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Help in Time of Need

[This article consists of a sermon given in chapel at the Memphis School of Preaching on September 12, 2017 to preacher students.]
I am going to give you a sermon to preach. However, it is more important for you to try to live it. I have chosen to speak on “Help In Time Of Need.” I made this decision because a preacher who was recently fired wrote me about the lack of job security and is questioning his decision to preach.
My text is Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” The writer admonishes the Hebrews in verse 14 to hold fast to their profession. That is talking about faith. Some of the Hebrews were tempted to give up their faith in Christ due to persecution from family, friends, and foes. They needed to hold fast to their faith realizing that God would help to provide their needs if they would come boldly to His throne. That is the same kind of heroic faith that we need as preachers of the gospel. We need the kind of faith that will not shrink when we are in need! No trial is too great, no temptation is too strong, but that God can give us the mercy and grace that we need, when we need it.

(1) GOD SEES OUR NEEDS.
Hebrews 4:13 says, “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.” Our lives are an open book to God. God knows our sin (Ecc. 12:14). God knows our good works (Mt. 10:42). God also knows our every need. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things” (Mt. 6:31-32).
Now if that be true and it is, then how does the Lord think about our placing our priorities on these things, and of our “worries” over the things and cares that so often block our spiritual growth and block our seeking first the kingdom? We see what He thinks in Matthew 6:30, “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Jesus used the phrase, “O ye of little faith” four times. In Matthew 6:30, He used it in connection with anxiety; in Matthew 8:26 in connection with fear, in Matthew 14:31 in connection with doubt, and in Matthew 16:18 in connection with human reasoning. In reverse order, it is interesting to observe that human reasoning produces doubt, doubt produces fear, and fear produces anxiety. We need a stronger faith in God and His providential care. He desires to help us in time of need. One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 121. “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth” (Ps. 121:1-2).

(2) JESUS SYMPATHIZES WITH OUR NEEDS.
Hebrews. 4:14-15 states, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet with sin.” I think about how Eli, the High Priest of Israel, misjudged Hannah who was in deep affliction and prayer unto God. He saw her lips move but didn’t hear anyone and assumed that she was drunk (1 Sam. 1:14). Hannah needed compassion instead of unjust criticism. She needed a High Priest who would sympathize with her needs. In Jesus as our great High Priest, we surely have an answered prayer. What a blessed comfort it is to have a High Priest who is touched with the feeling of our infirmities!
Christ was tempted in all points, in the same ways or through the same avenues, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn. 2:16; Mt. 4:1-11). Brother G. C. Brewer was once preaching on a Sunday evening in Chattanooga, TN on Christ having been tempted in all points like as we are. It was in the 1920’s and that congregation was meeting in a building used for various public activities. A young man met him at the door after the sermon and declared that he did not believe what brother Brewer preached. He said, “Jesus never had to go through anything like what I’m facing.” Brother Brewer invited the young man to a quiet room, where the visitor spilled out his story of a wife who had deserted him for another man, taking their infant child with her. He confessed that he was looking for them that evening, fully intending to kill the man and take back his wife and child. He said, “Jesus was never married and never lost a wife and child!” Brother Brewer said he was taken aback for a moment, but then he noticed a piano sitting in the corner of that room for some groups who gathered there. That gave him an idea. He said. “Look at that piano. It has not played all the pieces of music the world has ever heard, but it does have all the keys for all the notes that could be played. Just so, Jesus never had your exact experience – but He did face a great loss in betrayal by one whom He deeply loved. Yes, He knows the pain you are going through.”

(3) GOD SEEKS SUPPLICATIONS ABOUT OUR NEEDS.
Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We can approach the throne of God in prayer through Christ (Jn. 14:6) with the assurance that the Lord will plead our case and represent us. We need no earthly priest for Jesus has opened the way for us all. We have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (