December 9: In Search Of Authority


 When we speak of Bible authority in matters of faith, we must be careful. If we are not, we will be binding laws—our laws—where God has not made any law. If we are honest, we will wake up one day and see our own inconsistencies, and then discover that we have been behaving hypocritically. At the same time, however, if we do not use the Bible as our sole authority in matters of faith, then we manifest our disrespect for the word of God, if not our rejection of its teaching, which thing the religious leaders of Jesus’ day did. He said to them, “All too well you reject the commandment of God so that you may keep your own tradition” (Mk 7:9). Therefore, though there are many areas of freedom in which we have the right to determine how we can carry out the mandates of God, our source for obedience in matters of faith must always be the word of God.

Everyone has a reason for their religious beliefs and behavior. We believe and do according to that for which we have authority. We seek authority from God for our beliefs and behavior simply because we want to do what we feel God wants us to believe and behave. There are several sources of authority that religious people use as the foundation upon which they establish their beliefs and behavior. Each of the following sources of authority are not rooted in the word of God, and thus, they are sources of authority that lead one away from God. They do so because they are authorities that seek to have priority over anything that is revealed in the word of God. One may have the Bible in his religiosity, but if the Bible is not consulted as a reference for determining final authority, then one is led away from God by that which he considers to have priority in his life.

 I.  Subjective authority:

Subjectivism in the realm of religion is when one considers his emotions or feelings as validation for his religious beliefs.   In other words, “if it feels right, then it must be right.” One may firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is directing his feelings, and thus, he assumes that the Spirit is validating his religiosity by a direct manipulation of his emotions. Take the Holy Spirit out of the religious experience, or one’s claim to believe in Jesus, and thus in the “non-Christian” world, subjectivism would be the authority for witches and sorcerers. Through emotional incantations, such people have subdued themselves and others to what can be conjured up in the mind. And by doing such, they have sought to impose their beliefs and behavior upon their followers. When Paul and Barnabas passed through the island of Cyprus, they encountered such a person. “They found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus” (At 13:6). Philip also encountered a subjectivist in the city of Samaria by the name of Simon. Simon “practiced magic and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great” (At 8:9). As a result, Simon became the authority of their religiosity. “They all, from the least to the greatest, gave heed to him, saying, ‘This man is the great power of God’” (At 8:10).

Religious authority that is based on the subjective feelings and emotions of man is one of the most difficult systems of authority to change in reference to our subjection to the mandates of the word of God.   Subjectivism is narcissistic in that man is the center of reference for one’s religious faith as opposed to the influence of God through His word.

Inevitably, subjectivism leads to religious anarchy and division among fellow subjectivists. It produces religious chaos in that everyone seeks to do that which is right in his own eyes. It is the same religious chaos that is pictured in Judges 17:6: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did what was right in his own eyes.” When Israel initially went into the land of promise, God warned them concerning this religious behavior. “You will not do after all the things that we do here this day, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes (Dt 12:8). In order to guard them against moving into subjective religiosity, God condemned the practices of divination, spiritism, witches and similar practices among the Israelites (See Ex 20:4,5; Lv 19:26,31; Dt 4:15-19; 18:9-14).

The reason subjectivism is not a valid authority in matters of faith is that it is simply “not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jr 10:23). Those who would subject themselves to their own emotions in reference to religious authority, will certainly lead themselves astray from God (See 2 Tm 4:3).   If one would serve God, then he must seek that which is from God. For this reason, the will of God was written in order that we have a validation for our faith that is above and beyond our own selves.

 II.  Autistic authority:

 The dictionary defines “autistic” as “a state of mind characterized by daydreaming, hallucinations, and disregard of external reality.” In reference to the reality of what the Bible says, the autistic individual continues to believe exactly what he wants to believe, regardless of what the Bible says.   This tendency to see, hear and believe what we want is to some degree characteristic with everyone. If one has little regard for the Bible, then the autistic thinking of the individual is out of control in reference to any authority that comes from God through His word. Autistic authority places man at the center of his source of authority.

What people perceive to be reality, or that which they accept as the authority for their faith, depends a great deal on their spiritual and emotional needs. It is for this reason that reality is often masked by what one wants to see and hear.   This is a particular problem in reference to the preceding point concerning emotional subjectivism. If one concludes that his emotional experiences are directly caused by the Holy Spirit, then it is almost impossible for that person to have an objective understanding of any statements of Scripture that might contradict either his beliefs or behavior. The subjectivist is often autistic in that he rejects scriptural reality for the sake of emotion, or allows emotion to override reality.

What usually occurs is that the autistic interpreter submits his understanding of Scripture to that which he seeks in order to fulfill personal needs. If the Scriptures state something that is contrary to his desires at the time, then he concludes that he is not properly understanding a particular passage.   Since the authority of his faith is based on what he personally desires, then he sees only that which conforms to his desires. He will often randomly open the Bible at any location, and from reading a random passage, conclude that the Scriptures were speaking directly to him concerning his need at the time.   What often happens in this case, is that he will twist the passage to conform to his desires or needs at the time of reading.

The autistic interpreter inherently twists the Scriptures. This would be the interpreter about whom Peter wrote concerning things that Paul wrote “in his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which those who are untaught and unstable distort to their own destruction, as they do also the other Scriptures (2 Pt 3:16). Autistic interpreters always find the Bible hard to understand, and thus, they continually twist the Scriptures. The Bible is difficult for them to understand simply because that which they desire is often not plainly taught in the Scriptures. When one approaches the word of God with the desire to find a solution for his own problems, then certainly he will often read into a passage that which a particular passage may never have stated. The autistic interpreter simply reads into the Bible what he wants to know. He is not objectively reading the Bible in order to discover solutions for his situation.   He comes to the Bible with preconceived conclusions without allowing the Bible to reveal God’s conclusions. He speaks for the Bible instead of allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

When a particular statement of Scripture is pointed out that contradicts the beliefs of the autistic interpreter, he will often respond to the one who points out the correct understanding, by saying, “Are you saying ….” The autistic interpreter seeks to dodge what he wants a scripture to state by assuming that the correct teaching of the scripture has originated from the one who pointed out the inconsistent interpretation. It is very difficult for the autistic interpreter to allow the Bible to mean what it says and say what it means. His first source of authority for what the Bible says is his own self-seeking beliefs and desires.

 III.  Traditional authority:

We seek to show our respect for our fathers by keeping the traditions of their faith. This is only natural. In fact, the authority of the traditions of our fathers is almost always stronger in our faith than any mandates of the word of God. This is certainly true when those of any religious persuasion stop studying their Bibles. Or, it is true when the adherents of a particular religion turn their knowledge of the Bible over to the clergy of the group whom they have programmed through seminary training to maintain the traditions of the fathers.

This was the problem that the disciples of Jesus encountered with the religious leaders of the Jews. On one occasion, the Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus, complaining, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders …” (Mk 7:5). What the disciples had failed to do was wash their hands before they ate. Jesus used the occasion to judge the authority of the religious leaders’ beliefs and behavior. He first identified the authority of their religion by saying, “In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men (Mk 7:7).   The problem with teaching “as doctrines the commandments of men” is that the doctrines of men almost always override the doctrines of God. Listen to what Jesus said: “For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men …” (Mk 7:8). This system of religious authority does not stop with the binding of the authority of the fathers. Jesus continued, “All too well you reject the commandment of God so that you may keep your own tradition (Mk 7:9).

The Jewish religious leaders manifested their disrespect for the word of God by elevating the religious traditions of their fathers over the word of God. The traditions became doctrine, and then the doctrine of men led them to reject the commandment of God. It was at this time in their digression from the authority of the word of God that Paul referred to their faith as the “Jew’s religion,” (Judaism) a religion in which he excelled before he came to Jesus (See Gl 1:13,14). When men allow the traditions of the fathers to become the doctrines of men, then they can no longer claim that they are of Christianity, for the validation of their faith is not the word of Christ, but the word of the fathers.

 IV.  Apostolic succession authority:

 This source of authority supposes that Jesus gave personal authority to the apostles, particularly Peter. This personal authority was then passed on from the apostles to those the apostles personally chose. These chosen men personally passed on the authority from generation to generation through the ordained officials of the church. The church, and the officials thereof, became the authority for belief and behavior of the members.

The supposed authority that was given to the apostles by Jesus was passed on to their successors, and eventually, it has arrived in our day as the authority of the church. This is a similar principle of religious authority as the preceding point, wherein the religious leaders of the Jews established authority according to the traditions of the fathers. But the added emphasis of apostolic succession authority is that the living officials of the church have the right to establish mandates for the church today.   What the officials of the church teach according to their majority vote, therefore, becomes the official mandate for obedience by the church. This means that the teachings of the church can change throughout history as circumstances and culture change.

