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Thursday, February 21 2019

Many often recognize an imbalance in their lives between home and work or between children and spouse. People strive to balance their diet and sleep. The church faces a great struggle for balance between compassion and standing for truth. Often, elders must make hard decisions for which some quickly criticize for being too strict or too permissive. Christians would be better to avoid such opinionated judging and give grace to their leaders.

            Do churches of Christ need to repent? Some needed to repent in the first century, and some need to repent today. The church at Corinth had a long list of sins, but the apostle Paul still identified them as a church of Christ (1 Cor 3:23). First Corinthians helps demarcate when a church is drifting from Christ as members within the body are falling asleep and dying spiritually.

            The first churches of Christ had problems much like churches today. In John’s Revelation, Jesus instructed the apostle John to write to seven churches of Asia (Rev 1:4, 11, 19). Christ called five of the churches with sinful problems to repent (Rev 1:10, 13, 17; 2:7).

            Jesus’s words to the church at Ephesus included commendation and addressed issues that many churches have today. In Revelation 2, Jesus revealed that He knew their works and endurance for His name’s sake (Rev 2:3). Christ commended them for not bearing with those who were evil and falsely called themselves apostles (Rev 2:2). They rightly did not tolerate false teachers in the church. Jesus also hated the evil works of these heretical teachers (Rev 2:6). Jesus revealed to another church at Thyatira that they sinned by tolerating such seducing doctrines (Rev 2:20). Jesus referred to these false teachers as Nicolaitans who like Balaam who deceived believers to accept sexual immorality and eat what was sacrificed to idols (Rev 2:14–15; cf. 2 Pet 2:14–15).

            Jesus called for the church at Ephesus to repent. While they did well in opposing false teachers, they had abandoned their first love by not doing their first works (Rev 2:5). Scholars continue to discuss what the first works were that the church at Ephesus left. Evidently, the description of love and first works is not opposing false doctrines along with avoiding sexual immorality and mingling the Christian faith with other religions. This leaves Christians with a general definition that this sin is what new churches and new Christians do in abundance and yet the church at Ephesus abandoned.

            Today, believers of Christ must balance between doctrine and good works. While Christians oppose fallacious beliefs, the faithful need to continue to love in service. The church of Christ at Ephesus was imbalanced like many believers today who may spend too much time arguing over beliefs and not enough time uniting in service and sharing the gospel. For repentance, Jesus concluded His message to Ephesus by encouraging them, “To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God” (Rev 2:7b).

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Monday, February 11 2019

Days mean significant things to certain people. Most of the world marks birthdays and anniversaries for important events in their lives. Nations recognize special days that are noteworthy to their people. For most people in the States, Mondays represent the beginning of work for the week. Wednesdays are “hump day,” and Friday marks freedom and rest from a long week. However, many put Sunday in “the weekend” not recognizing the historical and biblical importance of the first day of the week.

            Christians call the first day of the week “the Lord’s Day.” Why? Should not Christians recognize every day to the Lord (Rom 14:5–6)? In the Bible, Christians did see the first day of the week as important to their faith. The only day attributed to Jesus is the first day of the week, because Christ rose from the dead on the first day of the week (Matt 28:1; Mark 16:1–2; cf. 1 Cor 15:3–4). While some may consider Sunday to be “the Christian Sabbath,” the only “Christian Sabbath” in the Bible is eternal rest with God (Heb 4:1–11).

            The Book of Revelation reveals reasons that Christians identify the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day. John recognized “the Lord’s day” specifically to the Lord — Jesus Christ. John wrote to the seven churches of Asia while he was in the Spirit on “the Lord’s Day” (Rev 1:10). The identification of the Lord’s Day as the first day of the week comes from clues within the text. The adjective “Lord’s” is only found in one other passage in the New Testament that referred to “the Lord’s Supper” in 1 Corinthians 11:20. In Acts, Christians partook in the breaking of the bread “on the first day of the week” (Act 20:7; cf. 1 Cor 10:16). Furthermore, Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians for order in the assembly, the fruits of Jesus’s resurrection, and then noted the collection on the first day of the week (1 Cor 14; 15; 16:1–2). Paul connected assembly, Jesus’s resurrection, and the first day of the week together.

            In Revelation, John recorded that he saw the Son of Man in the midst of the seven lampstands on this Lord’s Day (Rev 1:12–13). John revealed that the lampstands represented the seven churches of Asia (Rev 1:20). In other words, Jesus was “in the midst” of the churches on the Lord’s Day. “In the midst” is the same phrase that Jesus used in Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them” (translation). Jesus declared that He is “in the midst” of a gathering in His name (Matt 18:17–19; cf. 1 Cor 5:4).

