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 :


           October 2011



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THE GODHEAD’S MARVELOUS GRACE


Regardless of how long ago you and I first heard about God’s grace, whether it was sixty years ago or only last week, if we really comprehend and appreciate the Bible’s teaching about the meaning and scope of grace, then we are awed and overwhelmed by the truth that the Almighty Creator of the universe would be willing to demonstrate grace to us. Yes, it is “Amazing Grace,” indeed.

It seems that in modern times most people use the expressions “God’s grace” or “the grace of God,” which are certainly biblical (Titus 2:11). It is also proper to think of grace as “the grace of the Godhead.” While the Bible does not use that exact term, the Scriptures show that grace is connected to each member of the Godhead. As we noted, the Bible speaks of “the grace of God” (Hebrews 2:9), but we also read of “the Spirit of grace” (Hebrews 10:29) and “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 13:14). These facts demonstrate the Godhead’s unity in providing grace to humans.

In the New Testament, what does the word “grace” mean? “Grace” comes from the Greek word “χάρις/charis,” which is defined in part as “that which bestows or occasions pleasure, delight, or causes favorable regard . . . on the part of the bestower, the friendly disposition from which the kindly act proceeds, graciousness, loving-kindness, goodwill generally” [Vine’s Expository of New Testament Words, word no. 5485]. In terms of the salvation that the Father provides to mankind through His Son, God’s “grace” is undeserved kindness – kindness that He extends to us, though we could never earn or deserve it.

Let us look at some matters which the Bible shows are related to the Godhead’s marvelous grace. [All emphasis in all Bible quotes is mine, rdc].

The Sinner – “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Romans 3:23,24). It is really quite simple: we need grace because of sin. Sin creates the separation between the transgressor and God, and grace provides a way out of that otherwise helpless, hopeless situation. Look again at the sin-grace-redemption connection in Romans 3:24,25.

The Riches – “In Him [Jesus] we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). What glorious riches they are!

The Death – “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9).

The Blood – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

The Salvation – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:4,9).

The Availability – To what extent does the Lord make His grace available to humanity? “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11).

The Word – “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Acts 20:32). By His grace, God gave us the gospel, by which He reveals His desire to save us through grace. So, it is a grace-gospel: (1) it was given by grace and (2) it is a message that makes known real grace.

The Location – As we noted, God’s grace is available to all men (Titus 2:11), but we need to know where God makes that grace available. Again, we look at Ephesians 1:7: “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” It should not surprise us to learn of God’s grace being granted “in” His Son, since we read that all spiritual blessings are “in” Him (Ephesians 1:3).

The Access – “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand . . .” (Romans 5:1,2). So, it is “by faith” that we are justified and “by faith” that we have access to God’s grace. What kind of faith? The kind of faith that causes one to obey the gospel, which includes being baptized into the Christ (Romans 6:3,4,17,18). That is the only way into Him and His death.

Now that we are in the Lord, what shall we do? Continue in His grace by continuing in His word (1 Corinthians 15:1,2). Thank God for His great grace.





STUDYING OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY (2)


In our last article on this theme, we examined what the word “prophet” means, some different biblical names or descriptions of prophets, how they received their power to speak forth the will of God, and some benefits that Christians can receive by studying Old Testament prophecy. If we fail to investigate the prophecy of the Old Testament era, we miss out on some extremely rich material.

Let me suggest some things to keep in mind as we attempt to understand the message that the prophets set forth. These are important principles.

(1) We need to try to understand the historical, political, social, and religious conditions of the times when a particular prophet spoke or wrote. That means for each book of the prophets, we must consider the background which is provided in the historical books of the Old Testament, at the same time noting any “outside” archaeological or historical findings that might be connected to the prophet’s era and work. For instance, Micah wrote during the reigns of Ahab and Hezekiah (Micah 1:1), so in order to understand Micah’s message, one would need to study the historical background connected with those two kings (2 Chronicles 28-32).

