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 :


         September 2011



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WHAT DOES THE WORD “CHRISTIAN” MEAN?


In the 1,189 chapters that comprise the Bible, the word “Christian” is used a total of three times. We find that word in Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28, and 1 Peter 4:16. How many times do you suppose you have heard the word “Christian” in your lifetime? Many of us have heard that word on a regular basis from the time that we were small children. Perhaps others have heard it used more frequently only after they became adults. In any case, people use the word “Christian” extensively. What does it mean?

From the spelling of the word “Christian,” it would appear that it must have something to do with “Christ.” The word “Christ,” which in the Greek language is equivalent to the word “Messiah” of the Hebrew language (John 1:41), means the anointed one. The prophecy of Psalm 2:2 foretold that earthly rulers would rise up “against the LORD and against His Anointed.” In the New Testament, we read of one occasion when Jesus’ disciples quoted that verse when they prayed, saying that human rulers were gathered together “against the LORD and against His Christ” (Acts 4:26; all emphasis mine, rdc).

How is being a “Christian” related to the Christ, the One whom God the Father anointed with the Holy Spirit and with power? (Acts 10:38). The word “Christian” comes from the Greek word “Χριστιανός/ Christianos,” which literally means “a follower of Christ” [Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament via e-Sword]. Let that definition stick in your mind. Many people today use the word “Christian” to refer to anyone that believes in the Deity of Jesus. That usage is not in harmony with the teaching of the Bible. Please hear me out. Yes, every New Testament Christian believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. His followers are called “believers” (1 Timothy 4:12) – they are obedient believers, submitting to the instruction of the Christ (Luke 6:46). But, we read in the Bible that some who believed in Him in the first century would not confess Him (John 12:42,43). Those who refuse to confess the Master cannot be saved (Matthew 10:32,33; Romans 10:10). Christians trust in, imitate, and obey Jesus.

In some cases, modern-day dictionaries of the English language are quite accurate in defining biblical terms, while in other instances such dictionaries give definitions of Bible words that are tainted by man-made doctrines or traditions and vary from the original usage of those terms in the Scriptures. Here is how one 21st-century dictionary defines the noun “Christian”: “a person professing belief in Jesus as the Christ, or in the religion based on the teachings of Jesus” [Webster’s New World College Dictionary © 2010 by Wiley Publishing, Inc.; taken on 22 August 2011 from www.yourdictionary.com]. According to this definition, a “Christian” is one that professes a belief. No action is indicated. That does not fit the Bible concept of “a follower of Christ” [Thayer]. Again, the Bible concept of “Christian” is more than acknowledging that Jesus was God in the flesh – it includes imitating and obeying Him. Remember this: the meaning of New Testament words is not determined by modern-day dictionaries or how those words are used currently among the people of our generation.

Okay, enough of definitions. Let us turn our attention to 1 Peter 4:16, where it is written, “Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter.” In that context, Peter speaks of “the house of God” (4:17), those who “obey the gospel” (4:17), “the righteous” (4:18), and “the flock of God” (5:2). Both “the house of God” and “the flock of God” refer to the church that Jesus purchased with His own blood (1 Timothy 3:15; Acts 20:28). We can see from these references in 1 Peter 4:16-5:2 that one who is a Christian is one that has obeyed the gospel (Acts 2:36-38) and, as a result, is a part of God’s church. Yes, the Lord adds the saved to His church (Acts 2:47). Such folks are the righteous ones of God.

What about one who has not obeyed the gospel? He has not yet been saved, meaning that he is still lost. The Lord has not added him to His church. He is not yet in the family of God. So, he is not part of the group that the Bible identifies as “Christians.” In my family there are people who are members of six different denominations. None of them is the church about which we read in the Bible. Based on the teaching of the gospel, I do not plan to refer to anyone outside of our Lord’s blood-bought church as “a Christian.” Jesus, whom Christians follow, is the Savior of His church (Ephesians 5:23). Let us not profane the great term “Christian” by using it to refer to those that have not yet obeyed the gospel!