The fallacy of the teaching that authority is established by the church lies in the fact that the Bible can never be a final authority. The faith that was once and for all delivered to the saints must change (See Jd 3). Those who promote this teaching suppose that church officials today have a right to change the word of God. In fact, this system of religious authority places the Bible in a time warp wherein its principles are not applicable outside their relevance in the first century. A good example of this is revealed in the change from immersion to sprinkling in reference to the mode of baptism. Cardinal Gibbons, in his book, Faith of Our Fathers, wrote,

For several centuries after the establishment of Christianity, Baptism was usually conferred by immersion; but since the twelfth century the practice of Baptizing by infusion [sprinkling] has prevailed in the Catholic Church, as this manner is attended with less inconvenience than Baptism by immersion.

What happened was that the Catholic Church assumed the authority to change the mode of baptism to sprinkling. And since the officials of the church are supposedly functioning from “authority by succession” from the apostles, then they have the right to change the mandates of the Bible.

Before anyone becomes somewhat irritated with this system of establishing authority, he should look around and make a note of all the traditional practices and particular names of various churches that are commonly accepted among the networks of churches that adhere to common doctrines and names of men. If one sought to change something that is commonly practiced among a particular denomination, the statement could be made, “That is just not the way it has been done.” This too, is a system of allowing the majority of “the church” to have the right to establish authority in matters of belief and behavior.

 V.  Autocratic authority:

This system of establishing authority is centered around either an individual or group of individuals. It is usually oriented around one specific group.   Peter explained in 1 Peter 5 the origin of this system of authority that would arise among the people of God. He exhorted the shepherds not to be “lords over those entrusted to you …” (1 Pt 5:3). This is a system of authority of which Paul spoke to the shepherds of Ephesus during his final visit with them. “Also from your own selves will men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves” (At 20:30).

Individuals who assume authority over a particular group of disciples are behaving autocratically. Such was the autocratic behavior of Diotrephes who loved to be first among the disciples (3 Jn 9). In order to maintain his position of authority, he slandered those whom he thought would be in competition with him (3 Jn 10). In fact, he threatened to excommunicate from the fellowship of the disciples those who would not submit to his authority. Those over whom he had assumed authority, therefore, submitted to his authority in fear of being disfellowshipped from the body. When one rules with autocratic authority, he steals away from the people their total submission to God.

When any system of authority is brought into the church from the world, and bound on the disciples, then the disciples are headed into apostasy, if not already there. Since religious authority that originates from man is determined by man, then those who submit to such authority are headed in the direction to which the group of men are going, or in the case of a single person, the people are moving in the direction of that one person. Notice that this was behind the words of Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 11:1 when he was speaking to a group of disciples who had allowed themselves to be brought under the influence of some arrogant leaders: “Be imitators of me even as I also am of Christ.”

The fact that we do not call ourselves Paulites today proves that Paul was successful in directing the minds of the disciples in the direction of Jesus Christ. We know numerous churches today who are called after the man who originated the group. Some even identify a particular group to be, for example, “Pastor John’s church.”   But when preachers allow others to call themselves after them, then they have failed to be leaders for Jesus.

We must keep in mind that when men start following the authority of men, then the followers are on their way away from God.   It was for this reason that Jesus mandated one very important principle when it came to establishing the leadership of His disciples. We respect the word of Jesus because we do not overlook this point.

You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them. And their great ones exercise authority over them. But it will not be so among you (Mk 10:42,43).

December 8: Seeking To Be “Biblical”


 Have you ever heard the statement, “We must be biblical”? Or maybe you have stated, “That is not biblical.” These are common statements that are made in reference to our efforts to be obedient, or lack of obedience, to the word of God. But these statements can often reveal a great misunderstanding, if not, inconsistency on the part of the one who makes them. For instance, we seek to establish the authority of God in our lives by doing what we believe God requires of us. But in our zeal, we often misunderstand the authority of God in our lives by developing our own conclusions to what is “biblical.” By stating that we are “biblical” in doing what we believe God requires of us to do in obedience to His word, we are often revealing inconsistencies on our part in our judgment of others who also claim that they are “biblical.”

In being “biblical” it is assumed that we are “doing Bible things in Bible ways.” But in the realm of our obedience to the word of God, doing Bible things in Bible ways sometimes leads us into being somewhat inconsistent, if not ignorant of the freedom by which God expects us to have in reference to our obedience to the principles of His will. A legalist may try to convince himself that he is being “biblical” by attaching a supposed prooftext to everything he does. But the reality of his response to the word of God reveals something very different. What does he do religiously when he has no prooftext? His legalistic approach to obedience leads him into all sorts of contradictions, if not hypocritical behavior in reference to his claim to be “biblical.” For example, one might claim to be “biblical” in reference to using a songbook to carry out the mandate to sing and make melody in one’s heart (Ep 5:1). The singing from the songbook is “biblical,” but the use of the songbook is nowhere found in the Bible, and thus, there is no prooftext. We are doing something “biblical” by using something that is “unbiblical.”

Another example may help. Suppose we seek to build for ourselves a building in which to assemble. The assembly of the saints is certainly “biblical,” for we read about such in the Bible (Hb 10:24,25).   But the building of a facility for assembly is nowhere found in the Bible, and thus, the building of such an edifice would be “unbiblical” according to legal thinking. There would be no Bible verse to build a church building to carry out the mandate to assemble. And so for the legalist who needs his prooftexts in order to be “biblical,” he is stuck with a theological inconsistency, if not hypocrisy, if he accuses others for not being “biblical” in the absence of prooftexts.

So do Christians have the freedom to use “unbiblical” songbooks to sing and “unbiblical” facilities for assembly?   Certainly. Doing such is in the realm of freedom, regardless of the lack of “prooftexts” for doing such. Christians have the freedom to do that which is “biblical” in principle by using   “unbiblical” things or means in order to carry out the “biblical” principles. Simply because either songbooks or church buildings are not mentioned in the Bible does not make them “unbiblical.” Since there is silence in the Scriptures concerning both, then we correctly conclude that Christians can work in the area of freedom to use both, and yet be in obedience to the word and will of God. Silence of the Scriptures on many things allows freedom, not condemnation.

We would suggest, therefore, that one be very careful about condemning something with which he may not agree on the basis of it being “unbiblical.” If one does, he will find himself playing the part of a hypocrite. Upon close examination, he will be found to be doing several religious things in his own life for which he has no “biblical” authority.   In his “unbiblical” behavior he will be found to be a judge and lawgiver of those he believes are doing “unbiblical” things or methods according to what he judges to be “biblical.” However, he himself would be judged “unbiblical” by his own standards by which he judges others. And because he makes arbitrary judgments, he will be the one who causes division over differences that he has made matters of faith. Simply because someone does something religiously that is not found in the Bible does not mean that he is “unbiblical.”

Simply because someone does something traditionally, does not mean he is “unbiblical” if he has no prooftext for his traditional way of doing something religiously. We can count numerous things we do traiditionally for which we have no prooftext. Are we “unbiblical” to do things traditionally for which we do not have a Bible verse? Certainly not! As long as we do not bind as law that which we do traditionally, then we can carry on with our traditions, for we are all humanly traditional in almost everything we do.

December 7: Bible Obsession Verses Itching Ears


 We need only one exhortation from Jesus to be obsessively focused on study of His word. This exhortation came immediately before His departure from this world, and in prophecy of the consummation of national Israel. Jesus warned His disciples, Take heed that no one deceives you (Mt 24:4).   The reason for this warning is obvious.   “For there will arise false christs and false prophets. And they will show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (Mt 24:24). The “elect” is all of us. We are Bible students because we do not want to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men in cleverness to the deceitfulness of error” (Ep 4:14).

I.  Prevalent deception:

We live in a world where “Satan masquerades himself as a messenger of light” (2 Co 11:14). This statement of Paul is as true today as it was when he first wrote it to all the disciples in Achaia. There are all sorts of self-entitled religionists who are going forth with little or no knowledge of the word of God. And because of their charismatic personalities and gift of smooth and fair speech, they are able to speak perverse “things to draw away the disciples after themselves” (At 20:30). This is the present world of Christendom. In Ghana there is the pastor who sells his wizardry. In Haiti there are “Christian” witches who practice sorcery. There are “money-for-miracles” masqueraders going about seeking profit for preaching. They are no different than Demetrius, the silversmith, who, with those in the same business, made their money by making idols to Artemis (At 19:24). But when the truth of God’s word was preached in Ephesus, the religious stock market crashed. So Demetrius called those of his idol-making trade together and complained, “Sirs, you know that by this craft [of making idols] we have our wealth” (At 19:25). The “money-for-miracles” preachers would say the same if the Holy Spirit were here today to pronounce the same over the miracle masqueraders of today. Nothing has changed as the ignorant and innocent desperately seek some hope in their world of despair.

But we would be Bible students in order to identify those who preach truth and those who are pompous religionists as Simon the sorcerer. He was one who “practiced magic and astonished the people of Samaria, claiming that he was someone great” (At 8:9). Such is the great temptation of so many who would stand before the people and proclaim to be somewhat. And when such men present themselves as kings dressed in pastoral robes, the people “from the least to the greatest” give heed to such presumptuous masqueraders, claiming, “This man is the great power of God” (At 8:9,10).

