Guidelines for Christian Living


Guidelines to Christian Living

Imagine if you will that all progress in the United States stopped in 1875. There would be no automobiles, no skyscrapers, no antibiotics, no computers, no refrigerators, no electricity, as well as a host of other things.  

Now, ask yourself: What if all my spiritual progress stopped years ago? That would be very sad thing. We must realize and know that God requires growth and progress in our life for Christ.

The growing Christian seeks first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, Matt 6:33.His chief interest is expressing the reality of the Gospel in every circumstance.

The growing Christian takes his faith to ever-widening circles. Salvation is not just for him, but for all men. His circle of interest involves his family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, and acquaintances. He is concerned about them and looks for opportunities to share his faith with them.

In this article, I want to give threeguidelines for living the Christian life.

The first guideline is involvement. As Christians there are at least three areas of involvement that we need to maintain:

1) The first area, of course, is with God and Jesus Christ. Our first involvement resulted in our salvation. If we are to maintain a close relationship with our Lord, we must think about Him when we make our plans and we must pray for His strength and guidance. This is the most important area of involvement in our lives.

The relationship of Christians to Jesus Christ is described in a variety ways in the Bible: Christians are described as members in Christ body;Rom.12:5. Everyone knows that each member of the human body has a function that is peculiar to itself. All are essential, so you can’t say one is superior to the other. Christians are described as citizens of the kingdom; Col. 1:13-14. Christians have been translated by God out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light. They have been translated into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.

2) Another area of involvement is with other Christians. Involvement with each other is known as fellowship. We are to have fellowship with our brethren; Acts 2:42-45.

The word fellowship denotes having things in common, participation, friendship. Christians have the same hope of heaven, the same joy, the same hatred of sin and the same enemies to deal with.

The early Christians shared their burdens and sorrows with each other. This helped hold them together in times of great need. It was always sincere and from the heart. It added to their sense of unity and harmony. Early Christian fellowship was a beautiful and wonderful thing. We need to be involved with fellow Christians because God commands it and the church needs it; Rom. 12:9.We are not just to pretend we love one another. We are to love each other with brotherly affection and take delight in honoring each other.

The devil’s strategy for our time is really working. He has fooled us into believing that we really should not be concerned with each other.

There is no doubt that we need each other.If the church is going to do what it is supposed to be doing, we must be working together. To get rid of division we are to be involved with one another. We must assist each other as servants and friends just like the human body comes to the aid of injured parts. In God’s family there is no such thing as completely independent members.

We live in a world that is preoccupied, indifferent, and isolated. This is not so with the church. We must care about each other and be interested in each other.

3) Our third area of involvement is with non-Christians. As followers of Jesus Christ we must be involved in telling others about Jesus Christ. Jesus did not just seek out the religious people of His day. We should not let opportunities to tell others about Jesus pass us by. We must be interested in the salvation of others.

So we see that one of the guidelines of Christian living is involvement; involvement with God, Jesus, fellow Christians, and non-Christians.

Our second guideline for Christian living is prayer. Although Jesus’ disciples saw Him work many miracles during His time on earth, the Bible only records one instance in which they asked the Lord to explain His power. Lk. 11:1 And it came to pass, that, as he was praying in a certain place, when he ceased, one of his disciples said unto him, Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples. These disciples must have saw that somehow prayer was the invisible source of Jesus ministry.

The core of genuine prayer is seeking and submitting to the will of God in every circumstance. As we see that was the primary concern of Jesus……. not as I will, but as thou wilt. Often time prayer is seen as a last resort; an escape hatch if all else fails. There are times when we turn to everything else but prayer. We need to realize that prayer is not a spiritual crutch.  Prayer is the most effective problem solver we can use. God wants us to lean on Him. Prayer is His divine provision. How foolish to ignore God’s helping hand.

We all have problems in our lives and prayer is capable of helping us solve those problems. God possesses inexhaustible wisdom. We must realize that whatever difficulty we may face, God is able. Prayer is a guideline to Christian living and,without it; our lives will not be what they ought to be.  

The third guideline to Christian living is surrender. In our society the word surrender has a negative connation. We respect and cheer champions who never surrender.

What if we were asked to surrender to someone who longed to bless and reward us? What if that person desired our welfare and was interested in our highest and best good? What if our submission brought us to someone who would lavish all His riches and provisions upon us? In such a case surrender would be very practical and appealing and to resist would be foolish.

This is the way it is when Jesus asks for the surrendered wills and hearts of men. He is our rescuer, not our captor. Our bended knees and souls are acts of trust and liberation, not weakness.

Is there a point at which you have refused to surrender to the Lordship of Christ? If you are rebelling, you are fighting His love and that is foolish. To surrender everything to Christ is victory and power. When a person gives in to Christ they will never regret it.

We must remember that Jesus Christ is no figurehead and surrender to Him is a necessity. He is a monarch in full sense of the term. He is “King of all the earth” Psa. 47:4. He is the head of the body which forms His church. He has complete and absolute control. He is seated at the right hand of God and has all authority and power. His will must be submitted to and obeyed. Everyone must surrender to Him. Matt. 16:24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. This means that a person must surrender his will, his affections, his body, and his soul. A person who surrenders to Jesus does not seek his own happiness as his supreme object.

