This title of the 2014 Contending for the Faith lectureship book poses an all-important question for older members, as well as those who have newly become Christians. The introduction states the goals of this vol-ume for brethren—“to keep them faithful to the Lord—unspotted from the world…” and to assist them in not being confused by “goofy gospels” (2). The material presented is designed to emphasize the fundamentals of Christianity.
One of the most basic of Christian teachings pertains to love, and the first three messages are: “Love God With All You Are And Have,” “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself,” and “Grow in Love for Brethren.” Some have advanced the idea that treating others the way they want to be treated is even better than what Jesus taught, but God does not deal with us this way, nor should we adopt this attitude toward others. God loves us by giving us what we need—not what we desire. He knows that everything we desire is not necessarily beneficial to us (25).
The next two chapters relate to the Christian’s overall attitude: “Keeping a Good and Honest Heart” and “Keeping a Humble and Teachable Mind That Is Ready to Repent of Any Sin.” The first of these provides a warning signal that each of us can spot within us—it shows us that we have a heart problem. “When the Christian prays and studies less, his heart is starting to fade” (45). No one else may recognize the danger, but we can all observe it within ourselves—and institute measures to keep that from happening.
Of course, a new Christian has probably been taught to “Know the Difference Between the Lord’s Church and the Religions of Men,” but a good review of the topic is beneficial to all. The religions founded by men have a different authority than that of the Scriptures, and some of these appeals outside of the Bible are listed (66-67). An important analysis of Acts 2:37-47 is also included (68-69).
The next three chapters relate to the Christian’s attitude toward fellowship: “Do Not Be a Respecter of, Or Partial To, Persons As You Live, Teach, and Defend the Gospel”; “Be Determined to Fellowship Only Those Who Are With God”; and “Withdraw Fellowship From Disorderly Church Members, Including Family Members.” Despite sound teaching in the past on these subjects, Romans 16:17-18 and 2 John 9-11 are fast becoming the most ignored passages in the Bible among brethren. One of the key concepts is partiality.
The lines of fellowship have not only become blurred during the past decade; they have just about become obliterated. Many brethren are now operating by “Woofer Theology.” Most brethren once followed the pattern of Jesus. Despite the fact that Peter had confessed Jesus to be the Son of God and been blessed for it, when he did something wrong afterward, Jesus said, “Get Behind Me, Satan” (Matt. 16:16-23). Deeds and actions were based on merit.
One used to hear brethren argue, “I don’t have a dog in this fight; here’s what I think on this subject.” But now everybody is making decisions based on the dog they do have in the fight—hence, Woofer Theology. For example, if a work is accomplishing a lot of good, then we cannot let it fail—even if the head of that organization is Scripturally flawed. If a conservative congregation advertises liberal events, well, that’s all right because some family connections exist between the two. If someone holds a gospel meeting where a false teacher is, it’s okay because he writes good material. If someone speaks on a liberal workshop, we cannot criticize because of who he is.
For these reasons (besides the fact that impartiality and fellowship are Biblical subjects), these three chapters are important. The next topic is related: “Be Ready to Forgive a Brother or Sister Who Repents of Sin.” One aspect that is dealt with is one that many people ponder: “At what point should I forgive someone who has wronged me—before he or she asks, when forgiveness is sought, or at a time much later?” Another important matter that is included is: “How do I forgive (to what extent?), and am I expected to do so even when it is difficult?” (119-31).
An interesting topic of great relevance is: “Do Not Follow a Multitude To Do Evil”; related is: “Have No Fellowship With the Unfruitful Works of Darkness, But Rather Reprove Them.” These are followed by a comprehensive subject: “Teach the Alien Sinner, Restore the Erring Church Member, and Be Ready Unto Every Good Work.” The author outlines 6 things that hinder evangelism (160-61) and seven reasons why Christians fall away (161-64).
Another lengthy title is from 1 Corinthians 16:13: “Watch Ye, Stand Fast in the Faith, Quit You Like Men, Be Strong.” Six results of failing to be steadfast are listed that would make an excellent sermon (171). Not unrelated is “Contending for the Faith,” which includes several definitions of the words used in Jude 3 and shows how the text applies to the overall context of the book of Jude.
“Pray Without Ceasing” covers the posture of prayer, the recipient of prayer, hindrances to prayer, and the ways in which God answers prayer, among other things. The next chapter exhorts brethren to be regular in daily Bible study and how to properly ascertain Bible authority. The liberal “paraphrase” of Biblical principles is worth the price of the book (209-10). Most brethren have probably not read War and Peace, but they have adopted in their hearts a line from Pierre (213).
The next three chapters discuss worshipping in spirit and in truth, being faithful in attending all the assemblies of the church, and teaching godliness by both example and doctrine. This last emphasis discusses a wide range of issues, such as taking issue with Mac Deaver’s Passive Sanctification Theory (246-47)), as well as charges that members of the Lord’s church are more concerned about right doctrine than right living (251). This seems like an odd claim since some preachers have been fired because they upheld the wearing of modest apparel. Other avenues explored are the elder Re-evaluation/Reaffirmation issue (252-53) and those who try to argue logically that Christianity is not established by argument (256).
The material on the fruit of the Spirit contrasts those attributes with the works of the flesh and is followed by an analysis of what it means to be a living sacrifice to God (Rom. 12:1-2). “Walk Circumspectly and Lay Hands Suddenly on No Man” contains some interesting correspondence that reveals the hearts and thinking of many liberals (287-88).
“Strengthening Your Hope of Heaven” is a good topic for both old and new Christians, as is “Being Obedient to Faithful Elders.” The material relating to keeping up with church events is worth careful study. The observation is made that Christians from 40 to 70 years ago would “not believe their eyes and ears” if they could observe many present-day assemblies (325). Much of the current folderol results from the “abandonment of the need for scriptural authority…” (328).
An unusual article appears next: “What Does the Bible Teach about a Wife Keeping Her Maiden Name?” An always timely topic is that of: “The Sin of Gossip,” which is brief but full of useful information (345-49). The Father’s Responsibility in keeping his family faithful is followed by a look at the wife’s; both of these are very practical. The final message deals with rejoicing in the face of persecution. Every reader needs to see the list of crimes and punishments that exist under Sharia law (382-83). To order, call 281-350-5516.
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UNDERSTANDING THE WILL
OF THE LORD
Gary W. Summers
Another book especially helpful for new Christians is this year’s lectures from the Bellview Church of Christ in Pensacola, Florida. The approach of this volume is to show how the Bible is arranged and to give a brief synopsis of each era. It begins with, “The Theme of the Bible,” which is, of course, the redemption of mankind from sin. From there it next considers, “The Church in the Eternal Purpose of God.” This comprehensive study defines what the church is and then takes a look at the way it was planned, purposed, prophesied, and promised before its establishment.
“The Arrangement of the Bible” contains the fundamental information one would expect, but it also covers sections on the inspiration of the Scriptures and the concept of canonicity.
The chapter on “Dispensations of Time” begins with definitions of time itself and then describes the Patriarchal Age (which continued for the Gentiles until the cross), the Mosaic Age in which the Law of Moses was authoritative, and the Christian era, which lasts until Jesus returns to take His followers home. The writer defines what the Law being destroyed means and deals with the fact that the Christian Age has two subdivisions—one is a time period involving miracles, and the second is the part we live in that does not. The explanations provided on this all-important subject are well worth reading and considering. The next three chapters focus on just one of these three ages. The third of these considers the meaning of a phrase that is often bandied about today—the last days.
“The Ante-Diluvian Period” (Genesis 1-6) covers important territory: the Creation, the loss of fellowship with God, and the downward spiral of humanity into sin and degradation so that God determined to destroy the perfect world He had once created with a flood. “The Post-Diluvian Period” continues where the preceding material ended. The Bible indicates that the Flood was universal because it is a type of the coming of Christ, which affects the whole world. A brief discussion of the death penalty is provided in Genesis 9, and consideration is given to the genealogies and the Tower of Babel. “The Patriarchal Period” covers Genesis 12-50—the lives of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel), and Joseph. God’s providence is clearly seen in the lives of these great men.
