Times of Assembly

Sunday
  Bible Class 9:30 am 
  Worship 10:30 am 
  Evening 6:00 pm 
Wednesday
  Ladies' Class 10:00 am 
  Bible Class 7:00 pm

Leadership

Elders 
Mark Massey & Don Wallace

Deacons 
Jeremy Baker, Steve Brown, Truman Carroll, Ed Flynt, John Heffington, Steve Jefferson, Mark Long, Lawrence Mashburn, Van Massey, Jimmy McAlister, Scott McCown, Marty Pepper, Johnny Robinson, Gerald Todd, Scott Whitehead

Evangelists 
Winford Claiborne & David Sain

Radio & TV

RADIO PROGRAMS 
International Gospel Hour
Sundays at 7:00 a.m
WVNN 770 AM

Focus On The Bible
Sundays @ 7:30 a.m.
WEKR 1240 AM

Winford Claiborne, Speaker

TV PROGRAMS
What Does The Bible Teach?
Thursdays at 6:30 p.m.
Charter & FPU Channel 6
(Also available at various times on GBN at www.gbntv.org.)

David Sain, Speaker

Social Media

Tuesday
Mar122013

Instrumental Music in Worship

INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC AND THE NEW TESTAMENT —David Sain—

THE REAL ISSUE The real issue of instrumental music in worship is not a question of the beauty of either vocal or instrumental music, nor of our likes or dislikes. There are people who seem to think we do not have instrumental music in worship because we do not like instrumental music–period! That is not true. Most of us have stereos in our houses and in our cars so that we might enjoy good music at home and away from home. It is not a question of not liking music. The issue is not a question of whether we think we can sing better with or without instrumental music. How we sound should not determine if it is right or wrong. The issue is not popularity, i.e., how many people use or reject instrumental music in worship. The fact that our peers do or do not use it should not be a factor in our acceptance or rejection of it. Neither is the issue the sincerity or goodness of those who use or reject instrumental music in worship. Sincerity and goodness within themselves do not make one right (Prov. 14:12; Matt. 7:21-23). The real issue in the matter before us is: What is God’s will on the subject? That, and that alone, is the issue.

FURTHER CLARIFICATION OF THE REAL ISSUE Our concern in considering Instrumental Music and the New Testament is not that of finding the use of instrumental music mentioned in the Bible. That is easy. Neither is it a question of finding a scripture that speaks of instrumental music being used in worship. That is easy also. Finding circumcision, the burning of incense and an animal sacrifice is an easy matter also. But finding these things mentioned in the Bible does not authorize them for Christian worship. Likewise, finding instrumental music in the Bible does not authorize it for Christian worship. Our concern in the matter before us is to find the scripture in the New Testament that authorizes the use of instrumental music in Christian worship. That is not so easy. In fact, it cannot be done! The real issue is: What is God’s will on the subject? Again, I say, that, and that alone, is the issue. In a study of this and any other doctrinal matter, we must be guided solely by that principle.

HOW GOD REVEALS HIS WILL TO US God speaks to us today through Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). God, the Father, has declared that we are to hear Christ (Matt. 17:5). Christ commissioned his apostles to teach all things that he had commanded them (Matt. 28:20). To aid them in carrying out that charge, he sent the Holy Spirit to guide them (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:13). Paul said that the words that they spoke were the words given by the Holy Spirit (I Cor. 2:12-13; II Tim. 3:16-17), and that meant that their words were not the words of man, but the word of God (I Thes. 2:13). With the old covenant no longer in effect (Col. 2:14; Eph. 2:15; Heb. 9:15-17), Christians must come to Christ and to his will revealed in the New Testament to learn what God desires in worship today.

What the New Testament teaches “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship God in truth means to be guided by truth, which is God’s word (John 17:17). To worship God acceptably we must do what the Lord has instructed us to do. The New Testament clearly instructs Christians to sing. Paul instructed, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). And he commanded, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). Paul wrote the Corinthians, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also (I Cor. 14:15). James wrote, “Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms (Jas. 5:13). These scriptures clearly teach that Christians are to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. When people do this in worship, they are doing exactly that which God has authorized. Where is the scripture that commands instrumental music in Christian worship? It does not exist! Where is the scripture that provides an example of instrumental music in Christian worship? It does not exist! Where is the scripture that authorizes instrumental music in Christian worship by inference? It does not exist! When people use instrumental music in worship, they do so without authority from God. There are only two kinds of music known to man: vocal and instrumental. Each is a definite action and can be done independently of the other. Had the Lord instructed us generically to “make music,” we would be free to have vocal or instrumental music, or both vocal and instrumental music in worship. But the Lord’s instruction is not generic. He has specified the kind of music by which he wants us to worship him. He has told us to sing. Therefore, we have authority from God for vocal music in worship, and we have no authority from God for instrumental music in worship. Let it be understood that this is our simple and deeply- felt reason (and it is reason enough) for rejecting instrumental music in Christian worship. Vocal music is the only kind of music divinely authorized for Christian worship!

