Did You Have a "Church" Wedding?

There is a big difference between dating and marriage. Dating is like a test drive; the person is still kicking the tires and weighing their options. They are interested in what they see, but are not quite ready to make a purchase. Marriage, on the other hand, is a done deal. The decision has been made and the title transferred.


There were certain characteristics that existed when I was dating Jill which do not exist in our marriage. For instance, I sometimes let things comes between us (football, other people); I felt uncomfortable talking about her (parents, teasing friends); I did not feel responsible for her problems (braces, car repairs); I was not overly generous (dinner, but not a house); I took our relationship for granted (on again, off again); and I hid my weaknesses. Perhaps these same characteristics will help us to determine whether we are dating the church, or are married to it.


If you let things come between you and the church, you’re just dating. If you feel uncomfortable talking about the church, you’re just dating. If you do not feel responsible to help the church with its problems, you’re just dating. If you are not overly generous to the church, you’re just dating. If you take your relationship with the church for granted, you’re just dating. If you hide your weaknesses from the church, you're just dating. 


Research has shown that churches are suffering from a “commitment crisis.” While over 40% of Americans say they go to church weekly, less than 20% are actually going. Are you among the non-committals? Are you just dating the church? If so, I encourage you to take the next step and have a “church” wedding.  


The Resurrection

A young girl lived near a spooky-looking cemetery, and in order to get to the store she had to follow a path that went through the cemetery. Yet the young girl never seemed to be afraid, even when it was dark outside. When someone asked her, “Aren’t you scared walking through that cemetery?” she replied, “Oh, no, I am not scared, for my home is just beyond.”


Because Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, Christians believe they have a home just beyond the cemetery and therefore have no need to fear it. Since he conquered death and lives again, they will also conquer death and live again. Here is one of the gospel accounts of that great event:


“Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.’ So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples” (Matthew 28:1-8).


The resurrection of Jesus Christ took place early on the first day of the week. As prophesied (Psalm 16:10) and promised (John 2:19), his brutally beaten body that had been nailed to a cross and sealed in a tomb was brought back to life in a remarkable display of heavenly power and triumph.


The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the foundational claim of Christianity. If he was not raised from the dead, every other part of the faith falls flat. Paul put it like this:


“If Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain… If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17).


As they do with so much of God’s Word, skeptics have offered several theories in an effort to deny the truth about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. One theory says that Jesus was not dead when they took him off the cross, he simply fainted. Then in the cool of the tomb he revived and departed. Such reasoning is illogical for many reasons. (1) What are the chances that Joseph, Nicodemus, and the soldiers would all have been mistaken about his death? (2) How could a man who had been scourged and crucified have the energy to move a rock that usually took two or three men to move? It is inconceivable to think that a man who had his hands and feet pierced, not to mention his side punctured with a spear, could have the capability of doing such a thing. (3) What about the guards? How could this wounded man manage to move the rock and escape without being noticed?


Another theory says that the disciples stole the body during the night. Like the previous theory, such reasoning is illogical. (1) What physical benefits would the disciples receive from stealing the body of Jesus and preaching that he was resurrected? That kind of preaching cost many of the disciples their freedom, their possessions, and even their lives. (2) What spiritual benefits would the disciples receive? If they were lying about the resurrection, they would be punished by God and spend eternity in hell. (3) What are the chances that the fearful disciples would suddenly have the courage to sneak by the guards and steal the body of their tortured leader? If they feared the Roman authorities while Jesus was living, wouldn’t that fear increase after his horrific death? (4) It is foolish to think that the disciples could remove the massive rock and carry the body away without the guards noticing. (5) Can you imagine thieves taking the time to unwrap the grave clothes in the tomb? Surely they would have waited until they got to a secure place to do that. (6) If the disciples stole the body while the guards slept (Matthew 28:13), how could the guards have known that the disciples were responsible?


There are other theories as well. For instance, some say that the disciples did not really see Jesus resurrected, but suffered from hallucinations. That is not reasonable, however, considering the fact that over 500 people saw him at once (1 Corinthians 15:6). Can you imagine how much weight 500 witnesses would carry in a court of law? This is not to mention the other appearances recorded in Scripture.


None of the theories are logical. They are weak attempts to deny the undeniable. The gospel accounts of what happened on that memorable morning are true. Jesus Was Raised! His spirit broke forth from the hadean realm and reunited with his body. His heart began to beat, his eyes began to blink, and his lungs began to fill with air. He sat up and walked out of the tomb never to die again. Hope happened! As Peter wrote,


“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3).


If you are not a partaker of the blessed hope that Christians have through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we urge you to believe and obey the gospel today (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10)! 


Designer Clothes

I am not much into fashion. I just want clothes that look good and are priced right, regardless of what name they bear. Though I have known people who consider “off-brands” to be “off-limits,” that has never been the case with me. I am happy to dwell in land occupied by General Merchandise. I mean, who is Gucci anyway?


There is one exception to my “apparel apathy,” however. It is the only time when I absolutely insist on wearing designer clothes; the only time when off-brands and knockoffs just will not work. And that is when it comes to the clothing mentioned by Paul in his letter to the Colossians.


“Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Colossians 3:12-14).


Paul said that to be spiritually stylish, we must wear a certain line of clothing. This clothing bears the name of the ultimate designer—God Himself. It includes compassionate hearts (merciful), kindness (gracious), humility (lowliness), meekness (gentleness), patience (long-suffering), bearing with one another (allowance), forgiveness (not holding things against another), and love (goodwill). The person who “puts on” all eight pieces together will surely turn heads in heaven!


Mimicking Monkeys

What are your favorite animals at the zoo? I would probably say the orangutans. They are highly intelligent creatures with an enormous wingspan. A male can stretch his arms some 7 feet, a reach considerably longer than his actual height of about 5 feet. Orangutans are the largest tree-living mammals in the world. They look like very hairy humans! Other favorites include the rhinos and the monkeys.


Monkeys may seem cute, but they can be quite a nuisance in the wild. They will ruin crops, invade homes, and eat food supplies. In parts of India people have to be careful eating their meals outside because monkeys will swoop down out of the trees and take them.


Monkeys are hard to capture. They are quick and agile animals. However, there is one way to catch a monkey that does not require much work. All you have to do is get a milk bottle or something with a hole just big enough for the monkey’s arm. Put some candy inside and wait. Before long, a monkey will come along and grab the candy. However, his fist full of sweets will be too big to get out of the hole. The monkey will not let go of the candy, even as his captors approach!


While it is easy to look down on the monkey for being so foolish, aren’t we sometimes guilty of the very same thing in principle? We just can’t let go of bitterness, even though it costs us our freedom. We cling to material things, knowing they will enslave us. We hang on to our arrogance and pride, regardless of the looming consequences. The devil captures us in the same way monkeys are caught — by dangling something in front of us that is too tempting to let go. May God help us to stop mimicking monkeys!


Jesus the Lamb

There have been many stories of amazing animals who saved lives. These remarkable creatures behaved in extraordinary ways to rescue someone in danger. Here are a few examples.


Mila the Whale. When a 26-year-old woman experienced leg cramps during a diving competition without breathing equipment and was unable to reach the surface, Mila the Whale gently grabbed her leg and pushed her to the top of the pool.


Willie the Parrot. When a 2-year-old girl began choking on a Pop-Tart while her babysitter was in the bathroom, Willie the Parrot started screaming, flapping his wings, and saying things like, “Mama! Baby! Mama! Baby!” The babysitter ran out of the bathroom and found the girl gasping for air. Her face and lips were blue. The babysitter was able to successfully perform the Heimlich maneuver on the child.


Lulu the Pig. When JoAnn Altsman had a heart attack and collapsed to the ground, Lulu, her daughter’s pot-bellied pig, ran out of the house and laid down in the street to stop traffic. Finally, one person stopped and followed the determined pig back to the house, where they found Altsman in pain on the floor. She was immediately rushed to a hospital.


Mandy the Goat. When Austrian farmer Noel Osborne fell in a remote area and was severely injured, his goat Mandy huddled beside him for five days, keeping him warm. She even fed the man with her milk. Eventually, his friends found him.


These stories of animals “coming to the rescue” are impressive and heartwarming. They show that heroes come in all shapes, sizes, and smells. However, my favorite story involves “Jesus the Lamb.”


When mankind fell into sin and was in danger of eternal death, Jesus the Lamb knew just what to do. He left the comfortable confines of heaven and wrapped Himself in the womb of a woman. Nine months later he emerged as an infant in the tiny town of Bethlehem.


“And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn” (Luke 2:4-7).


Jesus the Lamb was on a rescue mission, though you would not have known it by looking at Him. As He was growing up, Jesus appeared to be just like everybody else. He had a mom, dad, brothers, sisters, and cousins. He played in the streets, attended synagogue services, and helped his dad in the family business. There was that one occasion in Jerusalem, however, that must have raised some eyebrows.


“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day's journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:41-47).


Jesus the Lamb started garnering more attention when His ministry began at age 30. He was a powerful preacher who spoke with authority and offered hope, help, and healing to the people. He also performed miracles. It was not long, though, before envious enemies tried to destroy Him.


Jesus the Lamb attracted those who weren’t very attractive. He was a friend to the despised and downtrodden. In fact, one of the most memorable chapters of the Bible, Luke 15, came in response to the self-righteous ranting of the religious leaders about Jesus’ associations.


“Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them.’ So he told them this parable” (Luke 15:1-3).


Jesus the Lamb knew this rescue mission would require bloodshed. He knew that in order to save man’s life, He had to lay down His own life. It was not a surprise. He even told the apostles exactly what was going to happen.


“And taking the twelve, he said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise’” (Luke 18:31-33).


Jesus the Lamb voluntarily went to the cross to save man. He was “lifted up” to lift us up!


“Crucifixion” was the worst form of execution in the Roman Empire. It was a particularly prolonged, painful, and public way to die. In fact, the word “excruciating” means “out of crucifying.” The person usually lingered for hours before finally succumbing to heart failure, shock, asphyxia, or dehydration. The ISBE says, “The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths” (Vol. 2, p. 761).


Mila the Whale saved a woman from drowning, and Willie the Parrot saved a child from choking; but only Jesus the Lamb could save mankind from eternal death. The question is, do our actions demonstrate that we truly appreciate what He did? Do we pray fervently, talk graciously, help willingly, give generously, evangelize eagerly, and attend services regularly? Are we growing in grace and knowledge, and letting our light shine before others? Jesus the Lamb died for you, are you living for Him?


Good Times

Jesus was not a social recluse. He was a “people person” who enjoyed interacting with others and having a good time. In fact, His first miracle was performed at a party. He saved a family the embarrassment of running out of wine during the festivities (John 2:1-11). Some may be surprised that Jesus was even at a wedding reception. They see Him as more of the "monk in a monastery" than the "pal at a party." However, Scripture makes it clear that our Lord liked to mingle with people.


Jesus attended dinner parties at Levi’s house (Luke 5:29), Simon's house (Luke 7:36), a Pharisee's house (Luke 11:37), a ruler of the Pharisee's house (Luke 14:1), Martha and Mary's house (John 12:1-3), etc. He also depicted party scenes in several parables and was known for "eating and drinking," though His enemies drew extreme conclusions from that behavior (Luke 7:34).


I fear that some people perceive Christians as “spiritual stiffs” who are too busy walking the straight and narrow to have any fun. Unfortunately, the somber demeanor of some saints only adds to that perception. They seem sad rather than glad; estranged rather esteemed; burdened rather than blessed. Christians can be good and still have a good time. And when they do, they will be more like Jesus and probably win more souls. 

