts (Mark 3:5), and being filled with anger (“righteous indignation”) over people’s sinful choices is appropriate. But, let us not try to excuse our mad-all-the-time disposition by hiding behind Jesus’ justified anger. That would be a misuse of what the Scriptures teach.

If I find myself getting angry quickly and often, I need to try and identify what it is that gets me so upset. I need to ask myself, “Why am I mad?” Again, I should ask, “Is it really worth it? Is it something that is of real significance, or is it a small, trivial matter?” How many times have I “lost it” initially, only to regret later in moments of more quiet and sober reflection that I was upset so hastily? There was no justifiable reason for being so angry in the first place, and I simply overreacted. Does that scenario sound familiar?

When I am angered, let me further inquire of self: How is this anger affecting me? What is it doing to how I speak to and treat others? How is it affecting my mindset for Bible study, prayer, and worship? What does my anger do to my influence on others?

Am I always pessimistic? Is my speech always negative, never having anything good to say about anyone or anything? Do I always see the bad side of things but never the good? Do I always have a sour look on my face? Do I give people the impression that I hate life and I am mad at the world?

Try this. Find something encouraging on which you can focus, at least for a little while. Find something that causes you to smile or laugh. It may take a special effort on your part, but keep seeking until you find it. Make contact with a faithful saint whose conversation or association helps you to stay positive and upbeat. Make a concentrated effort to find or do something that takes your mind off of what has you so upset.

Try this. When you feel yourself swelling up with anger inside you, take some deep breaths. Step away – step away from whatever it is that is making your blood boil. Give yourself ample time to think things through before you speak or take action. Better to think them over and proceed cautiously than to be rash and compulsive and say something inappropriate or do something stupid that you and others could regret greatly.

Try this. If you know that being around a certain person or being in a particular circumstance has a high probability of causing you to get extremely upset and so angered that you cannot seem to think straight and act properly, by all means, as much as possible, try to avoid such situations.

Try this. Reflect on your blessings. Count the number of material blessings that you enjoy – many have less. Count the number of functioning eyes, hands, and feet which you possess – some have less. Keep things in proper perspective.

Try this. Do your best to greet others with pleasant words and an upbeat disposition. Make a concentrated effort to smile more. Surely we can tell from observing others that a person’s facial expressions can influence how we approach them and what kind of impression they leave on us. If I always have a sour look on my face or my facial expressions constantly give others the impression that “something must be bothering him,” people are going to avoid me. As a Christian, is causing others to avoid me what I hope to accomplish? Surely not.

There is a time to weep (Ecclesiastes 3:4). There is also a time to demonstrate hatred of unrighteousness (Hebrews 1:9). Yet, neither these nor other biblical truths negate the instruction for all saints of God to practice self-control (Galatians 5:22,23) and “rejoice always” (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

The Bible still says, “. . . be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). As I reflect on those three statements, I am reminded of just how much work I personally have to do in how I respond to what goes on in life. Being a negative, angry-all-the-time person does not fit the character of a soldier of the King.




Acts 26:18 – WHAT ARE WE TRYING TO ACCOMPLISH WHEN WE TEACH THE GOSPEL?


The apostle Paul was commissioned to “preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8). He gladly accepted his role as a gospel proclaimer and was not ashamed of the great news about salvation via Jesus (Romans 1:16).

When Paul stood as a prisoner before King Agrippa, he related to the king what Jesus had told him about the role that our Lord wanted him to fulfill: “(17) I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, (18) to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me” (Acts 26:17,18).

Why do we teach the gospel to lost people? What are we trying to accomplish when we do so? When we look at and analyze Acts 26:18, we can see just what the Christ had in mind when He sent His disciples forth to declare the gospel message. Let the words of Jesus to Paul serve as a reminder to us and motivate us to keep on sowing the seed and do it with the proper spiritual goals in mind. Here is what we learn about Paul’s preaching from Acts 26:18:

(1) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to open people’s eyes – It is a process of education. People will not make right choices consistently until they learn what is right. The Lord’s will must be taught in order for people to come to Jesus (John 6:44,45).

Do some refuse to open their eyes? Yes. Such people would be the “wayside soil” that Jesus described in His parable of the sower. But, thank God, there are also those who will have their eyes opened when they hear God’s truth! When they do, they will be saved (John 8:32). Paul knew all about accepting the truth. He himself had turned from a rejecter of truth to a receiver of it.

(2) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to turn peoplefrom darkness to light” – It is not a forcing, but a turning. Here is the power of the gospel – it changes people’s thinking, action, and eternal destiny! In the Bible, “darkness” is often used as a symbol of evil, while “light” is used to represent that which is good and wholesome (John 3:19-21). Through the gospel, the Lord calls men out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:14). We proclaim the gospel in order to help people see their way out of darkness and find Jesus as the light of the world (John 8:12).

(3) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to turn peoplefrom the power of Satan to God” – Some may not like the sound of the idea that they are under the rule of the devil, but the facts are the facts. One is either with Jesus or against Him (Matthew 12:30). There is no middle ground. One is either a child of light or a child of darkness (Ephesians 5:8- 11), a child of God or a child of the devil (John 8:42-44). Gospel preaching brings sinners “to God.” In Colossians 1:13 it is written that God delivers lost people from the power of darkness and conveys them into the kingdom of His Son. Thus, when one truly comes to God, that person is born again into the Lord’s kingdom, or church.

(4) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to help peoplereceive forgiveness of sins” – The teaching of the gospel is all about the salvation of souls! In order for a person to appreciate the forgiveness of sins, he must understand what sin is and what it does to a person – sin’s wages are death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). So, we must explain to the lost why a Savior is needed.

Furthermore, a lost person must understand what provides forgiveness. God’s grace makes it available through the death/blood of His Son (Romans 3:24; 5:9). Then, a person in darkness must learn the only way out of sin – he must take the God-prescribed action, which is to obey the gospel (Acts 2:27-41). What about those who are already in the Christ? They can continue to have their sins cleansed by walking in the light, confessing and repenting of their sins (1 John 1:7-9; Acts 8:21-23).

(5) Paul was to preach the gospel in order to help people receivean inheritance” – Sometimes lawyers work to help others protect or obtain their legal inheritance. You and I may not be lawyers, but we want folks to have a chance to receive the very best inheritance possible – the one that comes from our Creator and Savior.

This inheritance is by faith in Jesus (26:18), and it is for the sanctified (26:18), that is, those who are “the saints in light” (Colossians 1:12). What is this wonderful inheritance? It is “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” (1 Peter 1:4). An eternal inheritance in heaven – that is a Christian’s “one hope” (Ephesians 4:4). Thus, not only are we trying to help people become saved; we also are trying to help them stay saved/sanctified so they can join us in heaven!

Each Bible verse is connected with God’s plan to save sinners. Yes, every single verse. Why do we teach sinners the gospel? Acts 26:18 gives us the answers. Remember it. Meditate on it. Apply it.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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