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 :


             May 2011



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THE BEGINNING OF THE LORD’S CHURCH


Because glory is given to God “in the church” (Ephesians 3:21), and since the Christ is the Savior of His body or church (Ephesians 5:23), the Lord’s church is one of the greatest blessings that God has made available to mankind. The church of the living God had a starting point on the planet earth, and its start was different from the start of every man-made religion in human history. Let us look at some clear facts in connection with the start of the Lord’s church.

The beginning of the Lord’s church did not come about by accident – it was planned and foretold by God Himself. First, God planned His church before the creation of the world. What the Bible calls “the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:4) was “hidden in God” from the beginning of the ages (3:9). That mystery, identified as “the eternal purpose” (3:11), included the Christ, the gospel, and the body or church (3:6). The church was part of God’s eternal purpose. No, God’s church was not an afterthought! God planned it, including its start.

Second, after Peter confessed Jesus as the Son of God and Christ, Jesus promised to build the church, saying, “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Third, the Christ “loved the church and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). What a price He paid that the church might come into existence: He bought it with His own blood (Acts 20:28). That purchase-price sets the church of the Christ apart from everything else that is called “a church,” because no denomination or manmade group can claim truthfully that it was planned, promised, and purchased by the Lord. Those characteristics belong only to the church of the living God that is described in the New Testament.

The Lord’s church began at a specific time – on the first Day of Pentecost after Jesus rose from the dead. One common description of the church that is assigned to it by inspired speakers and writers is “the kingdom.” It is known in the Scriptures as “the kingdom of the Son” (Colossians 1:13), “the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 16:18,19), and “the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14,15). John the Baptizer (Matthew 3:1,2), Jesus (Mark 1:14,15), the twelve apostles (Matthew 10:5-7), and seventy other disciples (Luke 10:9) all foretold that the kingdom’s coming was near.

About one year prior to His death, Jesus specifically stated that some who heard Him speaking would not die until they saw the kingdom come with power (Mark 9:1). At that point, Jesus did not explain the power, but after His resurrection, He told His disciples, “Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). So, the promised power would come from above, but when and how? Just before the Christ ascended, He told His apostles to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s promise (Acts 1:4), then said, “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to me in Jerusalem . . .” (Acts 1:8).

The apostles received that power from above – from the Holy Spirit, when they were filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues or languages which they had never studied (Acts 2:4). When did that occur? On the first Jewish Pentecost after the death of Jesus. So, on that Day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to the apostles, the apostles received divine power from above, and the kingdom or church came with power.

In simplest terms, the Lord’s church began in the first century A.D. For a historical date, it was about 33 years after the birth of Jesus. And, based on the timing of the Day of Pentecost (Leviticus 23) and the fact that Jesus remained on the earth for 40 days following His resurrection (Acts 1:3), it would appear that the church of God had its beginning ten days after Jesus returned to heaven. By the time one reads Acts 2:47, then Acts 5:11, and again Acts 8:1-3, it is plain that the church that God planned and foretold already existed on earth.

The Lord’s church began in a specific place – in the city of Jerusalem. Remember, Jesus told the apostles to tarry in Jerusalem (Acts 1:4), for it was there that they would receive power from above (Luke 24:49). In fact, the incredible events on that Day of Pentecost took place in Jerusalem (Acts 2:5,14). That place, and that place alone, was the beginning point of the church of the Christ. Thus, it began in an Asian setting, not in Europe and not in North America.

All denominations and man-made groups exist today solely because men founded them. Not so with the Lord’s church – God planned and started it! Every man-made religious group exists by the authority of humans (Matthew 21:25). Not so with Jesus’ church – it alone exists by the authority of the Godhead.

In our excitement for what God has planned, we raise our eyes to look ahead and look up. You see, the church that the Lord planned, promised, purchased, and put into the world – it has a great eternal destiny, as it will be delivered up to the Heavenly Father (1 Corinthians 15:24). Who said all churches are alike?!