            Peter’s preaching of the gospel on the Day of Pentecost established the church of Christ in Jerusalem. “Pentecost” means fifty in Greek referring to fifty days after the last Sabbath day of Passover (Lev 23:15–16). In other words, Pentecost was always on the first day of the week. The Holy Spirit came upon Christ’s apostles and the gospel began to spread to the world on the first day of the week (Acts 2).

            What should Christians do with the Lord’s Day? The church does not need a command to recognize the first day of the week as the ideal time for the assembly. The church of Christ can see the biblical examples and find no better day to gather and partake in the breaking of the bread. Thank God for Lord’s Day! Christ arose!

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 03:25 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Sunday, February 10 2019
Why Were Believers Baptized Immediately in the Bible?

Some churches encourage new believers to delay their baptism for a month or for a special time of the year. However, the believers in the Bible were baptized immediately. Why were believers baptized immediately in the Bible? What does instant baptism reveal about the importance of baptism?

Here are examples of baptism in the Scriptures:

  • When the church was established at Pentecost, Peter preached the gospel and instructed listeners to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Three thousand souls were baptized and added that day to the church (Acts 2:41).
  • When the evangelist Philip joined an Ethiopian official on his chariot, he “preached to him Jesus,” and the eunuch’s immediate response was, “See, here is water! What prevents me from being baptized?” The Ethiopian stopped the chariot and they both went down into the water where Philip baptized him (Acts 8:26–40).
  • When a Roman centurion named Cornelius and his household believed, Peter responded, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Peter commanded them to be baptized in Jesus’s name (Acts 10:47–48).
  • In Philippi, Lydia and her household were baptized before they could convince Paul and Silas to stay with them (Acts 16:11–15).
  • When a Philippian jailer and his household heard and believed the Word of the Lord, the jailer and all of his family were baptized at midnight (Acts 16:25–34).
  • In Ephesus, Paul met twelve men baptized in John’s baptism, and when they heard of Jesus, they were baptized immediately in Jesus’s name (Acts 19:1–7).
  • When Paul himself was converted, Ananias urged him, “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name” (Acts 22:16).​

Believers must have been baptized immediately in the Bible to accomplish something urgent. What is the purpose of baptism that required believers to be baptized at once? According to the Bible, believers were baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Col 2:12–13). They were baptized for salvation (Mark 16:16; 1 Pet 3:21). This is why believers were baptized immediately.

When Jesus rose from the dead, He commanded His apostles to make disciples by baptizing them and then teaching them all things that Jesus taught them (Matt 28:19–20). Baptism is the beginning of being a disciple — a follower of Christ. There is one baptism (Eph 4:5). The baptism that Jesus commanded is the baptism that the apostles commanded in the name of Jesus and in water (Acts 10:47–48). Repentant believers are the only ones who were baptized in the Bible (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38).

Baptism means immersion, and the Bible describes baptism as a burial (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12–13). As a burial, baptism partakes of the reality of salvation signified in Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection (Rom 6:3–6; Col 2:12–13). The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the gospel that saves believers (1 Cor 15:1–4). The apostle Peter proclaimed, “This is now an example to you, baptism saves — not the removal of dirt from the flesh — but as an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 3:21). Through Jesus’s resurrection, believers are born again to a living hope (1 Pet 1:3).

May God bless those who read these scriptures.

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 12:20 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email
Friday, February 08 2019

As a parent, I find myself instructing my children in the hearing of other children not so much that my kids hear the same teaching again but so their friends and peers hear how to behave respectfully.

            Sometimes, a Christian may need to correct false beliefs even when the opposition will likely dismiss it so that those who are listening can know the truth of God’s Word. However, Paul taught Timothy,

The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:24–26 NASB)

Much of the New Testament is for Christians to read other Christians' mail. The prophets wrote the Scriptures addressing people in foreign and distant times. However, God’s words to Moses from the burning bush and His commandments to Israel from the cloud of Mount Sinai are God’s words intended for the teaching of all (cf. Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:6, 11).

            John wrote all that he saw of “the revelation of Jesus Christ” that would soon take place (Rev 1:1). God gave John’s Revelation for all servants of Christ to read aloud and hear (Rev 1:3). However, John wrote to the seven churches of Asia. God spoke to John by the Holy Spirit, “Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea” (Rev 1:11). The apostles often wrote to specific churches, but the apostles also intended the epistle for all. For instance, Paul wrote, “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours:” (1 Cor 1:2; cf. 2 Cor 1:1).

            Therefore, the Scriptures were for various people whether separated by distance of land or time. Peter wrote his first epistle to churches among five different nations, yet he wrote the same churches in his second letter and informed them that Paul’s writings were also to them (1 Pet 1:1; 2 Pet 3:15). However, Paul never wrote a letter addressed to any church in Pontus, Bithynia, or Cappadocia. Peter noted that Paul’s writings were for and to all Christians throughout the nations. This practice makes sense when one reads numerous writings in antiquity and sees the ancient practice of publishing letters written to specific people was a common form of writing in the ancient classical world (IVPBBC).

            For this reason, the Book of Revelation is for all Christians. God has blessed all Christians to read the Revelation to John. John recorded, “Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near” (Rev 1:3). God revealed the Book of Revelation for every Christian to have endurance in the victory of Jesus Christ.

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Wednesday, February 06 2019

Why do the weak struggle? Why do the sick suffer and die? Why do the wicked increase and get rich? Why does the world allow such things? Innocent unborn children are dismembered for the convenience of their parents. The sexually immoral gain power over the virtuous. Christ’s suffering at the hands of wicked men demonstrates the depravity of this world, and Christ’s resurrection reveals His work for the ultimate victory for the faithful to resurrect bodily as Jesus did. The Christian faith has answered why suffering exists and how God conquers suffering and death.

            God has blessed Christians to see Jesus’s victories now. Throughout their lives, the faithful observe Christ overcoming His enemies. Nothing can separate Christians from love the God (Rom 8:37–39). All things works for good for those who love the Lord (Rom 8:28). The Millennium is a period demonstrating a victory of Christ over worldwide persecution.

            The apostle John wrote Revelation before the Millennium — a period of peace from worldwide persecution between the first century and the last century (Rev 20:1–10). One could say that the apostle John was premillennial as he wrote before the coming of the Beast and the Millennium.

            John revealed some essential beliefs about the kingdom of God in the Book of Revelation. Specifically, Christ’s kingdom is not bound to the Millennium as some believe today. Before the Millennium, John wrote that Jesus was currently “the ruler of the kings on earth” (Rev 1:5). Furthermore, John revealed how Christ made those whom He loves and freed from sins into a kingdom that is present then and now (Rev 1:6). John also identified himself as a brother and partner in the kingdom as they endured tribulation (Rev 1:9). The kingdom already existed when John wrote Revelation. Christ's kingdom came before the Millennium.

            Revelation makes apparent that Christ was already with God and He is the king of kings now. The Millennium period of peace would come after the God’s wrath has come upon the Beast, a king of Rome (Rev 19:11–21). As Christ rules in heaven, He wars and brings justice by His providence against those who war against Christians (Rev 13:10; 14:9–13). Christ has overcome the Beast king of Rome who lived in the first century (Rev 17:9–11).

            As Christians, God has blessed the faithful to be a part of Christ’s kingdom and to see His justice come throughout time. Christ’s kingdom is eternal (Dan 7:13–14). God transfers those who become Christians into the kingdom that is presently the church (Col 1:13).

            Now, Christians rejoice in God’s ultimate justice and the redemption of bodies when Christ returns (1 Thess 4:16–18). At the resurrection, Jesus will deliver the kingdom to His Father (1 Cor 15:24). The faithful will bodily resurrect in Christ’s ultimate victory over His last enemy (1 Cor 15:25–26). “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor 15:56–57).

Posted by: Scott J Shifferd AT 10:45 am   |  Permalink   |  Email
Monday, February 04 2019

Deception is everywhere. Debates continue over what is fake news. Few know how to verify if a report is true. Perceptions of reality are most often self-centered. People choose “their truth” that best fits oneself. Most would rather listen to their circle of experts.

            Everyone knows what is like to be deceived. No one likes it and no one wants to admit it when it happens to oneself. Paul warned, “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience” (Eph 5:6 ESV).

            John’s Revelation warns of the deception of the Roman media — the cult that worshiped the emperor. The imperial cult influenced people to worship rulers as gods. Likewise, today’s media encourages worship of the government, public figures, and libertine lifestyles. In Revelation 13, the false prophet performed great signs convincing people to worship the Beast that was wounded and yet lived (13:13–15). Furthermore, Revelation’s false prophet made it so that one could only buy or sell if they had the name or number 666 of the Beast (13:16–18). In the early second century AD, a Roman governor, Pliny the Younger, wrote to Emperor Trajan confirming that he executed anyone especially Christians who did not worship the Emperor and the Roman pantheon of gods. Furthermore, two imperial persecutions in the third century included the need for certificates of worshiping the emperor to trade (IVPBBC).

            Today, companies join in with “social justice” for sexual freedom opposing the Christian faith. How much are Christians willing to keep supporting businesses that mock faith in Jesus Christ? Discrimination is not too far away when businesses declare their allegiance in giving a portion of revenue in opposition to the Christian faith and demand their employees ally with evil contrary to Christian values.

            An angel of the Lord warned in Revelation 14:9–11 against anyone worshiping the Beast and receiving its marks on one’s body. Those who receive the mark will receive the full strength of God’s wrath and be tormented with fire day and night. Afterward, John wrote, “Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus” (Rev 14:12). Despite the world’s hatred, Christians can respond with love and continue to thank God. “Bless are the dead that die in the Lord from now on. […] Blessed indeed that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” (Rev 14:13)

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