DEFENSES OF INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC Through the years various arguments have been made to justify the use of instrumental music in Christian worship. Here is an examination of and response to five of those arguments. 1. Instrumental music was used in the Old Testament with God’s approval. Therefore, it must be all right for us. While we are to study the Old Testament for the very practical lessons which are there for us (Rom. 15:4), we are in no sense bound to the Old Testament. So whether God approved or allowed instrumental music in worship in the Old Testament period has absolutely nothing to do with what God approves in Christian worship. 2. Instrumental music is only an aid; it serves only to assist the worshipper. It is argued that instrumental music is similar to a crippled man using a walking cane. But the two are not similar. When using a walking cane, a crippled man is still just walking. But when people add instrumental music to their singing, they no longer have only vocal music. They have added instrumental music, which is another kind of music. We must not confuse an aid with an addition. An example of a true aid to singing would be a pitch pipe. We cannot sing without a pitch, and a pitch pipe aids the song director to pitch the song correctly. But, when the pitch is set and the song is begun, that which is done is only that which is commanded, viz., singing. The sounding of one tone by a mechanical instrument does not constitute music. The hymnbook is another example of a true aid in carrying out the Biblical command to sing. The printed words and notes enable the worshippers to sing in an orderly and harmonious manner. When they use the hymnbook to sing, the only kind of music being made is vocal music, which is the kind that the Lord has authorized. To further distinguish between an aid and going beyond that which is authorized, consider the Lord’s Supper. The grape juice (fruit of the vine) reminds us of the blood of Jesus. The cup used to hold the grape juice is a true aid in keeping this memorial feast. But suppose that in addition to the grape juice, we also serve apple juice for those who like the taste of apple juice. That would not be an aid, but the addition of another kind of juice. Now apply that same line of thought to the addition of instrumental music for those who like the sound of such. 3. The New Testament is silent on instrumental music so how can we say that instrumental music is unscriptural? This question implies that the only way that instrumental music could be unscriptural is to find a scripture that plainly declares, “Thou shalt not use instrumental music in worship.” And there is no such scripture. Neither is there a scripture that says, “Thou shalt not burn incense in worship,” but those who argue the first in an attempt to justify instrumental music do not argue the latter in an attempt to justify incense in worship. The absence of a “thou shalt not” does not constitute authority to do a thing in worship. What if I were to argue that we can use some popular country song or rock song in worship? I think you would object, but I might argue, “Why not? The Bible does not say, ‘Do not use country songs or rock songs in worship.’ ” To which you would surely respond, “But the Bible specifically authorizes hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19), and there is no authority for using secular songs.” And, of course, you would be right. Now, dear reader, follow that same line of reasoning regarding the use of vocal music (the kind of music which is specifically authorized), and the use of instrumental music (the kind of music for which we have no divine authority). The silence of scriptures must be noted and respected. “Let us speak where the Bible speaks and stay silent where the Bible is silent” is still a valid plea! The Hebrew writer made an argument from the silence of the scriptures. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:12-14). Moses had specifically said that the tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe. Since the tribe of Levi, and no other tribe, including Judah, was specified, that meant that no person from Judah or any tribe other than Levi would serve or be a priest under the Mosaic priesthood. That which Moses specified made the matter clear and unmistakable. Likewise that which God has specified (vocal music in worship) makes the matter of music in worship equally clear and unmistakable. 4. The book of Revelation says there will be instrumental music in heaven, so why is it wrong to have it in the church? It is true that the scriptures do speak of instruments of music in heaven (Rev. 5:8, 14:2ff). However, the references to instruments of music in worship in heaven have absolutely nothing to do with what God approves in Christian worship. Remember, the real issue is: Where is the scripture in the New Testament that authorizes us to use instrumental music in Christian worship? 5. The Greek word “psallo” authorizes the use of instrumental music in worship. The word “psallo,” in various forms, occurs five times in the New Testament. “Singing and making melody (psallontes) with your heart” (Eph. 5:19). “Sing (psallo) unto thy name” (Rom. 15:9). “Sing (psallo) with the spirit and sing (psallo) with the understanding” (I Cor. 14:15). And in James 5:16, “sing praises (psallein). First, note from the scriptures above that the one hundred and forty-eight scholars who translated the American Standard Version and King James Version have said with one voice that “psallo” in the New Testament means “sing.” That alone should settle the matter. Second, note the meaning of the word. The word psallo means to pluck, to touch, to cause to vibrate. That is what the carpenter does when he pulls the chalk line and lets it go to make the chalk mark. That is what the archer does when he stretches the bow-string and lets the arrow fly. In like manner it is what a musician does when he plucks the strings of a guitar or harp. But, note that it is not the instrument that is psalloing. The person performing the act is psalloing and the instrument is the object of the psalloing. So, when the action of psallo is commanded in Ephesians 5:19, what is the object of that action? Clearly, the heart is the “instrument” that is to be psalloed in worship. Indeed, an instrument inheres in the word psallo and the apostle Paul defined that instrument (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). It is the worshipper’s heart, not a mechanical instrument. When a Christian sings, his heart responds to the melody of the song and he psalloes with his heart. That is the New Testament use of the word. Third, note that if psallo authorizes the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, it does more than grant liberty for such. It would require such, and no one could obey Ephesians 5:19 without doing what the word means. Therefore we would all have to equip ourselves with a mechanical instrument, bring it to church and play it, or we would fail to obey the command to psallo. Fourth, if the contention is correct that the mechanical instrument is in the definition of the word psallo, then it would follow that no one can personally and fully learn the will of God on the subject of music in worship without learning to read the Greek New Testament. No one could know the truth just by reading the English New Testament, because the English translations of Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 do not even hint at the use of a mechanical instrument. (Brethren, beware of intellectual elitism that would cause the average English-reading student of the Bible to believe that he cannot know the will of God by himself and that he must have a Greek and Hebrew scholar to reveal it to him.)

FINAL THOUGHT If God had authorized only instrumental music in Christian worship, we would be bound to have only instrumental music in worship to God. If God had authorized both instrumental and vocal music for Christian worship, we could obey God only by doing both. However, since God authorized only vocal music for Christian worship, the only correct conclusion is: vocal music is the only kind of music divinely authorized for Christian worship, and that is the only kind of music we can have in worship if we are to be pleasing to him who is the object of our worship!

Saturday
Apr162011

How Does the Bible Authorize?

HOW DOES THE BIBLE AUTHORIZE?

David Sain

The Need For This Study

In recent years, the landscape of religion has undergone numerous changes, including such things as the use of pragmatic methods of evangelism, the shift from the traditional to a contemporary style of worship, and the sanctioning of appointing gay people to positions of leadership in denominations. In my judgment, all of these and other unscriptural changes are the result of a growing disregard for the authority of the Bible. And, regrettably, I have witnessed this growing disregard for the Word of God among my brethren in the churches of Christ.When I first began preaching the prevailing sentiment in the average listener was, “Well, if that is what the Bible says, that settles the matter.” Now, however, the alarming and growing sentiment is, “Well, I know the Bible says that, but …” At that point, the listener’s subjectivity takes over and he begins to interject his personal point of view instead of submissively accepting what the Bible says.

As we witness the changes that are taking place in religion and we ponder where all of this will lead, it is vital to know the role that the Bible plays and how we should regard it. Some view the Bible as a devotional guide. Some view it as a source of comfort and consolation in times of sorrow and distress. Some view it as a collection of ancient literature that is “out of date” and irrelevant to modern man. Some people say the Bible is the Word of God, while others think it only contains the Word of God (unwilling to accept the accuracy of everything in it, and unwilling to believe that every word of it is inspired of God). So, how should we view the Bible? Here are two answers to that important question.

We Should View the Bible as the Word of God

Inspired writers, in thousands of verses, affirmed this to be the case. Jeremiah did so nearly five hundred times in his two Old Testament books. Ezekiel did so more than three hundred times in his book. Zechariah did so more than eighty times in his book of prophecy. And on and on the list goes. The Bible declares that God spoke by the prophets. David said, “The Spirit of Jehovah spake by me, and his word was upon my tongue” (2 Sam. 23:2). Jeremiah recorded that God spoke unto him, saying, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth” (Jer. 1:9). Throughout the pages of the Bible we are told, “thus saith the Lord” (e.g., Isa. 45:11; Jer. 17:5; Ezek. 2:4). In the New Testament we are assured that God has spoken to us through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2).Jesus told his disciples,

19 But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.20 For it is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.(Matt. 10:19-20)

In further instruction to the apostles, Jesus promised,But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.(John 14:26)

When Paul wrote the Corinthians he affirmed inspiration, declaring, “…we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth…” (1 Cor. 2:13). And that, of course, was a fulfillment of the promise of Jesus that the Spirit would teach all things and bring all things to their remembrance.

We Should View the Bible as Authoritative

If one accepts the above affirmation that the scriptures are inspired of God, then one would, logically, conclude that the scriptures are authoritative — simply because they come from the one in whom all authority resides (1 Cor. 11:1). Surely, no one would argue that God could give his word and that his word would be powerless. I repeat. If the Bible is inspired of God, then it is his word - the Word of God - and that means that the Bible is authoritative. The authority of God’s word is indicated in the writing of the apostle Paul when he said to the Galatians,But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.(Gal. 1:8)

Since Paul’s words were by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:13), his words became the standard of authority by which the Galatians were to measure what was preached to them. The well-known words of John also indicate the authority of the word of God. He wrote,9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed:11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.(2 John 9-11)

As previously noted, the Hebrew writer declared that God has spoken unto us, in these last days, by his Son (Heb. 1:1-2), and Jesus said that whatever he spoke came from the Father (John 17:8, 14). That is why John said the “doctrine of Christ” was the standard by which we are to measure that which is preached. Indeed, the Bible, being the Word of God, should be viewed as authoritative.