STUDYING OLD TESTAMENT PROPHECY (1)


In the Old Testament we read about prophets and prophecy from Genesis to Malachi. The first verse in the Bible in which we read the word “prophet” is Genesis 20:7, where it is written that God described Abraham as a prophet. Does that surprise you? As for “prophecy,” that word is first used in 2 Chronicles 9:29 in reference to the work of Ahijah, who recorded the acts of King Solomon.

What does the word “prophet” mean? When Jehovah sent Moses back to Egypt to deliver His people out of slavery, He told him, “. . . and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet” (Exodus 7:1). God had earlier told Moses about Aaron’s role, saying, “And he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God” (Exodus 4:16; all emphasis mine, rdc). When we compare and combine the thoughts of these statements, we see that one who was a prophet served as a spokesperson or mouthpiece for another. That is, one spoke in the place or stead of another. Thus, a prophet of the Lord was one that by God’s authority spoke in His place, taking His message to humans. A prophet of Jehovah was His messenger, with no right to add to or take away from the message that God delivered to him.

At times, God’s prophets predicted future events, as when Isaiah foretold the virgin birth of the Messiah (Isaiah 7:14). However, to say that a person was a prophet does not mean that each time he spoke a message from God he predicted some future event. Sometimes prophets spoke or wrote about what had already taken place in the past. For instance, all the events that Moses recorded in the Book of Genesis took place before he was even born. Or, consider Jeremiah 39, where Jeremiah recorded the final fall of Jerusalem and Judah’s last king, Zedekiah. In this instance, Jeremiah wrote as an inspired historian. At other times, as Jeremiah often did, prophets acted more like preachers, exhorting the people of their day to comply with the commands of the Lord which He had given them.

In the Old Testament, in addition to the word “prophet,” a spokesmen of God was sometimes called “a seer” (1 Sam. 9:9) or “man of God” (1 Kings 13:1,2). In other passages, a prophet was identified as “the LORD’s messenger” (Haggai 1:13; 2 Chronicles 36:15,16), God’s “servant” (Jeremiah 7:25), or a “watchman” (Ezekiel 33:7).

How did God’s messengers receive their prophetic powers, that is, the power to reveal to the people the mind or will of God? “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20,21). The Holy Spirit empowered the prophets to speak forth God’s message, meaning that what they said orally or in writing was inspired by God through His Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16,17). For instance, King David, who was also a prophet (Acts 2:30), declared, “The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, and His word was on my tongue” (2 Samuel 23:2). In similar language, Jeremiah said, “Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me: ‘Behold I have put My words in your mouth’” (Jeremiah 1:9).

What are some of the benefits and blessings of studying the prophetic books of the Old Testament? In particular, we have in mind the last 17 books, going from Isaiah through Malachi. Since the Old Testament was “written for our learning” (Romans 15:4), there must be some benefit for Christians to study the oral and written prophecies of that era.

(1) Such a study increases our knowledge of God’s character – His holiness, righteousness, immutability, hatred for sin, and mercy are plainly portrayed in the message of His prophets.

(2) Such a study increases our understanding of how God deals with the nations of men. The building up or destroying of a particular nation is in the hands of the Almighty (Jeremiah 18:7-10).

(3) Such a study enhances our understanding of the fact that men and nations, regardless of who they are, reap what they sow. Jehovah is a God of lovingkindness, but His treatment of them is based on the truth that righteousness exalts a nation while sin is a reproach to any people (Proverbs 14:34).

(4) Such a study increases our realization that we need to trust in and obey the Lord God. For God’s people, the only path of safety has always been to submit humbly to His will. We see that principle time and again in the prophets’ message.

(5) Such a study reminds us that, though times and places may change, for the most part the character of people (“human nature”) stays the same. And, those who fail to learn from the mistakes made by others in the past invariably will repeat them.

A study of Old Testament prophecy has the potential to be an eye-opening, faith-building, even life-changing undertaking. It will help you to see Bible matters more clearly. Enjoy the journey.