LESSONS FROM THE LIFE OF KING MANASSEH


Manasseh, the son of Hezekiah, was the thirteenth king of the Southern Kingdom. Not only was his 55-year reign the longest of any king in the history of the Israelites, but he also had the distinction of being the worst king that Judah ever had. We want to present some facts about his life, then observe some lessons that we can learn [all verses are from 2 Chronicles 33 unless stated otherwise].

Manasseh reigned over Judah for over one-half of a century (2 Chronicles 33:1), and during most of his reign, he was spiritually corrupt. Lesson: Longevity of service does not guarantee one’s faithfulness or quality of service. One who has been in the Lord for many decades does not necessarily possess more zeal, knowledge, or faith than one who became part of the family of God less than a year ago. We certainly appreciate our brothers and sisters who have worked through the heat of the day, so to speak, but one’s current standing with God has nothing to do with how long he/she has served Him.

Manasseh’s father, Hezekiah, was a righteous man. Manasseh was not, as “he did evil in the sight of the LORD” (33:2). Lesson: A righteous father does not always produce righteous children. One should not assume that just because he is faithful to the Lord, this guarantees that his offspring will be, too. There is no 100% certainty. What should be the number one priority of every Christian father? To bring up his children “in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4).

Manasseh undid much of the good that his father did. Hezekiah had been a great reformer, doing his best to remove sinful activities in Judah. But, when Manasseh took the throne, he brought back idolatry and immorality in the nation (2 Chronicles 33:3-7). Lesson: It only takes one person to mess up a good thing. Reforms – changes that are for the better, must not only be started, they must be maintained also.

Manasseh rejected what God’s law said and did as he pleased, causing “his sons to pass through the fire,” using witchcraft and sorcery, placing an idol in the house of God, and doing a number of things that directly violated the Law of Moses (2 Chronicles 33:6,7). Lesson: When people disregard what the law of God says, there is no end to the type of evil that they will do. It grieves us, but does not surprise us, to see some modern-day members of the church involved in dishonest schemes, adultery, and illicit use of drugs. When men and women cast aside the instructions of God, anything can, and will, happen.

Manasseh shed innocent blood. “Moreover Manasseh shed very much innocent blood, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another . . .” (2 Kings 21:16). Lesson: The Lord has always hated hands that shed innocent blood (Proverbs 6:16,17). Murder is wrong because man is made in the image of Jehovah (Genesis 9:5,6). Those who commit such a sin, including the slaying of unborn, sinless humans, will not be counted as guiltless by God.

Manasseh had an influence on the entire nation. “So Manasseh seduced Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD had destroyed before the children of Israel” (33:9). Lesson: Each one of us has some type of influence on others. Manasseh certainly did. The question is, how will we use our influence? Will it be for good, as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14), or will we be imitators of the world? (Romans 12:1,2). God wants us to remain a separate, holy nation (1 Peter 2:9,10). It is a sad day when the people of God lose their distinction, but that is exactly what took place during Manasseh’s reign.

Though few, if any, would have expected it, Manasseh changed in a good way. “Now when he was in affliction, he implored the LORD his God, and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers” (2 Chronicles 33:12). Manasseh then proceeded to remove idolatry and make other positive changes in Judah (33:15,16). Lesson: Even those that we might label as “really wicked people” have the potential to change their heart and, in turn, change their lives. Manasseh did.

Though Manasseh himself turned from his evil ways and began to do the Lord’s will (2 Chronicles 33:15,16), he was not able to persuade the nation to follow his lead and return to the true God. Lesson: When we are “successful” in getting people to follow a path of corruption or accept false teaching, it is extremely difficult to get those whom we have corrupted to see and forsake their error(s). Many parents have led their children into deep religious error, then later, when the parents have learned and obeyed the truth, they quite often are unable to get their children, who are now adults, to repent of their sins and accept the truth. The same has happened with gospel preachers who went astray and returned to the truth. They, like Manasseh, took the brave move to correct their wrongs, but are usually unable to get those whom they have corrupted to change.

Manasseh is the one that caused Judah to be taken into captivity. God said, “I will hand them over to trouble, to all kingdoms of the earth, because of Manasseh the son of Hezekiah, king of Judah, for what he did in Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 15:4). Yes, Manasseh humbled himself, repented, and changed his ways. Unfortunately, he had left such a mark on the nation that it was like a train going down a steep incline with no brakes: disaster was going to happen. Lesson: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Unfortunately, the efforts that Manasseh made later in his life were a case of too little, too late.