By What Authority?

23 And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? 24 And Jesus answered and said unto them, I also will ask you one thing, which if ye tell me, I in like wise will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him? 26 But if we shall say, Of men; we fear the people; for all hold John as a prophet. 27 And they answered Jesus, and said, We cannot tell. And he said unto them, Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.(Matthew 21:23-27)

The question asked in this narrative, in verse 23, emphasizes an important matter for us: Everything we do and teach religiously is either by divine authority or by human authority. The reason that the question of Matthew 21:23 is so crucial is that God has made it abundantly clear that only that which he has authorized is acceptable unto him. The scriptures are replete with teaching and examples of this truth. Note three examples:1. King Saul was commanded to utterly destroy the Amalekites and not bring back any spoil. Yet, Saul and the people defied the Lord’s instructions and brought back spoil. When confronted about their disobedience, Saul attempted to justify their behavior by saying that their intention was to offer a sacrifice unto the Lord. Samuel’s response to Saul teaches us that the only way to please God is to do only that which he has authorized.

And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.(1 Sam. 15:22)

2. Jehovah’s reaction to the behavior of two of the sons of Aaron also illustrates the importance of doing only that which the Lord has authorized. Recall the well-known story of their disobedience and punishment:

1 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2 And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.(Leviticus 10:1-2)

3. Jesus taught that one must do the will of the Father in order to enter into the kingdom of heaven. He taught that being religious does not, within itself, make one acceptable unto God.21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.(Matthew 7:21-23)

Although one may be very devout and do all sorts of good works in the name of the Lord, his devotion and religious deeds, although done in the name of the Lord, will be rejected on the day of judgment if he has done that which is unauthorized.

We Receive Divine Authority Through the Bible

Having established the importance of having divine authority for all that we teach and practice, let us turn our attention directly to the matter of how we receive authority from God.As previously discussed and affirmed, the Bible is inspired of God. Paul wrote:

16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.(2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Since the Scriptures are inspired of God, it is correct to say that the Scriptures are the Word of God – the Bible is the Word of God. And, whatever the Bible says to be the case is what God says to be the case. Therefore, whatever the Bible authorizes is that which God authorizes.

Rightly Dividing the Word

The Bible records God’s dealings with man in three dispensations: the Patriarchal age (from creation until the giving of the law through Moses), the Mosaical age (from the giving of the law through Moses until the death of Jesus on the cross), and the Christian age (from the death of Jesus until the end of time). The student of the Bible must be careful to interpret scripture in light of the law that was in force at the time.

We live under and are subject to the law of Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). We are not subject to the laws given during the Patriarchal or Mosaical dispensations. However, there are some laws enjoined during prior dispensations that are also given in the Christian age. To those laws, we are, of course, subject.

How the Bible Authorizes

Divine authority is established in three different ways: direct statement, example, and inference (or implication). In other words, everything that we are authorized to teach or do is authorized in one of those three ways, or we have no divine authority for teaching it or doing it.

Let us now consider each of these three means of authorization, illustrating each of them with Scriptures about baptism.

Direct Statement.

1. This may be in the form of an imperative sentence. To illustrate, note the divinely inspired words of Peter,

Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.(Acts 2:38.)

We understand that Peter’s statement in this scripture is an imperative sentence - he commanded repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus Christ! Since he spoke by the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:1-4), his words are divinely authorized and they, thereby, provide authority from God for us to teach and practice baptism in the name of Jesus, for the forgiveness of sins. 2. The direct statement may be in the form of a declarative sentence. To illustrate, note the words of Christ, in the great commission:15 And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.(Mark 16:15-16)

The words of Jesus in verse sixteen are a declarative sentence – he declared that the one who believes (the gospel) and is baptized is the one who shall be saved. Being God (as well as man) the words he spoke establish divine authority regarding baptism being essential to salvation. Therefore, we have authority from God to teach and practice baptism as a prerequisite to salvation. 3. The direct statement may be in the form of an interrogative sentence. To illustrate, consider what Paul wrote to the Romans:Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?(Romans 6:3)

We understand that Paul’s statement in this scripture is an interrogative sentence - he asked a rhetorical question! In the question, he taught that baptism puts one into Jesus Christ. And, like the apostle Peter, Paul spoke by the gift of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-13). Therefore, his words are divinely authorized and they give to us authority from God to teach and practice baptism as the act that puts one into Christ, where salvation is obtained (2 Tim. 2:10).

Example

Where the Bible records an example of someone doing what God has authorized, that example is authoritative, and may be used to teach the truth regarding the matter that is therein depicted. To cite a case in point, the narrative of the Ethiopian Eunuch being taught and baptized by Philip, the evangelist, illustrates one being baptized in response to the teaching of Jesus (Mark 16:15-16). Therefore, this story can be cited as divine authority in teaching and practicing baptism.

Inference or Implication When a direct statement is made (in the form of an imperative sentence, a declarative sentence, or interrogative sentence), the statement may be explicit and/or implicit. And from that which is stated explicitly, there may be certain things implied. And one draws logical conclusions about what is authorized from that which is implied. For example, being baptized in water necessarily infers, and therefore authorizes, having a place where there is enough water to immerse a person. That, in turn, infers and, thereby, authorizes (but not necessarily so), having that water in a baptistry inside the church building. However, having a baptistry is not a necessary inference. Having a place with enough water to immerse is a necessary inference, but the location of that water is a matter of judgment and expediency.

Specific and Generic Authority

When a direct statement or command is given, in any of the forms mentioned, we have divine authority. If God specifies how, or when, or where, or why to do the command, then we have specific authority. If he does not specify how, or when, or where, or why to do the command, we still have authority, but it is generic authority. As already noted, when God commands us to do something, a part of the command may be specific in nature while another part of the command may be generic in nature. Let me illustrate with a well- known Old Testament event.

When God instructed Noah to build the ark, he was both specific and generic in the commands (Genesis 6). For example, he told Noah to construct it out of wood, and he specified the kind of wood.

From this we have correctly understood and taught that when God specified gopher wood that only that which was specified was authorized, and all other types of wood were unauthorized.

However, the specific command to build the ark out of gopher wood also involved generic authority, because God did not specify anything about the procurement of the wood, or the length of each piece of wood. Those matters were left to Noah’s judgment.

Turning to the New Testament, consider how the great commission also illustrates generic and specific authority.

Jesus commanded “go,” but did not specify how to go, leaving man to choose the most expedient means of going. However, what is to be done is specified, namely “preaching.” And what is to be preached is specified. He commanded that the gospel be preached (Mk. 16:15).

Then Jesus said that the one who believes (the gospel) and is baptized shall be saved (Mk. 16:16). Now, in the context of this study, note that the Bible specifies the why of baptism. The reason –the purpose- of baptism is “for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Unless baptism is for that purpose, it is not Biblical baptism.

Music in Worship

Also, from the New Testament, Christians are taught to sing in worship to God (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). In other chapters of this book, you will find a more detailed treatment of this matter, but, in the immediate context of this chapter, it seems expedient to make a brief application of this injunction as a further illustration of specific and generic authority.