Nothing has changed since Philip walked into Samaria and Paul stepped into Ephesus. Because the people are ignorant of the word of God, there is no lack for fertile soil for false teaching and marvelous signs and wonders to be believed as supernatural works of God. So we continually remind ourselves of the precious words of Jesus, Take heed that no one deceives you (Mt 24:4). There is absolutely only one guarantee that one not be deceived. It is his knowledge of and obedience to the word of God.

 II.  Made for deception:

 The inherent curse of a free-moral individual is the freedom to choose all sorts of nonsense. God knew that for His justice to stand without accusation in the condemnation of the wicked, He had to give man the freedom to make decisions. In this way, every person who will stand condemned in judgment can blame only himself, for he alone made a choice to rebel against God. God gives the law, but men can make a free-moral decision to ignore His law, or simply be ignorant thereof. Because God knew that it was not within man to make his own laws for correct moral living, He not only gave man law, but He also gave man the opportunity to rebel.

We rebel by creating a god in our minds who will condone our rebellion. We create a god for whom we can make laws, which laws justify our moral degradation.   God knew this would happen. And because He knew that this was within the nature of a free-moral being, He placed signposts of warning throughout His word that those who love Him should be reminded that they must not follow after that which they can create in rebellion against Him. He was serious with Israel. He warned,

 If there is found among you … anyone who does wickedness … and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them … then you will bring forth to your gates that man or that woman who has committed that wicked thing, even that man or that woman, and you will stone them with stones until they die (Dt 17:2-5).

God ruled that “there will not be found among you anyone who … uses divination or an observer of times or an enchanter or a witch, or one who casts a spell or a medium or a spiritist or one who consults the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord” (Dt 18:10-12). How is it that we can read these strikingly clear warnings, and at the same time, allow ourselves to believe in such imaginations as Christians?   Is it because we have so little knowledge of the word of God that we cannot determine what is truth and what is a lie? And because we have been so cleverly deceived, we must judge ourselves to be those about whom Paul wrote.

For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables (2 Tm 4:3,4).

When one hears of a supposed resurrection of one from the dead, and believes it, he has itching ears. When one hears rumors of demons, and believes it, it has itching ears. When one hears of those to whom he can possibly go for miracles, and believes it by making the trip, he has itching ears.

Why cannot we simply obey what God commanded Israel: “Do not turn to mediums or spiritualists. Do not seek them out to be defiled by them (Lv 19:31).   If one would be so inclined to follow after those things about which he knows nothing, or has those itching ears to be convinced to believe in that which is not real, then he should read again Leviticus 20:6:

And the soul who turns to mediums and to spiritists, or plays the harlot after them, I will even set My face against that soul and will cut him off from among his people (See Lv 20:27).

We would assume that if one seeks to be a Christian in belief and behavior, he will make every effort not to be led astray by the supposed prophets who masquerade to be pastors for God. At least God asked that if one would claim to be one of His children, then certainly that person should not be seeking those who would lead them astray from the word of God. Isaiah wrote,

And when they will say to you, “Consult those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people consult their God?   Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? (Is 8:19).

And we would ask, Should not a Christian consult the word of God and not those who would lead them astray after the desires of their itching ears? We know we are in difficult times when people follow their itching ears rather than seek out the word of God and read.

So why are we so obsessed with the Bible? The answer is obvious. It is our only hope of finding our way through the quagmire of religious confusion that is so prevalent in our world today. If we are not so obsessed, then certainly we have become fertile soil for those who masquerade themselves as messengers of light. We have set ourselves up to be deceived. We must keep in mind that itching ears are always looking for something outside the word of God. In fact, “itching ear” people are never satisfied with the Bible alone as a foundation for their faith.

December 6: Gone Astray From His Word


 One of the most scary passages for any civilization is Hosea 4:6. Movies are made about giant meteorites headed toward earth that would destroy all life on earth. But when the destructive force of moral degradation hits civilization, life as we know it ceases to exist. Hosea 4:6 was a statement by God concerning a people who had given up a knowledge of their Bibles. And because they had become ignorant of the word of God, they had assigned themselves to national doom.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I will also reject you so that you will be no priest to Me. Seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.

Destruction often comes slowly … without notice and without pain. Our present generation may be fine, but the statement says that the “children” will pay the price. The children will be doomed to eat the sour grapes from the vines that their father’s planted. “In those days they will no longer say, ‘The fathers have eaten a sour grape and the children’s teeth are set on edge.’ But everyone will die for his own iniquity. Every man who eats the sour grape, his teeth will be set on edge (Jr 31:29,30). If the father’s forget the law of God, they will give their children sour grapes to eat.   And so here we are in a worldwide Christendom that has little or no knowledge of the word of God. There are billions of religionists throughout the world, but few Christians.

If you think we are prophets of doom, then we would challenge you with some sociological norms that you must consider.   Our work is among the masses of religionists in the developing world. Our frustration is that among the religious leaders of many churches, there is little Bible knowledge. We are not talking about novice believers, but about those who are standing before church groups throughout the world pretending to be ministers of the word of God.   These preachers are often shallow students of the Bible, and subsequently, shallow teachers of the Bible.   In the context of their little knowledge of the word of Christ, one might ask why such people would be preaching to groups who seek to be “Christian” when actually they are not preaching the word of God. The answer is that they are great speakers, and being great speakers is their curse. A great speaker needs no knowledge of the Bible in order to gather a crowd. The people follow the speaker’s great oratory, but not the word of God. And thus, those who are gathered before such speakers are usually not there because they want to hear the word of God. They have come to be tossed to and fro by every wind of teaching that comes forth from a gifted speaker. In many churches today, many people follow speakers, not teachers of the word of God.

Because there are so many gifted speakers who know little Bible, there are audiences throughout the world who are being destroyed for the lack of knowledge of the word of God. The result is that we live in a world of churches that are not based on obedience to the word of God, but on a social fellowship wherein lonely wanderers have found religious friends. What sparks one’s religiosity will define who he is in his relationship with God. If something of this world draws us to assemble with one another, then our assembly is not the serendipity of being drawn to Christ. We have thus missed the focus of what Jesus said, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Me (Jn 12:32).

In the absence of a focus on the word of Christ, another catalyst is being used to draw and retain audiences. We have heard more than one prospective preacher say, “I wanted to start a church, and thus, I knew that I needed to learn how to play an instrument.” So in the absence of people being drawn to assemblies wherein the word of Christ is the drawing power, audiences are developed around the sound of orchestras or bands. Many assemblies, therefore, have become religious concerts of noise, during which it is no longer sung, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him.”   Assemblies are moved to cry out “Lord, Lord.” The people are drawn to the assembly by the sound of mechanical noise, not the preaching of the word of God.   The appeal for assembly is to our ears.   It is not to our hearts. We seek to assemble in order to be comforted by the word of God. Nevertheless, there are too many of those to whom Jesus would say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21). One cannot claim that he is doing the will of the Father if he is drawn into assembly by the noises of men and not the word of the Father.

In the Qur’an, Muhammad wrote of the “people of the book.” To many Christians today, they have no idea to whom he was referring. If Muhammad were living today, he would probably never make such a statement concerning many Christians. He would probably write, “people of the assembly,” or “people of their cellphones,” or maybe, “people of their concerts.” But by the seventh century when he had the Qur’an written, Christians were still known to be “people of the ‘Bible.’” His statement was a testimony of the identity of Christians. They were “people of the book.”

Because Muhammad realized that a “book” must be the center of authority in any religion, he also needed a book for his beliefs. And today, “Christians” who are no longer of “the book” cannot understand why Muslims are so reverent to their book, the Qur’an. Muhammad made sure that Muslims not be drawn away unto other books. He thus instilled within his theology an iconic worship of his book, the Qur’an. Christians today cannot understand why religious/political organizations can assemble such a radical group as ISIS around the Qur’an in order to promote their national agenda. Since most Christians have long lost their respect for and obedience to “the book,” they wonder why any religious group can be so committed to the writings of “a book.” Since the masses of Christendom have given up any reliance on “the book,” they wonder why any religious people could be so dedicated to a book of words. We are often more dedicated to the sound of instruments than the reading of the Scriptures. We have gone astray further than we think.

So you might think that we are somewhat off course in our judgment of present dangers of planting vines that will set the teeth of our children on edge. Therefore, we would challenge you to walk into a classroom wherein a teacher is conducting a Bible class, especially in a classroom wherein there are assembled a young generation. Count the Bibles of paper and ink, and then count the cellphones and Ipads on which people are following an electronic version of the Bible. There will probably be more electronic Bibles than paper Bibles. There is nothing wrong with this. After all, did not Paul exhort Timothy, “Give heed to reading” (1 Tm 4:13). But we wonder if this is the only time the attendees have read their Bibles throughout the week?

