|Volume 23 Number 4 April 2021
The Bible is the sole authority for all we practice religiously! Nothing else and no one else is as authoritative as the Word of God – the Bible. The New Testament or Covenant of Jesus Christ (the part of the Bible that primarily applies today) is reliable because the Godhead designated Jesus to possess all authority. “While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!’” (Matthew 17:5 NKJV). “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth’” (Matthew 28:18). All we do in religion is to be done in the name of or by the authority of Jesus Christ. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Colossians 3:17).
A children’s book character ran around telling everyone that the sky was falling. Of course, he was mistaken, and the evidence did not support his claim. Since then, “the sky is falling” has become a phrase that represents an erroneous hysteria. However, dear Readers, there is a sense in which the sky is falling, and it has been falling for many decades in our own time. Generally, the sky is falling in religion, politics and society – in the United States of America as well as around the world.
Once the Bible was the chief influence on religion, society, government and justice in America, but sadly, that day is long past. The sky is falling because the Bible has been replaced with wickedness and sinful pleasures devised by men. The extent of such is reminiscent of the generations of mankind who drowned in the universal deluge from which the eight souls inside Noah’s ark were preserved (1 Peter 3:20). “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).
It is past time to go back to the Bible! A return to the Bible in religion will bring societies and nations back to God. Nothing else and no one else can lift mankind from the depravities and the waywardness of sin. Only applying God’s Holy Word to people’s lives can do that.
A return to the Bible in religion requires acknowledging the Bible’s divine names for the church, for which Jesus Christ died as well as the divine names for members of the church. There are several biblical names for the one body or church of the Bible (Colossians 1:18; Ephesians 4:4), such as, “the church” (Acts 2:47), “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16) and “the church of God” (1 Corinthians 1:2). Likewise, there is a new name in the New Testament for the children of God – “Christian” (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Peter 4:16).
The Bible specifies a specific organization of the church. Each congregation is autonomous or self-ruled, guided by biblically qualified elders (Titus 1:5-9), served by biblically qualified deacons (1 Timothy 3:8-13) and instructed by teachers (1 Corinthians 12:28) and preachers (1 & 2 Timothy; Titus).
The Bible teaches that there is a unique creed for the church of the Bible, which is the New Testament or the Gospel. It is singular and referred to in Scripture as the “one faith” (Ephesians 4:5; cf., Jude 3). Therefore, it is sinful to add to or to subtract from that creed (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19). Jesus said, referring to the Father and quoting from the prophet Isaiah, “And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9). The singularity of the Bible, as God’s instruction to and operator’s manual for humankind, overrules creeds of man’s origin that are less than, more than or purporting to be the same as the Bible. Everyone now living will be judged at the end of time by the New Testament (John 12:48; Revelation 20:12-15).
The Bible teaches specific activities of Christian worship, and true, acceptable Christian worship must be “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). In no particular order, Christian worship includes the Lord’s Supper or Communion to commemorate the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Our Lord instituted the Supper (Matthew 26:26-29), and the first century church under apostolic guidance observed the Communion weekly on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). Early Christians also made a freewill collection weekly according to their prosperity (1 Corinthians 16:1-2) and as they purposed in their hearts (2 Corinthians 9:7). In addition, teaching or preaching, to edify the church, is a part of New Testament worship (1 Corinthians 14:12). A cappella music, singing without instrumental accompaniment, was also a part of worship in the first century church (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). A fifth type of New Testament worship is prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17).
Everything one does in Christian worship must be authorized by the New Testament portion of the Bible for it to be acceptable to God. A return to God in religion, beginning with properly revering God’s Word – the Bible – can lead to society and government righting themselves. Changing self by implementing Bible teaching in one’s own life is the place to begin in bringing about similar changes in others. Most importantly, when Christians prioritize going back to the Bible, the church – the bride of Christ (Revelation 22:17) – will be spotless and be comprised of saved souls.