In each of the scriptures cited, Paul specifically commanded “singing,” which authorizes a particular kind of music (namely, vocal). And that specific command would exclude authority for any other kind of music. (Compare the specific command to build the ark out of gopher wood, which excluded using any other kind of wood.)

So we conclude, in accordance with what Paul wrote, that vocal music, congregational in style, is divinely authorized for Christian worship. And that is the only kind of music for which there is Biblical authority in Christian worship. There is no authority in the New Testament for mechanical music in worship to God.

Illustration from Daily Life

A father may say to his son, “Bring me a box.” With no further instruction, the son can meet his father’s request by bringing him any kind and any size of box. However, if the father were to say, “Bring me a cardboad box,” we would immediately understand that the specification of a “cardboard box” automatically excludes a box of any other material. The son does not have to be told not to bring a wooden or plastic box.

What if the father were to say, bring me a brown cardboard box from the closet in the hallway? If that were the case, a blue box is not authorized and a metal box is not authorized. And a box from any other place, other than the closet in the hallway, would be unauthorized. However, since the father did not specify the size of the box, the son would be free to use his judgment as to what size to choose.

We make numerous applications of the principle of generic and specific authority in daily life. And this principle, properly applied to our study of the Bible, will serve us well, and will settle a lot of misunderstandings and controversies regarding salvation, the church, and acceptable worship.

Guidelines

In summary, here are five guidelines that can be helpful in interpreting God’s Word: 

  1. If God has been specific (explicit) about a matter, that which he has specified is required. Everything else, of the same kind, about which he has been specific, is unauthorized, unless expressly authorized elsewhere.
  2. If God has not been specific about some matter, that about which hehas not been specific is left to human judgment.
  3. When an action is authorized, everything that is essential or expedient to carrying out that action is authorized unless:
    • It is expressly forbidden elsewhere.
    • It violates other Biblical teaching.
    • It changes, or adds to, the action that is authorized.
  4. It is wrong to “loose” what God has “bound,” (i.e., not to require what God has required).
  5. It is wrong to “bind” what God has “loosed” (i.e., to require what God has not required).

 

Thursday
Feb242011

Denominational Division

AN EXAMINATION OF DENOMINATIONAL DIVISION

David Sain

Even though the majority of people in the religious world never think of denominationalism as being wrong, and even though some of my brethren are now opening their arms of fellowship to include their denominational friends, denominational division is a sin! And it is my purpose in this article to show why it is a sin.

 

It Violates That For Which Jesus Prayed

As he approached the final hours of his life, Jesus prayed, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me (John 17:20-21).

Clearly it is the will of our Lord that his disciples by united, but denominationalism constitutes religious division, not religious unity! There are more than 250 different religious organizations that are called denominations. Each of those denominations exists separate and apart from the others. They have different names and, even though they may have some things in common, they differ in doctrines and practices. If there were no differences, they would all be of the same group.

The route that I usually take from my house to my office is only slightly more than three miles. In the course of that brief trip, I pass the church buildings for eight different religions. The people who worship in those buildings are neighbors. They work together, they shop together, and they play together, but, because of their religious differences, they do not — they cannot — worship together in unity! Religiously, they are divided! And religious division is a sin!

 

It Denies What The Bible Teaches About The Oneness Of The Church

The Bible clearly teaches that there is just one church that belongs to Jesus. Jesus promised to build his “church,” and he said that the gates of hell would not prevail against “it” (Mat. 16:18). The apostle Paul declared, “There is one body…” (Eph. 4:4-6), and that “body” is his church (Col. 1:23).

Paul also affirmed that the Father has made Jesus the head over the “church,” which is his “body” (Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), and Luke recorded that the saved are added to “the church” (Acts 2:47).

Contrary to what many people have been led to believe, there is only one church of which Jesus is the Savior (Eph. 5:23).

That church which belongs to Christ is that church which worships like the New Testament teaches, is organized like the New Testament teaches, is identified by terms found in the New Testament, and teaches the doctrine of salvation which is taught in the New Testament. That church is not a denomination!

Conversely, any church that does not worship like the New Testament teaches, is not organized like the New Testament teaches, is not identified by terms found in the New Testament, and does not teach the doctrine of salvation which is taught in the New Testament, does not belong to Christ. That church is a denomination.

 

It Denies The Bible As The Authority In Religious Matters

The Lord has taught us by precept and example that the only acts of spiritual service which are acceptable to him are those acts which he has authorized (Lev. 10:1-2; I Sam. 15:22). The holy scriptures reveal his will to us, and we must make the scriptures our final and all-sufficient source of authority in all spiritual matters (II Tim. 3:16,17; I Thes. 2:13; II Pet. 1:3; Jude 3; et al).

Even though the people in denominations will affirm that they “follow the Bible,” there is something taught or practiced in every denomination that contradicts what the Bible teaches. For example, every denomination that fails to teach baptism as being essential to salvation fails to teach what the Bible clearly and emphatically teaches (Mk. 16:16, Acts 2:38). Furthermore, every denomination that worships with the use of mechanical music goes beyond that which is authorized (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) and does that for which there is absolutely no divine authority in Christian worship (cf. John 4:23-24).

Consider the reasoning previously set forth in this article: The differing doctrines and practices in the various denominations is what sets them apart from one another. Well, those differing doctrines and practices also set them apart from the holy scriptures, for when they teach or practice that for which there is no Biblical authority, they demonstrate that they do not believe that Biblical authority is essential in all things!

The Lord’s church, by contrast, strives to teach, believe, and do that, and only that, which the New Testament authorizes!

 

It Makes The Lord The Author Of Confusion

Consider the contradictory doctrines which are taught in the various denominations, and then consider that all of these donominations claim to belong to the Lord. Well, the Corinthians were assured that God is not the author of confusion (I Cor. 14:33), which he would have to be if all of the denominations are the work of the Lord.

It is little wonder that so many people are “turned off” and reject all of this confusion.

 

It Is A Sin Because It Matters What One Believes

Any acceptance or defense of denominationalism is based upon the assumption or conclusion that it does not matter what one believes, teaches, or practices in service to God. If denominationalism is acceptable, then contradicting doctrines and practices would also have to be acceptable. That has to be the case since it is the case that denominational division is laced through and through with contradicting doctrines and practices.

However, let me illustrate in two ways that it does matter what one believes and teaches and practices religiously.

First, consider what the scriptures teach relative to the matter. The Lord taught that regardless how sincere or religious one may be, that person is lost who does not do the will of the Father (Mat. 7:21-23), and Paul wrote that the person who does not obey the gospel is lost (II Thes. 1:-7-9). Now if one can be religious without doing the will of the Father, and if one can be religious without obeying the gospel, then it does matter what one believes and does religiously.

In the same line of reasoning, the gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16), and any one who teaches “any other gospel” is accursed (Gal. 1:6-8). Also, the Bible teaches that one who teaches contrary to the doctrine of Christ is not to be given any encouragement or endorsement (II John 9-11). In fact, Paul said that because of what some teach they should have their mouths “stopped” (Tit. 1:9-14).

Peter warned the early Christians that there would be false teachers in their day (II Pet. 2:1-2). Furthermore, Paul told Timothy that there would be those who would turn their ears from truth and turn unto that which is false (II Tim. 4:1-4).