The apostle Paul was an encouraging example of what surrender is all about. Surrender was the only thing that was important to the apostle Paul and that is the way it must be with us. Surrender is one of the guidelines to Christian living. We must be willing to give up everything for Jesus.

In this article I have given youthree guidelines for Christian living. They are involvement, prayer, and surrender. There are surely many other things I could mention, but if we will follow through on these three we will be much better followers of Christ.

Rick Martin

What Time Is It?

What Time is It?

How many times in a week do we hear the question “what time is it”? How many times do you ask it? It might be concerning going to bed at night or getting up in the morning. It might be about our meals or an appointment we have made. It could beabout what time to take our medication or about catching a plane to take a trip. It is very important for us to consider time.

Have you ever thought about the confusion that would be created if we ignored time? A little clock in a jeweler’s window stopped one day for half an hour at twenty minutes past eight. School children, noting the time, stopped to play; people hurrying to the train looked at the clock and walked more slowly; businessmen stopped to chat a little longer. All were late, because one small clock had stopped. Never had the people realized how much they had depended on the little clock until it had led them astray.

As important as that is, in this article we are not talking about physical time. We are talking about paying attention to spiritual matters. Do you know “what time it is” regarding the spiritual things of life?

We are living in a confused world where people have replaced the real thing of value with the counterfeit and artificial things of life. People have gone after things that do not matter and have left the things that do matter; Isaiah 5:20 Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” The problem is not with God’s clock; the problem is man is so caught up in today’s world until they don’t know what time it is, and they will not check and see.

First, we see it is time to awake;Romans 13:11-12 And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now, is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness and let us put on the armour of light.” Satan has lulled people to sleep; Ephesians 5:14 Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light. To be in the light of Christ we must wake up out of our sleep. The Prodigal woke up out of his sleep of sin and “came to himself.” Many need to come to themselves and awaken to their responsibilities to serve the Lord.

Second, we see it is time for men to seek the Lord; Hosea 10:12 Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek the Lord, till he come and rain righteousness upon you. It is obvious that man needs to seek the Lord. The time to seek the Lord is now. This is when onebecomes accountable-this means when a person is able to understand; Romans 6:17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. From this passage we see that a man obeys from the “heart.” This means understanding. The Gospel is what awakens people. It is God’s power to salvation; Romans 1:16  For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

Satan tells us tomorrow, but the Lord says now; 2 Corinthians 6:2 For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

Many are like Felix and look for a convenient time to seek the Lord; Acts 24:25 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.There are some who would seek the Lord, but the time is not convenient for them. They have other things such as the world, family, or jobs that are keeping them back. We are urged to seek the Lord while He may be found; Isaiah 55:6 Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near”. It is a dangerous thing to not seek the Lord. Men often delay and the opportunity passes them by.

We are to seek the Lord after the due order; 1 Chronicles 15:13For because ye did it not at the first, the Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order.”  Isaiah 34:16Seek ye out of the book of the Lord, and read: no one of these shall fail, none shall want her mate: for my mouth it hath commanded, and his spirit it hath gathered them”. Many want to find God in some modern religion. They look for Him in a religion of convenience or one that suits their taste. The Lord of heaven can only be found in the Bible.

Third, we are to redeem the time; Colossians 4:5 Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time; Ephesians 5:16 Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Notice that Paul admonishes two different churches to redeem the time. Therefore, it must be an important thing. What does it mean to redeem the time? The apostle is talking about buying up moments while others seem to throw them away. He is speaking about steadily improving every present moment, so that one may in some measure regain the time that was lost. Time should be our chief commodity. We must buy it up and use every portion of it. Time is that on which our eternity depends and in time we are preparing for the kingdom of God.

We must do this with diligence because time is short; Psalm 89:47  Rememberhow short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain?  What man is he that liveth, and shall not see death? shall he deliver his soul from the hand of the grave?” Soon we will slip away into eternity and we must use our time wisely.

Finally, we see time is in God’s hand;Psalm 31:15 My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me. Daniel said to Belshazzar,” in whose hand thy breath is in” Daniel 5:23. The God of heaven controls the time and one day he will declare time to be no more. We must make good use of our time here on earth. Our time should be spent serving God and advancing His kingdom on earth. Do you know what time it is?

