Avoid Abortions

By Emmanuel V. John

People from every culture and custom, including Christians, are faced with making significant choices concerning life. We can never go wrong in doing what is right, by making the choice to believe God and obey His Word. The Bible is the Master Manual for life and daily living.

Our Awesome God
God knows us absolutely, or wholly. God even knew us before we were born. This is expressed in the words spoken by Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:5 NKJV). When we were still in our embryonic beginnings in the womb, He knew our very thoughts. “You understand my thought afar off,” David pointed out, “… For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made … Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them” (Ps. 139:2,13-14,16).

An Appeal To Christians
Avoid even thinking about abortion, nor yield to personal, family, political or social pressure as to it. Every person has a free will, but we must yield to God’s will! Satan said, in effect, “My will, not God’s will”: “For you [Lucifer] have said in your heart: I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation” (Isa. 14:13). But the Lord Jesus lived out “Not My will, but God’s will.” “He [Jesus] … prayed saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Mt. 26:39). Likewise, the apostle Paul exchanged the self-life for the Christ-life, and said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).

We too must follow God’s will and know that children are gifts from God to be loved, treasured and trained for Him. “Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb is His reward” (Ps. 127:3).

God’s Amazing Grace
We discover more of His amazing grace when we believe Him in the midst of difficulties. My family told me that before I was born my dad was working on a crane along the coast. While at work, a telephone pole unhooked and struck him on his shoulder with a great force, which threw him into the sea. He was rescued, but his left shoulder and hand were severely injured, leaving only one living vein in his hand. Dad was hospitalized. At one point he was in critical condition, and the doctor gave no hope of his survival. However, he was a true believer, and in quietness God gave my dad this message: “[You] shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD” (Ps. 118:17).

Soon after, even though he was in pain, my mother brought him home, where she cared for him. Three years later, with six children in the family, a sick husband, and no significant source of support, my mother discovered that she was pregnant with her seventh child. She believed God in spite of the odds, knowing that the baby could be born with various defects. But God honored her faith in Him and gave her a healthy baby boy. That child is the one who is now writing this appeal to you. Thank God for godly parents, for all seven children and the grandchildren are in the family of God. I am now 72 years of age, serving the Lord.

An Assurance
I want you to know that there is hope, help and healing in our precious Lord Jesus. If you have had abortions and are haunted by the ghost of guilt, please know that God’s grace is greater than your sin. God says, “Where sin abounded, grace abounded much more” (Rom. 5:20). Do not cover your sins, but confess them to the Lord and receive His forgiveness. “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Now that you are forgiven when you confess your sins, you do not want to ever, by God’s grace, have another abortion. Conquer sins by walking in the light of God’s Word and having fellowship with Him (1 Jn. 1:7). Thus, say “NO” to abortion and “YES” in your allegiance to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Suicide And The Believer

By Timothy P. Hadley

The term “suicide” was coined in 1651 from the Latin words sui, signifying “one’s self,” and cide or its variations, meaning “to kill.” Simply then, suicide is to purposefully take one’s own life, and this is out of a misdirected self-love.
Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death globally. Worldwide, the suicide rate has gone up by 60% over the last five decades – mainly in industrialized nations. According to the World Health Organization, approximately one million people commit suicide each year, that is about one death every 32 seconds or 2,740 per day. Globally, suicide’s mortality rate is 16 per 100,000 people. For each individual who takes his or her own life, at least 20 attempt to do so.

In the United States, according to the Center For Disease Control, there were 44,965 suicides in 2016, compared to 19,000 murders and 13,000 AIDS related deaths. It is the third leading cause of death for Americans between the ages of 15 to 25 years, but in 2016 the highest suicide rate was among adults between 45 and 54. The second highest rate occurred in those 85 years or older. Younger groups have had consistently lower suicide rates than middle-aged and older adults.

Females are more likely to attempt suicide, however males are four times more likely to successfully commit suicide. In the USA, firearms accounted for 51% of all suicides in 2016, and many of the total, 16.5%, were alcohol-related. Individuals who are misusing drugs are 10 to 20 times more likely to take their own lives than the rest of the population.

Hope For A Hurting World
What is behind suicide? It is a loss of hope. People can live without food for a long time. We can live without water for less time, but we cannot live without hope. Once hope is gone, men and women look for ways to end their lives. This is a work of the enemy, Satan – the Devil and the destroyer! In Psalm 42:5 we read: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance” (NKJV). Similarly, Psalm 42:11 and 43:5 say, “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” In difficult days – for every day – there is hope for the follower of Jesus Christ. It is a hope that is anchored in heaven – sure and steadfast – and promised by a God who cannot lie (Heb. 6:13-18).

Accounts In Scripture
The Bible tells us that Satan tempted the Lord Jesus to commit suicide (Mt. 4:5-6; Lk. 4:9-11). The Philippian jailor, wrongly thinking his prisoners had escaped, was about to commit suicide, but he was stopped and led to Christ (Acts 16:27-34). Some of the servants of the Lord became so frustrated in their service that they asked God to kill them, including Moses (Num. 11:10–15), Elijah (1 Ki. 19:1-4), and Jonah (Jon. 4:1–11). Many will attempt suicide during the great tribulation, but will be unable to find death (Rev. 9:6).

The Bible mentions at least six people who committed suicide: Abimelech (Jud. 9:54), Saul (1 Sam. 31:4), Saul’s armor-bearer (vv.4-6), Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Ki. 16:18) and Judas (Mt. 27:5). Five of these men were noted for their wickedness, the excepton is Saul’s armor-bearer as nothing is said of his character. Some think Samson committed suicide because he knew his actions would lead to his death (Jud. 16:26–31), but Samson’s goal was to kill Philistines, not himself.

A Biblical Perspective
The Bible views suicide as equal to murder, which is what it is: the murder of self. God is the only one who is to decide when and how a person should die. We, instead, should say with the psalmist, “My times are in your hands” (Ps. 31:15). God is the giver of life – He gives and He takes away (Job 1:21). Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, is ungodly because it rejects God’s gift of life. No man or woman should presume to take God’s authority to himself or herself and end his or her own life!

Certainly there were those in the Bible who felt deep despair in life. We have already mentioned how Elijah was fearful and depressed, yearning to die (1 Ki. 19:4), and Jonah’s anger at God, wishing for death (Jon. 4:8). To them we can add Solomon who in his pursuit of pleasure reached a point where he “hated life” (Eccl. 2:17). The apostle Paul, too, at one time declared, “We were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired of life” (2 Cor. 1:8). However, none of these men committed suicide. Solomon learned to “fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all” (Eccl. 12:13). Elijah was comforted by an angel, allowed to rest, and given a new commission. Jonah received admonition and rebuke from the LORD. Paul learned that, although the pressure he faced was beyond his ability to endure, the Lord bears all things: “Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead” (2 Cor. 1:9).

A Sin That Leads To Hell?
Suicide is a sin, but it is not the “greatest” sin. It is no worse than other evils in terms of how God sees it, and it does not determine a person’s eternal destiny. However, suicide definitely has a deep and lasting impact on those left behind; the painful scars left by a suicide do not heal easily. May God grant His grace to each one who is facing trials today (Ps. 67:1), and may each of us take hope in His promise, “Whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).

Scripture teaches that from the moment we truly believe in Christ we are guaranteed eternal life (Jn. 3:16). According to the Bible, Christians can know beyond any doubt that they possess this life (1 Jn. 5:13). Nothing can separate a Christian from God’s love (Rom. 8:38-39), not even a Christian who commits suicide can be separated from God. Jesus died for all of our sins; if a true Christian, in a time of spiritual attack and weakness, commits suicide, his sin is still covered by the blood of Christ.

Suicide is not what determines whether a person gains entrance into heaven. If an unsaved person commits suicide he has done nothing but expedite, or hasten, his journey to hell. That person will ultimately be in hell for rejecting salvation through Christ – not because he committed suicide (see Jn. 3:18). We should also point out that no one truly knows what was happening in a person’s heart in the moments before death. Some people have deathbed conversions and accept Christ in their last portion of time in this world. It is possible that a person who commits suicide could have a last-second change of heart and cry out for God’s mercy. We leave such judgments to God, the One who “looks at the heart.” (1 Sam. 16:7).

The suicide of a believer is evidence that anyone can struggle with despair and that our enemy, Satan, is “a murderer from the beginning” (Jn. 8:44). Suicide is still a serious sin against God: murder. It is always wrong. Christians are called to live their lives for God, and the decision of when to die is God’s and God’s alone. Put your hope in God!

Five Simple Truths
What we have seen so far can give us a firm biblical foundation, but let’s consider these five simple truths.

1. The people of God sometimes feel so bad that they want to die.
Moses was under tremendous pressure from the people of Israel to take them back to Egypt. They were dissatisfied with his leadership, and their complaints stirred the Lord to send fire against them. Moses eventually said, “I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. If You treat me like this, please kill me here and now – if I have found favor in Your sight – and do not let me see my wretchedness” (Num. 11:14-15).