We recently attended an assembly of a particular religious group in our area. It was the first time we had ever visited this particular religious group. But something impressed us about the people.   It was not that almost everyone in the group was gray-headed, for it was an assembly of older people who continue to be faithful to their beliefs. What impressed us was that they had open Bible study, during which everyone had their Bible opened and were going through a chosen text verse by verse.   This was a group that desired to stay on course with God because they sought to stay close to the road map of His word.

Our argument is that when one is a Bible student in his home, he seeks to use paper and ink, not exclusively electronics.   People are moving away from personal Bible study with personal Bibles. And there is a vast difference between Bible reading and Bible study.   If one does not know the difference, then herein is the problem. We have moved from a generation where every attendee at a Bible class was a Bible scholar with a marked personal Bible, being directed by a teacher who was also a Bible scholar. Now the classroom is filled with Bible readers who have not opened (sorry, “turned on”) their Bibles for a week. We are in the slow process of turning from a respect for the Bible. If you do not believe this, then when was the last time that you memorized a Bible verse?

In a Christendom wherein people are only “cellphone students” of the Bible, we have found it incredibly hard to encourage people to print and distribute Bibles for the world. The First World has long forgotten that it is the business of the church to get the word of God spread throughout the world, and thus, it is one of the prime objectives of the church to print “the Book” wherein is the message of the gospel. It is ironic that those who once built their heritage on the basis of Bible authority in all matters of faith now feel little compulsion to print the Bible for others to build their faith.

We have gone further away from our Bible heritage than we think. Military general Robert E. Lee of nineteenth century American history once said of one of the spiritual fathers of early America,

If I were asked to select a representative of the human race to the inhabitants of other spheres in our universe, of all men I have known, I would select Alexander Campbell, then I know they would have a high impression of what our humanity is like.

In fact, a former nineteenth century president of the United States once said of Campbell, “He was the ablest and most original and powerful expounder of the Scripture I have ever known.”

Campbell was from Ireland, and later immigrated to America. The son of Thomas Campbell, Alexander became a model religious leader because of his devotion to the word of God. His spiritual lineage was from the Seceder Presbyterians who required that each family have daily Bible classes in their homes. The children were required to memorize passages of Scripture everyday that were to be quoted in the nightly family Bible class. All the memorized scriptures during the week were to be repeated on Sunday. In Campbell’s spiritual legacy, he once wrote in gratitude for his father and mother,

To my mother, as well as my father, I am indebted for having memorized in early life almost all the writings of King Solomon, his Proverbs, his Ecclesiastes, and many psalms of his father David.

The religious heritage of America was built on people as this. It seems almost strange for us today to believe that our forefathers had this great respect for the word of God, when we ourselves are so far away from the Bible being the central focus of our lives. If Hosea were here today, would he pronounce over our generation God’s judgement of 4:6,Seeing you have forgotten the law of your God, I will also forget your children.”

The problem, or danger, with spiritual apostasy is that one never realizes where he is if he has forsaken “the book” of the One to whom he has supposedly given allegiance. Apostasy is rarely recognized by apostates. In fact, it can never be recognized if there is no reverence for the word of God. After one forgets “the book,” then the spiritual fervor of the individual must substitute other “spiritual placebos” in order to maintain some sort of religiosity.   Ask any idolater and he will explain this. He will explain that when carvings of gods that we have created after our own imagination replace cravings for “the book” of the One who created all things, then we have satisfied ourselves and become content in our religion. Add a paid clergy to this religion and we are doomed to no return, for the clergy seeks to guarantee the existence of the constituency for the sake of a salary. See if you can see this in the following words of “the book”?

For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires. And they will turn away their ears from the truth and will be turned to fables (2 Tm 4:3,4).

Apostasy from the word of God will go to the extreme of what one young man called us up on the telephone and asked concerning some of our writings. He asked, “What is apostasy?” If one does not realize what it is, then he does not know that he is there.   We live in an age wherein there is more discussion going around about the latest “share” on Facebook, than the spiritual fruit that one has gained from hours of Bible study. If some people would spend as much time in their Bibles as in their Facebook, we would experience a worldwide spiritual revival.

December 5: “Burn The Book”


 King Josiah was a restorationist king of Judah. He was only eight years old when he began to reign in Jerusalem (2 Kg 22:1). “And he did that which was right in the sight of the Lord” (2 Kg 22:2). In the eighteenth year of his reign, the book of the law of God was found during some reconstruction work on the temple. The message of the book was one of doom if Judah continued on its present moral course of rebellion against the law of God. The words of the book struck the young Josiah so deep in his heart that he set Judah on a radical course of national restoration to the word of God (2 Kg 23). It was a restoration so radical that all places of worship to pagan gods were destroyed throughout the land. This all transpired because one leader responded to the power of the written word of God. Unfortunately, this radical restoration through repentance because of a reading of a “Bible” was not passed on to Josiah’s son, Jehoiakim.

 I.  Burning the Bible:

Jehoiakim did not respond to the written word of God as his father. At the beginning of his reign, God instructed Jeremiah, “Take a scroll and write on it all the words that I have spoken to you concerning Israel and concerning Judah …” (Jr 36:2). Jeremiah subsequently called Baruch, his scribe, and he “wrote all the words of the Lord” (Jr 36:4). Jeremiah then instructed Baruch to go to Jehoiakim and “read from the scroll that you have written from my mouth, the words of the Lord in the ears of the people in the Lord’s house on the day of fasting. And you will also read them in the ears of all Judah who come out of their cities” (Jr 36:6). Baruch was to do this because “great is the anger and the fury that the Lord has pronounced against this people” (Jr 36:7).

Everything went well with the reading of the words that Jeremiah wrote, until the matter came to the king’s court. The king’s men had enough sense to fear when they heard the reading of the words of the scroll (Jr 36:16). They then instructed Baruch that he and Jeremiah should go and hide themselves, for they knew what the reaction would be from the king when the scroll (“the Bible”) was read to him. And they were right. “So it came to pass when Jehudi had read three or four columns [of the scroll], he [Jehoiakim] cut it with a penknife and cast it into the fire that was on the hearth, until all the scroll was consumed in the fire that was on the hearth” (Jr 36:23). Why this response to the reading of the word of God? “Yet the king and all his servants who heard all these words were not afraid, nor did they tear their garments” (Jr 36:24).

When people in sin read of the eternal destruction that will eventually come upon them, but do not fear, then they are beyond response. They react with rage.   When there is no longer any fear generated in the hearts of men to what the Bible says, then we know that people are long past restoration to obedience of their Creator. We live in such a world today. The reason why so few people study their Bibles today lies in either one or more of the following truths: (1) They are so traditionally set in the ways of their own religiosity that they are afraid to discover that their religious traditions might be contrary to the word of God. (2) They are traditionally set in their own behavior that is contrary to the word of God, and thus, do not want to change their ways. (3) They have handed their brains over to a religious leader who knows little or nothing about the Bible, but with a gifted tongue of smooth and fair speech is able to charismatically lead them astray through his crafty speaking.   In the case of Jehoiakim, it may have been all the preceding. But whatever the case with any individual, one can know if he has any respect for the word of God by the level of fear that is in his heart when he reads his Bible.

 II.  Obedience to the word of God:

As time progressed after Israel appointed her first kings, the kings themselves led the people into a disrespect for the word of God. As these kings began to trust in their own power, they trusted less in the power of God. Uzziah was such a king. “When he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his own destruction, for he transgressed against the Lord his God …” (2 Ch 27:16).

When religious leaders start trusting in their own skills, their hearts are often lifted up against God. We have witnessed that those preachers who are blessed with a gift to speak often start trusting in their ability to persuade people with their words, rather than with the word of God. We live in a time wherein there are thousands of churches that are built around some gifted speaker or personality to whom everyone has given their allegiance. People come before the altar, not to hear the word of God, but to have their hearts excited by a cheerleading preacher, who, in ignorance of the word of God, has the ability to exhort the people with his own words.

When Uzziah lifted his heart up against God, he did that which was contrary to the word of God. He went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense” (2 Ch 27:16). But Azariah the priest went in after him, “with eighty priests of the Lord who were valiant men” (2 Ch 27:17). What Uzziah was doing was that which only the priests could do according to the law of God. But at this point in Uzziah’s arrogance, he cared nothing for the law of God.   Azariah said to Uzziah, “It is not for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord, but for the priests the sons of Aaron who are consecrated to burn incense” (2 Ch 27:18). Then Azariah rebuked Uzziah by saying, “Go out of the sanctuary, for you have trespassed. You will have no honor from the Lord God (2 Ch 27:18).