Rick Martin

teacherrmartin@gmail.com

The Problem with Loneliness

The Problem with Loneliness
During this time of self-isolation, many, including myself, have felt an overwhelming sense of loneliness. Even when surrounded by family, the inability to go about our usual way of life has left us longing for the interactions we once took for granted. It is in these moments, as I read my Bible, that I am surprised to find so many throughout scripture have felt this same way. Yet throughout each of these accounts, one point stands out: the problem with loneliness is loneliness doesn’t come from being alone; loneliness comes from thinking you are alone.
Following one of the most significant victories by any one man, we see the problem of loneliness on full display. As Elijah stands atop Mt. Carmel, outnumbered by 450 prophets of Baal, he cries out to the people “I alone am left a prophet of the Lord….” (1 Kings 18:22) Yet, as Elijah stands alone, he never forgets the one companion that still stands with him, God. And as Elijah begins to mock Baal and his prophets, he highlights a defining difference between the one true God and a false god: false gods are never there for you, but the one true God will never leave your side. It is upon this faith, Elijah prays to God to make Himself known to the people, and in a consuming fire, God reveals Himself as the one true God.
Subsequently, this victory did not have the impact Elijah expected. Having defeated the prophets of Baal in one of the most memorable showdowns ever, Elijah now finds himself being hunted instead of being celebrated. It is this fear of Jezebel, which drives Elijah to leave his servant, possibly his only earthly friend, go out into the wilderness alone, and pray that he would die. Within this moment of loneliness, God comes to Elijah to remind him that he has never been alone. God’s question: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (1 Kings 19:9) echoes God’s question, “Where are you?” to Adam in Genesis 3. These are great questions for when you are feeling lonely. Where are you? What are you doing? Have you cut yourself off from the people who love you and the God who loves you? You see, Elijah’s loneliness was not from being alone, but from thinking he was alone. As Elijah returns home with the knowledge that there are seven thousand in Israel still faithful to God (1 Kings 19:8), he immediately comes across Elisha, who would drop everything to work alongside God’s prophet Elijah. Elijah’s loneliness would soon turn into an abundance of faithful companions, not because the people weren’t there before, instead because Elijah started looking for them.
Understanding this, we can conclude that loneliness has a power over us that can immobilize even some of God’s most exceptional workers. Loneliness thrives within our minds; it is a mindset that can defeat us, if we let it. But, with a proper view of God, isolation will have no power over those who, as David did in Psalm 16:8 “set the Lord always before me….” Elijah, David, and others throughout the Bible teach us the importance of remembering the presence of God and His people in our lives, especially during the times we feel lonely.

Aaron Boone

Forgiving Others

Forgiving Others

Forgiveness is something that each of us has had to deal with in one way or another. When we refuse to deal with bitterness and resentment that puts us in bondage, we cannot have the fellowship with our Father that we are supposed to have.
As part of His teachings on the need for human forgiveness, Jesus states that a condition of receiving God’s forgiveness is to forgive others.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He said, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”
Paul reminded the Ephesians, “and be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Eph.4:32.
Once we understand the depth of our sin and the distance it puts between us and God and once we see the sacrifice that God made to restore fellowship with us, we should not hesitate to forgive.
In Matt. 18:23-35 Jesus tells this story; The Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date. In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him $10 million, literally, “10,000 talents.” He couldn’t pay, so the king ordered him sold for the debt, also his wife and children and everything he had. “But the man fell down before the king, his face in the dust, and said, “Oh, sir, be patient with me and I will pay it all.” Then the king was filled with pity for him and released him and forgave his debt. But when the man left the king, he went to a man who owed him $2,000 and grabbed him by the throat and demanded immediate payment. The man fell down before him and begged him to give him a little time. “Be patient and I will pay it,” he pled. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and jailed until the debt would be paid in full. Then the man’s friends went to the king and told him what had happened. The king called before him the man he had forgiven and said, “You evil-hearted man! Here I forgave you all that tremendous debt, just because you asked me, shouldn’t you have mercy on others, just as I had mercy on you?” Then the angry king sent the man to the torture chamber until he had paid every penny due. Jesus concludes by saying, “so shall my heavenly Father do to you if you refuse to truly forgive your brothers.”
The unmerciful servant found his own attitude of unforgiveness returned to him. We must not be that kind of person¬—quick to condemn, unwilling to forgive, unable to show compassion. Instead, we must be like Christ—who overlooks our unintended weaknesses, begs us to repent of our known sins, and eagerly forgives us when we confess our wrongdoing, even though he knows we will regrettably sin again, then ask for forgiveness again.
When we hear this parable, we become self-righteous and say how could anyone be so ungrateful? The believer who will not forgive another is even more guilty than this slave. If we understood how much of a debt we owe God, we would begin to realize how petty even the worst debts we are owed truly are. God’s forgiveness is much greater and more precious than whatever forgiveness we are tempted to withhold from those who have wronged us.
We must realize that we have been forgiven of a debt that we could never repay and therefore we have no ground to stand on when we refuse to forgive others. It is a dangerous thing to be unwilling to forgive.
Two little brothers had finished supper and were playing until bedtime. Somehow one hit the other with a stick. Bitter words followed and tears flowed. Charges and accusations were still being exchanged as they got ready for bed. The mother said, “now Sam you need to forgive your brother.” Sam thought for a minute and said, “ok, I’ll forgive him tonight, but if I’m alive tomorrow he had better watch out.” This is amusing, but it shows us once a person asked for forgiveness, we must let it go.
Many have the attitude, “If you’ll act right, and pay the right price, I’ll consider forgiving you.” However, we forget the fact that, we must forgive the penitent brother, not in order for him to be saved, but in order for us to be saved—not in order for him to go to heaven, but in order for us to go to heaven! God only forgives us when we are willing to forgive others.
Those whom we have forgiven can be a tool in our lives to help us in our growth and understanding of God’s grace. Joseph understood this principle. Even though his brothers committed a great wrong against him, he was still able to forgive. They were viewed as the way to get him to Egypt, where he would be in position to save his people when a famine struck. His brothers were fearful of what he might do. They expected him to exact revenge, but Joseph was not vengeful. He told them not to be afraid, that he would nourish them and their children. He comforted them and spoke kindly to them.
Forgiveness is hard. It is a process that can be painful. Whatever our pain, whatever our situation, we cannot afford to hold on to an unforgiving spirit. Matthew 6:14-15 “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

Rick Martin

Question: When should one be rebaptized?