Elijah, in his days, endured the incredible strain of single-handedly opposing 450 prophets of Baal, the people of Israel and the king. God vindicated Elijah’s faith, and he ran exuberantly for miles, faster than the king’s chariot. Then he heard that the king’s wife, Jezebel, vowed to kill him. In his fear and exhaustion the prophet went into the wilderness, sat down under a broom tree and said, “It is enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Ki. 19:4).

The prophet Jonah displayed one of the most selfish attitudes of all the prophets, being irritated that God had mercy on the pagan city of Nineveh. Therefore, God rebuked him with a desert wind: “When the sun arose … God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat on Jonah’s head, so that he grew faint. Then he wished death for himself, and said, ‘It is better for me to die than to live’” (Jon. 4:8).

Like these three men of God, sometimes we lose sight of the hope we have, and discouragement becomes depression, depression turns into despair, and despair leads to thoughts of giving up.

2. It is sin to fulfill that desire by taking your own life.
Committing suicide is sin for at least three reasons. First, it is disobedience to the command of God, “You shall not murder” (Ex. 20:13). Disobedience to God’s commands is sin.

Second, it is sin to intrude on God’s sovereign right to give and take life. God alone can create a human person, and therefore personhood belongs to God. We have no right to dispose of ourselves or others as we please. The Lord has sole rights over what he has made. Murder and suicide intrude on the sacred ground where God alone is the giver and taker.

Third, it is failure to trust in God for the help needed to survive and cope. The Bible says that whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). If a Christian takes one’s own life, he or she will give an account for this before the Lord. It is not the fault of those left behind!

Truly, we are on firm biblical ground when we say, “It is sin to take your own life.”

3. Faith can be so weak at times that the heart gives way to grievous sin.
Romans 7 describes how Christians struggle with the remaining corruption in our lives: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do” (v.15).

First John 1:8 says, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

But this does not mean that the saving relationship with Christ goes in and out of existence with each of our sins. When a believer yields to temptation his faith in Christ is weak, and the enticements of sin and the power of Satan get the upper hand. But there is a great difference between Satan getting a temporary upper hand and Satan being the lord of your life, between yielding with resistance to an evil that I hate to do and doing that evil as part of a usual pattern.

Believers may take their eyes off of the Lord and lose hope, but the Lord never takes His eye off of them. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand (Jn. 10:27-29).

4. The only way sin can be forgiven is in our relationship to Jesus Christ by faith.
People’s last decisions do not define their lives or determine their eternal destinies. Our destinies depend on whether or not we are covered by the blood of Jesus Christ.

Every one of us is a sinner. The Bible tells us, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). It also says, “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (6:23).

Read what the Bible says in Ephesians 2: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (vv.1-9). This is why the Lord Jesus came to die on the cross!

In Isaiah we read: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all (53:4-6).

Jesus Christ came into the world to give His life as a ransom – to pay the price for our sin – that we might have the forgiveness! Therefore the question for every one is: Do you have a relationship of faith with Jesus Christ and are your sins are forgiven? It is the most precious gift in the world. The shed blood of God’s Son, Jesus Christ, is the only way for a sinner to get to God.

5. Do not let the suicide of someone be in vain.
We may never understand an individual’s suicide, no matter how long we ask “how” or “why” this could happen; but let us not let such a death be in vain. A believer has a hope that is beyond this world. He may temporarily lose sight of his Hope – the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 1:1) – but his Hope will not lose sight of him.

The Bible tells us that before Christ we were without hope and without God (Eph. 2:12), but when we confessed with our mouths the Lord Jesus and believed in our hearts that God has raised Him from the dead we were saved. “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:10).

Having put our faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, “there is … now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus” (8:1). “Neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (vv.38-39).

Where do you stand? The psalmist said, “I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me, and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my steps” (Ps. 40:1-2). This is what the Lord can do for each one reading this article.

For the believer who feels that they are in a pit of discouragement or despair, cry out to Him, don’t lose heart! To the person who has no hope, cry out to Him! He is able to pull you out of the pit you are in. There is no pit so deep that His love cannot reach you and pull you out. There is no problem too big or sin too strong from which the Lord Jesus cannot rescue you. Just cry out to Him today! Cry out to Him now!

God’s Fire

By Alan H. Crosby

There are three kinds of fire found in Scripture: natural, supernatural and figurative. Scripture does not distinguish them, for all fire belongs to the Lord – but supernatural fire is uniquely His.

Natural Fire
Man used fire to worship God almost from the very beginning. Henry Soltau wrote in his book, The Tabernacle – The Priesthood And The Offerings: “Every sacrifice which had been presented to God from Abel downward, had been a burnt offering” (pp. 363-364). In Leviticus 1:9, according to a note in the English Standard Version, we see the burnt offering described as an “offering by fire” with a pleasing aroma to the LORD. In a physical sense many people would agree, for roasting meat smells good.

From the beginning man used fire to cook his food, warm himself and process his materials. In Genesis 4:22 we read: “Tubal-cain … was the forger of all instruments of bronze and iron” (ESV). Today, controlled combustion – fire or burning heat – is used to power our airplanes, ships, trains, trucks and cars. It is also used to generate electricity. God certainly blessed us by giving us our knowledge of fire, including how to develop and use it!

Supernatural Fire
Supernatural fire is quite different from natural fire in that it does not require fuel nor necessarily produce ash. Its appearance is a miracle created by God to accomplish very special results. For example, Asaph spoke of God’s “glorious deeds … and wonders” (Ps. 78:4), including how “He led [His people] with a cloud, and all the night with a fiery light” (v.14). God also used that “pillar of fire” to throw Israel’s Egyptian pursuers into a panic to deliver His escaping people. The pursuers said, “Let us flee from before Israel, for the LORD fights for them against [us]” (Ex. 14:24-25).

Earlier, God had used supernatural fire to call Moses to lead His people and create a nation for Himself. At that time the Israelites were Pharaoh’s slaves and were suffering because of their hard taskmasters. They cried to the LORD, and He answered them by using a supernatural fire in a desert bush. Scripture says, “The Angel of the LORD [presumably the pre-incarnate Son of God] appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush … the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed” (3:2). When Moses turned aside to “see this great sight” (v.3), God called to him and persuaded him to serve as Israel’s leader.

Years later, at the time of Elijah, God used supernatural fire to establish that He, and not Baal, was truly God. Elijah said, “The God who answers by fire, He is God” (1 Ki. 18:24). Two altars were set up, and supernatural fire fell only on Elijah’s offering in answer to his prayer. “The fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Ki. 18:38).

The Lord used supernatural fire to grow the Church on the day of Pentecost. The apostles “were all together in one place … and divided tongues of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1-4; see 1 Cor. 12:10). “There were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven … and they were bewildered because each one was hearing [the apostles] speak in his own language” (Acts 2:5-6). To the Church “there were added that day about three thousand souls” (v.41).

Figurative Fire
God’s punishment of the unrepentant is likened to the pain of being burned in a lake of fire (Rev. 20:10,15), sometimes likened to the caldera of a volcano. Scripture compares the punishment to the burning of chaff “with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12) and speaks of “a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:27). Satan, a name that means “Adversary,” and his angels are spirits and therefore cannot suffer physical pain, but they will suffer the spiritual pain called “eternal fire,” prepared especially for them (Mt. 25:41).

Believers will have no sins for which to suffer in eternity – our Lord Jesus has already suffered for all of them on the cross. What is left for us to do is repent and accept the way of forgiveness He provided for us. However, present sins do have consequences – “whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (Gal. 6:7). The Lord said, “Buy from Me gold refined by fire” (Rev. 3:18), speaking figuratively of our acceptance of the reproof and discipline that He metes out in love for us. “He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness” (Heb. 12:10). “Like a refiner’s fire” (Mal. 3:2), He will purify us now as He will purify the sons of Levi in the future (v.3).

Christ also will judge our works by figurative fire. Paul described the work of growing the Church as constructing a building. The apostle wrote that he is, as it were, the master builder; Jesus Christ is the foundation, and we are God’s fellow-workers building upon it (1 Cor. 3:9-11). The quality of what we build will be evaluated. “Each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done” (v.13).

“If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (vv. 14-15). Paul likened the believer whose works are worthless, or all burned up, to a person who just escapes from a burning building with his life but loses all his possessions in a fire.

We are exhorted: “Let each one take care how he builds” upon the foundation (v.10). We should make sure that what we build on that foundation beautifies the Church in the Lord’s eyes and will survive the fire of judgment.

However, if we build with combustibles like wood, hay and straw, they will burn up. We do this by seeking to add extra-scriptural interpretations, some of which we hold in pride and fiercely contest. Partitions we try to make by twisting or misinterpreting Scripture (see 1 Pet. 3:16) will also burn up. There are those who would seek to “stir up divisions,” or build partitions; whom after suitable warning we are to “have nothing to do with” (Ti. 3:10).