Instruments in Worship

One can hardly imagine worship services with no singing. It would be like a McDonalds restaurant without its golden arches. The two just seem inseparable. Singing has been a fixture in the church from the beginning. The early Christians sang praises to God in their assemblies (1 Corinthians 14:15, 26). However, some wonder why we do not use instruments when we sing. That’s a good question.


The absence of instruments has nothing to do with personal preference or financial expense. It has everything to do with authority. We do not read about instruments being used in the church. While they were mentioned in the Old Testament, the New Testament just says to sing in worship. Here are some of the passages:


“I will sing praise” (1 Corinthians 14:15)

“Singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart” (Ephesians 5:19)

“Singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Colossians 3:16)

“In the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise” (Hebrews 2:12)

“Offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips” (Hebrews 13:15)


The church sang without instruments for several hundred years after the apostles. This may come as a surprise, but it is true. Instruments were a very late innovation to the worship service that many people opposed. Here are some quotes: 


Philip Schaff, church historian: “The use of organs in churches is ascribed to Pope Vitalian” (History of the Christian Church, Vol. 4, p. 439).


Thomas Aquinas, Catholic theologian: “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize” (Bingham’s Antiquities, Vol. 3, p. 137).


Martin Luther, Protestant theologian: “The organ in worship is the insignia of Baal” (McClintock & Strong’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 4, p. 762).


John Calvin, Protestant theologian: “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting up of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law. The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things, from the Jews” (Calvin’s Commentary, Psalm 33, p. 539).


John Wesley, Protestant theologian: “I have no objection to instruments of music in our chapels provided they are neither HEARD nor SEEN” (Clarke’s Commentary, Amos 6, p. 684).


David Benedict, Baptist historian: “Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon have tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries” (50 Years Among the Baptists, p. 283).


Charles Spurgeon, Baptist preacher: “What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettinesses of a quartette, the refined niceties of a choir, or the blowing off of wind from inanimate bellows and pipes! We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it” (The Treasury of David, Vol. 1, Psalm 42, p. 272).


Catholic Encyclopedia: “Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the Temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual a fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 651).


The great stories of the Old Testament were preserved for our learning (Romans 15:4). Some of those stories emphasize the importance of authority in worship. For instance, Nadab and Abihu were killed for offering “unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1-2). These men worshipped God the wrong way, and they were punished. That should serve as a lesson for Christians. We must have proper authority for our religious practices. To put it another way, we must worship “in truth” (John 4:24).


Some suggest that since we read about instruments in the Old Testament, we can use them in the church today. However, those who say that fail to realize that Christians are to follow the New Testament. We are under the law of Christ, not the law of Moses. Others argue that the Greek word psallo (“making melody” in Ephesians 5:19) means to pluck a stringed instrument. However, by the time of its use in the New Testament, psallo simply meant “to sing.” This is indicated by a host of lexicographers, including Thayer, Mounce, Green, Arndt-Gingrich, and Liddell-Scott. Psallo is translated “sing” in Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthians 14:15, and James 5:13. Still others contend that since instruments are mentioned in Revelation about heaven, they can be employed in our worship services. However, we need authority for instruments in the church, not heaven. There are many things in heaven that are not in the church (angels, infants, the throne of God), and there are many things in the church that are not in heaven (hope, marriage, the Lord’s Supper). Moreover, one misunderstands the apocalyptic style of Revelation if he thinks material instruments will literally be in the spiritual realm of heaven. 


There are two kinds of music — instrumental and vocal. The New Testament specifies the kind of music God desires for the church. It says to sing. Thus the term a cappella, which means “in the manner of the church.”


We all agree that God approves of singing in worship. The issue arises when instruments are added. Why risk your soul over something that was introduced centuries after the apostles and has been the source of such bitter division among the Lord’s people? Let’s just sing!


Ants in Your Pants

Paul Railton of Consett, England, was fined and barred from driving for six months after a cyclist witnessed him "walking" his dog while driving. Railton was holding the leash out the car window as he drove slowly down the street. Though he pled guilty to the charge of "not being in proper control of a vehicle," the real crime was sloth.


"Sloth" is laziness. It can denote either inactivity or sluggishness in the performance of a task. Words like "apathy," "idleness," "indifference," and "lethargy" are often associated with sloth. A slothful person delays work and does not complete work already begun. He lives by the saying, "Never do today what you can put off till tomorrow." He cuts corners and looks for the easy way out.


A slothful person asks someone else to change the channel, walks by an overflowing trash can without emptying it, drinks straight from the milk carton, coughs without covering his mouth, daydreams with a deadline approaching, doesn't flush the toilet, never uses a blinker, hides from the boss, cheats on tests, and arrives late to appointments. He walks a dog while driving.


The Bible has a lot to say about sloth, especially in the book of Proverbs. The writer frequently condemns the "sluggard" (ESV) or "slacker" (HCSB). Young's Literal Translation uses the word "slothful:"


"As vinegar to the teeth, and as smoke to the eyes, so is the slothful to those sending him" (10:26).


"The soul of the slothful is desiring, and hath not. And the soul of the diligent is made fat" (13:4).


"The way of the slothful is as a hedge of briers, and the path of the upright is raised up" (15:19).


"The slothful hath hidden his hand in a dish, even unto his mouth he bringeth it not back" (19:24; also 26:15).


"Because of winter the slothful plougheth not, he asketh in harvest, and there is nothing" (20:4).


"The desire of the slothful slayeth him, for his hands have refused to work" (21:25).


"The slothful hath said, 'A lion is without, in the midst of the broad places I am slain'" (22:13; also 26:13).


"The door turneth round on its hinge, and the slothful on his bed" (26:14).


"Wiser is the slothful in his own eyes, than seven men returning a reason" (26:16).


The above verses describe the slothful person as an aggravating, unmotivated, excuse-filled, self-conceited drain on society. He is a disgrace to himself and his Creator. He will rust out long before he will wear out! This is the opposite of what Christians are to be. We are to be energetic and hardworking people (Colossians 3:22-24) who use our time wisely (Colossians 4:5).


God has always required man to work. It was expected of Adam in the garden (Genesis 2:15) and of Israel in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:9). In fact, there was a saying that developed among the Jews, "He who does not teach his son a trade, teaches him to steal." It is no wonder then that Jesus worked as a carpenter (Mark 6:3) and Paul worked as a tentmaker (Acts 18:3).


Christians who were unwilling to work were disciplined in the early church. Paul said to "keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness" and "have nothing to do with him" (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14). He also taught that those who would not work should not eat (v. 10) and that those who do not provide for their families are worse than unbelievers (1 Timothy 5:8). This emphasizes just how important it is for Christians to have a strong work ethic.


Ants in Your Pants


Ants are amazing creatures. They are found on every continent except Antarctica. They have the largest brain among insects; they have a second stomach to store food for other ants; they can communicate with one another through chemicals known as "pheromones;" they can farm smaller insects; and they can enslave other ants. Some ants are capable of carrying objects 50 times their own body weight. (The dung beetle can lift 1,000 times its own weight). Ants move an estimated 50 tons of soil per year in one square mile. They are tiny yet industrious creatures.


In Proverbs 6, the slothful person is urged to consider the ants and learn from their ways.


"Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter. But you, lazybones, how long will you sleep? When will you wake up? A little extra sleep, a little more slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest- then poverty will pounce on you like a bandit; scarcity will attack you like an armed robber" (vv. 6-11, NLT).


Ants are diligent. They work hard without having to be overseen. They do not procrastinate or piddle around. They are astute, energized, and motivated to do their tasks. Therefore, the writer of Proverbs says to the slothful person, "Get some ants in your pants!"


Conclusion


An old man and his wife were sitting in front of the fireplace one evening when she said, "Jed, I think it's raining. Get up and see." The old man continued to gaze into the fire for a while and then replied, "Why don't we just call in the dog and see if he's wet?" Sadly, that same slothful attitude characterizes many in our society. They are stuck in neutral. They have no drive in their lives. However, it should never characterize members of the Lord's church. Slothfulness is sinfulness (Matthew 25:26-30).


Good Enough?

When I was a child, my parents would sometimes watch the television game show “Family Feud.” Contestants had to name the most popular responses to a question posed to 100 people in order to win cash and prizes. The host would say something like, “The top 7 answers are on the board. We asked 100 people…” Does that ring a bell?


If 100 people were asked to name the one word most often used to describe the deceased person at a funeral, what would it be? My guess would be “good.” — He was a “good” man. He was a “good” neighbor. He was a “good” father. He was a “good” friend. — The one word that you hear over and over is that the deceased person was “good.” And most of the time, there is a lot of truth to that assessment.


The world is full of good people. They work hard, help others, and behave properly. They make an honest living, donate to charities, coach little league baseball teams, cut their elderly-neighbor’s lawn, and tip generously at restaurants. They are dependable and trustworthy. They are good people.


Examples


(1) A woman found 30 abandoned Chinese babies on the roadside. She gathered up those babies and cared for them, even though her only means of support was recycling rubbish.


(2) A kid was shopping with his mother and asked her to buy him a new bike, for his had recently been stolen. His mother told him that she could not afford to purchase a new bike. Then a large man covered in tattoos walked over and handed the boy $350. He said, “No child should ever be without a bike in the summer.”


(3) During WWII, a lady named Irena received permission to work as a plumbing specialist in the Warsaw Ghetto. However, she had an ulterior motive. Irena used her tool box and a sack to smuggle out Jewish infants. She even trained her dog to bark around Nazi soldiers to drown out any noises the infants might make. Irena smuggled out 2,500 children, though she was eventually caught and had her arms and legs broken.


(4) A 15-year-old boy chased a car on his bike for 15 minutes to save a little girl who had been kidnapped from her front yard in Pennsylvania. Because of his relentlessness, the kidnapper eventually pulled over and let her out.


These four examples, along with countless others that could be mentioned, demonstrate that there are good people in the world. They look out for others, go the extra mile, and act in ways that are praiseworthy. But is being good, good enough?


Clarification


Before we answer that question, let me clarify my use of the word “good.” I recognize that no one is “good” in an absolute sense (Romans 3:23). However, the Bible does speak of “good” people. Paul wrote, “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die” (Romans 5:7). You may recall that Joseph of Arimathea was described as a “good” man in Luke 23:50 and Barnabas was called a “good” man in Acts 11:24. Furthermore, older women are to teach younger women to be “good” (Titus 2:5, YLT). Now back to our question.


Is Being Good, Good Enough?


Many people answer that question in the affirmative. They think that all good people go to heaven. Regardless of a person’s religious convictions, so long as they have some sense of decency and morality about them, they will be saved. However, the Scriptural answer to the question is “no.”


Before we look at biblical examples of “good” people who were not saved, let me impress upon you the consequences of this idea. If being good is good enough, then we don’t need God’s grace, Christ’s sacrifice, the church’s existence, or the gospel’s power. If good is good enough, those things are unnecessary. Now let’s look at some examples.


(1) Cornelius. He was described by the Holy Spirit as “a devout man who feared God with all his household, gave alms generously to the people, and prayed continually to God” (Acts 10:2). Even his men spoke highly of him. They said that Cornelius was “an upright and God-fearing man, who is well spoken of by the whole Jewish nation” (v. 22). Here was a man who was pious, charitable, prayerful, and highly regarded. Yet he still needed to be saved (Acts 11:14).