In his arrogance, Uzziah “was angry with the priests” (2 Ch 27:19). But then God stepped in and took control of the matter. As a result, “the leprosy broke out on his [Uzziah’s] forehead before the priests in the house of the Lord, from beside the incense altar” (2 Ch 27:19). Then the priests threw him out from there. And he himself also hastened to get out because the Lord had smitten him” (2 Ch 27:20). Because of his disrespect for the law of God, Uzziah “was a leper to the day of his death” (2 Ch 27:21). We can learn a great lesson from the rebellion of Uzziah. The lesson is that God is serious about us keeping His law.   We often deceive ourselves into believing that a little rebellion will be overlooked through the grace of God.   But in Uzziah’s case, God intends that we follow His law. God seeks obedience, for it is through obedience to His will that we manifest that we are His children.

When religious leaders allow themselves to become ignorant of the word of God, they will sin. The point is this: If one would assume to be a spiritual leader for the people of God, then he must be a student of the word of God. He cannot lead people to follow God if he does not know where God wants His people to go. Willfully ignorant leaders of God’s children will lead them to destruction. The scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders of Israel, were judged by Jesus to be such leaders. Jesus said of them, “They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the ditch” (Mt 15:14). Religious leaders who do not study their Bibles manifest their arrogance and rebellion against God. They know they should be Bible students for the sake of the people they lead. But because they, as Uzziah, trust in the strength of their own abilities, they are rebellious against the word of God by leading them to be ignorant of their Bibles. When the blind lead the blind, the ditch is their destiny.

We must not think that the followers of misguided religionists will sidestep the ditch of destruction because they were innocently led astray by the biblically ignorant. Jesus said that the followers will also fall into the ditch of destruction because they did not seek after those who were preachers of the Bible, nor did they study of their Bibles.   They allowed themselves to be “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching, by the trickery of men in cleverness to the deceitfulness of error” (Ep 4:14).   The time is always present when the audience “will not endure sound teaching. But to suit their itching ears, they will surround themselves with teachers who will agree with their own desires” (2 Tm 4:3). Those who preach in ignorance of the word of God will be judged for their failure to preach the truth of God’s word. Those who listen to preaching that is not the word of God will be judged because they did not seek the word of God. Both have burned their Bibles, for they have no thirst for what God seeks to reveal. There are more ways to burn a Bible than by throwing it into fiery flames. An unread Bible is as worthless to the owner as a Bible in ashes.

December 4: The Lord Shepherds Us With His Word


 Psalm 23 would be the appropriate introduction to a study of this subject. David began the psalm by stating that the Lord is my shepherd.” Jesus explained, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11). The Lord is not only our good shepherd, He is our great shepherd. He is “that great Shepherd of the sheep” (Hb 13:20). He is great, and thus, the Chief Shepherd we seek. “When the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive a crown of glory that does not fade away” (1 Pt 5:4). It is this Shepherd about whom Isaiah spoke: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd. He will gather the lambs with His arm and carry them in His bosom.   And He will gently lead those who are with young” (Is 40:11). What better picture could have been painted to illustrate God’s leading and feeding of His sheep through His word?

The Lord makes me to lie down in green pastures,” therefore, we will have no lack of rest (Ps 23:2). In Him we find that grassy oasis in the middle of a desert. Our souls desire rest, but not laziness. We seek tranquility from the struggles of this life, but not escape into isolation.   “There remains, therefore, a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered into His rest has also ceased from his own works, as God did from His. Therefore, let us labor to enter into that rest lest anyone fall …” (Hb 4:9-11). Our final rest will come when He comes. It will be as John wrote, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on, ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, so that they may rest from their labors, for their works follow them” (Rv 14:13). But until that time of His coming, or the end of life’s journey, we must remember the words of Paul, “And the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (Ph 4:7). This is the emotional oasis that Jesus promised.

Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be afraid (Jn 14:27).

He leads us beside the still waters,” therefore, we will not lack the direction from His counsel (Ps 23:2).   God gives us tranquility in the midst of the white waters of a rushing river. He takes us through the tension of the rapids in order to bring us to quiet waters of peace. It is from these quiet waters that we, as His sheep, peacefully drink of the refreshing taste of His word.

 He restores my soul,” therefore, we will never lack His forgiveness to bring us back when we stray (Ps 23:3). He revives the fainthearted.   He brings times of refreshing to the repentant (At 3:19). When we are lost, we find our way back to Him through the guidance of His inspired Road Map.

He leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake,” therefore, we will never lack His guidance as long as we trust in His guiding word (Ps 23:4). Without a guiding word from our Shepherd, we as His sheep would be tossed from one pasture of error to another. For this reason, the word of God is ministered to the sheep that they “no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of teaching …” (Ep 4:14). Our guard from being tossed to and fro by the twisted doctrines of crafty men is to walk in the light of God’s word. And “if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7). Therefore, “as newborn babes” we crave the sincere milk of the word so that we may grow up to the salvation that is in His presence (1 Pt 2:2).

And though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death,” we can always know that He is there for us (Ps 23:4). We will go forth in our Christ-commanded mission with strength, for we know that He is with us always (Mt 28:20). We can remember the words of Isaiah,

 “Do not fear, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of My righteousness (Is 41:10).

Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me,” therefore, we will never lack direction through His word because through His correction we are led to and on the right path (Ps 23:4).   His word is the rod of defense and the staff of help. It is as Jude wrote,

Now to Him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the Only God and Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord … (Jd 24,25).

He prepares a table before me in the presence of my enemies,” therefore, we will never lack security and a sense of assurance (Ps 23:5). There is a great deal of conflict in this world to make us afraid, but there is more in a faith that is founded upon the word of God to make us unafraid. So in order to be free from the fear that the world presents, we must fear God more than anything of this world. This would even include our fear of death. Jesus will come to deliver “those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hb 2:15).   With this promise, we can face the fear of death, for we know through the revelation of God’s word that we will be raised to walked in a new existence (See 1 Th 4:13-18). We grow in His promises of eternal life to the point that we can follow the example of Paul when he spoke to those who feared for his safety, “What do you mean by weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus (At 21:13).

He anoints my head with oil,” therefore, we will never be far away from the joy of His comfort (Ps 23:5). My cup overflows,” and thus, His blessings are showered upon us without measure (Ps 23:5).   We have been anointed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. So “blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Ep 1:3). Through obedience to the word of God we have come into a covenant relationship with the One who can do that for us which is far beyond what we can fully understand. Paul was right: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us …” (Ep 3:20).

 Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life,” therefore, we will not live outside His presence, nor fail to be sustained on our journey of this life (Ps 23:6). And finally, I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever because we have faithfully walked according to the guidance of His word (Ps 23:6). A life with Christ is a life with an endless hope. But without Christ, there is only a hopeless end. Our conclusion would be as Peter wrote:

For he who would love life and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips that they speak no deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil (1 Pt 3:10-12).

Someone once beautifully explained Psalm 23 in the following unique manner:

Possession: The Lord is my shepherd.

Provision: I will lack nothing.

Position: He makes me to lie down in green pastures.

Progress: He leads me beside the still waters.

Personal: He restores my soul.

Progression: He leads me in the paths of righteousness.

Purpose: For His name’s sake.

Parting: Yes, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.

Peace: I will fear no evil.

Protection: For You are with me.

Pilgrimage: Your rod and Your staff they comfort me.

Participation: You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.

Preparation: You anoint my head with oil.

Plenty: My cup overflows.

Preservation: Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life.

Place: I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.


(Tomorrow’s lecture:  “Burn the Book”)

November 23: Lectureship Introduction


– Respect For And Obedience To The Word Of God –

December 4 – 13

 We live in a worldwide religious culture wherein people have become very timid about confronting one another over differences in religious beliefs. This avoidance of conflict over matters of faith has become so acute that there has arisen within the religious world a hesitance of teaching any Bible subjects that might be controversial. Some have gone so far as to terminate any preaching of Bible subjects that they would judge to be “doctrine.” For this reason, there has arisen a flood of “psychology preachers” who preach only “feel-good” lessons in order not to offend anyone who might be a possible adherent to the church for which the preacher receives his salary. Their psychology lessons could just as well be presented in the local psychiatric ward wherein the patients would be mentally soothed to live another day.   But to pass off such to be “preaching the word of God” is to masquerade oneself as a preacher of the word of God.

Preaching that avoids truth that is revealed in the Bible is not preaching. It is religious lecturing. What is happening across Christendom is a non-convicting “faith” that is void of the word of God. Emphasis on truth that comes to us through the Bible seems to be something of the past, for those who seek to build great assemblies focus more on the “ear tickling” speeches of those who are skilled in rhetoric, but less in the word of God.   The pews of big churches are thus packed with “ear ticklers” who would run away from their church if the preacher started preaching from a Bible book, chapter and verse that deals with truths that are absolutely necessary to believe and obey in order to be saved.

In our realm of the “developing world,” the curse seems to go beyond the lecturers of smooth and fair lessons. In our world, churches pop up across the continent under the leadership of those who can shout the loudest. No Bible knowledge required. Someone referred to these as “mushroom churches” that spontaneously pop up for the sake of producing a source of income for some “shouter” who presumes to be a representative of the word of God.