“The Period of Bondage” traces God’s people in Egypt from the time of the arising of a Pharaoh who refused to recognize either Jehovah or the salvation Joseph had brought to Egypt. Israel became enslaved, and God authorized Moses to go to Egypt to deliver His people. This section covers the Ten Plagues, which God used to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. Once God had freed His people, however, there was a “Period of Wilderness Wandering” which lasted 40 years because the people complained against God. They continued to complain throughout that time until they died and a new generation arose that was much more obedient, resulting in the “Period of Conquest,” which occurred under the leadership of Joshua. The key events of this era are examined.
The “Period of the Judges” followed; many dark and gruesome deeds occurred during these years. When Israel demanded a king, God gave them one—just the kind of man they had imagined, but it did not work out as well as the people thought. During the 120 years of “The United Kingdom,” David was far better than his predecessor, although he failed in certain respects, also. Solomon had all the wealth and splendor imaginable, but his wives turned away his heart, and his disobedience precipitated the next era.
“The Divided Kingdom” began when Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, refused to follow the wise advice of his father’s contemporaries and decided to make the tax burden even greater. The northern kingdom rebelled and never fully repented—in that the golden calves in Dan and Bethel remained, along with the other changes that Jeroboam had made. During this time, God sent several prophets to encourage them to repent. “No flattery was found in them” (185). The author of this chapter goes on to say:
Today, the Lord’s church is filled with people who think that the more you love God and man, the more you will tolerate and overlook sin in the lives of sinners, as well as withhold the much-needed truth from those who need to hear it the most. This, the faithful prophets of old did not believe nor do (185).
They spoke the truth to a hostile people.
Although the “Period of Judah Alone” has some mountaintops in terms of spirituality and obedience with Hezekiah and Josiah, for the most part the nation deteriorates until there was no remedy; God had to take His people into captivity (the ones that were not killed). Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel lived prior to and during the “Period of Exile.” To read of the faith of Daniel is inspiring, and gratefully the time of the captivity is followed by the “Period of Restoration,” which is described in the books of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther.
For those who do not know much about the “Inter-Testament Period,” the book contains an excellent summary of this 400-year era. It outlines what occurred during the rule of the Persians and the Greeks, which followed. When Alexander the Great died, his kingdom was divided into four parts, and one of those greatly affected the Jews. The Maccabean revolt is portrayed, as well as the rise of the Romans. Although the history of this time period may not be essential, it proves to be quite helpful. The Pharisees and the Sadducees also owe their origin to this era.
The “Period of the Life of Christ” is also quite an extensive chapter; it provides the background of the age and then follows the Lord through the various geographical regions of His ministry. The “Period of the Church” continues with a look at the Book of Acts, and it highlights the connection between Christ and His followers.
The “Second Coming and Judgment” is always a subject of curiosity. This study investigates and analyzes 2 Peter 3 thoroughly, calling attention to related passages in the process, “God’s Scheme of Redemption” takes a look at how it runs through both testaments—first in prospect and second in fulfillment.
Two chapters are similar in nature—“Worship” and New Testament Worship.” The first of these defines worship (291-92) and then shows why God is worthy of adoration. The second answers the question, “Is all of life worship?” which a few are still claiming is the case. The various acts of worship that Christians engage in are described, as well as explaining what is the appropriate day for worship in the Christian era. Another question answered is, “Are These Acts of Worship Restricted to the Lord’s Day?” (310-11).
Another topic of interest is: “How We Got the Bible.” Entire books have been written on that subject, but this chapter deals with revelation, inspiration, canonicity, and transmission. It answers questions that brethren are often asked by outsiders. This volume concludes with “The Whole of Man,” which is based on Ecclesiastes 12:13. Along the way, it refers to Lot, Achan, Zachariah and Elizabeth, Adam and Eve, and Solomon.
For the new Christian or for those who do not yet understand the way the Bible fits together, this book will prove to be helpful. The chapters are between ten and twenty pages, making them easily readable. The book may be ordered from The Bellview Church of Christ, and their number is 850-455-7595.