(2) Eunuch. He was described as “a court official of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, who was in charge of all her treasure” (Acts 8:27). That implies the eunuch was a man of great integrity, for the queen would never appoint an untrustworthy person to such an important position. If he had a shady reputation or was sneaky and sly, the eunuch would never have been made treasurer. Moreover, he had “come to Jerusalem to worship” and was on his way home “reading the prophet Isaiah” (vv. 27-28). Hence, he was very religious person who traveled a great distance to serve God and was still reading his Bible! The eunuch was also a humble person, for no prideful person would ask a stranger to help him understand the Scriptures. Yet he still needed to be saved (vv. 35-39).


(3) Rich young man. He was a zealous keeper of the Law who was interested in eternal life. When Jesus said, “You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 19:18-19), the rich young man replied, “All these I have kept” (v. 20). Obviously, he was a good person. Yet he went away sorrowful when Jesus pointed out his weakness (v. 22).


There are other examples we could consider. For instance, Jesus said that some at Judgment will stand before Him having done many good things. Yet they will be lost (Matt. 7:21-23). Furthermore, the Jews on Pentecost were described as “devout men” (Acts 2:5). That means they were decent, pious people. However, they still needed to be saved (v. 40).


Other Thoughts


(1) “Good” is a relative term. Our perception of “good” is often subjective. It may vary from one person or group to another. For instance, Saul of Tarsus was considered “good” to the Jews, but he was anything but “good” in the sight of Christians.


(2) Some are too good. There are people who put so much trust in their own perceived goodness that they have no need for the church or the gospel. “I am good enough already,” they think. Hence, they are “too good” to be saved.


(3) Goodness is absolutely necessary. We do not want to diminish the importance of being good. One simply cannot be a good Christian without being a good person (3 John 11).


Conclusion


The world is full of good people. They can be found in every denomination and every world religion. They can even be found among those who have no religious affiliation at all. However, the Scriptures are clear that being good is not good enough. One must obey the gospel and faithfully serve God to have eternal life. 


Mary & Roman Catholicism

“Emma” has been the most popular girl name for the last three years. However, that streak pales in comparison to “Mary,” which held the top spot for 30 consecutive years from 1917-1946. It had another streak of 9 years from 1953-1961. That means “Mary” has been the most popular name for baby girls 39 of the last 100 years. According to the Social Security Administration, 3,455,228 females have been named “Mary” during that time. Many of them were named after the mother of Jesus.


We are first introduced to Mary when she was a betrothed virgin living in Nazareth. An angel named Gabriel visited Mary and announced that she would give birth to the promised Messiah. This would fulfill prophecy, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).


Mary gave birth to Jesus nine months later in Bethlehem. God had providentially brought her to that small peasant village just in time to deliver the Messiah so that another prophecy could be fulfilled, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). Bethlehem, which means “house of bread,” brought forth the Bread of Life (John 6). How fitting! Mary and her new family eventually settled in Nazareth, the fulfillment of yet another prophecy (Matthew 2:23).


After the Lord started His public ministry, there is not much said about Mary. She was present at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11), she came to speak with Jesus in Capernaum (Matthew 12:46-50), and she stood near the cross when Jesus was crucified (John 19:25). The last mention of Mary is in the upper room following the Lord’s ascension (Acts 1:14).


Mary & Roman Catholicism


One does not have to be raised in the Roman Catholic Church (as I was) to know that it puts a great deal of emphasis on Mary. She is called "Mother of God," "Queen of Heaven," "Refuge of Sinners," and more. There are also special feasts, shrines, and prayers in her honor. In Catholic tradition, few are mentioned more than Mary.


Though Mary was a special woman who certainly deserves our respect, the Catholic Church has exalted her above measure. She has been given an exaggerated position that goes far beyond Scripture. For instance, Catholics pray to Mary, bow before statues of Mary, and see Mary as active in dispensing God's grace. As Monsignor J.D. Conway wrote, "It is the common and explicit teaching of the Church today that every grace given to men comes to them through Mary" (What the Church Teaches, p. 211).


The Catholic view of Mary is perhaps best seen in the highly regarded book, The Glories of Mary, which bears the Nihil Obstat and the Imprimatur (official declarations that the book has no doctrinal or moral error). Here are some quotes:


P. 17 — “Mary so loved us that she gave her only-begotten son.”

(They substituted Mary’s name in place of God, John 3:16)


P. 18 — “No one besides Mary has loved us so much as to give an only-begotten and well-beloved Son for us.”

(What about God the Father?)


P. 34 — “That pledge is Mary, whom he has given them as a champion or advocate.”

(Jesus is our advocate, 1 John 2:1)


P. 44 — “If Mary is for us, who is against us?”

(They substituted Mary’s name in place of God, Romans 8:31)


P. 52 — “Mary is the mother and dispenser of every good.”

(They substituted Mary’s name in place of God, James 1:17)


P. 57 — “She is the city of refuge, the only hope of sinners.”

(What about Christ?)


P. 59 — “She restrains her son’s hand and withholds him from punishing.”

(A mere mortal restraining the hand of God?)


P. 72 — “Mary conquered and bound the devil.”

(Jesus destroyed the devil, Hebrews 2:14)


P. 74 — “At the name of Mary every knee bows.”

(They substituted Mary’s name in place of Jesus, Philippians 2:10)


P. 78 — “Mary’s intercession is necessary for salvation.”

(Man’s salvation depends on a mere mortal?)


P. 87 — “Mary… no one is saved, except through you.”

(They substituted Mary in place of Jesus, John 14:6)


P. 95 — “At the command of Mary, everybody obeys, even God.”

(blasphemy!)


P. 96 — “Jesus, who is omnipotent, has also made Mary omnipotent.”

(They have attributed a divine characteristic to Mary)


Surely one can see that the above quotes are way over the top. They insert Mary's name in place of God and Jesus, attribute to her divine power, and portray her as an essential component of salvation. That is far more than Scripture permits.


The last recorded words of Mary appear at the beginning of the Lord’s public ministry (John 2:5), and the last mention of Mary by name is in the upper room at Jerusalem (Acts 1:14), which was before the church's establishment. Her name does not appear in the letters of Paul, Peter, James, John, or Jude. This is not said to disparage Mary, but to put our view of her in the proper perspective. She was not the iconic focal point that Catholicism makes her out to be.


A passage that drives home this point is Luke 11:27-28. In that text, a woman yelled out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” This would have been the ideal time for Jesus to give Mary an exalted position, if that were His desire. However, He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”


Mary was among the greatest women to ever live. She truly had a heart for God. When one considers her age at the time of Gabriel’s visit, the likelihood that she lost her husband with at least seven kids to raise, and the heartache she endured seeing her oldest son executed, they cannot help but be impressed. Her example is worthy imitation by all. However, Mary is not honored by creating fanciful traditions that give her positions of power and influence unknown to Scripture. She faithfully fulfilled her role in the divine plan and then faded into the background. I hope this helps.


Kindness

A young man named Howard Kelly was selling goods in a neighborhood to pay his way through school. When he came to a certain house and was feeling fatigued, a young lady gave him a glass of milk. He offered to pay for the milk, but she replied, “You don’t owe me anything. My mother taught me to never accept pay for kindness.”


Years later, Dr. Howard Kelly was asked to help with a woman who was critically ill. When he heard the name of the small town where she was from, he immediately went to her room in the hospital. He recognized his new patient at once. She was the kind milk-giver! Kelly gave special attention to her case and after a long battle she got better. Then he paid off her medical bills and sent a note that said, “Paid in full with one glass of milk!”


“Kindness” is a gracious and gentle attitude toward others. It is a sweet quality that seeks to be helpful. It is caring, considerate, and courteous. It is the opposite of being cruel or harsh. William Barclay said that ancient writers defined kindness as “the virtue of the man whose neighbor’s good is as dear to him as his own.” Jerome described it as a spontaneous disposition to bless.


Kindness is a highly-commended quality in the New Testament. It is a characteristic of love (1 Corinthians 13:4), a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and a part of the Christian’s wardrobe (Colossians 3:12). Moreover, Paul commanded the Ephesians to be kind (Ephesians 4:32) and defended the integrity of his ministry by pointing out his own kindness (2 Corinthians 6:6). Obviously, Christians are to be kind people.


Someone has said, “It is hard to give away kindness, for it is usually returned.” I think the kind milk-giver could testify to that!


How Do You See God?

How do you see God? — Is He a loving grandfatherly figure? A powerful warrior? A majestic King? A cosmic Santa Claus? An unapproachable light? Do you envision Him as the ultimate pushover or as a harsh tyrant? — How do you see God?


I fear that many people today have an image of God that is not completely accurate, based largely on their own preferences. Arthur Pink, a theologian of the twentieth century, put it like this:


“The god of this century no more resembles the Sovereign than does the dim flickering of a candle the midday sun. The god who is talked about in the average pulpit, spoken of in the ordinary Sunday school, mentioned in much of the religious literature of the day, and preached in most of the so-called Bible conferences, is a figment of human imagination, an invention of maudlin sentimentality. The heathen outside the pale of Christendom form gods of wood and stone, while millions of heathen inside Christendom manufacture a god of their carnal minds.”


It has been said, “God made man in His image, and man has been trying to return the favor ever since.” I think that happens more than we want to admit.


Humans have a tendency to focus on what we like, and to dismiss or devalue what we don’t like. We accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Therefore, it is not surprising that many people see God only in terms of His comforting qualities, like love, mercy, and patience; and they have very little tolerance for those who present a counter-view. This is very dangerous.


How then can we make sure that our perception of God is accurate? How can we be certain that we are seeing God as He really is? Left to ourselves, such would be an impossibility. It would be like an infant trying to understand geometry. Thankfully, however, God has chosen to reveal Himself in language we can understand. He has offered an incredible amount of personal information in His autobiography — the Bible. It sets forth the various attributes of God.


Six blind men were brought in to describe an elephant. The first man felt the elephant’s side and said it was like a wall. The second man felt the elephant’s tusks and said it was like a spear. The third man felt the elephant’s trunk and said it was like a snake. The fourth man felt the elephant’s leg and said it was like a tree. The fifth man felt the elephant’s ear and said it was like a fan. The sixth man felt the elephant’s tail and said it was like a rope.


While all six of the blind men were partially correct in their description, none of them were close to having a complete understanding of the elephant. That is because they each considered only one of its attributes. And so it is with God. We can’t just focus on one of His attributes and expect to see Him accurately.


Attributes of God


  • Eternal. There is no beginning or end with God. He has always existed, and He always will exist. God is free from the limitations of time.


Psalm 90:1-2 (ERV) — “My Lord, you have been our home forever and ever. You were God before the mountains were born, before the earth and the world were made. You have always been and will always be God!”


  • Omnipotent. God is all-powerful. His might is unlimited and unchallengeable. He has the ability to do as He pleases. His power is in Himself; it did not have to be acquired and cannot be diminished.


Jeremiah 32:17 — “Ah, Lord God! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you.”


  • Omniscient. God knows everything. He never needs to ask a question to gain information. No fact or detail ever escapes His attention. It did not have to be acquired and cannot be diminished.


Psalm 139:2-6 — “You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”


  • Omnipresent. God is present everywhere. He is in all places at all times. He is free from the limitations of space.


Psalm 139:7-10 — “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.”


  • Sovereign. God is in total control. He reigns supreme, and has the absolute right to do as He pleases. Man has free will, but only because God gave it to us.


Psalm 135:6 — “Whatever the Lord pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.”


  • Holy. God is morally-excellent; He is perfect and pure in every way. He has no association with sin.


Psalm 99:9 — “Exalt the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy!”


  • Merciful. God is compassionate toward the less fortunate. He has pity on them and seeks to help them.


Psalm 103:8 — "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.”