In view of this move away from the Bible as our sole source of belief and behavior, we felt it necessary to write this book in view of this move to noncommittal religion that is not based on Bible truth, but the religiosity of men. Those who are of the camp of God’s people, and who are searching the Scriptures, will understand fully our concerns. Though these faithful Bible searchers are few in the world, they are still that group of disciples who love their Bibles, and subsequently, study them every day lest they be deceived by the tidal wave of Bible ignorance that flows contrary to Bible authority in all matters of faith.

We need to be reminded that Christians are who they are because they are “people of the Book.” The Bible is the Christian’s source of life, for only through the Bible do we discover the one true and living God, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, who only has the sacrificial blood to bring us into the eternal presence of God. If you have wandered from this source book of inspiration, then it is our prayer that the following pages will renew your commitment to the word of God.

The existence and survival of our faith depends entirely upon the Bible. Any faith that is based upon any other foundation is simply religious superstition. If one seeks to understand the true and living God apart from the Bible, then he will create a god after his own religious inclinations, a god who will bow to his own will. If we carried out such idolatry of our imaginations, then we would be emotionally wandering people to be pitied by the world of unbelievers. We would be such if it were not for God’s providential work of bringing into our hands a copy of His inspired road map into eternal dwelling.   Therefore, if one would seek to find his way out of the religious quagmire of a religiously misguided world, and into the eternal presence of God, then he must find direction through the word of God. If he does not seek this source for direction, then at the end of his life he will find himself at a destination that is far from that for which he hoped.   Since we all have this spirit of idolatry within us to do it our way and go our own direction, it is imperative that all of us conclude that since God exists, then certainly our way into His eternal presence must be prescribed by Him alone. And since we are often masters at creating a supposed religious reality after our own imaginations, then it is crucial that we seek for guidance into eternity only from Him whose existence can guarantee that for which we so earnestly yearn. We seek to live forever, and thus, we must thirst for that which will lead us into the presence of Him who can grant us eternality. We must seek for God’s message into eternity, which message is revealed through His word. There is no other way.



Lecture 16: Godly Giver

Special Responsibilities

 Since money is an indication of our life, it is a part of our Christian living. We give our time to produce money, and thus, the money is a symbol of our time. When we contribute our money unselfishly, it is the same as giving our time unselfishly to a specific cause or individual. This was Paul’s point in Philippians 4:17 when he stated that the fruit of his labors went to the Philippians because they had supported him once and again when he preached in Thessalonica. They were blessed with the fruit because they did not personally reap from the contribution. Giving to the evangelist in his preaching somewhere in the world was what the Philippians were doing.   They were not supporting a local preacher, or purchasing song books for themselves, or doing building repairs where they would personally benefit. Theirs was unselfish giving for something from which they would not receive personal benefit. We do not say this because it would be wrong to support something from which we receive personal benefit. It is simply a fact that in the New Testament the giving was directed to someone or some famine victims from which the givers did not receive any personally benefit. New Testament giving was always for someone else, not for self. It was as God gave unselfishly to us, we give unselfishly to others.

There are other financial responsibilities where contributors can share their time, and thus reap fruit from their sacrifices.   These opportunities to produce fruit identify the nature of our discipleship, which is to say, they are opportunities to manifest our love. They are also manifestations of the nature of the church of our Lord.

 A.  Enrolled widows:

James identified “pure religion” with the statement, “Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this, to take care of the orphans and widows in their affliction …” (Js 1:27).   Taking care of orphans is simply being a part of the human race. There need be no commandments in reference to this ministry. James’ statement of James 1:27, therefore, is simply a declarative statement, not an imperative. But when it comes to taking care of widows, the Holy Spirit knew that the disciples needed some special instructions in order that their love not be abused by those women who might become Christians just to get on the payroll of the church.

In the early days of the existence of the church, one of the first points of identity of the church was a common distribution to widows. What is interesting to note is that we have this event recorded in the New Testament, not in reference to making this ministry a mandate, but simply as something that Christians did. In the case of Acts 6:1-7 there were some problems with the distribution. But we must keep in mind that as preaching the gospel to the lost was normal for a disciple, so was caring for widows.

But as this behavior of the church progressed throughout the first century, there was some abuse of the sharing love of the disciples in this matter. By the time Paul wrote the first letter to Timothy, the Holy Spirit had to lay down some qualifications for the church’s support of widows. When we study through these qualifications for a widow to be supported, it is interesting to note that the church does not have the responsibility of supporting all widows.

Paul wrote, Honor widows who are truly widows” (1 Tm 5:3). The word “honor” here means to support financially, or to provide for all their needs. By using the word “truly,” Paul was instructing that the church must support only those widows who are defined to be true widows according to the instructions that he was about to give. The word “truly” excludes some widows who are not qualified to be supported according to the limitations that he gives. The church is not obligated to support every Christian widow. The following would be the defining qualifications that would warrant a widow to be supported by the church:


  1. A childless widow: “But if any widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to practice piety at home and to repay their parents, for this is good and acceptable before God” (1 Tm 5:4). But if a Christian widow does not have children or grandchildren, then she must be considered by the church to receive church support.


  1. Spiritually minded: “Now she who is truly a widow and desolate trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Tm 5:5). The widow who is not continuing in supplications and prayers has no right to be supported by the church. If she is “desolate,” and she has no other means of support, then she is eligible for the support of the church. Being “desolate” would be subjective, and thus, the church must make a decision if a widow is truly desolate. If she is living in a mansion that was left to her by her husband, then she probably is not desolate. The church should ask her to sell the mansion, bring down her standard of living, and then she would be considered to be enrolled as a widow to be supported by the church. An older woman is not truly a desolate widow if she has a retirement plan or pension that will service her needs. A Christian widow must always remember what Paul added, “But she who lives in pleasure is dead while she lives” (1 Tm 5:6). The church is under no obligation to support a widow who is spiritually dead and unfaithful to the Lord.


  1. Children first: “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tm 5:8).   The word “household” in the first century context meant more than immediate children. A household included the immediate children, husband and wife, but also servants and relatives. What Paul was instructing in the above statement was that relatives first have the responsibility of taking care of the widows within the household.   This would mean that a Christian family who had employed a Christian servant, has the responsibility of taking care of the widow of a Christian servant. If the head of a household does not take care of the widows of his household, then he is worse than the unbelievers who feel no obligation of taking care of widows. The heads of families cannot obligate the church to do that which is their responsibility. Therefore, if a head of a household is negligent in carrying out this responsibility, then it is the responsibility of the church to approach such a person, for he has denied the faith.


  1. The limitation of sixty: “Let no one be enrolled as a widow who is under sixty years old, having been the wife of one man” (1 Tm 5:9). No widow under sixty can apply for support from the church. If she is sixty and older, then she must have been the wife of one man, and thus not a polygamist. If she was a polygamist, then she was not living a faithful Christian life. It could be argued that she may have been a polygamist before she became a Christian, but remained with one man after her baptism. Thus the phrase, “having been the wife of one man” could apply only to the time she was a faithful Christian. We would assume that this would be the proper interpretation simply because some young woman may have lived a rebellious life in her younger years as an unbeliever, having more than one husband. Such a person may have been as the woman caught in adultery, to whom Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go. From now on sin no more” (Jn 8:11). If this woman went and sinned no more by having only one husband and living a faithful Christian life, then we would conclude that she would be enrolled as a widow when her husband died because she was faithful at the time of her husband’s death.


  1. A reputation for good works: Paul now lists a series of things that the church must follow in order to register a widow to receive support from the church. The prospective enrolled widow must have …

… a reputation for good works; if she has brought up children, if she has shown hospitality to strangers, if she has washed the saints’ feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work (1 Tm 5:10).

From what Paul states here as qualifications for support from the church, we would assume that a problem prevailed where Timothy was located. The problem was probably in the area of widows of the community lining up for support from the only people in town who took care of widows. Since it was the obligation of the church to support widows, the word got out to everyone in the community that the local church puts widows on a pension plan. In all these qualifications, one point is very clear: If a widow has not been a faithful Christian for some time, then she has no right to be supported by the church. In other words, those widows who would seek to be members of the church in order to be supported by the church have no hope of support. The church is under no obligation to take care of any widow who has not become known for being a faithful servant to the saints.

 6.  No young widows need to apply: “But refuse the younger widows …” (1 Tm 5:11). If a widow is under the age of sixty, then she is not to be supported by the church. Because of the temptations that face young widows, Paul said, “I desire that the younger widows marry, bear children, manage the house …” (1 Tm 5:14).   Paul’s qualification of one being a “young widow” would be a woman who still had the ability to bear children.   This would be a young Christian woman who was relatively young, and thus had the opportunity to marry and bear children.

Paul’s final instructions concerning the care of widows is significant. “If any believing man or woman has widows, let them assist them, and do not let the church be burdened, so that it may relieve those who are truly widows” (1 Tm 5:16). A Christian man has the responsibility of taking care of his widowed mother. A younger single Christian woman also has the responsibility of taking care of her widowed mother. If those of the household do not support the widows of the household, then the church would possibly have to neglect those who were truly widows. This is the organic body of Christ functioning properly in order to make sure that every faithful widow is cared for in the fellowship of love.