A magnifying glass hovering over many questions to find the answer


Question: When should one be rebaptized?

Answer: Anyone who has been baptized according to the teachings of the New Testament Scriptures,and who did so out of an obedient heart, does not need to be rebaptized. In fact, there is no such thing as second and third baptisms. One who has scripturally answered the gospel call never needs to be baptized again. Even if the individual sins and leaves the church, if and when they return, they need only repent of their sins and confess them, asking God for forgiveness Acts 8: 13-24. This is exactly what Simon was told to do. Neither does one need to be rebaptized if they were baptized by someone (the one doing the baptizing) who was in error. I have heard of some who claim if one obeyed the gospel under the preaching of someone who was practicing some type of error in worship, then the baptism was invalid. Such is just not the case. The administrator in the act of baptism does not affect the validity of the baptism. The preacher could secretly have an evil heart, and be living a life of hypocrisy, that however would not cause the baptism of the individual to be rejected. If such should be the case, we would have to trace our baptism all the way back to the days of the apostles in an unbroken line in hopes of making sure everyone was baptized by someone who was 100 percent right. That not only is impossible, it isunnecessary. But what about someone who has left the church and gone into some denomination? Do they need to be rebaptized? I don’t believe so. What they need to do is come back to the church, confessing their sins Acts 8: 13-24; 1 John 1:9, and asking God’s forgiveness. There are situations, however, where people who have been “baptized” i.e., (been immersed in water), need to be scripturally baptized. For example people who were sprinkled when they were infants need to be scripturally baptized. Infant baptism is not taught in the Scriptures. Infants cannot comply with the prerequisites of spriptural baptism such as “believing,” “repentance,” and “confession.” They are incapable of doing the things commanded by the Scriptures, hence their so called baptism is not acceptable. (See Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10; Mk.16:16) Infant baptism also flies in the face of our Lord’s teaching about the innocence of little children in Mt. 18:3 and 19:14. Children are not sinners, hence have no sin of which to repent. Another group of people who need to be scripturally baptized are those who say “I was saved, then I was baptized.” The clear indication is that the person thinks baptism has nothing to do with salvation. To them baptism is nothing more than an outward expression of an inward change, that previously took place. The Scriptures teach that one is saved, forgiven, has his sins remitted, and washed away, after baptism not before. Note Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16 and 1 Peter 3:21. This being the case, the individual who feels he was saved before baptism, needs to realize the place of baptism in the Lord’s plan and submit to it. It is also

the conviction of this writer that one who has been baptized into a denomination needs to be rebaptized. One does not become a member of the Lord’s church by accident, but by purposeful action. Paul teaches in I Cor. 12:13 “For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body.” By the teachings of the one Holy Spirit we are all baptized into the “one body” or church. The saved were added to the church in Acts 2:47. When one joins a denomination they do not become members of the Lord’s church. He does not add them to His church. They do not believe they are members of the church of Christ. Just ask them. They will tell you the denomination to which they belong. These people need to be baptized scripturally even though they have already been immersed by someone. Another class of people who need to be rebaptized are those who have not been properly taught and did not know what they were doing when they were baptized. That raises the question “just how much does one have to know in order to be baptized?’To answer,let us look at Acts Chapter 2.Thesepeople were baptized after hearing their first sermon. What did they know? They knew that they were sinners, they had crucified Christ, and when they learned that, they wanted to know what they had to do. Peter told them to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins v. 38. They gladly received his word and were baptized whereupon the Lord added them to the church. Hence, we conclude, one needs to know he is lost, that he is a sinner, that Christ died for his sins, and in order to be forgiven he must believe in Christ, repent of his sins and be baptized for the remission of sins. As one grows in Christ he will learn many things he did not know when he obeyed the gospel. That has caused some to wonder if they knew enough when they were baptized. As a result some have wanted to be rebaptized for fear that they did not know all they needed to know. In many of these cases, I personally feel that rebaptism is unnecessary. If the candidate understood the things mentioned above, that is all that was necessary. I might add just here that one who finds himself in an unscriptural marriage, does not need to be rebaptized. Being rebaptized will do him no good. He needs to get out of the unscriptural marriage and that will take care of the problem, rebaptism won’t change the marriage status. Finally, I believe that people who were baptized for the wrong purpose need to be rebaptized. The scriptural purpose for baptism is the remission of sins. One should never be baptized in order to get someone to marry them, or just because someone else is being baptized, or just to please ones spouse, friends, or parents. Baptism for such reasons will not result in the forgiveness of sins.