  • Just. God is fair and impartial in his treatment of people. He does not accept bribes or play favorites.


Job 34:12 — “Of a truth, God will not do wickedly, and the Almighty will not pervert justice.”


  • Jealous. God does not tolerate rivals. He is unwilling to share what is rightfully His. He chose us and cannot bear that we would choose another.


Exodus 34:14 — “For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.”


  • Wrathful. God has hostility toward sin. It is not irrational or malicious. It is a just and proper expression of His righteousness. We might call it "holy indignation."


Romans 1:18 — “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.”


  • Faithful. God is always true to His word. He keeps His promises.


Hebrews 10:23 — “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.”


  • Loving. He seeks what is best for others. He is committed to their wellbeing.


2 Corinthians 13:11 — "Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”


There are other attributes of God. Scripture describes Him as wise, true, transcendent, self-existent, righteous, good, etc. However, these twelve attributes help us to get a proper perspective of God.


The "Be-Attitudes"

Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a series of statements commonly called “the beatitudes.” The beatitudes focus on the character Christians are to have. The more we develop these qualities in our lives, the more we will impact the lives of others.


“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).


“Poor” does not refer to what a man has, but to what a man is. The “poor in spirit” are those who recognize their own spiritual destitution. They know that their resources are utterly insufficient, and that they must rely on someone else. That someone is, of course, God.


Regardless of their education, income, or social status, the “poor in spirit” see themselves as they really are — unworthy.


We have a good example of someone demonstrating this quality in the Parable of the Pharisee and tax collector.


“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:10-13).


The Pharisees were a strict religious sect among the Jews. Therefore, it is not surprising that a Pharisee would be in the temple praying. Tax collectors, however, were considered to be immoral. They often took more money than the law required to fatten their own pockets, and loaned money at excessively-high interest rates to those in need. It would be a bit surprising to see a tax collector praying there.


Whereas the prideful Pharisee boasted that he was so much better than everybody else, the tax collector stood over in the corner, looking down at the ground, and beating his chest, saying, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.” He was poor in spirit.


Is it any coincidence that Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount with a call to humility? I don’t think so. He wanted to make it clear that the door of the kingdom was built low, and that no one who stands tall can come inside. As James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”


“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).


The “mourners” are those who have genuine grief or sorrow for sin — both their own sin and the sin of others. It is my understanding that there are nine different Greek words used in the New Testament for sorrow, and that the one used here is the strongest. It denotes the most intense or severe kind of sorrow. In fact, this same word is used of the disciples mourning for Jesus before they knew He was raised from the dead, and of Jacob’s grief when he thought his son had been killed.


Perhaps the best example of someone demonstrating this quality is David after committing adultery with Bathsheba.


“Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin! For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment” (Psalm 51:2-4).


David felt terrible for what he had done. His soul was truly grieved by the sin he committed before God. That’s what it means to mourn.


The Bible tells us that Jesus “wept” over Jerusalem in Luke 19:41, and that Lot was “tormented” by the sin of Sodom in 2 Peter 2. They obviously had genuine sorrow for sin.


“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).


The “meek” are those who have a mild or soft disposition. They have a gentle spirit. This is the result of implementing the first two beatitudes. The person who comes to grips with his own unworthiness, and is truly saddened by the sin in his life, will walk humbly before God and man.


Meekness is not weakness. It is strength under control. It refers to one who has his passions, instincts, and impulses disciplined. In fact, the ancient Greeks used this word of an animal that had been tamed. The animal is still strong, but its strength has been harnessed.


Both Moses and Jesus are described as “meek” in Scripture, yet neither of them were whippy or cowardly.


“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matthew 5:6).


Jesus knew what it meant to be hungry. He fasted for forty days, as did Moses and Elijah in the Old Testament. I doubt that any of us have come anywhere close to that degree of hunger.


A starving person loses interest in regular activities, and develops a single, all-consuming desire for food. Those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness” are those who have an intense craving or yearning for God and His Word. They long for the truth above anything else.


The Psalmist demonstrated this quality when he wrote, “My soul thirsts for God,” in Psalm 42:2. Then a few chapters later, in Psalm 63:1, he wrote, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you.” He had an all-consuming desire for God!


“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy” (Matthew 5:7).


The “merciful” are those who have loving-kindness towards others. They not only feel sorry for the hurting, they take action to relieve their pain. Weymouth’s translation says “compassionate.”


A good example of someone demonstrating this quality is the foreigner in the Parable of the Good Samaritan.


“A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back’” (Luke 10:30-35).


The 17-mile road from Jerusalem to Jericho was notoriously dangerous in the first century. It had a lot of rocky terrain which made it easy for robbers to ambush travelers. In fact, the road became known as the “Way of Blood” because so many people were assaulted on it.


Jesus said that one day a traveler fell among robbers. They stripped him, beat him, and left him for dead. As he was laying there, a priest came down the road and saw the man, but did nothing. Then a Levite passed by and saw the man, but did nothing. Each of these men were religious, yet neither showed their Jewish neighbor any compassion at all. Then a Samaritan passed by. He was the least-likely person to help, since there was such animosity between the two groups. Yet he went over, bound up his wounds, took him into town, and made sure he had adequate care (at his own expense). Rather than moving away, he was moved with compassion. He was “merciful.”


We should note that God is said to be “rich in mercy” in Ephesians 2:4, and Jesus is referred to as our “merciful” high priest in Hebrews 2:17.


“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8).


“Pure” refers to that which is clean or uncontaminated. The “pure in heart” are those who have no pretense or hypocrisy; they are utterly sincere and true. This is in contrast to scribes and Pharisees, who put great emphasis on external cleansing while neglecting holiness. Jesus said in Matthew 23:25, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).


The “peacemakers” are those who seek peace with God and man. They despise division and are eager to pursue reconciliation when possible.


There is a big difference between “peacemakers” and “peacekeepers.” A timid wife might “keep the peace” at home by letting her husband and kids run all over her. That is not what this text has in mind. Sometimes war must come before peace; resistance before reconciliation. Christians are never called upon to have peace at all costs.


We should note that God is called “the God of peace” in 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Jesus is called “the prince of peace” in Isaiah 9:6, and the Gospel is called “the gospel of peace” in Ephesians 6:15.


“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:10-12).


Those “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” are those who suffer mistreatment for the cause of Christ. Notice that Jesus said, “On my account.” They might be humiliated, harassed, or harmed physically. Paul said that all who live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12), and Peter said that we should not be ashamed to suffer as a Christian (1 Peter 4:16). It just kind of comes with the territory.


In some cases, our early brethren were stoned, crucified, and beheaded. Others were burned at the stake or thrown from tall rooftops. Still others were fed to vicious animals. We call them martyrs; Jesus calls them blessed!


If we incorporate these qualities in our daily lives, we will influence the world for good. We will be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world” that Jesus requires. You know why? They will see Him in us!

Hell is Real

Hell is real. It is a “place” (Matthew 8:12) where many will “go” (Mark 9:43). It is described as “the fiery furnace” (Matthew 13:42), “the outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30), “the eternal fire” (Matthew 25:41), “the unquenchable fire” (Mark 9:43), “the gloom of utter darkness” (2 Peter 2:17), and “the lake of fire” (Revelation 20:14). It is “the punishment of eternal destruction” to be suffered “away from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).


It is better to lose body parts than go to hell (Mark 9:43-48), for it is a “much worse punishment” than even death (Hebrews 10:28-29). It is a conscious torment that never ends. In fact, the same word (aionios) is used to describe the duration of heaven and hell (Matthew 25:46). Hence, both last as long as the other. That word is also used of God (Romans 16:26) and the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 9:14).


Hell will be heavily populated. Jesus said that “many” are headed there (Matthew 7:13). This includes the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), the ignorant and disobedient (2 Thessalonians 1:8), some religious people (Matthew 7:21-23), lukewarm members (Revelation 3:16), and the ungodly and immoral (Revelation 21:8). Just as heaven is a prepared place for prepared people, hell is a prepared place for unprepared people.


When hell is translated from the Greek word gehenna, it uniformly carries the idea of eternal punishment for the wicked beyond this life (Matthew 5:22, 29, 30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; Mark 9:43, 45, 47; Luke 12:5; James 3:6). Jesus used the word eleven out of the twelve times it appears in Scripture.


God has done much to keep people out of hell. He gave us His Son (John 3:16) and the message of salvation (Romans 1:16). He patiently waits for men to repent (2 Peter 3:9). If a person ends up in hell, it is not God’s fault.


Self-Control

Sir Walter Raleigh was a distinguished soldier and explorer. One day he was publicly challenged by a hot-headed young man. When he refused, the young man spit in his face. Raleigh did not become enraged, but calmly took out his handkerchief and wiped the spit off his face. He said, “Young man, if I could as easily wipe your blood from my conscience as I can this injury from my face, I would at this moment take away your life.” The young man then fell to his knees and begged forgiveness.


“Self-control” is the restraint of passions and impulses. It refers to one who masters his appetites, emotions, inclinations, and urges. This involves not only abstinence from that which is prohibited, but moderation in that which is permissible.


Self-control is a vital virtue. Just as an athlete must discipline his mind and body to win the physical race, a Christian must discipline his mind and body to win the spiritual race (1 Corinthians 9:25). It is no wonder then that self-control is listed as a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:23) and as a Christian grace (2 Peter 1:6).


Self-control is not easy. It is a constant internal struggle. As Aristotle once said, “I count him braver who overcomes his desires than him who conquers his enemies; for the hardest victory is over self.” It can be obtained, however, with prayer, persistence, and proper positioning (not putting yourself in compromising situations — 1 Corinthians 15:33).


Proverbs says that “he who rules his spirit” is better than “he who takes a city” (16:32) and warns that “a man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls” (25:28). We would be “wise” to heed the message.


Love Feasts

There have been many suggestions made about the “love feasts” in Jude 12. Some say they were meals eaten by Christians in the assembly. Others say they were meals eaten by Christians outside the assembly. Still others say that Jude’s expression refers to the Lord’s Supper or is merely figurative. The text itself provides no additional details.


I was surprised to see how many reputable sources say that “love feasts” were meals eaten by Christians in the assembly, usually in connection with the Lord’s Supper. Here is a sampling.


  • Thayer: “…feasts expressing and fostering mutual love which used to be held by Christians before the celebration of the Lord’s supper, and at which the poorer Christians mingled with the wealthier and partook in communion with the rest of food provided at the expense of the wealthy” (p. 4). 


  • Arndt and Gingrich: “…a common meal eaten by early Christians in connection w. their church services, for the purpose of fostering and expressing brotherly love” (p. 6).

  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “In the opinion of the great majority of scholars the Agape was a meal at which not only bread and wine but all kinds of viands were used, a meal which had the double purpose of satisfying hunger and thirst and giving expression to the sense of Christian brotherhood. At the end of this feast, bread and wine were taken according to the Lord’s command… The Agape was thus related to the Eucharist as Christ’s last Passover to the Christian rite which He grafted upon it. It preceded and led up to the Eucharist, and was quite distinct from it” (Vol. 1, p. 70). 

  • AMG’s Comprehensive Dictionary of New Testament Words: “Meal expressing and nurturing mutual affection eaten together by early Christians… At the beginning of the church, the Lord’s supper was celebrated during those feasts” (p. 641).

  • History of the Christian Church: “In the apostolic period the eucharist was celebrated… in connection with a simple meal of brotherly love (agape), in which the Christians, in communion with their common Redeemer, forgot all distinctions of rank, wealth, and culture, and felt themselves to be members of one family of God” (Vol. 1, p. 473).