 B.  Supported elders:

 In reference to the support of elders, Paul wrote, “Let the elders who direct well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching” (1 Tm 5:17).   This statement needs little explanation. “Double honor” refers to double pay. When Paul said in a previous verse of this chapter, “honor widows …,” he meant the same thing as he means here. Reference is to support, not giving respect, though the young are taught to respect their elders. We say this because some have tried to excuse themselves from supporting elders by interpreting Paul’s use of the word “honor” in this text to mean giving great respect. Such would be an inconsistent interpretation, and in being inconsistent, one might neglect his responsibility of supporting worthy elders.

Paul’s instructions to support elders is based on the Old Testament principle, “You will not muzzle the ox that treads out the grain,” and “The laborer is worthy of his wages” (1 Tm 5:18).   Paul explains two worthy works of those elders (shepherds) who should be supported by the church. These are those elders who choose to work in the area of preaching the gospel to the lost and those who seek to teach the saved.   However, he uses the word “especially” to refer to the specific ministries of some elders. In general, the elder is to be supported, but specifically, those who labor in preaching and teaching must be supported if they do not have any other livelihood.

The elder must be supported with “double” wages.   If one truly understands the nature of a godly elder, then he will have no difficulty understanding what is meant in this statement. Godly elders are with the people. And when the people are in need, the elder reaches into his own pockets. A godly elder will never consume upon his own lusts, and thus will always die a poor man. The church has the responsibility of ministering to the poor through the elders who are with the sheep, ministering aid when aid is needed.   Worldly minded and greedy people have no understanding of what is meant in the double pay of elders. And thus, the church should under no circumstances allow the twisted minds of greedy people to discourage the church from obeying the mandate of the Holy Spirit in reference to the double pay of elders.   When elders are ministering in growing the church through the preaching of the gospel, and edifying the converts through teaching the word of God, then they must be encouraged to continue their work through double pay lest they give themselves into poverty.

 C.  Concerning orphans:

Outside the statement of James 1:27, there are no instructions in the New Testament concerning the care of orphans. As previously recognized, there is a great deal of information concerning the support of widows. In the past chapters, we have studied at length the support of evangelists who go forth to preach the gospel. There is also a great deal of information in the New Testament concerning the contribution of funds to those brethren who are suffering from a natural disaster. We have the instructions of the previous point in reference to the support of elders.   But there is nothing about the support of orphans. Nevertheless, James stated that pure religion is identified by people who take care of orphans.

Since there are no instructions concerning orphans, then we can make only one conclusion. Taking care of orphans is simply a natural thing to do as a citizen of the human race. There need be no instructions, no commandments. To turn away from an orphan is to deny the very principle of humanity.

But one might reconsider the context of James 1:27. In this chapter, we have reviewed the church’s responsibility of taking care of widows. However, the church does not have the responsibility of taking care of all widows. Only those widows who have been faithful Christians are to be listed for support. We would not come to this conclusion in reference to orphans, for orphans would have no life history of service that would qualify them for church support as the widows.   We could conclude, therefore, that when James spoke of orphans, he spoke of any orphan. It is simply the responsibility of Christians to do the best they can in taking care of orphans. No qualification is needed on the part of the orphan in order to be supported. Taking care of orphans is a way by which we can determine if we are still citizens of the human race.

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Lecture 15: Godly Giver

Giving With Purpose

 If we could learn anything from the negligent Achaians, specifically those in Corinth, it would be to put our money where our mouth is. They at first had good intentions to do what was right in reference to contributing to the famine victims of Judea. However, their performance certainly lacked. It lacked so much that it took the Holy Spirit, through the inspired mind of the apostle Paul, to correct their financial dysfunction. In His instructions to correct their procrastination, the Holy Spirit gave some points that we must seriously consider in order that we too not fall victim to the same procrastination.

Among all the instructions that were given in the letters of 1 & 2 Corinthians, there are some points that will help us to get on with getting the job done in reference to our contributions. If any of these points are ignored, our contributions and collections for any ministry of the body of Christ will certainly be an indication of our lack of concern for God’s work through the body, or at least our procrastination in doing what we have promised to do.

 A.  Purpose our contribution:

Paul instructed, “Let each one give according as he purposes in his heart …” (2 Co 9:7). Contributing to the work of God is not something that is done nonchalantly. It is determined before the act of giving actually takes place. The Greek word for “purposes” is proaireomai.   This is the only place in the New Testament where this word is used. It seems that the Holy Spirit looked throughout the Greek dictionary in order to choose a specific word to enjoin upon Christians a life-style of intended sacrificial giving. The word means “to prefer,” “to choose,” or “to purpose with considerable intent.”   The passage could be translated, “Let every one give as he has determined before hand.”

The use of the Greek word indicates that one should make a heart-determined plan to make his contributions. When one is purposing in his heart, he is forming his life around his contributions. The contributions, therefore, are the indication of one who has the Lord’s work at heart. When one has given his heart to the Lord, then his offerings are intentional, directed and planned.   There is no sporadic action on his part. On the contrary, with great consideration, he sets aside that which he intends to give. There is no “spur of the moment” contribution with the one who has purposed in his heart.

Because we are to plan beforehand what we intend to give, then purposing our contributions is a sign of faithful discipleship. Making plans as to how we will return to God that which is His is simply the behavioral pattern of a faithful disciple. If one is not giving anything, then certainly his discipleshp of Jesus would be questioned. But in the context of Paul’s instructions concerning planned giving, we might question whether one truly has the heart of a disciple if he is not planning his giving. Disciples plan to give, for they understand that giving is a part of being a disciple of the One who gave us all. As the Father planned to give His Son before the creation of the world, so Christians must plan their giving before the collection is taken by the church.

 B.  Promise the purposed giving.

Paul introduced his instructions on making a purposed contribution with the words, “Therefore, I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren so that they go before to you and make up beforehand your previously promised generous contribution …” (2 Co 9:5). What he was saying to the Corinthians was that they needed to fulfill what they had promised in reference to a special contribution for the famine victims of Judea. For a variety of reasons, they had fudged on their promise. And since he was on his way to them with some of the brethren from Macedonia, Paul was writing in order that they not be embarrassed about making promises and not keeping them (See 2 Co 9:3,4).

The Greek word for “previously promised” in 2 Corinthians 9:5 is prokatangello. The word means “to announce beforehand.” A year before, the disciples of Achaia made a promise to give to the collection that was being made for the famine victims in Judea (2 Co 9:2). They had made a public declaration that they too would give to the need, which promise Paul had announced to other disciples in order to spur them on to likewise contribute. In Paul’s instructions concerning what they had promised, there are a great number of lessons to be learned concerning contributions. Read carefully what he instructed them in 2 Corinthians 8:10,11:

And in this I give advice: For this is advantageous for you who were the first a year ago not only to do, but also to desire to do this thing [contribution]. But now finish doing it so that as there was a readiness to desire it, so there may be also a completion out of what you have.

 Desire without completion means nothing. Talk without the financial walk of what one has promised manifests a lack of integrity. We must commend the Achaians for their desire. But desire means nothing if there is no performance. At least the Achaian disciples were better than the person who makes no commitment at all to give, or the one who says he just cannot afford to make a promise.

The disciple who has given his heart to the Lord, has also given his promise to do the business of the Lord. Before one becomes a disciple, therefore, he must seriously consider how he will purpose in his heart that which he is going to give to the Lord, as well as, make a promise that he will complete his planned giving. Jesus reminds all of us,

 For which one of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it? Otherwise, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all who see it begin to mock him. (Lk 14:28,29).

 C.  Perform the promise:

The Achaians had the desire. They evidently made a promise of giving a substantial amount, for Paul used their promised contribution as an example for the Macedonians (See 2 Co 9:1,2). But now they had to perform, as Paul wrote, But now finish doing it …” (2 Co 8:11).   The Greek word that Paul used here is from the root word epiteleo which means “to bring to completion.”   What Paul was now asking of the Achaians was that they execute that which they had previously purposed and promised a year before.

The contribution about which Paul was writing was a special contribution for a special need. We have discovered that people will often do well in making such contributions. In all their dysfunction as members of the body of Christ, the disciples in Achaia at least responded to the special needs of those who were suffering from a famine in Judea. We cannot fault their desire to help, though their performance somewhat lacked. Nevertheless, they did make the contribution. They purposed in their hearts to get the job done, and with some encouragement from the Holy Spirit through Paul, the deed was done.   If disciples make such promises today, but procrastinate, then the leaders need to be teaching the exhortations of 1 & 2 Corinthians.