Ronny F. Wade

Cheap Grace

Cheap Grace

God’s plan for humankind has always been simple and laid out for us in His Word. Yet, the execution of this plan seems to be a problem for humans in every generation. God’s plan for people to be saved through baptism and holy living has consistently been met with resistance from a world that continues to reject the Savior and to establish their own rules. In their rebellion, people have come up with a carnal view of Christianity: by rejecting God’s expectations of His creation, people havecheapened God’s grace.

This concept of cheap grace should be worrisome to all. Dietrich Bonhoeffer helps us understand this term by defining cheap grace as “the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without Church discipline. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship….” Bonhoeffer understands the worlds emphasis: it stresses the benefits of Christianity without the cost involved. This cost is best seen in Gods call for us to be “Disciples of Christ” (Matthew 28:18-20). Now, the term disciple has often been oversimplified and overlooked, leading manyto think they are disciples while they fail to conform to the biblical standard of discipleship. If failing to be a disciple violates the command of God, it becomes paramount to our Spiritual life to understand what it truly means to be a disciple.

By definition the Greek term μαθητής (mathetes) simply calls to mind “a learner.” W.E. Vine appropriately adds to this definition, stating a disciple is “…not only a pupil, but an adherent.” Discipleship requires more than knowing the facts: it speaks to total, lifechanging adherence to a teacher. Jesus draws this idea out further when He gives the example that a disciple will grow to be like his teacher (Luke 6:40). Discipleship calls us not just to be as knowledgeable as our teacher but “like” our teacher; that is, we are to conform even to the teachers lifestyle and habits. John calls this concept “walking just as He walked” (1John 2:6) and Paul commands even our thoughts to be like Christ’s (Philippians 2:5). Complete and utter imitation is the goal of a disciple. Jesus further shows us the expectations of a disciple, stating that if the master were to be called Beelzebub, it is expected that his disciples are to be called the exact same thing (Matthew 10:24-25). The reason for this conclusion is thata disciple should be the representation of his teacher. Thus, the essence of discipleship is the art of imitation “because as He is, so are we in this world” (1John 4:17)(see also 1 Peter 1:15; 1 Corinthians 1:12-13; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Corinthians 4:15-16; and Philippians 2:5).

As we begin to scratch the surface in understanding discipleship, we begin to see the definite need to self-reflect. In self-reflecting, we reach a deeper understanding of what our relationship with Jesus should be. Since a disciple is one who becomes like his teacher in both the way he thinks and the way he acts, we must follow the example Jesus set for us and we must adhere to the teaching of His word. Failing to live the life, then, clearly is a chief way of cheapening God’s grace.

-Aaron Boone

Migrating Members

Migrating Members

Everyone answers to someone.  The words authority and submission are very offsetting today.  Submission is culturally conceptualized as abusive, patriarchal, and outdated.  In kind, authority is what furnishes bad marriages and abusive relationships.  Together, they make a recipe for disaster.

​God’s revelation on the subject of submission and authority is quite different to the cultural evaluation.  God, in fact, is the one who ordained submission and headship from the very beginning (see 1 Cor. 11:3).  A brief preview of Ephesians 5:21-6:9 illustrates how that submission and authority harmoniously work together within all relationship contexts.  Paul uses a pattern of 3’s to show what he means in 5:21 where he says, “submit to one another…”  In 5:15-18 Paul gives three contrasts, the last one being: “be filled with the Spirit.”  In 5:19-21 he gives three commands all relating back to this final contrast.  The last command is, “submit to one another,” (v. 21).  In 5:22-6:9 Paul goes on to give three contexts, showing what he meant by the command- submit to one another.  Paul was not teaching the backward, illogical idea that is often termed “mutual submission” in v. 21.  No, Paul was essentially saying, “Submit to the authority that God has ordained in your life, and here are three contexts to bear out this point.”  The three contexts he chose are as follows- wives to husbands, children to parents, and employees (servants) to employers (masters).  This is not an exhaustive list of relationships in which Christians must submit, but it does provide a nice, round starting point.

Remember, everyone answers to someone.  It is because this faithful saying goes unheralded or altogether unmentioned, that two things abound in the visible body of Christ: baptized believers who fail to take up membership with a local body of believers, and church members within a local body who refuse to submit to the church’s leadership.  These are both problems, problems that must be addressed.

​God approved and God ordained leadership takes on more shape and size than simply kings in the Old Testament and church elders in the New Testament.  God seems to have been pleased with Jethro’s advice to Moses in Exodus 18:21, as he advised appointing judges over the people, men that feared God and were full of integrity.  Likewise, Paul commanded, that’s right, he commanded the church members at Corinth to submit to those men in the congregation who were recognized as leaders (1 Cor. 16:15-16).  These men were not labeled as elders, neither were the “leaders” in the book of Hebrews (see 13:7,17,24) to whom those Christians were told to submit.  Summarizing up to this point, every Christian is called, like Paul in Acts 9:26, to take up membership with a local congregation (i.e. Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, Ephesus, Jerusalem, Antioch, etc.).  Likewise, every Christian is called, like those at Corinth, to submit to the leadership that congregation, for leadership within the local church is God approved and God ordained.  This holds true even in the absence of elders (1 Thess. 5:12-13).  In the absence of elders, it would seem God appointed those called “teachers” (i.e. Eph. 4:11; James 3:1) to lead the church; these are men like Stephanus (1 Cor. 16:15).