We are to build only what would glorify the Lord and, as it were, survive if the whole thing were set on fire. Paul prayed that in every work you do “the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him” (2 Th. 1:12). Let us not fear God’s fire. Instead, look forward to the manifestation, the revealing and display, of our works. There are works that we may not have highly valued as being gold, silver or precious stones, but then we may find out that they were, having withstood His fire!

Tithing: What Does The Bible Say?

By Brian Reynolds

No Exaggeration
Is the Christian under a legal obligation to give tithes? The question is not whether the Christian should financially support the Lord’s work or his local assembly, rather we are asking if we are still under the Old Testament tithing laws?

There is a strong emphasis on the subject of tithing in many sections of the Church. This is an issue that runs much deeper than one would suppose, and how we view it is extremely important. An unbiblical teaching on the nature and practice of tithing has the potential to undermine the character of the present dispensation of grace and even obscure a proper understanding of the nature of salvation. This is not an exaggerated statement, for a lot can hinge on what may appear to be a minor doctrine. If the question of tithes were simply a matter of food and drink1 one would easily let it drop in the interest of Christian charity, or love, and individual liberty of conscience. The rule to follow would be “let each be fully convinced in his own mind” and “therefore let us pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another” (Rom. 14:5,19 NKJV).

Let us now explore this interesting and important question.

New And Old – Grace And Law
The introduction of the tithing law into Christianity is the mixing of law into the system of grace. The apostle Paul warned us about this in the book of Galatians. Earlier, the Lord exposed the danger with a simple parable, “No one puts a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and the tear is made worse. Nor do they put new wine into old wineskins, or else the wineskins break, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But they put new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Mt. 9:16-17).

From the above words of Matthew’s gospel we learn that the Lord Jesus condemned the combining of Christianity, what is “new,” with the system of the law in Judaism, the “old.” This mixing destroys the character of each. Christianity is something totally new and separate from what went before, and it is not simply an improvement upon the old. The nature or heart of man is that which would constantly turn to the law and earthly religion, which are but a shadow of the new (Heb. 10:1; Col. 2:17).

The Lord Jesus said, “And no one, having drunk the old wine, immediately desires the new; for he says, ‘The old is better’” (Lk. 5:39). This simply means that there is a tendency in the heart of the natural man to turn to the law and away from the system of grace and the Spirit. Again, the whole epistle to the Galatians was written to warn against this tendency (see Galatians 1:6, 3:2-3)

The fact that the New Testament is absolutely silent with respect to a Christian tithe should be enough for any sober-thinking, mature believer. Where tithes are mentioned in the Gospels, it is with regard to Jews seen still under the law and before the cross.2 In Matthew 23:2-3 the Lord Jesus told His disciples to obey Moses, but in Acts 13:39 the apostle Paul said that we cannot be justified by the law of Moses. Is this a contradiction? No. The cross had effectually put an end to the old system of Judaism as shown by the rending of the veil in two and the bringing in of Christianity (Mk. 15:38).3

A Voice From The Past
I am not presenting anything new or strange in this article; in fact Christians from other eras have believed that the doctrine of tithing does not apply to them. Another writer wrote the following words long ago:

“Did it never occur to these persons that we have the Lord preparing the way for Christianity and the Church in the four gospels, but not a hint of Christian tithe! We have a precise and comprehensive history of the gospel and the Church and the chief servants of the Lord for about 30 most eventful and instructive years, written by an inspired hand; but not a hint even here! We have the Epistles written by the most honored in various ways of the apostles, expressly providing divine light – didactic [instructive], exhortatory, ecclesiastical, and pastoral – but not a hint in one of them! We ought to know how solemnly the apostles spoke of the departure at hand for the Christian profession. So it was, as the Spirit predicted. Even during the earliest generation, the testimony of the apostle Paul was very largely a series of conflicts with the inroads of Judaism” (William Kelly, Bible Treasury, Volume 18, page 158).

These are important and true words which need to be considered.

A Bad Argument To Support A Bad Teaching
Those who would contend for tithes are ignorant, perhaps unintentionally, of the heavenly calling of the Church, and they invariably fall back on what was said before the Son of God came. Most believers, I suppose, would not assert that the Christian is under the law or subject to the law of tithing as given to the Levites in Numbers 18:21,26. To avoid this obvious error the advocates of tithing sometimes try to take us back to the time long before the giving of the law through Moses, to the era of the Patriarchs, specifically to the time when Abram paid tithes to Melchisedec after the battle of the kings (Gen. 14:20). Their argument is that since tithes were paid long before the formal giving of the law, then we must also pay a tithe.

But this argument does not stand the test of Scripture. For example, the Patriarchs4 practiced circumcision before it was commanded by the law, but this did not hinder the apostle Paul from warning the Galatians about the practice of circumcision. Did not the observance of circumcision among them cause him to marvel that they left the grace of Christ for another gospel (Gal. 1:6-7) and to exclaim, “Indeed, I Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing” (5:2)? It is evident that although the Patriarchs were circumcised before the law, this did not persuade Paul that it had anything to do with Christianity, but it was actually opposed to the nature of the heavenly calling.

It is recorded in Scripture that sacrifice and burnt offerings were practiced before the law. Noah presented a burnt offering to God after the flood,5 and as early as the time of Cain and Abel6 sacrificial offerings were given. Does this prove that the Christian ought to offer the blood of bulls and goats? God forbid even the thought! Did these offerings of early times hinder the writer to the Hebrews in telling them, “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sins” (Heb. 10:4)? From this we can see that there is no merit in the argument that since tithing is an ancient practice going back before the giving of the law it is therefore binding upon us. It is important for the Christian to understand which dispensational period he is living in and to thus “rightly [divide] the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).

Buy A Blessing From God
In Genesis 28:13-22 Jehovah promised Jacob that he would inherit the land of Canaan, that all the families of the earth would be blessed in his seed, and that the LORD would be with him wherever he went. Jacob then stated that if the LORD would feed and clothe him he would give a tenth of all. This is not a testimony to Jacob’s faith, but one to his unbelief in the unconditional promise just given. Are we, who are the inheritors of heavenly and better promises based on the precious blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, to say that we owe God a tithe? Christ’s work on the cross has perfectly brought us near to God, and the thought of owing God a financial debt is a slight, or affront, upon that work.

There is another and more serious point yet to be noticed in this matter. It is taught in some Christian circles that unless one pays his tithes, God will withhold spiritual blessing from him. Simon the sorcerer thought he could buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter’s reply was, “Your money perish with you, because you thought the gift of God could be purchased with money” (Acts 8:20-21). I can see no difference in Simon the sorcerer’s sin and what is being taught today in some Christian circles concerning tithes. Again this is not an exaggeration of the case, for it is definitely taught by some that if you fail to pay your tithe you cannot even enter into God’s presence. It is also wrongly taught that if one fails to pay the tithe on one Sunday then it becomes a “back tithe” and must be added to the next gift7 on the following Lord’s Day.

Do these teachers not know the Scripture that tells us we are blessed “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ” (Eph. 1:3)? The thought of owing God a financial debt in order to gain favor with Him is a repugnant, or offensive, teaching. Who would dare attach to these things the price of corrupt silver and gold which perishes (1 Pet. 1:18-19)? Seeing we are bought with a price and made joint heirs with Christ, where is there any thought of a monetary debt owed to God? The very thought is an insult to the divine grace shown to us by God through Christ.

Robbing God?
Some teachers use Malachi 3:8-10 to support this doctrine: “Will a man rob God … Bring all the tithes into the storehouse.” But before we jump to conclusions, let’s look at the context. The prophet here appeals to the remnant of Jews who have returned from captivity in Babylon to repent, saying, “Remember the Law of Moses, My servant” (4:4). They had not been faithful to bring their tithes and offerings to the temple, therefore the priests had no food (3:10). But this is strictly all Jewish in character.

Malachi ends his prophecy with, “Lest I come and strike the earth with a curse” (4:6). Is the Christian “cursed with a curse,” or is the Church “this whole nation” (3:9)? The storehouse is not the Church or any particular denomination, as some have taught, but the temple in Jerusalem (See Dt. 14:23). This is an example of twisting the Scriptures to apply everything to the Church. Those who in this way deceitfully handle the Word of God have well earned the rebuke of the apostle: “Desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm” (1 Tim. 1:7). If you are going to teach the law of Moses you must first know to whom it applies.

The True Nature Of Christian Giving
The New Testament, especially the epistles of Paul, has abundant and clear revelation as to the nature of Christian stewardship and giving. Paul, in his farewell address to the Ephesians, said, “I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak. And remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Acts 20:35). Everything the Christian has belongs to the Lord, for we are “bought with a price” and we “are not [our] own” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We don’t owe God 10 percent; we owe Him 100 percent!

The Macedonians exemplified the true nature of Christian giving. Paul said that even though they were in great poverty and affliction through persecution yet they gave “beyond their ability” (2 Cor. 8:2-4). It is interesting to note in verse 5 that they “first gave themselves to the Lord, and then to us by the will of God.” In other words, they gave everything. What outshining of devotion to the Lord! Is there any thought here of obligation to the law, either Levitical or patriarchal? Is it not the outpouring of hearts thankful for and actuated by His “indescribable gift” in giving to us His Son (9:15)?

The Christian ought to give for the ministry of the saints (v.1) and to those who labor in the Lord’s work (1 Cor. 9:13-14). Paul, in speaking to the Corinthians concerning this labor of love, spoke not by commandment but to prove “the sincerity of your love” (2 Cor. 8:8).

The principle for Christians is very clear. We are to give as the Lord has prospered us, and that not grudgingly or “of necessity; for God loves a cheerful giver” (1 Cor. 16:2; 2 Cor. 9:7). There has to be prayer and exercise as to the amount that is to be given. It is not a matter of legal commandment that we owe God a tenth8 of our income – which would be a “necessity.” Rather, we owe Him everything!

1. “The kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit “ (Rom. 14:17).
2. See Matthew 23:23 and Luke 18:12.
3. Read carefully Hebrews 9-10; see also Colossians 2:14.
4. See Genesis 17:9-14,23-27. The fact is the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) practiced circumcision 400 years before it was commanded by Moses. Yet, Paul called the Galatians “foolish” and said someone had “bewitched” them because they thought they needed to be circumcised in order to be saved (Gal. 3:1).
5. Genesis 8:20.
6. Genesis 4:1-4.
7. This was the author’s own experience many years ago in the denomination to which he belonged at that time. Some of the believers had to use their credit card to pay their tithe in order to pay their back tithes and avoid “robbing God.” In some cases they went into financial debt due to this teaching!
8. That many Christians use ten percent as a guideline for their giving is not what I am arguing against in this article, for that practice is acceptable if done prayerfully. But I am contending against the teaching that the believer is under the legal tithing law of the Old Testament. Our giving ought to come from a heart of love and thankfulness, motivated by the Holy Spirit and not from a legal commandment.

Races, Racial Prejudice And God’s Plan In All This

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

Have you ever faced questions like these:

  • Who am I, and why am I of a certain race?
  • Why do people of different races often not get along well with each other?
  • Why are so many people, often even Christians, racially prejudiced, sometimes even to the extent of persecuting or killing one another?
  • Is one particular race best?

When God created mankind He created them male and female. God does not tell us in His Word the color of Adam and Eve. Scientists speculate, research and periodically come up with new theories. Famous artists have painted rather intriguing pictures, and most children’s storybooks have their own depictions of Adam and Eve. It is interesting that believers, especially children, in various parts of the world often portray persons in Scripture to look like themselves. In other words, they identify with them. The race each one of us belongs to is the human race; and truly, God’s Word is for each one of us.

Genesis 1 says clearly that God created mankind male and female. Chapter 2 shows that the female was created from the male and was given to him by God to complete him and give him joy. These are the only two kinds of people God made – and He made them so they would need one another and that the human race would go on. Ephesians 5:21-33, one of many Scripture portions that refers to this, points out that what God gives us in Genesis is a beautiful picture of something even more wonderful: Adam and Eve represent Christ and the Church. Christ loved the Church and gave Himself in death for it, and now is graciously preparing it to be His bride forever in glory. This picture shows us too what God’s will is for the loving, self-sacrificing relationship of husband and wife in marriage.

More important than race, Acts 17:26 tells us that God “has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (NKJV). While there are several different blood types which one must be careful to distinguish when giving blood transfusions, none of these types is specific to one race. If I would need a blood transfusion, the race of the person providing the blood would not matter. And when God speaks of sinners, He tells us that all have sinned. He never breaks this down by race, as men so often do with statistics. We can be thankful that in this day of grace God offers salvation freely to “whosoever will” (Rev. 22:17 KJV). The Bible assures us that God is no respecter of persons. Men make differences among people, race and color, but God makes no such distinction.

When we read Genesis 6-9, we see that because of man’s wickedness God destroyed mankind off the face of the earth through a tremendous flood, which even covered the tops of the mountains. Only one family of eight persons – Noah, his wife, their three sons and their sons’ wives – was spared. From them, the present population of the earth has descended. As one traces their progeny through Genesis 10 and 11, it becomes plain that Shem was the one through whom the Savior eventually came. He was the ancestor of the people of Israel as well as of their Arabic-speaking Middle Eastern neighbors. Japheth was the ancestor of the people who lived in Europe. Ham, whose name means “black,” was the ancestor of the majority of Africans and the probable ancestor of most Asians and Native Americans. Ham’s descendents were very practical and are credited with the largest amount of the great inventions of ancient times.

Returning to Acts 17:26 we see that God in His wisdom has “determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” (NKJV). In His wonderful grace He has fitted people for the environments in which He has placed them, even though people have moved, and have often been moved, to many places besides their ancestral homes. A man with dark skin living near the equator can really thank our all-wise and all-loving God that He has made him that way, for science says his skin does not sunburn as easily as others. This is but one reason to appreciate God’s provision for people. There are many other such evidences of our Creator-God’s loving, tender care for His creatures too.

In Matthew 11 we see the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, looking back over the past years of His ministry. He spoke sadly as He denounced cities where He had done many of His mighty works, but who had not believed on Him. Then we see our Lord Jesus turning to His God and Father and saying, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight” (vv.25-26).

This statement of the Lord’s must ultimately be our answer as Christians to questions about how God has made us – things we do not understand. Human reasoning is not going to give us the answer. God’s Word tells us of God’s love for us. It tells us of His goodness and His wisdom. It tells us that He has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus. Scripture tells us that “He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The Bible reminds us to “behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 Jn. 3:1). And it tells us that we are soon going to be like our Lord Jesus, for we shall see Him as He is. May we with the apostle Paul say, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Another thing: In John 9 the disciples asked the Lord why the man who was blind from birth was blind, whether it was because he or his parents had sinned. The Lord answered that it was not for either of these reasons, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. The chapter goes on to detail how the blind man was healed and how this brought him into much difficulty with the Pharisees. In fact, eventually he was cast out of the synagogue, but through all these problems he became a worshiper of the Lord Jesus.

I would suggest that you, whoever you are, were born the way you were not because of any sin of your own or of your ancestors, but that the works of God should be revealed in you. God may have uniquely fitted you to be able to serve Him where you are or in a place or situation in which He is getting ready to place you. For a person of another race to do the work He gives you to do could very well be a much more complicated and difficult matter.

Passing on to the subject of prejudice, especially racial prejudice, we have noted that God is no respecter of persons. God has made the different races. He does not play favorites. His grace reaches out to all. Again and again He exhorts us to be like Him. In the Old Testament we find Him repeatedly exhorting His people Israel to show kindness to the strangers among them. Prejudice is one of the ugly products of pride. It is taking an attitude of superiority to another individual, race or group in society. It is totally un-Christlike.

Again consider Acts 17:26, where we see that God “has determined [every nation of men’s] pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings.” Sinful man has done much to disturb this order. Rulers have moved peoples they subjugated to other places. In the Bible, the conquering Assyrians did so with the people of the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel, and the Babylonians with the people of Judah. In later years African chiefs often sold their captives to Arab, European, or American slave traders, and these captives were forced into slavery in lands far from their homes. Today, vast numbers of people are trying to escape from warfare, persecution, poverty or other difficult situations by migrating to nations where they feel their condition will be better. Many are losing their lives in the process, and countless others are deeply resented or hated. Human pride, jealousy, lust and other sinful conditions of heart are causes of such wicked attitudes and the deeds that spring out of them.

How sadly different such attitudes are to the loving heart of our God who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, still extends His loving invitation to all mankind, regardless of race or skin color: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Mt. 11:28-30). How have you responded to Him?

The Mark Of The Beast

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.

Many well-meaning preachers have spoken or written on this subject, generally to warn their audience against receiving this dreaded mark. Those who will be under compulsion to receive this mark in their hand or forehead will indeed be faced with tremendous pressure, for once this is required no one will be able to buy or sell without it. Life at that time will become exceedingly difficult.

Let’s examine this subject and find out who will demand this of whom, and when this will be. For answers we must look into Revelation 13, a chapter in the third section of this revelation of Jesus Christ, the part that deals with “the things which will take place after this” (NKJV) according to the outline given to us in Revelation 1:19. This section begins at chapter 4:1 and deals with things which will take place after the Lord raises His saints who have died and raptures them together with those of the present dispensation into His own blessed presence. Let’s bear in mind that besides being a book that gives us a picture of the Lord Jesus in His judicial majesty, Revelation also shows us His enemies that will yet rise up against Him and their final doom.

Three of these enemies, a trinity of evil, are shown to us in chapter 13. The first is a beast rising out of the sea. The Revelation, according to its very first verse, is “signified” – meaning it is written in symbolic language. A beast symbolically is a person who, like an animal, has no personal relationship with God. In Scripture the sea often is used as a picture of the nations of the world, in contrast to the earth or the land, which is a symbol for the nation of Israel and from which the second beast rises. The third enemy is the dragon, Satan himself, according to Revelation 12:9, who gives power to these beasts.