MARY, THE MOTHER OF JESUS, WAS BLESSED GREATLY


One of the most well-known women in human history was Mary, the mother of Jesus. We read about her and her special role in the very first chapter of the New Testament. The last reference to her name in the biblical record is found in Acts 1:14, where it is stated that she was in Jerusalem with some of Jesus’ closest followers after He ascended back to heaven. At least twice Mary was told, “Blessed are you among women” (Luke 1:28,42). In what way was she blessed?

Mary was blessed to have a righteous husband. “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man . . .” (Matthew 1:19). What does the word “just” mean? It comes from a Greek word that means “in a wide sense, upright, righteous, virtuous, keeping the commands of God” [Thayer, word no. 1342]. Any woman, anywhere, in any era, is blessed to have a husband that walks in the paths of the Lord! Of course, Mary was a blessing to Joseph, too.

Mary was blessed to have other family members who were faithful servants of the Lord. Mary was the cousin of Elizabeth (Luke 1:36), who is described as one who was “blameless in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord” (Luke 1:5,6). Be grateful, very grateful, if you have relatives who are faithful servants of God. Do not take such a blessing for granted. Many saints are the sole members of their families who are in the Lord. Be sure and take time to exhort your relatives who are part of the Lord’s body.

Mary was blessed to be a mother. She is called “the mother of Jesus” (John 2:3). Some women do not like kids and plainly inform others that they do not want to have any of their own. There are those who even think that having kids has “ruined” their self-centered lives. Other married women would love to bear children, but for reasons beyond their control, they are unable to conceive them. Those women who are able to produce children and serve as a mother should count it as an honor. God’s word says, “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is his reward” (Psalm 127:3). Yes, Mary was blessed to be the mom of several children (Matthew 13:55,56).

Mary was blessed to be the mother of the Son of God. Before Joseph and Mary came together as husband and wife, the angel Gabriel told Mary, “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest . . .” (Luke 1:31,32). Out of all the women in human history, only Mary was given the special privilege and honor of giving birth to the Christ. Bible references to the Messiah as the seed of a woman (Genesis 3:15) and being born of a woman (Galatians 4:4) point to Mary. With the privilege of bearing the Christ also came the awesome responsibility of caring for and training Him.

Mary was blessed to be a virgin until after she was married. She was a virgin when Gabriel foretold that she would conceive (Luke 1:27). She was still a virgin at the moment that she conceived her firstborn (Matthew 1:20-23). And, according to the Scriptures, she was yet a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus (Matthew 1:24,25). It was a blessing to the marriage of Joseph and Mary that she presented herself to him in marriage as a virgin. Those of you who are unmarried, keep yourselves pure for your future spouse. You will be thankful that you did. Do not sleep with another until you are married, for only in the bond of marriage are such physical relations permitted (Hebrews 13:4).

Mary was blessed to know the power and authority of Jesus. Many today are unaware of Jesus’ power and authority. Others know the truth about Him, but refuse to acknowledge and accept that truth. When Jesus and His mother were both attending a wedding in Cana of Galilee, she told the servants, “Whatever he says to you, do it” (John 2:5). Jesus now has all authority in heaven and earth, ruling as the King of kings and Lord of lords. Blessed are those who, like Mary, see and accept our Lord’s power and authority.

Mary was blessed to have a son that cared for her well-being. There are many sorry, good-for-nothing sons in the world today. Jesus was not such a son. When He was hanging on the cross, He made arrangements for someone to care for His mother after His death, saying to her and to the disciple whom he loved, “Woman, behold your son! . . . Behold your mother!” (John 19:26,27). From that hour, that disciple took her home to live with him. Christians should never neglect their parents. If your children are now helping to care for you, be sure and express your thanks to them.