Anyone not now a child of God can become a Christian by going back to the Bible, especially to the New Testament, to learn how to have his sins remitted (Mark 16:16). Weak or unfaithful Christians can also receive the forgiveness of sins by going back to New Testament teaching (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9). The longsuffering of God waits for alien sinners and erring Christians to return to Him (2 Peter 3:9). May non-Christians and Christians go back to the Bible for their own sakes, as well as for the overall good of societies and governments. The world would be a much better place to live while awaiting the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rodney Nulph, Associate Editor
Following Jesus is not for the faint of heart! A somewhat sad, but very telling narrative occurred between our Lord and some would-be followers in Luke 9:57-62. Each of these individuals had a “reason” why he could not immediately follow Jesus. Some of the reasons given seem somewhat justifiable from the human standpoint. However, no reason that we could ever give for not following Jesus is justifiable in the eyes of the Lord. For those who truly want to follow Jesus, there is a daily price that must be paid (Luke 9:23). However, what is involved in that daily price? What does following Jesus really entail?
Firstly, following Jesus includes doctrine. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine…” (John 7:17). Doctrine is teaching or instruction and is the guideline for how we walk (1 John 1:7; 2:6). No one can follow Jesus acceptably and walk by some other standard of authority (2 Thessalonians 3:6). Doctrine is so essential in following Jesus that many of the religious folks in Jesus’ day were condemned for changing divinely given doctrine (Matthew 15:8-9). So important is doctrine that Peter demanded, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Peter 4:11a). Checking doctrine regularly (2 Timothy 2:15; 1 John 4:1) is so important because Paul warned that some will change the pure doctrine into a “doctrine of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1; cf., Galatians 1:6-9). Because one cannot follow Jesus without proper doctrine, Paul exhorted Timothy, “Till I come give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Timothy 4:13). Just a few verses later, Paul lovingly warned the young evangelist, “Take heed to thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them; for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16). Doctrine is essential in following Jesus!
Secondly, following Jesus involves deeds. Sadly, we are all sometimes guilty of the sin of knowing the right thing to do but not doing the right thing (James 4:17). In fact, Jesus warned that some of the religious folks in the first century were “saying, but not doing” (Matthew 23:3). I guess we all could take a front pew on this one! In following Jesus, we must sincerely and diligently match our deeds with pure doctrine. Paul reminded Timothy, “Let no man despise thy youth: but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul earlier warned the church in Colosse, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Colossians 3:17). If our deeds do not match our doctrine, something is amiss in the way we are living. While we all stumble and fall contrary to the doctrine, our goal must be to walk as we talk! Deeds are essential in following Jesus.
Thirdly, following Jesus includes duration. One of the challenges of following Jesus is that no matter how difficult life gets, we must never quit! It is not enough to start following; we must be committed to die following Jesus, if necessary. Christianity is a daily marathon wherein each new day gives us another opportunity to grow and to do better than the day before. (Thank God for His daily mercies, Lamentations 3:22-23). Sadly, sometimes Christians become so overwhelmed with daily struggles that they give up and turn their souls over to the devil. Jesus reminded those amazing saints in the latter part of the first century that no matter what tests and tribulations they faced, they needed to endure to the end (Revelation 2:10).
I would do well today if I could, just for moment, put myself in the shoes of those Christians. What were they facing? How difficult was it for them to live under an ungodly governmental system, which was set on murdering and torturing people of faith? How difficult was it for them to be separated from loved ones, worshipping in secret, maybe not even being able to sing very loudly for fear of being caught by the oppressors? Trying to evangelize communities where many neighbors would turn one into the authorities for even mentioning the name of the Savior was dangerous. Dear friends, we must understand that following Jesus is not always an easy way to live. In fact, it is sometimes downright difficult to hold our tongues when others are mocking. It is nearly impossible to not stoop to the level of those with whom we go to school and with whom we work. It does not take skill to be as mean and nasty as the world; it takes skill and maturity to be different! Following Jesus means that we must never quit; we must endure.
Christianity is not for the faint of heart! We must remember that following Jesus takes commitment (Luke 9:23). Some simply will not devote the time or effort to following our Lord (Luke 9:57-62). Others will begin but then just walk away (John 6:66). Yet, for those who follow His doctrine, emulate His deeds and exhibit faithful duration, the reward is out of this world. Don’t lose heart brethren! “Be thou faithful…”