WE MUST MAKE SURE THAT WE LOSE THE RIGHT THINGS


There is no doubt about it: Christians are winners. We thank and praise God “who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:57). The Book of Revelation shows clearly that those who faithfully follow the Lamb- Lion-King will overcome, just as He overcame. We take comfort in knowing that by faith we overcome the world and are on “the winning side” (1 John 5:4).

While our victory in Jesus motivates us to serve, there are some ways, however, in which it is proper to think of Christians as losers. That sounds like a contradiction, does it not? How can saints of God be losers if they overcome through the Christ?

Consider this. Being a child of God does not exempt us from losing some things. Losing material objects happens to everybody. Like everyone else in the world, I lose things, don’t you? Some materials losses are serious, whereas others are minimal. As we grow older, our physical body begins to lose things. We lose some of our hair, we lose energy, we lose our hearing, our eyesight, and our memory. Ah, the joys of the aging process. Followers of Jesus go through it just like non-Christians do.

Sometimes members of the church lose their jobs, just like non-saints do. It happens. Since death comes to all (Hebrew 9:27), we also go through the pain of losing our loved ones and close friends. That is just part of life, whether we follow Jesus or not.

There is a more positive, pleasant side of the losing that Christians do. When we are devoted to the Master, we lose our own life. What in the world does that mean? Let us compare two statements that Jesus made [all emphasis in the verses below is mine, rdc]. First, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it” (Luke 9:23,24). Again, “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life” (John 12:25).

As these verses show, Jesus spoke about a person loving his life and trying to save it. On the other hand, He talked about a person hating his life – that person saves his life and keeps it for eternal life. When a person comes to and follows Jesus, he must deny himself. In repentance, he gives up the old life that he had outside of the Christ. What matters most is no longer one’s own personal desires. No longer does a person think that the world revolves around him. No longer does he do as he pleases. That old man, with all of his self-indulging, self-interests, and self-loving, must die (Romans 6:3-6). As one that is “renewed in the spirit” of the mind (Ephesians 4:23), a disciple of Jesus “loses” the old thinking, the old lifestyle, and the old speech habits. He hates that life and he now elevates Jesus and His Cause to the number one position in his heart. And what is the promised reward for such a dedicated life? Eternal life (John 12:26). I am happy to be “a loser” if the crown of life waits at the end of the journey!

The Lord wants us to lose our love for sin and the world. As His disciples, we have a new and different appetite than we had before. The world should not have the same appeal that it did in the past. The apostle Paul was a transformed loser – he had lost his appetite for what the world offered: “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Galatians 6:14). The Bible’s message is clear. God tells His children not to love the world (1 John 2:15), not to imitate the world (Romans 12:2), not to be contaminated or spotted by the world (James 1:26), and not to be the friends of the world (James 4:4). That can be a mighty struggle. No, it is not always easy to win the battle over unhealthy desires, but the Spirit’s charge is for every child of God to “abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). We are to be dead to sin – separated from it and no longer acting as its slaves (Romans 6:2,11).

As we have noticed, it is spiritually healthy for us to lose some things. But, at the same time there are some things in our spiritual warfare that we do not want to lose. We must not lose heart, even as we face challenges, trials, and disappointments in life. “And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart” (Galatians 6:9). We must continue to persevere in running the race that is set before us, running all the way to the finish line of life, even as the apostle Paul finished his race (2 Timothy 4:7).

We also must not lose our faith. In the wilderness, multitudes of Israelites were prime examples of believers that became unbelievers (Psalm 106:12,24). Yes, it is possible for children of the living God to develop “an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12).

Third, we must not lose our focus as we go through life. God calls us to “seek those things which are above,” setting our “mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Colossians 3:1,2). We must keep the goal of going to heaven as our top priority in life! The matchless, eternal inheritance that our Lord has promised (1 Peter 1:3,4) is far better than any perishable, temporary stuff than one might accumulate or worldly honors that one might receive. Do not lose focus!

Christians are victorious people. While we are losers of some things, we thank God that through His Son our souls will be saved and not lost. At the end of the day, isn’t that all that really matters?!




