The title of this article does not suggest that we ought to discontinue calling certain things sin. Our aim ought to be one of being careful what we label as sin. This article seeks to address some of the issues that have been allowed to divide the church for many decades. It is on these issues that both sides not only can agree upon, but also find ways to compromise in order to maintain unity among the saints.
Before we begin, it is imperative that we have a proper understanding of Bible authority. Paul says,
whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him, (Colossians 3:17).The Bible establishes authority in commands, apostolic examples, and necessary inferences.
The two types of commands that are in the Bible are general and specific.
General commands permit us to use any means to fulfill it so long as what we do is not sinful and does not violate other passages of scripture. For example, in Mark 16:15, Jesus tells us to "Go...and preach the gospel to every creature." The word "go" is the general command in this verse. In order to obey this passage, in regards to the command to "go," we are authorized to walk, drive, visit someone at home, talk to someone at work, etc. However, going into a bar, for example, to convert souls is unauthorized since this practice violates several biblical teachings.
One of these has to do with making sure that the heart in which the seed is going to be planted is fertile. Planting the word of God into the heart of an individual while in a bar is identical to the type of ground that Jesus talked about in Mark 4:18-20. He said,
"And these are they which are sown among thorns; such as hear the word, And the cares of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in, choke the word, and it becometh unfruitful. And these are they which are sown on good ground; such as hear the word, and receive it, and bring forth fruit, some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some an hundred."
The other teaching concerns our reputation. We are commanded to be the right example in order to lead the sinner out of the darkness of sin and into a life of holiness.
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven," (Matthew 5:14-16).Also,
I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 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 12:1-2).This cannot be accomplished by entering a bar and other sinful places and preaching the gospel of Christ.
Specific commands are limited in nature. Let us examine a few of them together briefly:
Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, "Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?"
And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also. And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, "Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them," (Numbers 20:10-12).
"Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean?"
So he turned and went away in a rage, (vs. 12).
Apostolic examples illustrate how a command, whether general or specific has been carried out. For example, although "This do in remembrance of me...For as often as," (1 Corinthians 11:24-26) is a general command, in so much that we are free to observe the Lord?s supper at anytime during worship, it is also a specific command as previously mentioned.
In Acts 20:7, we know how to fulfill this command: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread..." Here, we see that the Lord's supper, which is referred to as "break bread," can only be observed on the first day of the week, Sunday. It is also found in Acts 2:42, where it is referred to as "breaking of bread." Hence, they were following what the Lord told them to do.
Another example is found in Acts 2:38, where Peter commanded the Jews to
"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."This verse shows Peter fulfilling the part of the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20. There were countless others who followed this teaching. Examples include Stephen (Acts 7), Paul (Acts 9:20), Philip (Acts 8:26-40), and Acquilla and Priscilla (Acts 18:24-28).
The last method of determining Bible authority is by necessary inferences. A necessary inference is made when not enough information is available in the passage to warrant a deduction. For example, in Acts 8:26-40, it can be inferred that the Eunich not only confessed that Jesus is Lord and Savior and was baptized "for the remission of sins," (Acts 2:38), but also believed that what Philip taught him was the truth (Romans 10:17), and, repented of his sins(Luke 13:3).
(To be continued in next issue.)
Men have always been interested about what the future will bring. The future is the "great unknown," the source of the greatest insecurity in the life of mankind. Men desperately seek ways of determining what the future will bring-- they will read horoscopes, listen to fortune-tellers, and other such things. This desire for knowing the future extends into the religious world too: the success of the "Left Behind" series and the lessons on "prophecy" done by Evangelicals attest to the general desire for knowing the future.
This desire is not without precedent in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament, we see the men of Israel often consulting the Lord to receive a sign of the future (e.g., Gideon in Judges 7 and Jehoshaphat in 2 Chronicles 18). The prophets of the Lord also spoke concerning the future, but how many men of Israel desired to hear what they had to say?
This concern about the future is not limited to the Old Testament. We read in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the Thessalonians were concerned about the return of Christ and what that meant for those who had already passed on. Therefore, we may conclude that we have the right to know some things about what the future will bring. God, as He does in all things, abudnantly supplies His children with what they need to know. Let us now examine the Scriptures to see what He says about what will occur in these "last days."
Before we begin, however, I wish to give a word of warning. We are speaking using the term "the last days." I do not desire for anyone to be confused and believe that this is a discussion of the "last days" as the Evangelicals teach, the idea of premillennialism with the seven-year "Tribulation" and such things. We read in the Scriptures the following in Hebrews 1:2:
God who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds.
These "last days" of which we speak are the days between the beginning of the church on the day of Pentecost in Acts to until Christ's return in glory, whenever that blessed day arrives. Therefore, we are currently in the "last days," as we have been for 1,970 years, and will continue to be until He returns.
When we look at the Scriptures concerning these "end times," we see that two groups of people emerge: the "believers," those who once held to the faith but have since departed from it, and the "unbelievers," those who do not believe in God nor honor Him. Let us first examine what the Scriptures have to say about the "believers:"
What have we seen in these passages? Most assuredly that there will be a "falling away" from the faith, and many will profess Jesus Christ but will act contrary to the teachings of the New Testament. Do we see this in our world today? Absolutely! The papers are full of headlines of denominations accepting those things that are wrong and even decrying those who wish to stand for the truth! People hear the messages that they want to hear, and refuse to listen to those who would urge them to repent and to make their lives right with God. We must not fear, brethren, that somehow God has abandoned the world and that truth cannot be ascertained, for God predicted that men would fall away from the truth! Let this serve to us as a warning to always maintain the doctrine of God, and to diligently seek the source of our salvation.
Let us turn now to the "unbelievers:"
What do we see in passages like these? The "unbelievers" have always walked according to their ungodly lusts, and this condition does not change. Do we see this in the world today? All one needs to do is visit his local grocery store and to see what is being sold at the checkout counter. The "lust of the eyes," the "lust of the flesh," and the "boastful pride of life" (1 John 2:15-17) are all available freely in this land, and many sins come without earthly consequence. Let us remain unspotted from the world!
Finally, at the appointed time, Christ will return. We are told the following:
Christ will assuredly return, and we may take comfort in that knowledge: we must only suffer the ungodly for a little time, and righteousness will prevail. Let us work diligently so that as many as possible may find the day of the return of Christ to be a comfort, not a concern.
What may we conclude about the "end times?" We see that there are "believers" and "unbelievers," those who once believed but have since followed after their own desires, and those who have never known God, respectively. We may look around our world today and see that assuredly these things come to pass-- there are many who profess Christ but do not live according to the standard of the New Testament, and the ungodly are as ungodly as ever. We must take comfort in the knowledge that Christ will return and righteousness will prevail.
It would behoove us to heed the words of Peter in 2 Peter 3:11-18:
Seeing that these things are thus all to be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy living and godliness, looking for and earnestly desiring the coming of the day of God, by reason of which the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat? But, according to his promise, we look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for these things, give diligence that ye may be found in peace, without spot and blameless in his sight. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unstedfast wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction. Ye therefore, beloved, knowing these things beforehand, beware lest, being carried away with the error of the wicked, ye fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and for ever. Amen.
Amen indeed! Let us work diligently so that we may be found to be those who have maintained the glory of God and His Word and have not defiled Him through improper life. Let us be steadfast, unwavering in the faith that will save. Let us all be saved from this perverse generation!
Ethan R. Longhenry
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