(2) We must try to understand the message of each book as it applied to the people in the days when it was written. That is, think first about application to people during the prophet’s lifetime, then look for application to the gospel message and to those following Jesus. Amos’ initial warning about a life of ease was intended for those Israelites of his day that were “at ease in Zion” (Amos 6:1).

(3) Always keep in mind that, though you and I live under a different covenant, the God of heaven changes not (Malachi 3:6), so in the prophets’ writings we should note carefully His dealings with man, including both Israel and the Gentile nations. Amos wrote about the conduct of several nations in a concise way (Amos 1:3-2:8), whereas Jeremiah spoke in six chapters about God’s righteous judgment on a number of countries (Jeremiah 46-51).

(4) We should pay close attention to any teaching of the prophets that points to the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom (Acts 3:22-24). That is, in fact, the major thrust of the entire message of the Old Testament – the Christ and His Kingdom are coming! (Isaiah 9:6,7).

(5) Sometimes the prophets explained portions of their prophecies. If so, their explanation, which was from Jehovah, must be accepted as the true meaning. For example, Daniel foretold of a ram with two horns and a male goat from the west. He went on to explain exactly what those animals symbolized. The two-horned ram – “the kings of Media and Persia.” And the male goat? “And the male goat is the kingdom of Greece” (Daniel 8:3,5,20,21). Daniel’s inspired explanation is the only one that is correct.

(6) In a similar fashion, if Jesus, an apostle, or a New Testament writer quoted from or mentioned an Old Testament passage, then proceeded to explain what that passage meant, then we absolutely must accept their inspired interpretation. Isaiah spoke of a virgin who gave birth to a male child by the name of Immanuel. There is no doubt that that was a prophecy of Jesus the Christ and Mary. Matthew said so (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-23).

Prophets were God’s mouthpieces. They spoke God’s message about the past, the present (the days in which the prophets themselves lived), and the future. When it came to their foretelling future events, just what was true, predictive prophecy?

•  Predictive prophecy was a statement or more than one statement in which a clear, unmistakable prediction was made about a future happening. No words such as “maybe,” “might,” “it could happen,” or “possibly” were ever employed. Instead, God’s prophets mentioned specific names, specific people, specific places, and specific times (as when Isaiah wrote of the action of Cyrus, king of Medo-Persia, long before his birth, Isaiah 44:28).

•  Predictive prophecy was never based on current conditions (that is, the conditions that were present when the prophet made the prophecy). This is where predictive prophecy is different from simply making a prediction. A country might predict what its population will be at some future date, but such prognosticating would be based on available information about the current population and rate of growth. That does not constitute predictive prophecy.

•  Of course, predictive prophecy had to be made before the events mentioned in the prophecy transpired, as when David by the Spirit foretold the resurrection of Jesus (Psalm 16:8-10; Acts 2:27-31).

•  Fulfilled Bible prophecy is powerful proof that the Bible’s message came from God. Why is that? Because only the God of heaven can predict the future with 100% accuracy. Thus, if the Bible contains plain, unmistakable predictions of future events, and those events came to pass precisely as they are predicted in the Bible, then such predictions must have come from God. The Bible does contain such prophecies and their fulfillment. Thus, it must have come from God, for only He knows everything about the future. True, He revealed such things through humans, but the ultimate Source of those amazing foretellings was God Himself.

In the past, if you have not spent much time studying the last 17 books of the Old Testament (Isaiah through Malachi), let me encourage you to put forth the effort to dig into and learn from their message. You will be blessed for doing so.




SOME PRINCIPLES OF SEED SOWING


Jesus referred to the fact that the Jews often divided the books of the Old Testament into three groups: the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). In each of those three divisions, we read about the concept of sowing seed (Deuteronomy 22:9; Amos 9:13; Psalm 126:5,6).