Many people, even many commentators, confuse these enemies of the Lord Jesus with those who will be His in that coming day. But the description of the first beast shows plainly that it represents the Roman Empire which will be revived from its deadly wound received long ago. During the tribulation this empire will rise again as a great political and military power essentially in Europe. Its head is identified with it just as Nebuchadnezzar was identified with the Babylonian Empire – “you are this head of gold” (Dan. 2:38).

The second beast is pictured as a two-horned lamb – a lamb speaking as the dragon. Throughout the Church’s history there have been many antichrists, but here we have the Antichrist. This second beast is also referred to as “the man of sin” (2 Th. 2:3), “the lawless one” (vv.8-9), “the false prophet” (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10), and the willful king (Dan. 11:36). He is essentially a religious leader, a Jew, the ruler of Israel who is in league with the first beast, a great deceiver who can work miracles and who causes people to worship that wicked one or be killed. He is the one who will decree that all are to receive the mark of the beast, or the number of his name.

F. W. Grant, a well-known expositor whose studies of the numbers and number patterns of Scripture are most instructive, wrote 130 years ago that six speaks “of divine limit imposed, of restraint upon man’s will, which breaks out against it and submits, as the sea against its margin of sand, which it cannot pass.” He went on to say that 666 speaks of “the full development of evil in the very highest opposition to God; while also the stamp of vanity and weakness of the creature, limited and restrained by Him, would be only proportionately the more apparent. In any case, the limitation, restraint, and perhaps judgment of evil seem to be inseparable from the number.”* Others like to point out that the Greeks, like the Romans, used letters of the alphabet as numbers, and that adding up the numerical value of the name and title of the Antichrist may well add up to 666.

Both of these beasts rise to power during the tribulation, that dreadful seven-year-long period that will be worse than any previous period in earth’s history. The second half of this period will be so bad that it is termed “the great tribulation.” This is when the wickedness of these beasts will rise to its full height. These wicked men and their kingdoms are mentioned in various other connections elsewhere in Scripture too. We should never forget that Scripture is one whole. Our Lord Jesus in John 10:35 pointed this out, saying that the Scripture cannot be broken.

Many preachers and people who are concerned about the mark of the beast are aware and generally alarmed that modern technology has already made tiny rice-sized implantable biochips or microchips that can be implanted under the skin. Some of these are already in use beneficially for identification of animals and people and for storage of medical history. Radio frequencies from these chips can be picked up and stored on computer databases. Miniaturization is being developed so smaller and smaller devices can do more and more and hold greater and greater amounts of data. This can be good, but it is evident that such technology can also be used for wrong purposes. If such technology is already available through human skill, what more will the future hold, especially when energized and driven by satanic power?

These fear mongers, generally speaking, are unaware that Christians need not be afraid of such technology being the mark of the beast. The beasts mentioned in Revelation 13 will not come into focus while we Christians are still upon earth. God has made it plain in His Word that Christians will be raptured before the tribulation begins. The Lord Jesus is our Deliverer from the wrath to come (1 Th. 1:10). The Church will be kept from – not through – the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world (Rev. 3:10). In 2 Thessalonians 2 we see that the man of sin will not be revealed in his true character while the Church and the Holy Spirit who indwells her are still here on earth. In fact, when we look at the various Scripture portions that deal with the Antichrist and the mark of the beast, we conclude that the requirement to have the mark of the beast or the number of his name to be able to buy and sell does not come into force until the middle of the tribulation, the beginning of the great tribulation. Furthermore, this seems intimately connected with worshiping the beast.

Continuing in 2 Thessalonians 2 we see that God will send strong delusion to believe a lie to those who did not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved, but had pleasure in unrighteousness during today’s dispensation of grace. There will be no such thing as a second chance for those who have rejected the salvation God offers by grace at the present time. Once the Church is complete and in heaven God will turn back to His ancient people, Israel, and save a remnant who in turn will preach the everlasting gospel to the many people who have never heard it before. The people who live at this later time are emphatically warned against receiving the mark of the beast or the number of his name.

While all salvation is based on the finished work of the Lord Jesus on Calvary, the everlasting gospel is not exactly the same good news that we have accepted for our salvation. It is rather, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water” (Rev. 14:7). Many will accept this gospel and refuse to worship the beast and to have his mark or his name. They will suffer martyrdom as a result. Thank God, these events are future and do not directly apply to us who are Christians today. We should learn from them, however, just as we can learn from every portion of God’s Word.

Satan is behind the non-Christian religions of this world, for when people worship idols they are really worshiping his demons. Sad to say, Satan even has quite an effect on much of that which calls itself Christian. He is tremendously influential and powerful in the affairs of this world too, whether political, economic or cultural.

God shows us in His Word that to worship Him, our true God, cannot be combined with any other religion or religious requirement. He will not share His glory with any other being. We must serve God rather than man, and we must take our stand for Him though this may cause us to be ostracized, persecuted or even killed. May we look to our Lord to help us be faithful to Him no matter how difficult we may find this to be now, or in days to come! He has promised, “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (2:10).

*The Numerical Structure Of Scripture, pp.50-51. Loizeaux Brothers, New York, NY., 1956. This book was first published in 1887.

Are You An Idol Worshiper?

By Timothy P. Hadley

This may seem like a very strange question to ask believers, but it is a very important question for us to consider for ourselves. The aged apostle John ended his first letter by challenging us to “keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21 NKJV). Throughout this book John emphasized the tremendous privilege of having fellowship with God as our Father and His Son. John taught that fellowship is based on righteousness, love and truth. He outlined the conditions for fellowship and gave cautions to fellowship. This is followed by a description of the behavior that fellowship with God brings, showing us its characteristics and consequences.

So why did John end this letter with an exhortation to keep ourselves from idols? It is because idolatry is the enemy to fellowship!

Breaking It Down
The word “keep” in this exhortation expresses urgency and decisiveness, without any hesitation. It means to guard or defend. We are not to fool with false religion because of the serious damage it can do to our souls. Do not desert the reality of fellowship with the Father and His Son for an illusion. Anything or anyone that becomes a substitute for God is idolatry. Our hearts must be guarded!

First John 5:20 reminds us of Him who is true. He is the reason for a Christian life that is geniune. Because we have met the true God, through His Son Jesus Christ, we are in contact with reality. Our fellowship is with the God who is real. The word “real” speaks of an original or something authentic, rather than a copy or imitation. Jesus Christ is the true Light (Jn. 1:9), true Bread (6:32), true Vine (15:1) and Truth itself (14:6). He is the original!

What Is An Idol?
Expanding on what we have already said, an idol is any person, object or activity we give a higher priority in our life than our relationship with God. This of course can include a house, job, vehicle, pet and computer. Alcohol, drugs, immorality and other sins can be defined as idols. Things we view as good can also be idols, such as friendships and families. An idol can even be the work you do for the Lord if you lose sight of Him, being consumed by the work itself. Nothing should take His rightful place. Remember, God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:4-5; Dt. 4:25, 6:15, 32:21).

Jeremiah 44:2-6 says, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘You have seen all the calamity that I have brought on Jerusalem and on all the cities of Judah; and behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke Me to anger, in that they went to burn incense and to serve other gods whom they did not know, they nor you nor your fathers. However I have sent to you all My servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, “Oh, do not do this abominable thing that I hate!” But they did not listen or incline their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense to other gods. So My fury and My anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as it is this day.’”

Later, in Ezekiel 14:1-8, we find a group of elders whom God had cut off from speaking and making requests to Him because they had set up idols in their hearts. These elders, through the idols, had separated themselves from God. The idols were a stumbling block to themselves and others.

Not only does idolatry rob God of His place in our hearts, it involves the worship of demons (1 Cor. 10:20; Dt. 32:17). This problem is not limited to a specific people or group; it is a human issue – an issue of the heart! John Calvin once said, “The human heart is an idol factory.” Romans 1:21,25 declares, “… Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened … who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.”

Idols In The Human Heart
Let’s look at some idols that can establish a stronghold in the heart.

  • Pride. Isaiah 2:11 says, “The lofty looks of man shall be humbled, the haughtiness [arrogance] of men shall be bowed down, and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.” Listen to Proverbs 16:5: “Everyone proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD; though they join forces, none will go unpunished.” Both James and Peter wrote: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5; see Prov. 3:34).
  • Lust or covetousness. The Lord Jesus reminded us that lust begins in the heart (Mt. 5:27-28). In Luke 12:15 He warned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Paul wrote: “For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:5).
  • Physical idols. As to these kind of idols, God was very clear: “You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image – any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me” (Ex. 20:3-5).
  • Self. We live in a “me first” generation. However, the Lord Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Mt. 6:33). This world lives for self, thinking only of itself, but the Lord is to be our priority!
  • Entertainment. If the enemy can keep us entertained, keeping our minds off of Christ, he will. Entertainment is not necessarily wrong in itself, but we are told that “whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
  • Traditions which become rules. The Lord addressed this while admonishing the Pharisees, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men – the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do … All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition … making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do” (Mk. 7:6-9,13).
  • Religion. Even religion can become an idol if Christ is left out of it by focusing more on the ritual and routines than on Him. The Lord Jesus emphasized this in Matthew 23:27-31, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you build the tombs of the prophets and adorn the monuments of the righteous, and say, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets.’ Therefore you are witnesses against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets.”
  • Hatred and bitterness. If we do not forgive, and we allow a matter to fester and consume us, the resulting feelings can become idols. This is why Paul said, “‘Be angry, and do not sin’: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil … And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, and evil speaking be put away from you, with all malice. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:26-27,30-32).
  • Fear and worry. The struggle about things that trouble us can also become an idol. Therefore we are encouraged to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
  • This world. John wrote: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:15). If we live for this world, it can become an idol to us.