Mary was blessed, but that does not make her worthy of our worship. Yes, Mary found favor with God (Luke 1:30), but so, too, have many others. According to the Bible, we should only worship God (Matthew 4:10). Mary indirectly confessed that she was a sinner, saying, “And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47). What kind of people need a Savior? Sinners do. Since Mary needed a Savior, she was a sinner, and since she was a sinner, she was not God (for there is no unrighteous in Him, Psalm 92:15). Since Mary was not God, she is not worthy of our worship. Those who worship her violate the will of God.

In so many ways, Mary was greatly blessed. May God help us to see those blessings in her life and learn valuable, practical lessons from them.




2 Corinthians 4:7 – “THIS TREASURE IN EARTHEN VESSELS”


Many buried and lost treasures have been discovered through the ages. Some of those have been found in caves, boxes, or vases. There is a special treasure which God has given to mankind that has neither been buried nor lost. Here is what we read about that treasure in 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.”

The word “treasure” comes from a Greek word that means “a deposit, that is, wealth (literally or figuratively): – treasure”; “the place in which good and precious things are collected and laid up . . . receptacle, in which valuables are kept . . . the things laid up in a treasury, collected treasures” [Strong and Thayer, word no. 2344, via E-sword]. It is the same word that is used in Matthew 13:44, where we read about a man finding a field in which there was a “treasure,” then going to sell all that he had to buy that field. A “treasure” points to something of tremendous value or worth.

The Treasure – By the Spirit, Paul calls it “this” treasure. The context of 2 Corinthians 4 makes it clear that he is speaking of the gospel. In 4:2 it is called “the word of God,” in 4:3 it is “our gospel,” and in 4:4 it is simply “the gospel.” For certain, the gospel is a treasure like no other! As a valuable collection, the gospel reveals “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (Ephesians 3:8) and points us to a super, never-ending inheritance in heaven (1 Peter 1:3,4).

Only the gospel treasure reveals God’s plan for man’s redemption (Romans 1:15-17). The gospel of the Christ is the unique “power of God to salvation” (Romans 1:16). The gospel is the sole message that can be obeyed with the result being that the obeyers are saved (Mark 16:15,16). Only the gospel is sealed by the blood of the Christ (Matthew 26:28). It is a treasure, indeed!

How sad that many people work so diligently to possess material treasures, but they give little, if any, thought to the great gospel treasure. Some people do not see the priceless value of the gospel, counting it as foolishness. Yet, by God’s decree, the message of the gospel is His wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:18-25).

The Earthen Vessels – Paul said that we have this treasure in earthen vessels. This does not refer to material containers, but rather to the physical, human body. The gospel is not propagated by angels, nor is it directly taught today by the Godhead. Rather, the Lord preaches the gospel through His faithful servants, who are His earthen vessels. The bottom line is this: if Christians do not teach the gospel to others, then the job will not get done!

Like the early disciples, we must go everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). God is depending on you and me to be like Philip and open our mouths to tell the lost about Jesus (Acts 8:35). God’s arrangement is for His children to get up and go into all the world with the gospel! (Mark 16:15). We must take the time and put forth the effort to train faithful saints to be able to teach the lost (2 Timothy 2:2).

Sin is like a disease that can be cured. The gospel treasure, which tells of the sin-cleansing blood of the Christ (1 Peter 1:18,19), is the remedy for man’s sin. Why would we not want to tell our loved ones, friends, and all others the greatest news that any person could ever hear?!

The Possessors of This Treasure – Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels . . .” [emphasis mine, rdc]. Paul had earlier written, “Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart” (4:1). “This ministry” is the service of “this treasure” (4:7), and goes back to Paul’s reference to “ministers of the new covenant” (3:6). There is a sense in which the task of spreading the gospel was given to the apostles, and “this ministry” was theirs. At the same time, it is also true that the Lord wants each one of His servants to be able to teach (2 Timothy 2:24). Brothers and sisters, you and I have been blessed to have the gospel placed in our hands. Is its message a great treasure? Yes! Is its message a secret? No! Is it something for us to hide or of which we should be ashamed? Certainly not!

Thanks be to God for the treasure of the gospel. The task of spreading this treasure’s great news is not a burden, but a privilege. Let us be about our Father’s business.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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