Now, my question is, why did these men, who wrote by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, write all these warnings and admonitions if it does not matter what a person believes and teaches?

Obviously, they wrote these things because it does matter. Obviously, one can teach that which is not true and one can believe that which is not true, resulting in the destruction of both the teacher and the believer.

Second, consider these matters from a logical viewpoint. What if a preacher (we’ll call him “preacher A”) preached one thing one Sunday but on the next Sunday contradicted the very thing which he preached on the previous Sunday? And what if “preacher A” preached on another topic the next Sunday, only to contradict himself the following Sunday? What do you think would happen? How long would he be employed? How long would people listen to such a man?

Yet, that is essentially what is happening every Sunday in denominationalism. “Preacher A” preaches one doctrine while “Preacher B” contradicts “Preacher A.” And “preacher C” preaches something that contradicts “preacher D.” Now, how can such be ludicrous if found in one preacher but acceptable in different preachers?

 

Conclusion

When one believes and does everything that the Bible teaches, that person will simply be a Christian, and the Lord will add him to the church of Christ! But, that will not make him a part of any denomination.

One can believe and do everything the Bible teaches one to believe and do but never be a member of a denomination. One has to believe or do something in addition to what the Bible teaches in order to be a member of a denomination.

Denominational divisions exist because religious men have gone beyond the doctrine of Christ (II John 9-11), and teach for doctrines the commandments of men (cf. Mat. 15:8-9). That is why we teach that denominational division is a sin!

Monday
Aug302010

Truth about Baptism

The Truth About Baptism

Baptism is a Requirement

–David Sain–

 

Most religious groups, that teach and believe that Jesus is the Lord and Savior, teach and practice baptism. Consequently, most people in these groups believe that being baptized is something that they ought to do. However, as a careful examination of their denomination-based faith will show, most people do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Their conclusion is that baptism is important, but not essential to salvation.

The purpose of this writing is to show conclusively that the Bible teaches clearly and unmistakably that baptism is, indeed, a requirement for salvation. Specifically, we shall look at the fundamentals of what the Bible teaches about baptism -- things that we must understand about baptism to effectively discuss and give defense of that which we believe and practice.

 

Biblical Fundamentals About Baptism

Biblical Baptism Is Immersion In Water.

The person who is Biblically “baptized” is immersed in water, as indicated by the Greek word, baptizo, of which baptism is a transliteration. In teaching the saints in Rome, the apostle Paul taught that what one does in being baptized is in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In that context, he wrote, “Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life (Romans 6:4). And, in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians, he said that we are “buried with him in baptism” (Col. 2:12).

From these definitive statements that baptism is a burial, we must conclude that the practice of sprinkling or pouring water upon the head of the baptismal candidate is done without Biblical authority or divine approval.

A Biblical example of baptism (i.e., immersion) in water is recorded in Acts 8:35-39. There, it is written that the Ethiopian, after being taught about Jesus, saw water and requested that he be baptized. And Philip, the evangelist, who had taught him, went down into water with him and “baptized him.”

 

Biblical Baptism Is Action Taken By A Penitent Believer.

According to the Scriptures, the proper candidate for baptism is one who believes the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16), who has repented from his sins (Acts 2:36,38), and who has confessed that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (Acts 8:35-39). These truths require that the candidate be mentally capable and mature enough to understand and embrace the Gospel. These truths also require that repentance precede Biblical baptism. Furthermore, like the eunuch of Acts 8, the candidate for baptism must first confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus (Rom. 10:9-10).

Obviously, these divinely imposed requirements mean that the practice of baptizing babies, like the practice of sprinkling or pouring water upon the head of the baptismal candidate, is without Biblical authority or divine approval.

 

Biblical Baptism Is Done In The Name Of Jesus.

The apostle Peter proclaimed, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38). Therefore, the candidate for baptism is instructed to take that action in the name of Jesus Christ, but what does it mean to do something in the name of Jesus?

To do something in the name of Jesus is to do that which he has authorized, in the manner and for the reasons that he has given. And a study of the teaching of Jesus about baptism reveals two very important matters:

(1) He directed that baptism be “into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mat. 28:19). Biblical baptism puts one into a state of union and communion with God, the Father, Christ, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

(2) He taught that baptism is a prerequisite of salvation (Mk. 16:16). Therefore, one is to be baptized because Jesus declared it to be essential to salvation, a matter that shall be discussed in a later point.

 

Biblical Baptism Puts One Into Christ and the Church.

That baptism is a “requirement” is further understood by recognizing that salvation is in Christ (II Tim. 2:10), and baptism is that act that puts one “into Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27).

Also, when one, by faith in Jesus, is baptized he is saved (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38), and the Bible informs us that the Lord adds the saved to the church (Acts 2:47). So, baptism is also that act that puts one into the church. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body…” (I Cor. 12:13), and that “body” is the church (I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22-23).

 

Biblical Baptism Is For The Forgiveness Of Sins.

At this time, the reader is reminded of a point made in the beginning of this writing -- that most people do not believe that baptism is a requirement for salvation. Most religious people believe that baptism is important, but not essential to salvation. They contend that one must be baptized to “obey God,” but they believe that one is saved before one is baptized. In light of these things so commonly believed, this point that Biblical baptism is for the forgiveness of sins cannot be overemphasized.

The Biblical truth is that baptism is not something one does after he is saved. Instead, as the apostle Peter declared, baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). The prepositional phrase “for the remission of sins” in this verse is identical (in the Greek and English) to the words that Jesus used when he said that he shed his blood “for the remission of sins” (Mat. 26:28). The purpose for which Jesus shed his blood and the purpose for which man is to be baptized are one and the same. Jesus shed his blood so that man could obtain the remission of sins, and, likewise, the purpose of baptism is so that man can obtain the remission of sins.

From these scriptures the following conclusion is logically inescapable -- baptism is a command of God that one must obey in order to be saved, and one is not saved until he is baptized for that purpose! And a study of four related scriptures verifies the conclusion:

1. In Acts 22:16, the instruction from Ananias to Saul of Tarsus was, “…be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” No honest reader of this divine record can ignore the connection of baptism to the washing away of sins.

2. Twice in Romans, chapter six, the writing of Paul, the apostle, illustrates the importance of baptism. First, he told the Roman Christians that, when they were raised from the waters of baptism, they were to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-5). Second, later in the chapter, he thanked God that they had “obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine,” adding that it was “then,” i.e., when they obeyed that form of doctrine, that they were made “free from sin” (Rom. 6:17-18). When they heard and believed the gospel, and were baptized in the likeness of the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6:3-5), their sins were forgiven.

These two texts clearly show that one is “free” from the guilt of sin and walks in “newness of life” at the moment that one is baptized,

3. In I Peter 3:21, Peter declared that Noah and his family were “saved by water,” referring to the fact that the waters of the flood saved those in the ark from the destruction that came upon those who were outside of the ark. Then he added that baptism, in a true likeness, “doth also now save us,” i.e., the waters of baptism save us from the eternal destruction that is sure to come upon those who are outside of Christ and the church, at the end of time (II Thes. 1:7-9).