  • Evangelical Dictionary of Theology: “Certainly by the time of Paul’s writing to the Corinthians (ca. AD 55) it is evident that that church observed the practice of meeting together for a common meal before partaking of the Lord’s Supper… The situation described here is possible only in the context of a meal more substantial than, and preceding the bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper” (p. 660).


Tertullian (200 AD) went into some detail about “love feasts” in his Apology 39, though there is no indication they were connected to the Lord’s Supper.


“Yet about the modest supper-room of the Christians alone a great ado is made. Our feast explains itself by its name. The Greeks call it agape, i.e., affection. Whatever it costs, our outlay in the name of piety is gain, since with the good things of the feast we benefit the needy… If the object of our feast be good, in the light of that consider its further regulations. As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste… As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed. We go from it, not like troops of mischief-doers, nor bands of vagabonds, nor to break out into licentious acts, but to have as much care of our modesty and chastity as if we had been at a school of virtue rather than a banquet.”


Ignatius (110 AD) discussed when to “celebrate a love feast” in his letter to the Smyrnaeans (8:2), and Pliny the Younger (112 AD) reported to Trajan that “on a fixed day” Christians would assemble “to partake of food, ordinary and innocent food” (97).


The Didache (100 A.D.) gives instruction for a Eucharistic prayer “after you are satisfied with food” (10:1), which may imply that a meal was eaten before the Lord’s Supper was observed. It also says to come together on the Lord’s day to “break bread and hold Eucharist” (14:1), apparently making a distinction between the two acts.


Hippolytus’ Apostolic Tradition (215 AD) links the Lord’s Supper to a broader meal. It says, “When they dine, the faithful shall take from the hand of the bishop a small piece of bread before taking their own bread, because it is blessed. Yet it is not the eucharist, like the body of the Lord” (26:1). It also encourages Christians to “eat and drink in moderation” (28:1) and to keep some food as “leftovers of the saints, so that the one to whom it is sent may rejoice” (28:3). Moreover, it specifies that the Eucharistic bread and wine should be taken "before eating anything else” (36:1).


We know that the Council of Laodicea outlawed “love feasts” in the fourth century (Canon 28). This legislation was later reiterated by the Third Council of Carthage and the Second Council of Orleans.


All of this made me wonder if there are any passages in the New Testament to support the idea that Christians shared a meal when they gathered together. The answer is “yes.”


According to 1 Corinthians 11, the church at Corinth ate meals prior to their worship service. These meals not only provided a good opportunity for fellowship, but they gave the wealthy members a chance to share their abundance with the poor. (That might have been the best meal the slaves had to eat all week). However, the rich got tired of waiting for the poor to arrive and ate without them. This left the poor with very little or no food.


“For in eating, each goes on ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk” (v. 21).


Paul rebuked this outrageous behavior. It not only missed the point of the meal, but embarrassed the latecomers. Therefore, he told those who were too selfish to wait for others to go home and eat.


“What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not” (v. 22).


The Voice translation renders the first part of that verse this way: “What is going on? If a self-centered meal is what you want, can’t you eat and drink at home?” That seems to be the point.


Paul then launched into a discussion about the Lord’s Supper, which apparently followed the meal (vv. 23-32). However, he came back to his initial discussion concerning the meal itself.


“So then, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another — if anyone is hungry, let him eat at home — so that when you come together it will not be for judgment” (vv. 33-34).


For a long time, I thought they were waiting to “eat” the Lord’s Supper. I was wrong. It actually refers to the broader meal that was eaten before the Lord’s Supper. How do I know? Because whatever they were going to “eat” in verse 33 could be eaten “at home” in verse 34. That excludes the communion.


Paul was saying that when you come together to eat this meal, which is capable of satisfying hunger and getting you drunk (v. 21), wait for one another. Those who are too hungry to wait should eat at home. This is brought out in certain translations/paraphrases.


ERV: “If some are too hungry to wait, they should eat at home.”

NCV: “Anyone who is too hungry should eat at home.”

Voice: “If someone is hungry and can’t wait, he should go home and eat.”

Amplified: “If anyone is too hungry [to wait], let him eat at home.”

The Message: “If you’re so hungry that you can’t wait to be served, go home and get a sandwich.”


Brethren who oppose the so-called “second serving” of the Lord’s Supper argue that Paul said to “wait for one another.” Yes, he did; but that is not in reference to the communion. It refers to the eating of a meal that left some “hungry” and others “drunk” (v. 21), and could be eaten “at home” (v. 34).


Paul was not condemning the Corinthians for eating a meal. He was rebuking them for not eating that meal the right way. They needed to wait patiently for one another so that none would be neglected or embarrassed. The fact that he said “when you come together to eat” assumes that he supported the idea of the meal, but they were to “wait for one another” before they partook of it.


The Lord’s Supper was instituted in the context of a meal. “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread…” (Matthew 26:26, emp. mine). That may explain why there would have been a “meal setting” in the early church. Moreover, the word "supper" is from the Greek deipnon, and refers to "a formal meal usually held at the evening" (Thayer).


Those who deny the necessity of baptism often reference two verses in 1 Corinthians 1 to prove their point (“I thank God that I baptized none of you” and “Christ did not send me to baptize”). However, the surrounding context actually makes one of the strongest arguments for baptism. Likewise, brethren who oppose eating a meal when gathered together often reference two verses in 1 Corinthians 11 to prove their point (“Do you not have houses to eat and drink in” and “If anyone is hungry, let him eat at home”), when the surrounding context actually authorizes eating together.


Finally, let us remember that early churches often met for worship in homes (Romans 16:3-5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Philemon 2). Therefore, it would have been ridiculous to ask a Christian in the first century if it was sinful to eat in the same building where they worshipped. The inspired historian Luke tells us that Paul met with the church at Troas in the third story of a building and then ate a meal there (Acts 20:7-12)!


It seems to me that 1 Corinthians 11 is describing an abuse of the “love feast” spoken of in Jude 12. It was a meal eaten in the assembly which expressed the love and devotion that Christians share.



"There can be no doubt that the Eucharist at this period (shortly after Pentecost) was preceded uniformly by a common repast, as when the ordinance was instituted. Most scholars hold that this was the prevailing usage in the first centuries after Christ; and we have traces of this practice in 1 Corinthians 11:20ff.”

— Alexander Campbell


Stealing

Everybody knew he was doing it, but no one could catch him. He operated in the shadows when most people were asleep. This “teenage terror” would roam the neighborhood streets looking for an easy score… unsecured bicycles. And on one particular night, he found what he was after at my house. I had gotten lazy and it cost me. The next morning I awoke to the painful realization that my bike, which was left outside, had been stolen.


The eighth Commandment was designed to protect property. God said, “You shall not steal” (Exodus 20:15). Jesus repeated that command in Matthew 19:18, as did Paul in Romans 13:9. Paul also told thieves to “no longer steal” (Ephesians 4:28) and prohibited slaves from “pilfering” from their masters (Titus 2:10). James condemned the oppressive rich for “keeping back by fraud” what was owed to the laborer (James 5:4).


Stealing violates civil law (Romans 13:1-7), the law of love (Romans 13:8-10), and the golden rule (Matthew 7:12). It is worldly (Matthew 6:19), defiling (Matthew 15:19), and is the direct result of covetousness (Joshua 7:21).


There are many examples of people who stole in the Bible, including Achan (Joshua 7:1), Judas (John 12:6), Barabbas (John 18:40), and Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:2-3). Jesus was crucified between thieves (Matthew 27:44), and told a parable of a man who fell among thieves (Luke 10:30).


Sadly, many people try to rationalize stealing. They say things like “they won’t miss it” or “they don’t deserve it” or “everybody does it” or “I work harder than they do.” However, we must understand that stealing is sinful. It is a fearful thing to find oneself in the “grip of greed,” taking that which God gave to someone else. Thieves will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 6:10).


Hospitality

Four Navy SEAL commandos were on a mission in Afghanistan in 2005, when they encountered Taliban fighters. Three of the commandos were killed. The fourth was severely injured, but was able to crawl seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a Pashtun tribe. The tribe risked everything to protect him from the Taliban fighters until there was no one left.


Hospitality comes from a Greek word (philoxenian) that means “friendly to strangers.” The idea is being generous or kind to guests. Hospitality was a highly-esteemed virtue in the ancient world, and it is strongly emphasized in the New Testament:


Romans 12:13 — “Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality”

Hebrews 13:2 — “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers”

1 Peter 4:9 — “Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”


Jesus depended on hospitality during His earthly ministry and instructed His disciples to show hospitality. He even linked hospitality to the outcome of final judgment (Matthew 25:31-46).


In the first century, inns were notoriously immoral, being little better than brothels, and the disciples were usually very poor. Therefore, they relied on each other for hospitality. In fact, 3 John was written to commend a Christian named Gaius for receiving traveling preachers into his home, even though they were “strangers” (v. 5). He was always ready to share.


Peter said to show hospitality “without grumbling” (1 Peter 4:9), which is a recognition of the fact that hospitality can be difficult. It ruins plans and invades privacy. The host may have to sacrifice his time, money, energy, and comfort. Therefore, it is important to remember that Jesus takes hospitality personally — “you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40). 


As the Hebrews writer commanded hospitality, he reminded the brethren that “some have entertained angels unawares” (13:2). This has reference to Abraham, Lot, Gideon, and Manoah in the Old Testament (Genesis 18:1-3; 19:1-2; Judges 6:11-24; 13:6-20). His point is not that we may be visited by angelic beings today, but that we never know how far-reaching a simple act of hospitality might be.


There was a time when we were “strangers” (Ephesians 2:12), and yet God showed us great kindness. He welcomed us into His house and supplied our needs. Christians who remember that fact will have no problem showing hospitality to others. It is something they will gladly “seek” to do (Romans 12:13).


Church Clothes

What is the proper attire for worship? That question has caused a great deal of strife among the Lord’s people. Some brethren believe that Christians should wear formal clothing to the assembly, and that casual dress is inappropriate and disrespectful. Other brethren, however, argue that God is not concerned with outer adornment. They don’t see anything particularly spiritual about wearing a dress or suit to services. Plus, they say, casual clothes are more relatable to the community. So, which is it?


There is no particular "style of clothing" mandated in Scripture. It just says to dress modestly, and according to our gender. Therefore, this issue falls into the realm of personal judgment and should be approached with a Romans 14 mindset. In matters pertaining to opinion, Paul wrote,


"Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls" (Romans 14:4).


We should not chide or divide over this issue. Let each person be persuaded in his own mind, without passing judgment on others. This is an area where there can be "unity in diversity."


For the first 15 years of my ministry, I sided strongly with the first group. I believed that Christians should wear formal clothing to the assembly. I applauded women who wore dresses and men who wore suits, and I looked down on brethren who were not in their finest attire. To me, dressing up proved that the person took worship seriously and was giving God their best. However, my attitude on this issue has changed. Here's why.


HISTORICAL


I was surprised to learn that dressing formally for worship is a fairly recent practice. As urban society advanced, it became trendy for common people to wear fine clothing to social events of every kind. This naturally included church services.


“Dressing up for church became a popular practice in the first half of the nineteenth century, first in England, then in northern Europe and America, as a consequence of the industrial revolution and the emergence of the middle class… dressing up for worship resulted, not from a theological teaching, but from the influence of Victorian culture on worshiping communities” (The Origin of Dressing Up for Church, article).


Many religious leaders in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries railed against wearing fancy clothing to church services. They believed that Christians should wear plain and humble attire, including John Wesley.