We feel it is also significant to mention that when the Achaians made their promise to give the special contribution for the special need of famine victims, they were probably less than five years old in the faith. We mention this because we know of disciples who are decades old in the faith, and yet, they have never been challenged to make a special contribution to a need outside their local area. They have never given to mission efforts outside their local area. They have never given to any disaster relief needs outside their local area. Their contributions have usually been for those things they could personally enjoy.   Consequently, the selfish motive for their contributions has led them to never being blessed for their contributions.   Giving to our “building fund” has its selfish ulterior motives. Giving to increase our comforts in worship is not sacrificial giving.

The Achaians had no New Testaments in their possession to read these instructions as we have today.   We might fault them concerning their delay in performing the deed of unselfish contributions, but we cannot fault them on their response to the instructions of the Holy Spirit to contribute to needs outside their local area, and thus to something that they would not personally enjoy. Now we have no excuse if we have failed to purpose in our hearts to give. We have no excuse because we can simply pick up a New Testament and read the instructions that moved the Corinthians to get the job done. The godly giver seeks to live after the One to whom he has given his life. He reads with interest every instruction concerning that must be done to follow the God who owns everything. There is thus only joy in the heart of the one who seeks to be as Jesus who gave all for us.

Lecture 14: Godly Giver


 When discussing the sin of covetousness, we must review the life of one who lived in total contrast to a covetousness life-style.   Gaius was an unselfish disciple who understood the purpose of discipleship, and thus, through the apostle John’s letter, the Holy Spirit gave him an overwhelming testimony that he was walking in the truth by his well-doing sacrifices to partner with evangelists in the preaching of the gospel to the world.

Romans 10:14 explains the mandate of Gaius’ obedience. This statement of Paul explains the organic function of the body in reference to the financial partnership that members have with those who go forth to preach the gospel. It explains the well-doing of Gaius.

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher?

The sending forth and support of preachers is a function of the body of Christ to take the gospel into all the world. This is what the body does.   When this function is either ignored by the members of the body, as in the case of the Corinthians, or disrupted by dominating leadership, as in the case of Diotrephes, then the body is financially dysfunctional. In the context of John’s letter to Gaius, if this responsibility is ignored by any individual Christian, then that Christian is dysfunctional in reference to his or her responsibilies to send forth preachers to preach the gospel to the lost.   Such was the case with the disciples in the area where Gaius lived. The problem was so grave that Gaius may have been in doubt concerning his financial responsibilities to support preachers. For some reason, he wrote to John concerning one who was disrupting the organic function of the body in reference to what Paul stated in Romans 10:14,15.

John subsequently wrote a comforting letter to Gaius in order to reassure him that what he was doing in supporting evangelists was walking in the truth. “For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in truth (3 Jn 3). In this context, Gaius’ walking in truth was his financial support of the preaching of the gospel. From what John said of Gaius, therefore, we would conclude that one is not walking in the truth unless he is doing that which Gaius was doing in supporting preachers to go forth to preach the gospel.

Supporting traveling evangelists was a faithful work and walk in the truth. “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and especially for strangers” (3 Jn 5). Those who had been helped by Gaius on their journeys reported his faithful work to other disciples wherever they went. The extent of Gaius’ hospitality of those who came by his way is revealed in the fact that some were not formerly known by Gaius. They were strangers to him. But the fact that they were preaching the gospel was reason enough to warrant his support. John commended Gaius, “… who have borne witness of your love before the church” (3 Jn 6).

Gaius’ support of the traveling evangelists was a manifestation of his love, and thus, in John’s statement of 3 John 6, one definition of Christian love is identified to be one’s support of those who go forth to preach the gospel. Gaius’ godliness was revealed in his giving. “You will do well to support them [the preachers] on their journey in a manner worthy of God” (3 Jn 6). In order to be worthy of God, individual Christians as Gaius, should support those who are going forth to preach the gospel. The other side of the situation is also true. If one does not support the preaching of the gospel through the support of preachers who go forth, then he is not worthy of God. He does not know God, for God is love, and love manifests itself in the support of those who go forth to preach the gospel for God’s love of the world through Jesus (Jn 3:16).

The word “support” in 3 John 6 comes from the Greek word propempo. It means to set one forward on his journey with whatever it takes to get the evangelist on to his next location. The word assumes, therefore, that the evangelist is not staying at home. He is gone! He has gone into all the world to preach the gospel. The context of John’s discussion of 3 John is not the passage to be used for those who want to stay at home, and yet be supported according to John’s instructions. There are other passages that teach the church’s responsibility to support their teachers (See Gl 6:6).

In the evangelistic function of the early church, there were evangelists going throughout the world preaching the gospel.   Paul, for example, sought to go on to Spain after he visited the disciples in Rome. When he wrote to the disciples in Rome, he hoped to be supported by them in his travel on to Spain. “… whenever I make my journey into Spain, I hope to see you in my journey and to be supported on my way there by you …” (Rm 15:24).

In 3 John, John explained the reason behind Paul’s statement in Romans 10:14. It is the responsibility of every disciple to do what Gaius was doing in supporting those who would go forth to preach the gospel. In 3 John 7,8, John gives three reasons why each individual member of the body should do this.


  1.   The evangelists went forth to preach Christ. If we would claim to be “of Christ” (Christian), then it is our obligation to support those who preach the One in whom we believe.
  2.   The evangelists did not take contributions from the unbelievers. We should support evangelists in order that they and their families can live, and not bring shame upon the gospel message by living in need of material sustenance (1 Co 9:14).
  3. We must be fellow workers for the truth that the evangelists preach. We join in with those evangelists who go forth by supporting them on their journeys.   We partake of the fruit of their labors when we partner with them through our giving of support (Ph 4:17).

The preceding evangelistic function of the body was disrupted by one man in the vicinity of Gaius. The case here is similar to that in Corinth. There was a group in Corinth who were puffed up and arrogant, and subsequently hindered the Corinthians from supporting Paul, whom they accused of all sorts of nonsense. The same happened with Gaius when Diotrephes, who was puffed up, disrupted the financial function of the body by slandering the evangelists and John with malicious words. One of the evils in which some involve themselves in order not to support a certain preacher is to make slanderous statements to others of the church about the preacher.

The financial disruption caused by Diotrephes was enshrined in one simple statement made by John: “Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not receive us” (3 Jn 9). Diotrephes did not receive and send forth even John, the apostle of love. In his actions to dominate a group, or area of house groups, he disrupted the function of the organic body that was explained by Paul in Romans 10:14,15.   Gaius could not send forth the beautiful feet of those who preached the gospel because Diotrephes wanted to dominate the church, and thus, present himself to be first among the disciples.

John’s letter to Gaius was meant to encourage Gaius during this unfortunate time of financial disruption of his evangelistic outreach through the support of evangelists. “Beloved, do not follow what is evil, but what is good.   He who does good is from God. He who does evil has not seen God” (3 Jn 11).   That which Diotrephes was doing was evil. If Gaius submitted to what Diotrephes was trying to impose on the church, then he would also be doing evil and not walking in truth. The Holy Spirit takes a very dim view of anyone who would disrupt the financial support of those who go forth to preach the gospel.

When any member of the body of Christ disrupts the outreach of the body, then that member is a cancerous evil. His behavior will lead to the death of the body in any particular region where the body is not allowed to preach the gospel.   If the other members of the body allow a dominant member to disrupt the evangelistic outreach of the body, then they have fallen victim to the cancerous evil of the autocratic leader.   We enable evil when we say nothing about these matters, nor refuse to confront the evil of those who would dominate our desire to send forth those who preach.

When the leaders of a group of disciples do not allow a traveling evangelist to speak to the members of the body about the function of the body in evangelism, then they have fallen victim to the cancerous evil of Diotrephetic leadership. When a preacher blocks the coming of a traveling evangelist to speak to the members of the body, then he has become a cancerous evil to the evangelistic function of the body of Christ. When churches as a whole are not receiving and sending forth those who preach the gospel, then they are indeed dead with a cancerous evil. When John wrote to Gaius about Diotrephes’ hindering of the evangelistic financial function of the body, He wanted all of us to know that such is evil, and should be avoided.

We must not ignore or consider lightly the Holy-Spirit inspired words of John in reference to the behavior of Diotrephes in his efforts to block the evangelistic function of the body.   Diotrephes was hindering the function of the body to preach the gospel by not receiving and sending forth those who grow the body into all the world. His actions were contrary to the existence of the church, and thus, his actions were evil. It is for this reason that every disciple, as Gaius, must be assured that receiving and sending evangelists is the function of every member of the body of Christ. Paul concluded his letter to the dysfunctional Corinthians in this matter: “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.   Test your own selves. Do you not know your own selves, that Jesus Christ is in you, unless indeed you are disqualified?” (2 Co 13:5). An old Persian proverb is, “What I kept I lost.   What I spent I had. What I gave I have.” Someone wrote, “If you want to be rich, give; if you want to be poor, grasp, if you want abundance, scatter, if you want to be needy, hoard.”


(Be sure and research this subject in the …

Biblical Research Library, Book 22, Chapter 11