When giving instruction as to removing idols from our lives, Paul presented an infinitely great option: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:1-5).

We see a good example by the believers at Thessalonica when they were saved. They “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Th. 1:9-10). The object that they turned to was far greater than the object from which they turned away!

We ought to be just as troubled when we see idols in our lives as Paul was when “his spirit was provoked within him” as he saw that the city of Athens was given over to idols (Acts 17:16). Upon discovering and challenging the idols in our own hearts, we will need to be strong in the Spirit as Paul was in Ephesus (19:23-26). John Newton, the writer of the hymn “Amazing Grace,” also wrote: “If I may speak of my own experience, I find that to keep my eye simply on Christ as my peace and life is by far the hardest part of my calling … It seems easier to deny self in a thousand instances of outward conduct, than in its ceaseless endeavors to act as a principle of righteousness and power.”

How important it is for us to set apart the Lord God in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15)!

Identifying Your Idols
David Powlison, in his book “Seeing With New Eyes,”* gave “12 Questions To Identify Your Idols.” They have helped me to search my heart and set the Lord apart. Here they are for your benefit:

  1. What do I worry about most?
  2. What, if I failed or lost it, would cause me to feel that I did not even want to live?
  3. What do I use to comfort myself when things go bad or get difficult?
  4. What do I do to cope? What are my release valves? What do I do to feel better?
  5. What preoccupies me? What do I daydream about?
  6. What makes me feel the most self-worth? Of what am I the proudest? For what do I want to be known?
  7. What do I lead with in conversations?
  8. Early on, what do I want to make sure that people know about me?
  9. What prayer, unanswered, would make me seriously think about turning away from God?
  10. What do I really want and expect out of life? What would really make me happy?
  11. What is my hope for the future?
  12. What do you blog, tweet or post the most about on social networks?

Idols In The Home
We have been mainly speaking about idols in the heart, but what about idols in the home? An old saying ties the two together: “Home is where the heart is!” The Bible mentions several people who possessed teraphim, or household idols. These were often kept with the thought that they brought blessing upon the home, but in the stories of Rachel and Michal they brought much grief!

Let’s look at the example of Jacob and Rachel. God instructed Jacob to leave the land of his father-in-law, Laban, and return to the land of his own fathers (Gen. 31:3). Jacob packed everything up and set out on the journey with his family, but Jacob did not know that his wife Rachel had secretly taken her father’s household idols (v.19). God had blessed Jacob and was preparing him for even greater things, however pagan idols had slipped into Jacob’s household.

We are not told why Rachel stole the household idols, but it would seem that Rachel continued to hold to superstitions and some pagan practices embraced by her father’s family. Today many Christians have difficulty letting go of non-Christian practices that exist as part of their family tradition. We have not turned our backs on God in the sense that we stopped worshiping Him or enjoying His favor, but we may have allowed idols in our homes. This should challenge the heart!

Michal, the wife of King David, also had a household god in her possession. At one point her father, Saul, sent men to kill David. Michal helped her husband escape through a window and then she took a large household idol and placed it in his bed. She disguised the image under a blanket to look like David (1 Sam. 19). This large idol was apparently already in her house, but no explanation for its presence there is given in Scripture.

In both cases the wife of a godly man continued to be influenced by pagan practices carried over from her father’s family. This shows that parents exhibit a powerful spiritual influence over their children, which often extends into later life.

Idols are not to be part of a Christian’s life in any form. Scripture is clear that there is only one God, and He alone is to be served. In Deuteronomy 7:26 God warned, “Nor shall you bring an abomination into your house, lest you be doomed to destruction like it. You shall utterly detest it and utterly abhor it, for it is an accursed thing.”

During their many years in Egypt the Hebrews fell into idolatry. After leaving, a long time passed before they were delivered from it (Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 20:7). If you study the history of Israel you will see that the consequence of having idols was devastating.

A Lesson From Exodus
In Exodus 32 we find an incident that holds many important lessons for us today. In fact, the New Testament refers to it while exhorting us not to allow similar things to in our lives (1 Cor. 10:7,14).

Having already witnessed powerful signs in Egypt and at the Red Sea, the children of Israel were led to Mount Sinai by Moses. But when Moses went up the mountain to receive the Word of the LORD, the people asked Aaron to “make us gods” – apparently not realizing that the true God was present with them. Aaron collected gold from the people, fashioned a calf, built an altar to it and proclaimed a feast “to the LORD” (Ex. 32:5). He tried to mix worshiping Jehovah with idol worship!

When God told Moses about the sin the people were committing, he interceded for them, pleading for God’s mercy. Moses even stated that he was willing to die with them. Coming down from Mount Sinai, Moses had the authority and strength of a man who had been with God – and all Israel knew it. As he came near the camp, Moses broke the tablets of stone containing the law. He then destroyed the calf by grinding the idol into powder and putting it in the brook that flowed from the mountain. The people were then made to drink the water (Ex. 32:15-20; Dt. 9:12-21). Reasons for this action by Moses in judgment include:

  • To show that the so-called god was nothing and could be destroyed easily,
  • To completely obliterate this idol,
  • To make the people pay an immediate consequence of their sin, and
  • To make the gold of the idol absolutely unusable.

When we look over Exodus 32 we find at least four lessons as to why we might fall into idolatry. Knowing these things may help to keep us from idols. We can fall into idolatry when:

  • We are impatient with God. Sometimes we don’t want to wait, depend on and trust God. Leaning on our own understanding often leads us to produce idols in our lives because we are not enjoying or relying on His fellowship while we wait.
  • We do what is popular instead of what is right before the Lord. Conforming to this world will lead us to produce idols in our lives. This is why Paul urged us to “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2).
  • We invent our own image of God. We sometimes begin to create God in our image or according to our own imagination rather than the way the Word of God presents Him. This is why it is so important to be in the Word of God to learn more of who He is and what He is like!
  • We fail to remember just how faithful God has always been.

If we are unfaithful in our love and allegiance to Christ we will be made to “drink bitter water” like women who were thought to be unfaithful had to do (Num. 5:17,24). What a sad time.

What will draw our hearts away from the idols of this life? It is gazing on the beauties and greatness of the One who loved us and gave Himself for us (Gal. 2:20).

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face; And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of His glory and grace.” —Helen Howarth Lemmel (1863-1961)

May our hearts be drawn to Him – to Him alone! ENDNOTE
* Published by P&R Publishing, Phillipsburg NJ, 2003.

The World’s Nice Guys And God’s Good Guys

By Alan H. Crosby

A Nice Guy And Eternal Life
The rich young ruler (Mt. 19:16-22; Mk. 10:17-22; Lk. 18:18-24) was a nice guy, but he did not have eternal life. He came to Jesus asking, “What good deed must I do to have eternal life”? (Mt. 19:16 ESV). This man seemingly had kept all God’s commandments from his youth (Lk. 18:21) – he was indeed a nice guy! Feeling that he may be lacking something he asked, “What do I still lack?” (Mt. 19:20). He did not love his neighbor as himself, and he was not a follower of Jesus, the Son of God. His lacks were revealed when our Lord answered his question, saying, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor … and come, follow Me, and he went away sorrowful” (vv.21-22).

This example shows us that keeping the law is not the way to obtain salvation, nor is it by being a nice guy. Eternal life is not the result of what we do, instead “it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). Eternal life is given to whosoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ (Jn. 3:16), and believing in Him means becoming His follower!

There are nice guys today who want nothing to do with God. They think they are so good that they have no need of a savior. There are also those who seem to be nice guys because they will seek to do whatever they think will be pleasing to others, but they will not hesitate to severely harm anyone who opposes them.

We Are To Be Good Guys
Believers are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God proposed beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). These good works will be the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22), whom we acquire with the new birth. Persons characterized by the fruit of the Spirit may be called “God’s good guys” as contrasted with the world’s nice guys.

God’s good guys will:

  • Display love – “brotherly affection” (Rom. 12:10),
  • “Count it … joy when they meet trials of various kinds” (Jas. 1:3),
  • Live, as far as it depends on them, “peaceably with all” (Rom. 12:18),
  • Be “kind to everyone … patiently enduring evil” (2 Tim. 2:24),
  • Correct their “opponents with gentleness” (v.25), and
  • Be known for their “self-control” under provocation (Mt. 5:39).