4. Another significant scripture that verifies the conclusion that baptism is a command of God that one must obey in order to be saved is Mark 16:15-16. In this text, Jesus decreed that, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved.” Considering the words of this text without any preconceived ideas, let us ask, where did Jesus place being “baptized” — before or after salvation?

It is undeniable that, according to Mark 16:16, Jesus placed being baptized before salvation, which means that being baptized is required in order for the believer to be saved. In order to say that one can be saved without being baptized or before being baptized, one would have to change the words of Jesus. And surely no one would contend that a doctrine is correct when it changes that which Jesus said.

A careful examination of these texts solidifies the conclusion that baptism is essential to salvation!

 

DOES THIS MEAN THAT WE EARN SALVATION?

When we contend that baptism is essential to salvation, a common objection such teaching is that it means that we earn our salvation. The objection might be worded like this, “Baptism is a work. If we are saved by baptism, then we are saved by works, but the Bible teaches that we are saved by grace, not works!”

Indeed, the Bible teaches that “by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). Make no mistake about it. We do not, and cannot, earn our salvation. God owes us nothing! Salvation is by grace. However, that does not mean that our salvation is unconditional. Instead, the Scriptures clearly teach that obedience is essential to salvation.

Note three examples of such teaching. (1) Jesus taught that the one who shall enter the kingdom of heaven is the one who does the will of the Father which is in heaven (Mat. 7:21). (2) The author of Hebrews identified the one whom Jesus saves as the one who obeys him (Heb. 5:8-9). (3) The apostle Paul gave the sobering warning that the Lord will take vengeance upon all who do not obey the gospel (II Thes. 1:7-9). However, when we obey the gospel, including our obedience to the command to be baptized, we do not earn our salvation!

The “work” that we do in response to a promise or command of God is a work of righteousness, not a work of merit. The merit is in the Lord who commanded the work, and in whom we place our trust as we obey him! To illustrate, repentance is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Acts 17:30), and confession is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Romans 10:10). Likewise, baptism is an act of faith, relying on the Lord to save (Acts 2:38).

The truth is that the grace of God is appropriated to us when we, by trust in the Lord, do the works that God has commanded!

 

Helpful Questions Regarding Baptism

Finally, here are four questions that, when answered correctly, according to the Bible, will further equip us to discuss and defend our belief that baptism is required for salvation. Following each answer is a conclusive statement of an undeniable Biblical fact about the role of baptism.

Question: Can one be saved without having his sins forgiven? The correct Biblical answer is “No,” according to Romans 6:23. Well, it is a Biblical fact that baptism is commanded in order to obtain the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38, 22:16). Therefore, we conclude that baptism is a requirement for the forgiveness of sins.

Question: Can one be saved without being in Christ? The correct Biblical answer is, “No,” according to II Timothy 2:10. Well, it is a Biblical fact that it is when one is baptized that he is in Christ (Gal. 3:26-27; Rom. 6:3). Therefore, we conclude that baptism is a requirement for one to have salvation in Christ.

Question: Can one be saved without being in the church? The correct Biblical answer is, “No,” according to Ephesians 5:23. It is a Biblical fact that it is when one is baptized that one is saved and added to the church (Acts 2:38-47; I Cor. 12:13). Therefore, we conclude that baptism is a requirement for one to be saved and in the church.

Question: Can one be saved without obeying the gospel? The correct Biblical answer is, “No,” according to II Thessalonians 1:7-9. And it is a Biblical fact that being baptized is a command of the Gospel (Mark 16:15-16). Therefore, we conclude that baptism is a requirement for one to be saved by the gospel.

Sunday
Jul042010

True Patriotism: Righteousness Exalts A Nation

PDF versionTrue Patriotism: Righteousness Exalts A Nation

David Sain

“Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34, KJV).

Gratitude

                        As a Christian, I am thankful for the heritage that is mine as a citizen of the United States of America.

                         I am thankful for the founding fathers that understood and expressed the importance of this nation being established “under God.” I am glad that they understood that we are endowed by our Creator “with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” I am thankful that the framers of the Bill of Rights, in Article I, guaranteed that the government should not tell us what to believe or how to worship.

                        I appreciate the countless men and women who endured hardships and blazed the trails to make this the “land of the free.” And I am indebted to all those who have fought to protect and preserve our freedom. Many who have gone before us paid great prices and made great sacrifices that bless us today. Indeed the United States of America is the “home of the brave.”

                        And, as we take note of reasons to be thankful for our country, let us recognize the blessing of living in a country where we have the freedom to preach the Gospel without hindrance or molestation. We do not have to sneak around under the cloak of darkness, or creep through the backstreets to assemble and worship. And we still have the freedom to openly and publicly proclaim the truth of God’s Word without censorship. (Of course, there are some who are presently trying to enact laws that would deprive us of that freedom – a matter that deeply concerns me, which I shall address later in this writing.)

 

Concern

                        With the foregoing expressions of thanksgiving as a backdrop, let me now turn your attention to some equally legitimate reasons for every Christian to be concerned about our nation.

                        I am extremely concerned about some things going on in this nation. I look back fifty years and compare the morals, values, and philosophies of that era to the morals, values, and philosophies of today—and I fear what this nation is becoming.

                        If the trends of recent years continue in the same direction, and at the same rate as they have for the last fifty years, I shudder to think what kind of nation this will be fifty years from now. What kind of world will the Christian have to contend with fifty years from now?

                        The following is a listing and brief discussion about some of the things going on in our nation, about which I am extremely concerned.

                        (1) The dulling of our moral senses. For example, there was a time when fidelity in marriage was the norm, but now studies about “affairs” reveal shocking statistics. We are told that the majority of men and a near majority of women in this country have been sexually unfaithful to their marital vows. And some will admit to having had more than one.

                        Once, not so very long ago, virginity was respected and expected, but now it is mocked and ridiculed. There are thousands of teenagers who become sexually active every day in this country, and the age at which this takes place is getting younger and younger. And thousands of teenage girls get pregnant every day.

                        Most young people will tell you that, among their classmates, it is common knowledge that most students lose their virginity by the time they graduate high school. And in colleges and universities across this country, engaging in sex before marriage is so common that “no one thinks anything about it.” In fact, many students say they think nothing of “having sex” with numerous people in the course of their college years. As one university student said to me, “You would not believe the pressure that is on you. If you let it be known that you are still a virgin, people look at you like you are a freak of some kind, and want to know what is wrong with you.”

                        We are now told that abstinence is an unrealistic expectation, and that students need to be taught how to practice safe sex. And, related to that, I am very perplexed at the reasoning of some people. On the one hand, they want kids to “say no” to drugs, but, on the other hand, they say, it is asking too much to tell the same kids to “say no” to premarital sex.

                        Obviously, such things as just described are an enemy to the Christian family in which parents are trying to instill in their children the importance of total abstinence and “waiting until marriage.”  And even when the family is at home, within the safe confines of their own house, they will have to confront this dulling of our moral senses through the medium of entertainment. Television, music, and movies are saturated with the message that pre-marital sex and extra-marital sex are “common,” and “normal.” And that same world of entertainment regularly portrays perverted sex (such as homosexual activity) as being “ok.”