“John Wesley frequently wrote and spoke out against fine adornment, saying that gold and costly apparel were sinful. ‘Let your dress be cheap, as well as plain,’ Wesley taught… In the early days of Methodist class meetings, people who showed up dressed in fine or expensive apparel would be turned away, denied admittance” (ibid).


Alexander Campbell also spoke against dressing up for church services in an 1839 article.


“We frequent the houses of prayer and the places of worship with all our ‘finery’ upon us, as though our synagogues were theatres of fashion — and the ‘Ladies’ Book,’ rather than the New Testament, was the guide of our devotions… Kings and Prophets, the saints and martyrs of other times, were oftener seen in sackcloth and ashes than in the gaudy fashions of a flippant and irreverent age. Their sense of propriety forbade that soul and body should disagree — that the outward man should betray the inward, and falsify the state of mind. The Jews’ religion taught men congruity, and especially that the exterior attire should always correspond with the inward plainness and simplicity of the heart” (Worshipping Assemblies, No. 1: The Appearance of Things, article).


Campbell encouraged his reader to “dress himself according to the Christian mirror, in the plainest and most unassuming garb.” That is the very opposite admonition of many brethren today!


This issue is a perfect example of being a “product of our environment.” If we lived several centuries ago, those who insist that brethren wear fine clothing would probably be adamantly opposed to it. Like the preachers of that time, they would extol the virtues of plain and humble attire.


PERSONAL


Another reason my attitude has changed is more personal. I realized that I was putting far too much emphasis on outer adornment. While this is certainly not true everywhere, it became competitive among some brethren where I worshipped. We tried to outdo one another in our dress. Whether it was vests, bowties, cufflinks, belt buckles, pocket squares, alligator boots, or flamboyant-colored suit coats, we developed an unspoken fashion competition. Our motivation was no different than the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Jesus rebuked them saying,


"They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long" (Matthew 23:5).


Again, this is not the case with most brethren. They dress up to give God the honor and respect He deserves. However, it did evolve into a fashion competition with us. We were doing it "to be seen by others."


SCRIPTURAL


I looked for passages in the New Testament that specifically address attire for worship. The only two I could think of is 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and James 2:1-7. The first passage says that women are not to overdress in the assembly, and the second says not to judge people based on what they wear in the assembly. I also remembered that Jesus mocked the Pharisees for their elegant attire. He said, “They like to walk around wearing fancy clothes” (Mark 12:38, NCV).


Early churches were quite casual. They met on riversides and in private residences. They sat around dinner tables or reclined in windowsills. They referred to God as their “Abba,” which is an informal Aramaic word for “father.” The English equivalent is “daddy” or “papa.” Moreover, many of the first Christians were slaves who had a hard time even getting to services. Hence, you do not get the vibe they were real concerned with clothing.


PRACTICAL


Whether we like it or not, this generation has moved away from many things held dear by traditionalists — wooden pews, stained glass windows, wearing suits to services, etc. In fact, dressing down extends beyond the religious realm. “Business casual” is now the norm in most parts of the country, even in corporate settings. Tech tycoons like Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, often wear T-shirts and blue jeans during important presentations. Rather than trying to swim against this cultural current, perhaps churches would be wise to focus their energy on more important issues.


The majority of young people are "turned off" by preachers in stiff-looking suits. They want a person they can relate to and feel comfortable around. Rather than resist that fact, I have tried to accommodate it. As Paul wrote,


"I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some" (1 Corinthians 9:22, NCV).  


This is not to say that we should approach worship flippantly. God is to be revered in holiness. Whether we are in formal attire or casual clothing, our hearts must come ready to adore, honor, magnify, and praise Him. I hope this helps.


Dancing

It is easy to paint with a broad brush and speak in generalities that are not exactly accurate; and as a result we misrepresent God’s Word and lose credibility with people. For instance, we have probably all heard a preacher or Bible class teacher say “dancing is sinful.” Is that true? I would suggest the statement needs some clarification.


Not all dancing is sinful. Solomon said there is a “time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:4). Dancing was used in worship (Psalm 149:3; 150:4). Miriam danced in praise to God (Exodus 15:20), as did David (Psalm 30:11). Furthermore, Jesus spoke favorably of dancing in connection with rejoicing over a repentant sinner (Luke 15:25). See the point?


On the other hand, however, some dancing is sinful. Promiscuous dancing between people who are not married certainly classifies as “lasciviousness” (Galatians 5:19, KJV), which is a work of the flesh and will keep people from inheriting the kingdom of God (v. 21). “Lasciviousness” is lewd or licentious behavior. It includes unchaste bodily movements that are provocative and vile.


Dancing that involves motion or contact that would not be appropriate if the music were turned off is clearly wrong. “Dim lights” and “enticing lyrics” do not change the boundaries of decency with God.


Promiscuous dancing has led to lust, fornication, adultery, and even murder. You may recall that the daughter of Herodias “danced” for Herod causing him to lose his head (figuratively), which resulted in John the Baptist losing his head (literally). Such dancing was obviously not innocent.


There is also something to be said about influence. Christians are to let their light shine (Philippians 2:15). We are to behave in a way that points people to the Lord. How can that be done while dancing? T.A. Vogner, the former supervisor of the Dancing Academy in California, once said, “No woman can waltz well and waltz virtuously.” I dare say the “waltzing” at that time pales in comparison to the bumping, grinding, and shaking that passes for dancing today.


So, it is important that we clarify ourselves. Not all dancing is sinful. There are passages in the Bible that speak favorably of dancing. There is nothing wrong with a husband and wife dancing in the privacy of their home, young children dancing together as they watch Barney on television, or elderly folks line-dancing in an exercise class. However, some dancing is sinful. Promiscuous dancing between people who are not married is a violation of God’s law. Clarification on this and other matters allows us to be true to God’s Word and builds credibility with people. 


Religious Titles

Jill and I went to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants. When the manager saw me, he smiled and said, “Hello, Rev.” I smiled back, said hello, and added, “Just call me Aaron.” The manager looked a little surprised and asked, “Isn’t that what I am supposed to call you?” That question allowed me to take a moment and explain to him why I do not wear religious titles.


One would be hard pressed to list all of the religious titles in existence. Reverend, Bishop, Archbishop, Father, Your Holiness, Your Eminence, Doctor, Pastor, and Elder are just some examples. There are even titles for the preacher's wife (like "First Lady"). Though the wearing of religious titles is a prevalent practice, many are surprised to learn that such titles are not to be worn by Christians. Below are some reasons why that is so.


(1) They were specifically prohibited. In Matthew 23, Jesus mentioned the special dress, special seats, and special titles of the scribes and Pharisees. Then He said, "But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ" (vv. 8-10). Notice that Jesus did not want His disciples to wear titles like the religious leaders of the day.


(2) They were not worn in the early church. The first Christians did not use religious titles. Not even the most respected preachers wore them. For instance, Apollos (1 Corinthians 16:12), Timothy (Hebrews 13:23), and Paul (2 Peter 3:15) were simply called “brother.”


(3) They exalt some above others. Disciples are not to elevate themselves above one another. Rather, they are to maintain a servant’s spirit (Matthew 18:1-4; 20:25-28; 23:11-12). By their very nature, religious titles exalt some above others.


(4) They reflect a clergy/laity distinction. There is no such thing as a clergy/laity distinction in the New Testament. However, when men assume titles that elevate them above other members (or wear special clothing, sit in special seats, etc.), such a distinction can hardly be avoided.


These are just a few reasons why Christians should not wear religious titles. So, just call me “Aaron!”


What Army is Chasing You?

There was no need for a “Beware of Dog” sign on the fence. Everybody in the neighborhood already knew to stay far away from the killer canine in that yard. He was mean, with a penetrating bark and piercing bite.


One day I was walking home from a friend’s house when I saw that dog coming after me. He had gotten loose, and chased me right onto the roof of a neighbor’s car. I was trapped. There was nowhere to go and nothing I could do. Thankfully, my dad saw what was happening and came to the rescue.


That story reminds me of Exodus 14. The children of Israel were not being chased by the meanest dog in the neighborhood, but they were being pursued by the mightiest army on earth — the Egyptian army. The Israelites were trapped, with nowhere to go and nothing they could do. Thankfully, however, their heavenly Father saw what was happening and came to the rescue.


Moses stretched out his hand and the Red Sea parted, allowing the children of Israel to walk across on dry land. Then when the Egyptians followed, they were swallowed up by the waters and drowned. God’s people prevailed!


What army is chasing you? Is it the army of anger? Is it the infantry of intoxication? Is it the cavalry of covetousness? Is it the brigade of bigotry? Whatever the army might be, please know that God sees what is happening and will come to your rescue!   


Dinosaurs

What does the Bible say about dinosaurs? Were they real creatures? If so, when did they go extinct? Do dinosaurs disprove the Genesis account of creation? Do dinosaurs help the evolutionists? These are good questions that deserve an answer.


In 1822 a man named Gideon Mantell discovered an unusual fossil of animal teeth. Unable to identify the large animal from which the teeth came, he referred to it as “iguanodon,” meaning iguana tooth. By 1842 so many fossils had been discovered that a British anatomist named Sir Richard Owen coined the term “dinosaur,” meaning terribly great lizard.


Evolutionists teach that dinosaurs lived on the earth millions of years before humans, and that no human has ever seen a live dinosaur. However, there is overwhelming evidence that the evolutionists are wrong. Dinosaurs and humans coexisted on the earth. For instance, in the early 1940’s clay figurines were discovered in Mexico. The figurines, which were determined to be 4,500 years old, were of different animals, including an animal which strongly resembled dinosaurs. That is significant because it places humans on earth with dinosaurs. The only way they could have accurately depicted dinosaurs is if they saw them!


“The Natural Bridges National Monument” is located in a desolate area of southeastern Utah. There are three natural bridges there: Sipapu Bridge, Kachina Bridge, and Owachomo Bridge. At the bottom of the Kachina Bridge, there are Indian petroglyphs which predate A.D. 1500. One of the petroglyphs is of a plant-eating dinosaur. Again, the only way they could have accurately depicted dinosaurs is if they saw them! It should also be noted that “The Dinosaur Museum” is not far from the natural bridges and contains hip-bone fragments of a plant-eating dinosaur.


The Bible teaches that all land-living animals, including dinosaurs, were created on day 6 of creation. That is the same day that man was created. Hence, humans and dinosaurs coexisted on the earth.


Some have questioned why the Bible does not mention dinosaurs. First, there are many animals that are not mentioned in the Bible. Second, the term “dinosaur” was not coined until 1842. That was long after the King James Version of 1611! Third, I do believe that the Bible speaks of dinosaurs, although they are not called by that name. In Job 40:15-18 we read about “Behemoth.”


"Behold, Behemoth, which I made as I made you; he eats grass like an ox. Behold, his strength in his loins, and his power in the muscles of his belly. He makes his tail stiff like a cedar; the sinews of his thighs are knit together. His bones are tubes of bronze, his limbs like bars of iron."


What is “Behemoth?” The ESV footnote says at this place: “A large animal, exact identity unknown.” While some suggest that the animal described is an elephant or hippo, the context seems to prove otherwise. For instance, Behemoth “eats grass like an ox” (v. 15). That rules out an elephant. Behemoth also “makes his tail stiff like a cedar” (v. 17). That rules out a hippo. This writer believes that Behemoth is what we know as a dinosaur.


Some have questioned how Noah could have fit dinosaurs on the ark. Since the evidence mentioned above does indicate that dinosaurs existed after the flood, Noah must have carried some on the ark. However, that does not mean he took full-grown dinosaurs on the ark. Perhaps he took the smaller dinosaurs. Not all dinosaurs were huge; some were roughly the size of dogs.