The perfect example for us to follow is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone can say, “I always do the things that are pleasing to Him [God the Father]” (Jn. 8:29).

Why Then Was Our Lord Hated?
He was not a nice guy from the world’s viewpoint. Why not? Because He would always do what pleased the Father rather than what pleased those around Him. Consider some examples:

  • He allowed the destruction of a herd of about 2,000 pigs, a valuable property on which people depended for their living. Certainly they did not think that destroying these pigs was nice at all, and the people “begged Him to leave their region” (Mt. 8:34).
  • Peter, a disciple, began to rebuke the Lord, who just said about Himself that He would suffer many things from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and be killed (16:22). The Father was pleased for our Lord to deal with Peter’s rash comment by saying, “Get thee behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me” (v.23). Surely, Peter’s initial thought in this instance was that our Lord was not being very nice.
  • Similarly, the businessmen who “sold and bought in the temple” did not consider Him to be a nice guy when He overturned their tables and seats (21:12). God wanted what they were doing to be clearly condemned because, as our Lord said, they had made what God had intended to be a “house of prayer” into a “den of robbers” (vv.12-13).
  • In the presence of crowds of people, our Lord said that the scribes and Pharisees did not practice what they preached (23:1-3). Even worse, He likened them to poisonous “serpents,” a “brood of vipers” (v.33). God did not want His people to be deceived by their outward appearance of righteousness when those presenting it were “full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (v.28).

Nobody using worldly standards would want to be treated as these were in our examples. Rather, nearly everyone wants be thought of as being one of God’s good guys even if they are not.

Being God’s Good Guy Brings Hatred
Do you think that being like our Lord Jesus will cause you to be liked? Far from it! He was hated – and his haters sought to kill Him (Jn. 7:11). If we live a godly life, doing God’s will, our Lord tells us that we will be hated just as He was: “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you!” (Jn. 15:20). Yet, “we must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

There Is A Choice
There are two options: I can be “seeking the approval of men or of God” (Gal. 1:10). The apostle Paul made his choice and said, “If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

What about you? Do you desire to please men as one of the world’s nice guys or do you want to be a servant of Christ as one of God’s truly good guys? Which do you choose?

Christian Baptism What Is It? What Is It Not?

By Eugene P. Vedder, Jr

Christian baptism is an ordinance, or rite, unique to Christianity. There was no Christian baptism before the Church (the Assembly) began, which was on the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and ten days after His bodily ascension into heaven. We find the account of this in Acts 2. On the morning of Pentecost, in answer to the promise of the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon His 120 followers, who were waiting as He had instructed them in the upper room. These 120 were filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized into one body by Him, and in this way the Church was formed. This was a unique one-time event referred to as the baptism of the Spirit, and every believer in the Lord Jesus comes into the good of it when he is saved. However, this is not water baptism, which we commonly refer to as baptism when we speak of being baptized.

A crowd of Jews and proselytes (converts to Judaism) from many nations gathered, drawn by this marvelous phenomenon. In response, Peter preached to them, explaining how this event was something the prophet Joel had spoken of long before. He went on to speak of how God had raised and exalted the Lord Jesus, whom they had rejected and crucified a few weeks earlier. In effect, God had reversed the decision they had made about Jesus.

Peter’s message cut members of this crowd to the heart, and they asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” He told them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (vv.37-38 NKJV). Remember, weeks earlier a vast crowd of Jews urged on by their leaders had demanded that Jesus be crucified. These Jews who had come together now needed to repent of that behavior and take a public stand with God on the side of the Lord Jesus against that decision and the “perverse generation” who had made it. Three thousand individuals acted accordingly, repenting and being baptized. They thus publicly severed their former ties with what their nation did and took their stand with Jesus. On this wonderful day the Church grew from 120 individuals to 3,120.

Some years earlier many Jews who had been stirred by the preaching of John the Baptist had openly declared their repentance by being baptized – a symbolic washing and cleansing. This was not Christian baptism either, for Christianity did not exist before the death, resurrection, ascension and exaltation of the Lord Jesus. The doctrinal significance of Christian baptism is given to us in Romans 6:3-5. In baptism someone who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord is identified with Him and His death for us. Being immersed in the water (the scriptural way to perform baptism) is a going into “the likeness of His death.” In effect, the one baptized acknowledges that he, the sinner, deserved to die. In figure he puts himself in the place of death, where Christ actually went, thereby confessing his faith in Christ’s death for his sins. Coming up out of the water is a picture of resurrection, in which the one baptized symbolically says that he has become a new creation in Christ. His old life is past and he wants to walk in newness of life.

Baptism does not save a person. It does not wash away his sins or impart new life to him. Rather, it symbolizes that the person being baptized is identifying with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. He wants to live a new life, pleasing to God. He wants now to live in newness of life – no longer as a slave to sin, but as one alive from the dead. According to 1 Peter 3:21, baptism is the answer of a good conscience toward God; it is not the removal of the filth of the flesh. Galatians 3:27 says that “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”

In Scripture we invariably find that baptism follows salvation. Acts 18:8 clearly states that “many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized.” Before leaving them, the Lord Jesus in Mark 16:15-16 told His disciples to “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” In Matthew 28:18-20 this command of the Lord, who could say, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and in earth,” is given as a threefold command:

  1. “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations”;
  2. “Baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”; and
  3. “Teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you.”

The Lord goes on to encourage His disciples – and us, too – by saying, “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Amen.”

We see in these verses that the Lord gives those who preach the gospel the responsibility for baptizing those who believe on Him through their preaching. In the New Testament we never find a long interval of time between when a person accepted Christ as Savior and Lord and when he was baptized. We’ve noted Peter’s command to the 3,000 who believed to repent and be baptized. Saul of Tarsus (later named Paul) similarly was told by Ananias to arise and be baptized (Acts 22:16). Like the 3,000 Jews at Pentecost, he had been publicly against the Lord Jesus, persecuting His Church. But now Saul was to openly switch sides, as it were. The Lord had already seen and recognized his faith, but his sin was to be dealt with publicly in baptism.

Peter in Acts 10:48 commanded that Cornelius and those with him should be baptized. He had just witnessed the Holy Spirit being poured out upon them as they sat and heard the preaching of the gospel – clear, God-given evidence that these Gentiles had believed the Word and thus had been saved. We do not read that Peter personally performed the baptism, but he insisted that it be done. Paul likewise did not usually baptize those who believed through his preaching, lest this would be misunderstood. Others of the team that accompanied him could doubtless show their fellowship in the gospel endeavor by carrying out the physical act of baptizing.

We have seen that the Lord wanted His own to teach those who were saved and baptized to observe all that He had commanded them. This should not be neglected. No long course of teaching is required before a person is baptized. Indeed, we see in the New Testament people baptized very quickly upon their salvation. We even see in Acts 8 in the case of Simon the sorcerer that this man was baptized upon what was later shown to have been merely an outward profession and not reality of heart.

Baptism should be the outward accompaniment of salvation. Numerous passages of Scripture show us that faith, not baptism, is the means by which one is saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 makes plain that faith is not of ourselves, not something we can take credit for, but it is given by God’s grace. Therefore we cannot boast of our faith. Sadly, baptism is an outward act that is many times applied erroneously or even deceptively.

Not a single clear case is given us in Scripture in which unsaved people were deliberately baptized. Yet this is often done today in many so-called “Christian” churches, usually because the significance of baptism is not properly understood. Many people view baptism as a means of salvation or as a way to become a member of a church rather than as a vital accompaniment to salvation. They think that the Lord meant baptism when He spoke of being born of water and of the Spirit. Water in the Bible is often used as a picture of the Word of God. This misinterpretation of Scripture would mix baptism, which is a human work, and the activity of the Spirit of God. This is absolutely wrong, for salvation is by faith in Christ rather than by works of righteousness which we have done.

There are numerous variations of the erroneous belief that baptism is a means of salvation. In many churches babies are baptized soon after they are born. These churches seek to make them Christians and thus assure them entry into heaven. The true gospel is hardly taught in a church that advocates such false teaching; nor can a child be saved by the faith of its parents or of any other “sponsor.” It is most important to acquaint children with the Lord Jesus, who wants to be their loving Savior, for salvation is not accomplished by a mechanical or physical process such as baptism. As long as a child does not have understanding to accept or to reject the Lord Jesus, should he die he is covered by the value of Christ’s glorious sacrificial work accomplished on Calvary. A child is a sinner by birth and this soon becomes evident in his actions. When he is able to understand – and we cannot set a definite age for when this is – that he is a sinner and that Christ died for him, then by all means bring the gospel before him in simplicity and clarity! The person who rejects God’s loving offer of salvation is lost, whether he has been baptized or not.