​When these directives are not followed by baptized believers, the Lord’s church suffers.  Failing to take up church membership on a local congregational level presents its own problems, but for the rest of this study, we will focus on those who refuse to submit to church leaders.  This is called rebellion, and often times the result is what this author has termed migrating members.  Migrating members are baptized believers who go from congregation A to congregation B without asking permission from congregation A’s leadership, leadership to whom they are supposed to be submitting.  Many times people go from one congregation to the next without asking their leaders, not intentionally disrespecting those men.  At other times people church hop for the very reason of refusal to be submissive to those men.  Both accounts are improper, the latter being high handed rebellion against God ordained and God approved church government.

​People leave churches for a slew of reasons.  Here are a few examples that need second thought- they told my family member he was sinning; the preacher taught something that didn’t sit well with me; I just didn’t feel the love there; I wanted my kids to be around more people their age; that congregation was so small and wasn’t doing anything for me.  Most of these reasons are telling of a Christian’s inner character.  That is, many have not pondered on the adaptation of John F. Kennedy’s famous saying, “Don’t ask what your church can do for you, but what can you do for your church.”  It is sad that people would leave congregations for any of these self-centered reasons, but such is often the case.

​In response to such migrating members, there is often silence.  The leaders from congregation A are often glad to see said person leave, and the leaders from congregation B are glad to see more people in the pews.  The result: a continuous cycle of unaccountability, undisciplined contentions, and congregations left to struggle.  Instead of being silent when members migrate like this, leaders should kindly approach new members and ask the appropriate questions.  Did you leave congregation A in peace?  If not, was congregation A teaching or harboring false doctrine that led you to leave?  Did you inform and get consent from the leadership at congregation A before you left?  Such questions can quickly get to the bottom of the person’s migrating and resultingly facilitate the process of fixing unresolved conflict if necessary.  This can also help reinforce the concept of submission to leadership to which many members are innocently naïve.

In those cases where members migrate whimsically from church to church, God’s ordained leadership has been subverted, and many times the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram gets reenacted in live action role play, without the earth opening up and all that bit (read Numbers 16).  Instead of this terrible unsightliness, may God’s people and leaders work harmoniously together in maintaining the God given pattern meant to promote unity in the church.  Ask the right questions.  Be honest with yourself.  Maintain the peace.  Respect your leaders.

Aaron Battey

 

Lest You Be Disqualified

​Throughout Paul’s ministry and writings, he continually displays his genuine care for those who are separated from God, Christians, and the Church. The Apostle Paul would often put aside any desire for self-preservation in order to aid those who were in need of hearing the Gospel; this is seen in Paul’s willingness to be set apart from Christ if only his fellow countrymen would believe and follow Christ (Romans 9:3-5). Knowing that this was not a substation that could be made Paul would turn his attention in his writings to teach us how to live so that we would not be disqualified (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
​Paul begins by recalling Israel’s history. Israel, like those in Corinth, was a blessed nation. According to Paul they were under the protection and guidance of God (1 Corinthians 10:1), were redeemed from a state of slavery by baptism (1 Corinthians 10:2), and all ate and drank of spiritual food and drink provided by God (1 Corinthians 10:3-4). “But. . .” (1 Corinthians 10:5), because of Israel’s idolatry, fornication, tempting of Christ and discontent (1 Corinthians 10:7-10) this once faithful nation would be “scattered across the wilderness”. Paul begins with this point to illustrate the truth that no amount of blessings from God, no amount of protection or guidance from God will save you if you do not live faithfully in return. This is often missed by those in the secular religious world who cling to the doctrine of “once saved always saved” and it seems as if the Christians in the first century needed to be reminded of this as well.
​This writer believes that this message is still one that needs to be heard even today. Paul’s message to his brothers and sisters in Christ was “it is never ok to stop growing”. We cannot fall into the mindset that once we are baptized that’s it, that just because we have read our Bibles once or twice that we are feeding our Spiritual lives. Instead Paul’s recommendation for living a life that would not be disqualified involves five actions that must be worked within each members life. According to 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 we all must “watch” that is give strict attention to God’s word while being cautious of the devil and his devices (1 Thessalonians 5:6,10; 1 Peter 5:8). “Stand fast in the faith” is Paul’s second encouragement to us, knowing that trials and temptations arise we must persevere (Ephesians 6:11-13). And through these times of hardship we must “Be brave”, Paul better than most understood the hardships and the trials that would come about form being faithful to God (2 Corinthians 4:8-11) and his key to success was being brave. Paul’s fourth admonition is to “Be strong” or more accurately to “increase in strength”, this is not accomplished through any humans means but as Paul would say it is accomplished through “Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Finally, Paul would tell us to live our lives with “Love”, a way of living that encompasses every other commandment of God (Galatians 5:14).
​Paul understood clearly the need for each individual to continue to grow within their own Christians lives so that they would not be disqualified on that final day of Judgment. This growth has a beginning point when we become a Christian, but this is not the end of our story. Instead we can look at history and those who have come before us and see how they so vividly display for us the need to live a life filled with Spiritual growth.