Although we cannot answer all the questions about dinosaurs, we do know that they were created on day 6 of creation. Some of the dinosaurs survived the flood, but like other animals eventually went extinct. Evolutionists have no friend in the dinosaur!


The Bible

The Bible has had an enormous impact on the world. It has influenced cultures and shaped nations. It has been copied and circulated more extensively than any other literature, and has been translated into about two thousand languages.


The Bible claims to be from God. 2 Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.” The phrase “breathed out by God” means that it is the product of his creative breath. This process is best described in 2 Peter 1:21, which says that men “spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” However, claiming to be from God does not prove the point. Many books claim to be from God. How then can we prove that the Bible’s claims are true?


Is the Bible from God?


There are many ways to prove that the Bible is from God. We shall note just some of the evidence in this article.


Unity. The Bible is a library of 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. It was written over a span of about sixteen hundred years (1500 B.C.—100 A.D.) by more than forty writers. The writers were not always aware of one another’s writings and sometimes did not even know the meaning of their own words (1 Peter 1:10-12). Yet the Bible fits together perfectly. There are no contradictions or inconsistencies.


The writers could hardly have come from more diverse backgrounds. They were shepherds, statesmen, prophets, priests, kings, physicians, fishermen, and tax collectors. They were wealthy and poor, educated and uneducated. They wrote from palaces and prisons, in times of peace and times of war. Furthermore, the Bible was written in three different languages on three different continents. There is no way that mere men from such diverse backgrounds could have written the Bible in such a unified manner without divine guidance. The unity of the Bible proves that it is from God!


Accuracy. Although the Bible was not written as a textbook on geography, history, or science, it is always accurate in those areas. One of the most fascinating studies of the Bible’s accuracy is in the field of archaeology. For instance, Genesis 40 mentions grapes in Egypt. Yet some had contended that the Egyptians never grew grapes or drank wine. However, archaeology has proven that there were grapes in Egypt. Tombs have been discovered which depict the dressing and pruning of vines, and scenes of drunkenness. Another example is the Hittite nation. For a long time critics denied that the Hittites ever existed. However, excavations in Turkey have uncovered their existence.


The ancient Egyptians were renowned for their medical advancements. However, we now know that some of their practices were actually harmful to the patient. For instance, the famous Ebers Papyrus, a medical document of the Egyptians (1552 B.C.), indicates that they would prescribe animal dung in certain instances. This is significant because Moses was “instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians” (Acts 7:22), yet he never included any of their harmful practices in his writings. What are the chances that a man educated in the ways of the Egyptians would not incorporate at least some of the faulty remedies of the Egyptians in his writings? Not only that, but every instruction given by Moses has been proven correct by modern medicine. Circumcision on the eighth day, the quarantine of lepers, burning contaminated clothing, burying waste, forbidding the eating of blood, etc. are all proper instructions!


Leviticus 17:11 says, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood.” Although we easily understand that statement to be true, until recent times people believed that a sick person needed to have his blood drained. They did not know that blood carries oxygen to the body and removes impurities from it. Yet Moses knew that the blood was life!


The Bible told us that God “hangs the earth on nothing” (Job 26:7) and “sits above the circle of the earth” (Isaiah 40:22) before we knew that the earth hangs from nothing and is round!


Fairness. In most books, there are heroes and villains. The heroes are presented favorably and flawlessly. However, such is not the case with the Bible. It makes no attempts to hide the mistakes of its heroes. For instance, Noah’s drunkenness (Genesis 9), Abraham’s lies (Genesis 12, 20), Moses’ presumption (Numbers 20), David’s adultery (2 Samuel 11), and Peter’s denials (Matthew 26) are all plainly revealed. There is no attempt to excuse or shield their shortcomings. Human authors only present the good side of their heroes. God presents the good, the bad, and the ugly!


Prophecy. The Bible is a book of prophecy. Many of these prophecies were uttered hundreds of years before their fulfillment. For instance, it was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). It was also prophesied that He would be preceded by a messenger (Isaiah 40:3), betrayed for thirty pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), pierced in the hands and feet (Psalm 22:16), numbered with the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12), buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9), and resurrected from the dead (Psalm 16:10). All of these prophecies, and countless others, came to pass! Could men utter predictions hundreds of years before their fulfillment with such stunning detail without making a mistake? The very thought is absurd. Yet Bible prophecies did just that!


1 Kings 13:2 says, “And the man cried against the altar by the word of the Lord and said, ‘O altar, altar, thus says the Lord: Behold, a son shall be born to the house of David, Josiah by name, and he shall sacrifice on you the priests of the high places who make offerings on you, and human bones shall be burned on you.’” This detailed prophecy was fulfilled some 300 years later (2 Kings 23)!


Preservation. The Bible has been the object of much persecution. On many occasions men have sought to ban and destroy it, but their efforts have always failed. Others have scrutinized the Bible trying to find contradictions that would prove it false, but to no avail. The Bible has survived the scrutiny. The fact that the Bible continues to exist intact and possess the same strengths today that it has always possessed proves that it is from God.


There is more evidence that proves the Bible is from God. However, these points are more than sufficient. The writers claimed to be inspired (2 Samuel 23:2; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 Thessalonians 2:13) and the evidence proves that their claims were true. No other book can do what the Bible does. No other book can pass the tests the Bible passes. The Bible is from God!


The Golden Text

When Tim Tebow wore John 3:16 on his eye-black during the 2009 Championship Game, over 92 million people looked that verse up on Google. It says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”


That verse, which is commonly called “The Golden Text,” is probably the most popular passage in the whole Bible. It appears on bracelets, banners, billboards, backpacks, and bumper stickers. Even those who know very little Scripture seem to know John 3:16. Let’s break it down.


God — greatest person

Loved — greatest motive

World — greatest invitation

Son — greatest gift

Believes — greatest condition

Eternal life — greatest promise


John 3:16 begins with God and ends with eternal life. Nestled between love and Son is the world. Belief is the condition attached, though it includes obedience (v. 21). The bridge between God and the world is love. The bridge between Son and eternal life is belief. What an amazing word picture! 


Judging

Some people think that all judging is wrong. This is usually based on the Lord's words in Matthew 7:1 -- "Judge not, that you be not judged." However, that very text both condemns and commands judging.


Jesus condemned hypocritical judging. He said that we are not to judge our brother for the speck in his eye while ignoring the log in our own eye (vv. 3-5). However, He then added, "Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs" (v. 6). How can we determine who the "dogs" and "pigs" are without judging? Hence, not all judging is wrong.


Jesus said to "judge with right judgment" in John 7:24. That is what Paul was doing when he "pronounced judgment" on the fornicator in Corinth (1 Corinthians 5:3) and said that Peter "stood condemned" for his hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11). It was right judgment because it was based on truth.


Without judging, how could we determine who are false teachers (Matthew 7:15), who are causing division (Romans 16:17), who are caught in a transgression (Galatians 6:1), what needs to be exposed (Ephesians 5:11), and when an elder persists in sin (1 Timothy 5:20)? Furthermore, how could we "settle a dispute between the brothers" (1 Corinthians 6:5) or "test the spirits" (1 John 4:1; also Revelation 2:2)? All of these passages demand judging.


It is wrong to judge hypocritically or self-righteously (Luke 18:10-14). However, it is not wrong to judge according to truth. In fact, Scripture requires us to do it. Not all judging is wrong.


Abortion

Abortion was pushed to the forefront of American politics when the United States Supreme Court ruled on the infamous Roe v. Wade case in 1973. The Court voted 7-2 to strike down Texas abortion laws and deemed abortion to be a fundamental right up to the point of viability. Doe v. Bolton was a lesser-known case decided at the same time. Abortion was legalized in every state.


For those of us who believe that human life begins at conception, abortion is much more than a political issue. It is a moral issue. It is a Gospel issue. If life begins at conception then any deliberate act to end a pregnancy is murder. Abortion becomes an act of violence that takes the life of an innocent child.


The Procedures


Abortion is not something most people like to think about. However, it is important for us to know how abortions are performed. Turning a blind eye will not lesson the brutality of abortion.


(1) The Abortion Pill. The Abortion Pill (RU486) is a non-surgical abortion that blocks progesterone, a natural hormone necessary for sustaining life, causing the baby to starve to death as the nutrient lining around him disintegrates.


(2) Suction Aspiration. Suction Aspiration, also known as vacuum aspiration, is performed between 6 to 12 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. The doctor inserts a long plastic tube connected to a suction device into the womb. The baby is then suctioned out and discarded.


(3) Dilation & Curettage. Dilation & Curettage (D&C) is performed between 12 to 15 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. It is similar to suction aspiration except the baby must be cut apart before it is suctioned out in pieces and discarded.


(4) Dilation & Evacuation. Dilation & Evacuation (D&E) is performed between 12 to 24 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual period. This procedure is usually chosen when the baby is too large to be sucked out through suction tubing. The doctor widens the cervix and dismembers the baby using forceps. The body is pulled out in pieces and discarded. In some cases, the skull is crushed to ease removal.


(5) Dilation & Extraction. Dilation & Extraction (D&X), also known as partial birth abortion, is performed after 21 weeks. Using forceps, the doctor grips the baby’s leg and pulls him through the birth canal. The baby is delivered feet first, leaving only the head in the birth canal. A sharp instrument is then inserted into the base of the skull and the brain is suctioned out. The skull collapses and the baby is discarded.


(6) Saline Solution. Saline Solution involves injecting a strong salt solution into the baby’s sac. The baby swallows the solution and is poisoned by it. The solution also severally burns the baby’s skin. The baby dies a slow and torturous death.


It is disheartening to know that the womb, which should be a place of safety and protection, is a place of great danger for many babies. There is no less secure place than the womb of a woman in an abortion clinic.


“If it seems more horrible to kill a man in his own house than in a field, because a man’s house is his place of most secure refuge, it ought surely to be deemed more atrocious to destroy a fetus in the womb before it has come to light” (John Calvin, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations, p. 6).


The Aftermath


Ridding oneself of an unwanted pregnancy has a much higher price than many suppose. It leaves one dead and many wounded. Statistics show that women suffer significant psychological pain after an abortion.


“Women undergoing abortion have no idea what suffering they will encounter after the abortion, and daily for the rest of their lives, when it suddenly dawns on them that they chose to extinguish a precious life…The guilt of killing your child eats away at your soul continually, like a ravenous cancer, causing one to pray for a quick demise. You will always wonder if the fetus was male or female, what he or she would look like. Yearly, you will mournfully recall the day your baby was ripped from your body, only to be carelessly tossed into a garbage pail at your side” (Nancy Carmel, Think, July 2006).


Feelings of guilt, anger, depression, grief, regret, sorrow, shame, and loneliness have all been reported in women who had an abortion. There is evidence to suggest that the risk of miscarriages, premature births, bleeding, and breast cancer increases as well.


The Arguments


There are several common arguments that people make in favor of abortion. Let us consider each one.


(1) A woman has a right to control her own body. While it is true that a woman should control her own body, the baby’s body is not her own. It is a different body with a genetic code that differs from the mother’s. A woman’s body does not have two hearts, heads, and blood types.


(2) We cannot know if the fetus is a human being. If that is so, shouldn’t the benefit of the doubt go to preserving life? Scripture teaches and science affirms that the unborn are living human beings.


“If you don’t know whether a body is alive or dead, you would never bury it. I think this consideration itself should be enough for all of us to insist on protecting the unborn” (Ronald Reagan, Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation, article).