1 CORINTHIANS 9 AND GOSPEL PREACHERS


Some of the matters discussed in 1 Corinthians 9 pertain specifically to the apostles of Jesus. Other teaching in the 27 verses that comprise this chapter contains principles that would apply to all preachers of the gospel in every generation. Let us look at a few aspects of the life and work of an evangelist that are set forth in this section of Scripture, realizing that some of the lessons also would hold true for each member of the church and not just preachers.

A gospel preacher’s right to receive wages for his labors – In our text, what points does Paul set forth that lead to the conclusion that those who labor in the word have the right to receive financial compensation for their efforts?

1) The right to refrain from working (in a secular job) – “Do we have no right to take along a believing wife, as do also the other apostles . . . Or is it only Barnabas and I who have no right to refrain from working?” (1 Corinthians 9:5,6).

2) Illustrations from life – “Who ever goes to war at his own expense? Who plants a vineyard and does not eat of its fruit? Or who tends a flock and does not drink of the milk of the flock?” (9:7).

3) A principle from the old law – “. . . Or does not the law say the same also? For it is written in the law of Moses, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.’ Is it oxen God is concerned about?” (9:8,9).

4) Provide spiritual service, reap material benefit – “If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?” (9:11).

5) An illustration from old covenant priests – “Do you not know that those who minister the holy things eat of the things of the temple, and those who serve at the altar partake of the offerings of the altar?” (9:13).

6) Jesus endorsed it – “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (9:14; cf. Luke 10:7).

So, Paul by the Holy Spirit used at least six lines of reasoning to demonstrate that, yes, it is proper for God’s church to provide financial support to evangelists. Paul declared that he received “wages” from churches for his work in preaching the gospel (2 Corinthians 11:8), so there should be no debate about whether or not such a practice is Scriptural.

A gospel preacher’s message – Just what is it that the Lord wants a preacher to proclaim? In this passage, that wonderful message is described simply as “the gospel” or good news (9:16,18,23). Paul was committed to preaching that great news, knowing, “. . . woe is me if I do not preach the gospel!” (9:16). The message of God’s preacher is further identified as “the gospel of Christ” (9:12), which is God’s power unto salvation (Romans 1:16). Third, in our text we read of the “law” of the Christ (9:21). “Law,” which simply means rule(s) of conduct or action, appropriately describes the truth of God’s word, as that truth sets forth the will of God for man’s conduct on earth.

The church needs gospel preachers that do that very thing – preach the gospel! “Preach the word” is the divine charge for every evangelist (2 Timothy 4:2,5). Far too often those that stand before an assembly to preach make little reference to God’s word, instead spending large portions of their time focusing on matters that do nothing to nourish God’s sheep or instruct the lost about how to be saved. We need men of the Book who will set forth boldly and clearly what the Scriptures say. Preacher, be committed to the message of the gospel. It is God’s message to man; it must be your message, too. Take great care to learn it, love it, live it, and defend it.

A gospel preacher’s heart – In his effort to reach lost people with God’s gospel, what was Paul ready to do? What was his mentality toward his task? “. . . I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more” (9:19). Like Paul, modern-day preachers of the gospel must have the heart of a servant. Like Paul, we need evangelists who have a heart that wants to win or gain people to the Christ. Note his words: “win the more” (9:19), “win Jews . . . win those who are under the law” (9:20), “win those who are without law” (9:21), and “win the weak” (9:22). The winning of which he spoke was saving souls: “that I might by all means save some” (9:22).

We need gospel preachers that do more than get a sermon ready. We need preachers that have God’s word burning in their hearts (Jeremiah 20:9) and cannot wait for an opportunity to proclaim to people in public or private the way of truth that saves the soul! In that regard, there should be no place in the heart of God’s preacher for any type of prejudice or partiality. Paul was prepared mentally to teach any person of any race, color, or background (9:19-22). We need to have that same mindset.

From 1 Corinthians 9 we have seen a gospel preacher’s right to financial support, his message, and his heart, that is, the heart that he should have. God’s Son was the only perfect preacher in history. Evangelists of our generation have weaknesses just like all other people do. Let us encourage them as they take a leading role in preaching the word.


~ Roger D. Campbell ~


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