|Volume 20 Number 6 June 2018||
There have been those who have charged that the Bible is nothing more than a dead letter, that it is devoid of any power to persuade or convict, that it is lifeless. Many assert that the Scriptures are meaningless without an operation of God upon the Word or upon the student of the Word to animate it and make it come alive. There is much said about the way that the Spirit of God is moving among people or helping to enlighten them in their understanding of the Word of God. Are these allegations true? Is it the case that the Word of God, the Bible, is nothing more than a dead letter, and that God has to act upon it in some mysterious (even miraculous) way in order for His Word to speak to us today?
What is being missed in this discussion is the fact that God has already acted upon His Word to make it living and active. Paul reminded Timothy that, “All Scripture is given by the inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The word translated “inspiration” is from a compound Greek word that means “God-breathed.” That is, the Word of God comes from the very mouth or breath of God. The breath of God caused the inanimate, clay-fashioned body of man to become a living, breathing soul (Genesis 2:7). The Almighty gave life to man and life to His Word in the same way: He breathed life into them both! God, by means of the Holy Spirit, gave life to His revealed will for man. Peter recorded, “For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spoke from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). The Holy Spirit is responsible for delivering the precious Word of God to man! He carried these inspired writers along as they penned the Word for posterity. It is, after all, “the sword of the Spirit” (Ephesians 6:17). No word from God, Christ or the Holy Spirit is ever without life! Jesus stated, “It is the spirit that quickens; the flesh profits nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Shouldn’t we expect that the Word would deliver a living, active, soul-saving message from the Father?
Those who were charged with faithfully recording the Word of God were guided to write about the power of God’s revealed will. The Spirit Himself was using the hands of inspired men to point souls to God through the message of the Gospel. He put power in the message so that men might be saved by hearing it and obeying it. These inspired penmen would never have charged that the Word of God lacked power or that it was a dead letter. Quite to the contrary! James wrote, “Wherefore putting away all filthiness and overflowing of wickedness, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). Paul understood that the Gospel message was powerful: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). He understood that the power in the message was put there by a living God! The writer of Hebrews was also cognizant of the power of Scripture: “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The Word of God is very much alive! The Spirit of God acted upon the Word when He carried along those inspired writers. The Word of life comes from the source of life. It will always have life within it, for the living God Who gave it shall never die.
Planted by the
Father or Rooted Up?
T. Pierce Brown
Jesus said, “Every plant which my heavenly father hath not planted shall be rooted up” (Matthew 15:13). That this applies to denominational organizations is certain. Yet, the context suggests that it includes every doctrine, practice, organization, tradition and attitude not authorized of God.
Paul wrote in Colossians 3:17, “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name (by the authority) of the Lord Jesus.” So, we must conclude that anything not authorized by Jesus is condemned. However, the point of this article is that Jesus is the one who said so! I have written a workbook on The Mind of Christ, designed to help us develop the mind of Christ rather than just talk about it. In almost every lesson, we see that He was not only kind, loving, gracious, tender, compassionate and understanding, but He was plain, straightforward, bold and uncompromising in His language and actions about sin and error under all circumstances.
It is a false concept that since Jesus was meek and lowly in heart (Matthew 11:29), if we have the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), we must be so soft and “mushy” that no one can tell for sure what we condemn, if anything. Too many of us have preached in a bitter, arrogant, sarcastic or hateful way, almost totally negative and derogatory. Our refusal to do that kind of preaching does not release us from the responsibility to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).
Many present-day preachers, if they had been at Pentecost, would have sounded something like this: “Brethren, we think it is possible that some of you may have erred slightly in judgment and allowed a relatively innocent man to be put to death. If so, it seems proper to share with you my feeling that you should try to rectify that in some way.” Yet, the Holy Spirit did not and does not want it done that way. Peter was neither ashamed nor afraid to point out that they were guilty of crucifying the Lord.
The emphasis should be on the good news of what God has graciously done for us rather than on the bad news of our hell-bound condition. But the real truth of the matter is that no person can really appreciate the good news of salvation if he is not made to realize he is lost.
It is but another symptom of a widespread disease that we hear many persons pray so often, “God, forgive of us our many mistakes and shortcomings.” They do not seem to know they have sinned! God can overlook mistakes and shortcomings, but He needs to forgive sins.
When Jesus offended some listeners, and they went away (John 6:66), He did not run apologetically after them, saying, “I did not really mean it that way!” He sadly let them go and said to His apostles, “Will ye also go away?” “Speaking the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15) did not then, and does not now involve “watering it down,” compromising it or failing to boldly and clearly proclaim it.
Let us freely admit that there may be some plants in God’s garden that are unknown to us. No person who properly understands New Testament Christianity would take the position that a person has to have any knowledge of what is sometimes called “our fellowship” or have their name listed in Where the Saints Meet in order to have been planted of God. Yet, that in no sense implies that a person can become a Christian by hearing and obeying denominational doctrines or any perverted “gospel.” “The seed is the word of God” (Luke 8:11). If anyone plants anything else, the plant produced thereby will be rooted up! So, wherever the Gospel in its purity is heard, believed and obeyed, there is a plant of God! However, if that Gospel is perverted (even by an angel from Heaven, Galatians 1:8), it does not produce a plant from God, and it will be rooted up!
So, we want to emphasize that if the “plant” about which Jesus was talking was doctrine, he was plain, unambiguous, bold and clear that false doctrine is condemned, vain and useless, for He said, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). Anything produced by that false doctrine will fall in the same category and under the same condemnation.
Jesus used the same kind of language if the “plant” refers to any practice. He scathingly rebuked the Pharisees for many things among them. “They say and do not” (Matthew 23:2-3). There was never any “wishy-washy,” “soft-soaping,” compromising language used, but striking and forceful denunciation of sin in all of its forms. Even His kindest action toward a sinner, such as the woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8:11), left her with the knowledge she had sinned, as he said, “Go and sin no more.” Different kinds of sin deserve different kinds of rebuke, but none of them are to be “smoothed over” as if they were not there!
“Let your speech be always with grace” is a command of God, but “seasoned with salt” is also included (Colossians 4:6). The fact that some get so “salty” we can scarcely stand to listen is no excuse for our failure to be Christlike—plain and bold in condemnation of sin!
[Editor’s Note: The “churches of Christ” is a biblical designation (Romans 16:16) for the one true church for which Jesus Christ died and over which He is the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). Of course, there are comparable and similar designations for the same divine organization (e.g., “church of God,” 1 Corinthians 1:2). There are specific characteristics in the Bible that identify that one body (Ephesians 4:4) and that distinguish the Lord’s church from denominational or manmade churches. One can read in the Bible about divinely authorized congregational organization and autonomy, worship, plan of redemption, origin and other Christian doctrine.
Historically, especially during the Restoration Movement, religious people who were unaware of each other bumped into each other as their influences for restoring New Testament Christianity expanded. Reportedly, similar discoveries since then have occurred from time to time in various parts of the world. It remains possible that religious people unaware of each other, and who hold to the fundamental Gospel of Jesus Christ and to the identifying characteristics of the Lord’s church, may yet exist—particularly obscured from each other by the fog of denominationalism or existing in the midst of and outnumbered by other world religions (e.g., Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam). Without sacrificing the divine and biblical identity of the church of the New Testament, it remains possible for congregations of the Lord’s church unaware of each other to exist. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]