                        It is frightening to think about what subtle, incremental, and cumulative effect that the world of entertainment is having on our society. If some sudden and drastic change challenges our moral ethics, we usually resist it strongly, but when the morals shift incrementally, our resistance to such change may be broken down incrementally. Even if we start out despising some evil, we can be influenced to tolerate that same evil. Then, in our tolerance of that evil we can be influenced to accept it, and, finally, embrace it.

                        I am deeply concerned that our moral senses are being dulled.

                        (2) The growing disregard for the sanctity of human life. First, consider the murdering of unborn infants. Oh, I know the politically correct term is “woman’s choice” and the common word for it in society is “abortion,” but I am calling it what it is— Murder!

                        Since the infamous Roe vs. Wade decision of January 22, 1973, millions of unborn babies have been killed through this inhumane and sinful action. It is “believed” (remember that many abortions are not entered on the medical records) that of the unintended pregnancies each year among teenagers, that more than half of those pregnancies end in elective abortion. And that is not counting all of the adult women who willfully terminate an unborn life because the pregnancy is “inconvenient” or “unwanted.” What a national shame!

                        Second, in recent years, we have been stunned, even shocked, by the shootings in our schools across America. And, as we shake our heads in sorrow, we ask, “Why? Why would a student do such a thing?” Well, although many “reasons” can be speculated, one of the underlying reasons that I see for such behavior is the growing disregard for the sanctity of human life.

                        Of course, many say it is because guns are so readily available. But, wait a minute. Guns have been around for years and years. In fact, when I was growing up, most families had a gun or guns on a rack, usually by a door, unsecured and readily accessible to anyone who could reach it. And we were normal enough to get mad at our teachers, and we got “picked on” by the bullies of our class—but getting a gun and shooting our teachers and classmates never entered our mind.

                        What, then, is the reason? Well, could it be that this is the fruit of an educational system that has taken God out of the picture and taught that humans do not come from God? When we teach that man “evolved” from lower animals instead of being created by God, should we not expect that some people would have no more regard for human life than they do for an animal?

                        Why should we be shocked, or even surprised if someone is influenced to have no regard for the sanctity of human life and has no compunction about taking a human life? In fact, if there were no God (as evolution teaches) what “reason” can you give that would make it wrong for one human to kill another human (except that you just “don’t like it”)? If we remove God from the picture, our moral base collapses.

                        In a world wrapped up in evolutionary thinking and humanistic influence, Christians are certainly challenged to offset the influence of these God-denying philosophies. I am gravely concerned about the growing disregard for the sanctity of life.

                        (3) Disappearance of the traditional family. It is alarming how many children today live in a one-parent home. And it is alarming how many families today are a broken family, i.e., a family that has been divided by divorce—leaving precious children to be emotionally torn between mom and dad. And even those immediate families that have not been shattered by the words, “divorce granted,” may be affected by divorces in their extended family.

                        The problem of the disappearance of the traditional family is greatly contributed to by the entertainment industry. Think about it. On how many television programs do you see a “traditional” family (of mom, dad and kids) portrayed in the sense that God’s word teaches the family to be?

In the real world more and more heterosexual couples are choosing to “live together” without the commitment or responsibilities of marriage vows. In the real world, more and more homosexual couples are “living together” — engaging in the deviant sexual behavior characteristic of such people. And, more and more, such living arrangements shock us and concern us less and less.

                        This disappearance of the traditional family is a great challenge facing the Christian home. I wonder about our children who are growing up in a society where dysfunctional families are so common that such families appear to be normal. And if this trend continues and only gets worse, will the time come that our children will think of the family that is as God intended it, to be  abnormal?

                        In such a society, the Christian is challenged to stay focused upon God’s plan for marriage and the family, and steadfastly oppose that which is contrary to what God’s Word teaches about these matters!

                        (4) The growing lack of respect for authority. Of the various conditions in our nation that concern me, I believe that the lack of respect for authority is the root of many problems in the home, in government, in schools, and in the church.

                        Authority is the great regulator of life. It is the means by which we establish and maintain order. Without authority and the proper respect for authority, society ends up in chaos and anarchy. No society can survive without it!

                        Presently, the lack of respect for authority is a problem for everyone in any position of authority.  Every time the policeman pins on the badge and goes on patrol, he is at risk because of a lack of respect for authority. Teachers in our schools are at risk because of a lack of respect for authority. Officials of athletic events and coaches are subject to physical and verbal abuse because of the growing disregard for those in authority.

                        It discourages Bible class teachers. Elders find it necessary to spend time in business meetings discussing problems that arise because of it. And many of the issues that are troubling the church of Christ are linked to a lack of respect for the authority of the Word of God!

                        And, of course, parents experience many anxious moments because of it. Few are the homes where mom and dad have the last word, and dad can quiet a room with just “a look.”  Now, instead, children are allowed to be rebellious and defiant.  (I read about one child who sued his parents, claiming they had “too much say-so” in his life.)

                        Our culture has been a breeding ground for the lack of respect for authority. In the throes of humanism, relativism, etc., we are told, “No one has a right to impose his values upon you.” “No one has a right to tell you what to do.”

                        The lack of respect for authority permeates our society. Starting in the home, where children are allowed to defy the authority of their parents, it continues in all arenas of life — on the street, in the classroom, in the work place, and in government.

                        Indeed, this is a serious problem that ought to be of grave concern to the true patriot of this nation.

                        (5) Discrimination Against Christianity. Who would have ever thought that, in the United States of America, that Christian  students would not be allowed to express their faith at a school event? Who would have thought that teachers would be allowed to teach evolution in the classroom, but Christian students would not be allowed to pray in the same classroom?

                        This nation was founded upon Judaeo-Christian principles. Who would have ever thought that we would reach the point that children cannot be taught those Judaeo-Christian principles, but those same impressionable children can be taught Islam?

                        Who would have ever thought that we would live to hear Christianity blamed for such things as violence and perversion?  Who would have ever thought we would live to see the day when it is “open season” on Christians, but Christians cannot speak out against sinful behavior or a false religion without being accused of being intolerant and bigoted?

                        What a challenge we have to practice our Christian faith in such a world! And, we must admit the grim likelihood that things will only get worse.

                        However, we are not the first Christians to live in a sinful society, and God has told us how to behave ourselves in such a society. So, let us consider what his Word teaches us about our conduct on earth.

 

The Christian As a Citizen of the United States of America

                        The following points are a partial listing of the things that God has taught his children regarding our earthly existence.

                        (1) We are first and foremost citizens of a spiritual kingdom. Physical Israel was God’s chosen nation, but the United States of America is not the counterpart to Israel. Instead, the counterpart to physical Israel is the church -- God’s chosen generation (1 Pet. 2:9; cf. Rom. 9:1-8).

Christians are part of the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Col. 1:13-14), and his kingdom is not of this world.

“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence“ (John 18:36).

 

In the apostles Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he reminded them that the Christian’s citizenship is in heaven.

“For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:20, NKJV).

 

The apostle Peter pleaded for abstinence from fleshly lusts with the reminder to his readers that we are sojourners.

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;” (1 Pet. 2:11).

 

As one of our beloved hymns reminds us, “This world is not my home. I’m just passing through.”

                        (2) As citizens of the Lord’s Kingdom, our highest loyalty is to our King, Jesus Christ. When Peter and the other apostles were threatened and told by the Jewish authorities to stop preaching about Jesus Christ, their bold reply was, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Anytime that there is a conflict between what man wants and what the Lord wants, the Christian must obey God.