Perhaps, though, our Lord’s “Parable of the Sower” is the seed-sowing passage with which we are most familiar. In that story, Jesus told of a sower that went forth to sow seed (Matthew 13; Mark 4; Luke 8). When Jesus explained that parable (“The Sower”), He said, “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). The thought is evident, is it not? When Jesus spoke about a sower sowing seed, then explained that the seed is God’s word, then it follows that the action of the sower sowing seed symbolizes or represents a person sowing or teaching the word of God. As we think about proclaiming the gospel to every person in the whole world (Mark 16:15), what are some principles of seed sowing that we should keep in mind?

First, while it is true that seed can at times produce fruit without humans sowing it, the best crops come when humans purposely sow. It is possible that a watermelon seed could be spilled out of a container, fall on the ground, and eventually produce fruit. In the same way, a person that has never met a Christian could read the Bible and afterwards contact us, coming to us with a heart that already knows the truth and wants to obey it. It is possible. But, for the most part, if we do not sow the seed, there will be no spiritual harvest. Zero sowing results in zero harvest. Brother, how much have you sown the seed this year? Sister, have you been a sower, or just a listener? A sower sows. Do you?

Second, generally speaking (there may be limited exceptions), the more sowers we have sowing, the better opportunity we have for a bigger harvest. That is true on an assembly line in a factory: more workers have the potential to get more work done. That is true when it comes to sowing literal seed in a literal field, and it is true when teaching the gospel. Did not our Lord talk about the need for more workers in order to bring in His harvest? (Matthew 9:37,38). If we really want to see more people saved, then we need to be making a diligent effort to train more seed sowers! (2 Timothy 2:2).

Third, sowing is work. Sometimes it can even be quite challenging labor. Whether you work to sow seed in a garden or large field, it can be a sweaty job that takes its toll on your body. Teaching the gospel is work, too. It is not a drudgery or burden, but it involves labor, sometimes labor that faces serious trials. Often the seed is sown on hard soil and Satan comes and takes the word out of a person’s heart, lest he should believe and be saved (Luke 8:5,12). Remember, my seed-sowing brother or sister, our task is not to jump into the body and mind of our prospects and obey the gospel in their stead, rather our role is to sow, sow, sow! God told Isaiah to preach His word, even when stubborn people would ignore it. For how long? “Until the cities are laid wasted and without inhabitant, the houses are without a man . . .” (Isaiah 6:11). We are comforted to read later in that same great book that God’s word will not return unto Him void (Isaiah 55:11).

Fourth, sometimes we sow seed and do not see immediate fruit/results. James pointed to the farmer that sows and then patiently waits for the precious fruit (James 5:7). The great, great majority of people never obey the gospel. A few obey it quickly (Acts 16:25-34), but for most that become Christians, it is a longer process. Sometimes, it takes years, even several decades. We must keep on sowing patiently. In many instances it is a “combo” effort that eventually results in a conversion: multiple saints, working at different times and different ways to sow the seed to the same prospect(s). One “sows” and another “reaps” (John 4:35-38). And, one great God deserves every bit of the glory for each saved person!

Fifth, if we sow good seed with ineffective methods, then the harvest will be adversely affected. It is a fact that where skilled workers have trained farmers in backward places to learn and utilize more efficient methods, their harvest has increased. In the spiritual realm, if the circumstances remain unchanged and we continue to use the same methods, then we will keep on getting the same results. It is possible to do a whole bunch of sowing and get little, if any, harvest (Deuteronomy 28:38). In many situations, the lack of harvest is not the sower’s fault – the soil is terrible – hard hearts will not receive the truth (Mark 6:6). But, we also need to evaluate our seed-sowing efforts. If we can find some way to enhance our teaching efforts, all the time teaching the same pure gospel, then let us not be afraid to explore other means of communicating the truth. If we become aware of more effective means of seed sowing, let us be wise enough to use them.

Sixth, and this one really weighs on my heart, if we do not train the next generation how to sow, then they will not sow effectively. And, if that happens, unless there are a lot of babies born into Christian families, then the church will wither and die. I do not like the sound of that, do you? God’s plan for church growth and spiritual stability is not physical reproduction, but spiritual! (1 Peter 1:22,23).