(3) It is better to abort a child than abuse one. Abortion is the worst form of child abuse. What could be more abusive than cutting someone into pieces or burning them to death with poison?


(4) We cannot impose our morality on others. Wouldn’t this same argument apply to murder or rape? Those who make this argument are the very people trying to impose their immorality on others!


(5) People are going to have abortions anyway. Again, this same argument could apply to murder or rape. Because people are going to murder anyway, should we go ahead and legalize murder? Laws do affect behavior and change attitudes.


(6) Rape victims should be able to abort the child. The violence of abortion parallels the violence of rape. Why should the innocent child suffer the death penalty for the actions of his father? Abortion will not bring healing to the woman, it will only add to the shame. (Let it be noted that less than 1% of abortions are performed as a result of rape).


(7) If we outlaw abortions, many women will die in back alleys. The number of mothers who may die in back alleys trying to have an abortion pales in comparison to the number of babies dying each day in abortion clinics.


There are other arguments, but these are the most common ones. There is no good reason to kill an innocent child. Abortion cannot be justified.


The Bible


When Mary went to visit her pregnant relative Elizabeth, we read that the “baby” leaped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:41, 44). That is the same word (brephos) used in the next chapter to describe a child after birth (Luke 2:12). Hence, God views those in the womb and those out of the womb the same — both are babies!


Personhood was never measured by age or stage of development in scripture. From the moment of conception in the depths of the womb one was recognized as a human being created in the image of God. That is why to be pregnant was to be “with child” (Matthew 1:18) and the angel Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth conceived “a son” (Luke 1:36).


There are many passages that indicate God has a special relationship with the unborn (Job 10:8-12; Psalm 139:13-16; Jeremiah 1:4-5). There is a pre-birth relationship that exists between the Creator and his creation.


Some argue that abortion is not murder because the fetus has not yet received the “breath of life” spoken of in Genesis 2:7. However, that passage speaks specifically about Adam, one who sprang into existence fully grown having been formed from the dust of the ground. That was a unique situation. The rest of us receive the “breath of life” long before we begin to breathe independently of our mothers. We breathe (i.e., receive oxygen) through our mothers while in the womb!


No conception ever occurs that is not the result of God’s creative purposes (Genesis 17:16; 21:2; Ruth 4:13). Therefore, we must not tamper with what God has done. His Word teaches that life begins at conception long before the body is formed. Abortion robs God of His glory and the child of his life!


Holiday Reminder

Bring on the bearded gift-giver. Let the sleigh bells ring and carolers sing. From crowded malls to delicious cake balls, I just love this time of year.


I love the smiling faces, the blinking lights, the wrapped presents, the time off from work, and the holiday classics on television. After all, what could be better than watching “Home Alone” in a house full of loved ones? Oh, but wait…


What about the people who really are home alone? What about those who have no family or friends? What about the homeless man and widowed woman? What about all the orphans? What about the depressed and downtrodden? What about those in war-torn countries or county jails? I wonder about the father who can’t afford gifts for his children or the woman who can’t even have children. What about them this time of year?


God has always had concern for the less fortunate; for those who are hurting or hindered. That is why the Old Testament is filled with passages about helping the fatherless, the stranger, and the widow (Exodus 22:22; Deuteronomy 10:18; 14:28-29; 24:17; 27:19; Psalm 68:5; 146:9). They were often marginalized and mistreated. In the New Testament, the disciples were obviously in the habit of giving to the poor (John 12:5; 13:29), and the Lord said that judgment will hinge on whether or not you fed the hungry, clothed the naked, and welcomed the stranger (Matthew 25:34-46). If God remembers the forgotten, shouldn’t we?


I love the holidays. The time with friends, the tasty desserts, the silly sweaters, the anxious children running downstairs on Christmas morning, make this time of year among my favorites. However, let us be mindful of the less fortunate and do what we can to brighten their holidays. Rejoice and Remember!


Calvinism

John Calvin (1509-1564) was born in France to Roman Catholic parents. He left Catholicism around 1530 and later fled to Switzerland where he published Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin, who was heavily influenced by the writings of Augustine, became the prominent figure in the development of a system of beliefs later called Calvinism.


The five major tenets of Calvinism are summed up by the acronym TULIP: Total Hereditary Depravity; Unconditional Election; Limited Atonement; Irresistible Grace; and Perseverance of the Saints. The five tenets are mutually dependent and logically connected. They are all false.


Total Hereditary Depravity is the belief that man is born in sin with a corrupt nature and unable to do any good. However, the Bible says “God made man upright” (Eccl. 7:29), “the son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father” (Ezek. 18:20), and “all we like sheep have gone astray” (Is. 53:6). Furthermore, Paul spoke of some who “by nature” did good (Rom. 2:14), and recalled a time in his life when he was “alive” spiritually apart from the law (Rom. 7:9).


Unconditional Election is the belief that God arbitrarily chose a certain number of people to be saved before the foundation of the world. However, the Bible says “God shows no partiality” (Rom. 2:11), “desires all people to be saved” (1 Tim. 2:4), and is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9). God predestined that those in Christ would be saved (Eph. 1:4). He did not predestine who would be in Christ.


Limited Atonement is the belief that Christ died only for the elect. However, the Bible says Christ “has died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14), tasted death “for everyone” (Heb. 2:9), and is the propitiation “for the sins of the whole world” (1 Jn. 2:2).


Irresistible Grace is the belief that the Holy Spirit miraculously draws the elect to Christ regardless of their desire. However, the Bible says the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16) and that we are converted “through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15). The Holy Spirit draws man to Christ though the preached Word, not separate and apart from it. Furthermore, man has a free will. He can “resist the Holy Spirit” (Acts 7:51) and “quench the Spirit” (1 Thess. 5:19).


Perseverance of the Saints is the belief that it is impossible for the elect to fall away and be lost. However, the Bible says that we can “fall” (1 Cor. 10:12), “fall away from the living God” (Heb. 3:12), and “fall by the same sort of disobedience” (Heb. 4:11). Paul knew that he could be “disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27), and spoke of some who would “depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1). Likewise, Peter spoke of those who would “turn back from the holy commandment” (2 Pet. 2:21). We even have actual examples of people who fell away: Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11), Hymenaeus and Alexander (1 Tim. 1:20), Demas (2 Tim. 4:10), and Diotrephes (3 Jn. 9-10). Salvation is conditioned upon man’s continued obedience. He can fall away!


Calvinism asserts that man is wholly passive in redemption. There is nothing he can do. He is reduced to a robot with no free moral agency. Furthermore, God is made the ultimate respecter of persons, divine favor becomes divine force, preaching is unnecessary, and scripture is insufficient. Who can believe such a thing?


Calvinism has had a tremendous impact on the religious world. Many denominations accept one or more parts of the aforementioned TULIP. Therefore, we must teach others that Calvinism is erroneous.


Oppressive Opinionism

“Oppressively Opinionated.” That is one way to describe the Pharisees in the first century. They had strong opinions about a wide variety of religious issues and did not hesitate to let them be known. Perhaps the biggest problem was that they seemed to blend their opinions with Scripture and bind them on others. They made no distinction between “the word of man” and “the word of God.”


The Pharisees felt they were more conservative and strict than other groups, and that their devotion was second to none. For instance, they fasted twice a week (Luke 18:12) — which was more than the law actually required. Therefore, they knew best. Their opinions could not possibly be wrong and were not to be questioned. This smug mindset manifested itself in their attitude toward others. Most Pharisees had little regard for the man who dared to disagree with them.


The opinionism of the Pharisees can be seen in Matthew 12, when they accused the disciples of working on the Sabbath by plucking grain (even though the law permitted them to do so). It is seen again in Matthew 15, when the Pharisees criticized the disciples for not washing their hands when they ate. In neither case had the disciples sinned, yet the Pharisees condemned them as if they were in sin. Could the same be true of us today?


I have heard brethren speak disparagingly of those who use modern translations of the Bible, put up a Christmas tree in their living room, wear cross charms on their necklace, drink an occasional glass of wine, or let their wives work outside the home. I have also heard brethren criticize congregations for not having longer sermons, for not having two services on Sunday, for not using “Church of Christ” on the sign, for not requiring the sisters to wear dresses during worship, or for having a steeple on the roof of the church building. Sadly, I have been guilty of such “oppressive opinionism” myself!


Christians must be careful to guard against opinionism. Regardless of how strongly we may feel about something, we do not want to bind our opinions on others. When we do, we are no better than the Pharisees. May God help us to have the humility necessary to distinguish between preference and precept!


The Longest Six Hours

Have you ever noticed how non-descriptive the Gospel writers were when it came to the crucifixion? They all just basically say, “and they crucified him.” There is very little detail about what crucifixion actually entailed, probably because the original readers were already familiar with it. However, I think it’s important for us to be reminded of what we’re talking about.


“Crucifixion” was a particularly prolonged, painful, and public way to die. In fact, the word “excruciating” means “out of crucifying.” The person usually lingered for hours before finally succumbing to heart failure, asphyxia, dehydration, or shock. This is how the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes crucifixion:


“The suffering of death by crucifixion was intense, esp. in hot climates. Severe local inflammation, coupled with an insignificant bleeding of the jagged wounds, produced traumatic fever, which was aggravated by the exposure to the heat of the sun, the strained position of the body and insufferable thirst. The wounds swelled about the rough nails and the torn and lacerated tendons and nerves caused excruciating agony. The arteries of the head and stomach were surcharged with blood and a terrific throbbing headache ensued. The mind was confused and filled with anxiety and dread foreboding. The victim of crucifixion literally died a thousand deaths. Tetanus not rarely supervened and the rigors of the attending convulsions would tear at the wounds and add to the burden of pain, till at last the bodily forces were exhausted and the victim sank to unconsciousness and death” (p. 761).


The ESV Study Bible adds this:


“Crucifixion was widely believed to be the worst form of execution, due to the excruciating pain and public shame. Hanging suspended by one’s arms eventually caused great difficulty in breathing, which could be alleviated only by pushing up with one’s feet to take the weight off the arms. But that motion itself would cause severe pain in the feet, arms, legs, and back, causing the exhausted victim to slump down again, only to be nearly unable to breathe once more. Eventually, the victim would succumb to suffocation, if he had not already died as a result of the cumulative effect of the physical trauma inflicted on him” (p. 1886).


The nails were between 6 and 7 inches long. The horizontal cross beam that Jesus carried was about 6 feet long, and weighed about 70 pounds. It was an unfinished piece of lumber, which means its splintery surface would have rubbed against His open wounds. The vertical cross beam was about 8 feet long. The scorching heat, swarming insects, and scoffing bystanders only added to the torture. Jesus was on the cross for six long hours — the longest six hours in history!


Love Feast at Corinth

The church at Corinth had a weekly dinner prior to their worship service. Apparently, these meals not only provided a good opportunity for fellowship, but they gave the wealthy members a chance to share their abundance with the poor. (That might have been the best meal the slaves had to eat all week). Then after the meal, they would have their worship service and eat communion together.


Over the course of time, as is often the case, that which was intended to be beneficial turned out to be irreverent. The rich got tired of waiting for the poor to arrive, and went ahead with their meals. This left the poor with very little or no food.


Moreover, the congregation split up into separate cliques, and some drank so much wine during the meal that they got drunk. Though Paul did not condemn their dinners, he did rebuke the way they were going about them. They needed to be more courteous and inclusive, and not overindulge in food or drink. If anyone was too hungry to wait for the poor, they should eat at home!


What was intended to be a time of selfless devotion had become a time of selfish division. Therefore, the dinner at Corinth was not living up to its name as a "love feast" (Jude 12). They needed to treat one another better, do we?