                        (3) As citizens of the Lord’s Kingdom, we are to abstain from the evil of this world. As we have traditionally said, “The Christian is in the world, but the world is not to be in the Christian.”

Note these divine commands:

“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:2).

“Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thess. 5:22).

“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-12).

 

                        (4) While I live on earth, I have a dual citizenship. Not only am I a citizen of the spiritual Kingdom of Christ, I am also a citizen of an earthly country. As a citizen of the United States, I am to be a law-abiding citizen (as long as doing so does not conflict with God’s laws - see #2 above).

                        As earthly citizens, we are specifically taught to do three things:

                                                (a) Be submissive to those in authority (Rom. 13:1-7), and the apostle

                                                Paul wrote in that scripture that if one defies those in power, he actually

                                                defies God (v. 2). This injunction from Paul is appreciated more when

                                                one remembers that the reigning “authority” at the time Paul wrote this

                                                was the evil Nero Caesar, who inflicted severe persecution upon

                                                Christians. God’s children are to be respectful and supportive of all

                                                Governmental officials, as long as doing so does not set aside God’s will.

                                                (b) Pay taxes. “Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom

                                                tribute is due; custom to whom custom… (Rom. 13:7). When Jesus

                                                Addressed this matter, he succinctly taught, “Render to Caesar the things

                                                that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mk. 12:17).

                                                (c) Pray for those in authority. Paul specifically commands us

                                                to pray for kings, and for all that are in authority (1 Tim. 2:1-2), and it

                                                is noteworthy that he added that we should pray that may lead a quiet

                                                and peaceable life (v. 2).

 

True Patriotism: Righteousness Exalteth a Nation

                        It is becoming harder and harder as a Christian to be a patriot of this nation. The more man enacts laws legalizing and legitimizing abortion, homosexual behavior, and etc. the more difficult it is to be a supportive, loyal citizen of this country. And it is not easy to shrug off the way that Christians, especially conservative Christians, are being attacked.

                        Nevertheless, we must mentally prepare ourselves to be strong and faithful regardless of how difficult things may be. 

                        To inspire and embolden us, consider these examples of people who did the right thing in a world filled with evil:

                        (1) Noah lived in a time when the thoughts of man’s heart were evil continually, to the point that it repented God that he had made man. When God determined to destroy man, he found only eight righteous people, and they were Noah’s family. What a marvelous example Noah is to us. In a world filled with evil, Noah was a righteous man and saved his own family.

“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:7).

                         (2) After Joshua succeeded Moses as the leader of Israel, he led them through the conquest of the land of Canaan. When he became an old man, he called the people together and reminded them of how God had blessed them and provided for them. He charged them not to go back and serve other gods, and then he spoke those well-known inspiring words,

“Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord. And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15, emphasis mine -ds).

 

What a challenging statement. What leadership! And the Bible records that Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua (Josh. 24:31; Judges 2:7). Regrettably, after his death and another generation arose that knew not the Lord, nor the works which he had done for Israel, we are told that Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim, and they forsook the Lord God (Judges 2:8-12).

                        (3) Judah, the southern Kingdom, was captured in 606 B.C., and taken into Babylonian captivity, by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Four young men of Judah were chosen by the King to be prepared for service to the king.  They were Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.  Later, Daniel interpreted a dream for Nebuchadnezzar, and was given a position of authority by the king.  Daniel had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon.  Some time later, Nebuchadnezzar made an image of gold and commanded all to bow down and worship.  Whoever did not was cast into a fiery furnace. 

                        Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow down to an image of gold and worship, and they were cast into the furnace. However, by the providential care of God, no harm came to them, causing the king to be impressed with the God whom these young men served.

                        There are three lessons to learn from the behavior of these young men:

                                                (a) Never Compromise With Evil Or Religious Error. They could have reasoned                                                     that, "When in Rome…" Or they could have rationalized that they had good                                                     positions, and could not afford to displease the king. They knew that                                                                 idolatry was against the will of God (Ex. 20:4), and they firmly refused to                                                         participate!

                                                (Cf. Ephesians 5:11; Romans 12:2; I John 2:15-17; Matthew 6:33.)

                                               (b) Never Give Up Because Circumstances Are Against You. God is almighty                                                               (Eph. 3:20-21). Pray, seeking his will, and trust him to provide.

                                               (c) Obey God, Regardless Of What It May Cost You. Shadrach, Meshach, and                                                              Abednego believed that God would save them (3:18), but they were                                                              determined to be faithful to God, even if it meant dying. How                                                                           determined are you to be faithful to God?  What "price" are you willing                                                              to pay in order to be a faithful child of God?

                        Just as the faithfulness of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego was a positive influence upon Nebuchadnezzar, your faithfulness will have a strong influence upon those around you (1 Pet. 2:11-12; Mat. 5:16).

                        God blessed Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego for their faithfulness, and he will bless you if you are faithful!

                        (4) The story of Daniel in the lion’s den continues to inspire and motivate Christian to do what is right, regardless of the consequences (Daniel 6). Recall the story with me.

                        The land, which had been the Babylonian empire, had become the empire of Persia, with Darius reigning as king. Darius gave Daniel a position of high rank and authority, which made the other princes and rulers very jealous. So, they tried to find some fault in Daniel to bring to Darius. They knew that three times every day he went to his room and opened the window toward Jerusalem, and made his prayer to God. So, Daniel’s enemies went to Darius and persuaded him to sign a law that for thirty days no one could ask anything of any god or any man except King Darius. If anyone broke that law, he was to be cast into a den of lions.

                        Daniel knew that the new law had been made, but every day he still went to his room and opened the window and prayed to Jehovah. The jealous rulers saw him doing it, and they came to the king and told him. Darius was deeply saddened because he loved Daniel, but the jealous rules forced him to carry out the sentencing of Daniel to be thrown into a den of lions. And, of course you know the rest of the story. Daniel was not hurt by the lions (through the providence of God), and he was set free and restored to his position of prominence. The men who had plotted against Daniel were cast into the same lion’s den, along with their wives and children, and were devoured by the lions.

                        What a wonderful story of bravery. What a marvelous example of abiding commitment to serve God regardless of the consequences. If he disobeyed the King’s edict, he would lose his job, but, more importantly, he would be thrown into a den of lions. Yet, he did not waver. He did what was right regardless of the consequences.

                        May God help us to be just as brave and committed.

 

Conclusion

True patriots are needed in the United States of America. Christian patriots are needed in this nation.

                        The true Christian patriot realizes that the highest form of authority is not the civil government, nor the politicians and legislators of this country. Instead, the highest authority in his life is the creator – the Lord of all men,

                        The true Christian patriot will put on the whole armor of God (Eph. 6:11-18), and defend Christ and his church against the enemies of the cross -- including those who are within the body of Christ.

                        The true Christian patriot will study his Bible and know what it teaches; equipping him to face the fiery darts of the devil, wherever they come from.

                        The true Christian patriot will steel himself to obey God. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, to disobey God is to be guilty of the worst form of treason!

                        When the apostle Peter wrote his general epistle, Christians were being persecuted. Corruption in government abounded, and children of God were surrounded by evil influences. To fortify them, he wrote the following words, which are obviously relevant for us.

“Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (1 Peter 2:13-17).