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy. He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him” (Psalm 126:5,6).




ROMANS 12:17-21 – CHILDREN OF GOD AND DEALING WITH EVIL


You and I were born into a world of evil, and as long as we remain on the earth, we will continue to live in that kind of world. In our everyday activities, whether we want to or not, we witness the reality of evildoers. In some cases, we may even be on the receiving end of their wickedness.

In Romans 12:17-21, there are some fundamental principles about how Christians should handle the evil that they meet or have dumped in their laps. First, consider what the passage says:

(17) Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. (18) If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. (19) Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord. (20) Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. (21) Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Repay no one evil for evil (17) – That is God’s message for Christians that are mistreated. The way of the animal kingdom is to fight back, sometimes to the death. The way of small children is to hit, kick, or bite back. The way of worldly people is to “fight fire with fire.” The general thinking is, “I am just giving him a dose of his own medicine.” When our Lord was reviled, He did not revile in return (1 Peter 2:23). Yes, it is so tempting to yell back at the yeller, speak hateful words right back at the hateful, and try to find a way to bully the bullies, but God does not want His children to stoop to the level of recompensing evil for evil.

As much as possible, live peaceably with evildoers (18) – In order for people to get along, all of the parties involved must seek to obtain and maintain peace. Our obligation is to do all within our power to live in a peaceful fashion with all men, including evildoers. Sometimes, though, it does not work out because the other fellow just has no interest in being peaceable, as it is written, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (Psalm 120:7). Contrary to what many suppose, taking the approach that tries to be a person of peace is not the way of weakness or cowardice. It is the way of imitating the Son of God, whose life was the epitome of strength and courage.

Do not avenge yourselves (19) – When we have been wronged, there may be a voice within us that cries out, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.” That message is in the Bible alright, but it was instruction that God gave to the Israelites under the old covenant. Plus, those words never did give a person the sanction to take matters into his own hands in the form of a lynching mob. Instead, judges were to make diligent inquiry, then they were the ones that were authorized to deal with the lawbreakers in an “eye-for-an-eye” fashion (Deuteronomy 19:18-21). Vengeance belongs to the Lord (Romans 12:19). Going right on into the beginning of the next chapter of Romans, we see that, at least in some cases, matters can be settled by appealing to civil authorities, who act as avengers on those that do evil (13:3,4).

Treat even those that are enemies with human decency (20) – Sometimes we become so frustrated, so agitated, so angry, that our emotions take over and get the best of us. Before you know it, we are out of control, acting and talking in a rage, making fools of ourselves and bringing reproach on the Cause of the One that we claim to serve. We know that Jesus said that we are to love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). While we might be inclined to think, “Okay, I’ll try, but only from a distance,” the Holy Spirit guided Paul to say that we should provide food and drink to enemies that stand in need of such (Romans 12:20). That is simply showing what we call “human decency.” The Master said that even sinners are nice to people that are nice to them. Christians must live on a higher plain (Luke 6:31-35).

Do not be overcome by evil (21) – We are in a spiritual war. We must hold our ground in the fight against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-13). We must not give in or give up in the battle to save our own souls, save our families, and save our nation. It bums us out to see such widespread evil in all of its diverse forms, but let us not forget that He Who is in us is greater than he that is in the world! (1 John 4:4).

Overcome evil with good (21) – This charge reminds us that we must not be passive. We must not sit back and wish for somebody somewhere to do something to help turn things around. Soldiers of the Christ, arise and put your armor on! Live a life of godliness and good works (Matthew 5:16). Teach others the good and right way (1 Samuel 12:23). If we constantly will make an effort to please the Lord in all that we do, then great things can happen! There will always be evil in the world, but we can overcome it by doing that which is good.

Obviously, our Lord wants us to think and act on a higher plain than the world does. Romans 12:17-21 gives clear instructions about how we need to conduct ourselves in the face of evil or mistreatment. It does not matter how other people respond in the face of such: what God says to do is right, period. May He help us to apply these practical teachings in our lives.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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