Aaron Boone

Naked

Walks Through the Bible
‘Then they sailed to the country of the Gadarenes, which is opposite Galilee. And when He stepped out on the land, there met Him a certain man from the city who had demons for a long time. And he wore no clothes, nor did he live in a house but in the tombs.” (Luke 8:26,27) In other words, the man was naked. Jesus, of course, cast the demons out and when the people from the city arrived on the scene the Bible says that Legion “was clothed and in his right mind.” The first thing the man did after he was restored to his right mind is put his clothes on!
Recently I was visiting with my dad who turned 95 on April 16. Not long ago he had to have surgery done on his arm. They gave him local anesthesia and as the doctor was finishing up the procedure, he asked my dad a question. “Mr. Dickinson, you are 95 and have seen some remarkable changes in your long life no doubt. What have you seen that has surprised you the most in your 95 years?” This may be a question this doctor has asked many of his older patients and I am sure he expected to receive the same kind of answer he had received every time previously, but he obviously did not know my dad. Before answering, my dad says he looked around the room and there were several female nurses so dad gave a startling answer. “Well, setting aside advances in medicine and technology – Women!” my dad answered. The doctor was indeed startled, and the nurses turned to look at my dad as well. “What do you mean by that?” asked the doctor. “Well, I have never seen so many naked women in my life!” I can only imagine what the doctor and the nurses thought. It was certainly not the answer they expected.
I told dad (after I stopped laughing) he gave the perfect answer. There have been great changes in in the past 95 years in technology, medicine, etc., but there has also been a drastic change in our culture, especially when it comes to nakedness. The Greek word for naked in the New Testament is “gurnnos” and W. E Vine says the word signifies: (a) unclothed; (b) scantily or poorly clad; (c) clad in the undergarment only (the outer being laid aside). Nakedness, then, is to be completely unclothed, to be scantily clothed, or to have on only under-clothes or underwear. The latter two forms of nakedness are no doubt what dad was referring to.
In Exodus 32:25 the KJV declares that the people were naked as they danced around the golden calf. The word does not necessarily mean they were nude, but they were unrestrained and had removed their outer garments. They were wearing little clothing and were immodestly and shamefully exposing themselves. They were naked! The old Jewish expositors say that Xerxes wanted Queen Vashti to appear before his drunken lords and expose her beauty or nakedness. To her credit she refused. We know virtually nothing about Vashti but we admire her sense of decency and modesty, and her courage to risk her position rather than appear naked before the king and his lords.
Interestingly, the first thing Legion did when Jesus cast the demons out and he was back in his right mind was put his clothes on. This indicates that not only women but men today have lost their minds! I agree with my dad’s answer to his doctor. Everywhere you look you see naked women and men. No, not nude, but scantily clad and in their underwear. You cannot go to the store or the mall, or even step outside your own house without seeing nakedness. People have lost their minds! I do not mean they are certifiably insane (necessarily) but people have lost their sense of decency and propriety. Men and women in our culture need to get their minds right, and when they do the first thing they will do is put their clothes on.
Several years ago I was in a meeting and I preached on the story of Legion and made the point that when people get their minds right they put their clothes on and a young lady approached me after the service. She told me she had not been raised in a Christian home and had only recently been baptized. Before becoming a Christian she wore shorts, went to the public pool in her swimming suit, and wore all kinds of immodest clothes. After obeying the gospel, however, she stopped wearing her immodest apparel. The point she really wanted to make, however, is that no one had told her the apparel was immodest. In fact, she said, at that point she did not even know the Bible taught in I Timothy 2:9,10 that women are to adorn themselves in modest apparel. She had never read that scripture before! She just knew, she told me, that now that she was a Christian she could not wear her shorts, swimsuit to the public pool, etc. She just knew because she had made up her mind to be a Christian. That is absolutely right! When someone really makes up their mind to follow the Lord, one of the first things they do is put their clothes on.
Paul declares in I Timothy 2:9,10 that women are to adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety. Shamefacedness refers to the ability to show shame and blush. Sobriety simply mean having a sound mind – getting your mind right! When women, and men, appear in public with scanty clothing and even wearing what is essentially underwear it displays a shameful lack of propriety, modesty, and common sense. We live, lamentably, in an age of nakedness. As Christian men and women may we stand out in our words, our actions, and our dress. I am thankful my dad was wise enough to share with that doctor and those nurses the stark truth our culture needs to hear.
May we have the wisdom and courage to be in our daily lives a conscience to a world that has lost its mind!