There are Christian parents who dedicate their children, wanting to put them “on Christian ground.” In doing this they publicly affirm that they intend to bring up their children for the Lord. There is no doubt that they mean well. Such parents often try thereby to draw parallels with circumcision in the Old Testament, basing their practice on passages of Scripture that refer to the baptism of households. A household in the biblical sense, however, is not the same as a family. God distinguishes between Abraham’s children and his household in Genesis 18:19. A household is a broader term in Scripture, for it included the slaves or servants. The references in Scripture to a household being baptized never indicate the ages of any children in the household or even that there were children in the household.

The jailor at Philippi in Acts 16 was converted after midnight and “rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household.” Lydia’s household is referred to in verse 40 of that same chapter as “the brethren.” Paul exhorts the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 16:15-16 to submit to the household of Stephanas, for “they have devoted themselves to the ministry of the saints.” In 1 Corinthians 1:16, he mentions having personally baptized this household. Every indication in the New Testament of the baptism of a household indicates a one-time action. Romans 16:11 mentions a household of which not all the members were “in the Lord.” Nowhere do we find a record of an infant born to Christian parents after their own baptism being baptized by itself as a distinct event.

The words “Do you not know” in Romans 6:3 would also indicate that the person being baptized should have at least a basic understanding of what baptism signifies. God sees the heart of a person when that person believes, but man recognizes a person as a believer when that person is baptized. This is especially true of Muslims and Orthodox Jews, who often seem to know more about the meaning of baptism than many Christians do. When he professes to be saved, they still hold out hope for someone who leaves their religion to return, but they regard him as dead once he gets baptized.

Friend, if you have not trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, please come to Him today! He loves you so much that He died for you on the cross at Calvary nearly 2,000 years ago. If you have put your trust in Him as Savior, have you confessed this publicly before the world in baptism? If not, why not? This is a step of obedience He expects you to take once you have received salvation by His grace. Baptism openly shows you to be on His side in a world that still rejects Him – “buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). May God bless you as you then seek to walk in newness of life!

Confronting Immorality In The Flesh

By Warren Henderson

Paul told us that in the latter days of the Church Age many who say they are Christians will not follow sound doctrine (2 Th. 2:3), “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” – that is, a mere profession (2 Tim. 3:5 KJV). Those days are apparent and perhaps no more obvious than by the acceptance of the homosexual agenda and other forms of sexual immorality by many in Christianity. When popularity polls, instead of the Bible, determine what proper doctrine is, the Church is heading towards apostasy – the intentional, total abandonment of God.

Some say that homosexuality was only condemned by Old Testament law and that it is now permissible in the New Testament under grace. Yet God instituted His design for marriage before the law: one man and one woman until death separates them (Gen. 2). In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus affirmed that this was God’s plan for marriage (Mt. 19:4-6). This is the pattern to which the apostles, church elders and deacons adhered (1 Cor. 9:5; 1 Tim. 3:1-12). Consequently, there are no examples of Christians engaging in homosexual relationships in the New Testament. There are, however, many warnings and prohibitions against fornication. Jude included a history lesson in his warning: “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire” (Jude 7).

Scripturally speaking, any sexual relation other than that between a husband and his wife is referred to as fornication. This is why Paul said, “To avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife” (1 Cor. 7:2). Fornication includes adultery and pre-marital relationships, along with many others under a variety of names. Under the law any Jew who engaged in these sexual sins was to be put to death (Lev. 20:10-13), except for those who engaged in pre-marital sex – they were to marry each other (Dt. 22:29). God gave the law to His covenant people so they might be a holy people unto Him and separated from the godlessness and the worldliness of the nations.

While Gentiles (those who are not Jews) were never under the law – and Christians will never be put under the law – the moral aspects of the law still reflect God’s standard of holiness for us. For example, the Lord Jesus affirmed the relevance of nine of the Ten Commandments during His earthly ministry – the exception being the Sabbath day, as the Church would gather on resurrection day, Sunday, to show Christianity’s distinction from the old system put away by the cross. Consequently, Paul told Christians that by the law comes the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20, 7:7) and the law shows us our need for a Savior (Gal. 3:24).

When it comes to God’s standard concerning sexual behavior, nothing has changed in the New Testament. Such sins are still an offense against God and will be punished, but immediate death is not now commanded. To say, as many do, that the New Testament does not condemn homosexual behavior is absurd. Paul tells us that when people exchange divinely revealed truth for a lie God responds by turning them over to their own morally depraved thinking. The Bible tells us that homosexuality was a primary behavior that resulted when God removed His convicting influence (Rom. 1:21-28). Those who engaged in this type of conduct were worthy of God’s condemnation and deep down they knew it (Rom. 1:32).

Other verses that condemn all sexual immorality – the conduct as distinguished from the feelings – include:

  • “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Notice that this passage shows that the lifestyle before conversion was repented of after coming to Christ.
  • “The body is not for fornication, but for the Lord … flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:13,18).
  • “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; … For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God” (Eph. 5:3-5).
  • “But the … sexually immoral … shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).
  • “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality” (1 Th. 4:3).

While it is possible for a Christian to commit an act of fornication, he or she would feel quite guilty afterwards. That person would not want to grieve the Lord by ongoing fornication. To do so would invite His chastening hand (Heb. 12:6). A true child of God cannot continue in any willful, persistent sin (1 Jn. 3:9).

Whether we can relate to other people’s lusting is not the issue; but our concern is what we do about our own inappropriate lusting. Christians are not to accept what God disapproves. Rather, they are to align their desires with God’s will in order to obtain His blessing (Rom. 6:11-13, 12:1-2). He will not bless what is outside of His will – to do so would condone sin and that He cannot do.

For those having homosexual feelings and yearnings, yielding to God’s will may not lead them into a Christ-honoring marriage, but it will certainly afford His favor and peace. Obedience by a believer, especially in hard things, is a practical way to tell the Lord Jesus that he loves Him (Jn. 14:15).

Scripture must guide our interaction with others as well. Believers cannot have fellowship with someone who claims to be a Christian and is engaging in fornication (1 Cor. 5:11). Having feelings that do not align with God’s will does not scripturally limit our interaction with each other. Yet, God’s Word does prohibit believers from associating with those naming the name of Christ and yet engaging in willful sin or with those who are publicly promoting it (Rom. 16:17; 2 Th. 3:6,14).

Christ loves sinners, but He hates their sin and so should we. Fornication is normal behavior for those dead in sin (Gal. 5:19). Hence, Paul encourages believers to interact faithfully with the lost (without engaging in their sin) that they might first see, then hear the gospel message and hopefully be saved (1 Cor. 5:9-10). To speak sincerely to fornicators about the love of Christ is not a “hate crime,” but to scorn or belittle souls for whom Christ bled and died is.

In summary, believers are to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). Silence condones sin. If God’s Word condemns a behavior, we must side with God and not be swayed by family relationships or sympathetic reasoning – which is a frequent tactic of the devil. Scripture is clear in condemning sexually immoral practices and also in limiting the believer’s contact with those who claim to be Christians but are engaging in such sin. However, this restriction does not apply to fornicators who do not hold the name of Christ. Believers should be tactfully conversing with them about the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.


Wisdom sorrows over men who brush aside all her counsel and who will have nothing to do with her constructive criticism. What makes man’s stubborn refusal so irrational is that God’s commandments and warnings are for man’s good, not for God’s. This is illustrated in a story which a preacher once told. A small child squeezed past the metal railing that kept spectators six feet from the lions’ cage at the Washington Zoo. When her grandfather ordered her to come out, she backed away teasingly. A waiting lion grabbed her, dragged her into the cage and mangled her to death.

According to the preacher the lesson is this: God has given us commandments and principles that are for our good; God never gives us a commandment because He is arbitrary or because He doesn’t want us to have fun. He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” not because He is jealous of His own position and prerogatives, but because He knows that if we put anything, anything before Him, it will hurt us. If we understand the principle behind this fact, we can also understand why God corrects and disciplines us. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens” (Heb. 12:6). He doesn’t want us to back into a lion, for there is a lion, the Devil, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8). — William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (adapted)

Wisdom sorrows over men who brush aside all her counsel and who will have nothing to do with her constructive criticism. What makes man’s stubborn refusal so irrational is that God’s commandments and warnings are for man’s good, not for God’s. This is illustrated in a story which a preacher once told. A small child squeezed past the metal railing that kept spectators six feet from the lions’ cage at the Washington Zoo. When her grandfather ordered her to come out, she backed away teasingly. A waiting lion grabbed her, dragged her into the cage and mangled her to death.

According to the preacher the lesson is this: God has given us commandments and principles that are for our good; God never gives us a commandment because He is arbitrary or because He doesn’t want us to have fun. He says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me,” not because He is jealous of His own position and prerogatives, but because He knows that if we put anything, anything before Him, it will hurt us. If we understand the principle behind this fact, we can also understand why God corrects and disciplines us. “Whom the Lord loves, He chastens” (Heb. 12:6). He doesn’t want us to back into a lion, for there is a lion, the Devil, seeking whom he may devour (1 Pet. 5:8).

— William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary (adapted)