Jerry Dickinson

Prayers God Will Not Hear : Part 4

Prayers God Will Not Hear:
Irreverent Hair

​In an ongoing series entitled, “Prayers God Will Not Hear,” there have been examinations of prayer offered by unloving husbands, hypocrites, and those that consist of vain repetitions. Who knew that God doesn’t listen to every single prayer uttered from bended knees? Now, what has turned into a troubled search party finds itself at the feet of the apostle Paul. It is in 1 Corinthians 11 that this search party finds some controversial and very unsettling facts about prayers offered by both men and women. Keep reading to discover yet another prayer that falls on deaf ears in heaven.
​The stage of 1 Cor. 11 needs introduction before any discussion of prayer takes place. Paul is writing to Corinth about problems in the church relayed to him in a letter of correspondence (1:11; 5:1; 7:1; 8:1). Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians abruptly progresses from one problematic issue to the next until 1 Cor. 11:2, at which point he starts with, “Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.” The things Paul is about to say are not culturally relative. Paul is not speaking on his own authority but the authority of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (11:23 & 14:37). To be sure on the nature of things spoken in v. 2-15, Paul book ends the discussion with, “But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God,” (11:16- NASB, NIV, HCSB). This is important to note, because much commentary on 1 Cor. 11:2-16 dismisses the instruction of Paul based on platforms of cultural limitation and even misogyny. Paul instead speaks pressing words of God, words that are transcultural in nature, and words that are just as much “apostle’s doctrine” (Acts 2:42) as the Lord’s supper instruction that follows.
​Now, let’s get into what Paul says about prayer. Prayer is mentioned in verses 4, 5 and 13. In these verses men and women both are informed that their prayers are hindered or heard based on what they do with their physical head.

4 Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, for that is one and the same as if her head were shaved. (1 Cor. 11:4-5)

Whatever the “covering” is, it has to be on the head of women and not on the head of men in order for their prayers to be heard. The covering is not an artificial veil as some call it (i.e. a cloth that lies on the head). No, verse 15 makes this point too clear, “But if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.” The covering is the natural hair that grows on men and women’s heads. So far, and for whatever reason, it sounds like God refuses to hear prayers from men with hair and women without hair. Keep following along.
​Must men shave their heads bald? And what about women? How long is “long hair” as stated in 1 Cor. 11:15? Let’s start with women. Many would have Paul teaching that women can cut their hair; the hair just has to remain “long.” If this is true then the margin for interpretation has no limitations. The answer to this debacle goes deeper than the surface. Paul, writing in Greek and not English, is not telling women they have to possess something (long hair; adjective + noun). Paul is telling women they have to do something (grow the hair long; verb). In fact, the grammatical construct of the Greek verb translated “have long hair” (v. 14) literally means, “keep on growing the hair long.” There is no single English word that effectively captures the meaning of the one Greek word used in v. 15 (komao), making the punch of Paul’s command volatile to abuse by many who consider only the English translation. Thankfully, one doesn’t have to be a Greek expert to understand this concept as Numbers 6:5 and Ezekiel 44:20 simplify what it means to have long hair or keep growing the hair long. The idea is uninterrupted growing of the hair, or as one Greek dictionary states, “uncut hair” (Louw & Nida). Men on the other hand, if they want their prayers heard, must get regular haircuts so as to not have their hair, “Hanging down from the head.” After all, that is what it literally means for a man to pray, “Having his head covered,” (v. 4). Men do not have to shave their head bald it would seem, but they cannot let their hair grow uncut, uninterrupted, and to the point that it is hanging down from the head. In other words, whatever woman is supposed to do, man does the opposite. Paul’s choice of words describing how men’s hair should be maintained is slightly subjective, though more objective than if he had just said, “short hair.” He doesn’t give a ruler measurement, but neither does he leave it an absolute mystery. Summarizing then, the command to women is to pray while letting her hair grow uninterrupted; while the command to men is to pray with short, cut hair, not hanging down from the head. If either refuse this instruction, Paul makes clear the ultimate fallout in the surrounding passages.
​Rarely are God’s commands arbitrary. The commands in 1 Cor. 11:2-16 have weighty symbolization much like the Lord’s supper found in v. 17-34. This symbolization finds its significance in two sets of verses: v. 3 and v. 7-12.

But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. (v. 3)
For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. (v. 7)

What better item would reflect one’s spiritual head than one’s physical head? God’s wisdom is on display here. No, God has not designed some arbitrary command to make life harder for women and/or men. He has designed a purposeful command that reflects the nature of submission and headship existential within the trinity and toward the trinity. The hair commands are much like the marriage commands of submission and headship. Both reflect the submission that should be ongoing between the church and Jesus Christ. This seems to be Paul’s thrust in Ephesians 5:32 about submission in marriage, “This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” When it comes down to the nitty gritty, a man who dishonors his spiritual head by letting his hair grow continuously is actually denying the trinity (1 Cor. 11:4). A woman who dishonors her spiritual head by not letting her hair grow continuously is actually denying the trinity as well (v. 5). Both are an abomination so much so that Paul implies their prayers will go unheard (v. 4, 5, 13).
May husbands love their wives as Christ loves the church. May women submit to their husbands as the church submits to Christ. And may both properly care for the hair of their head so that all may see and have an accurate understanding of the trinity and our submission to Him.

Aaron Battey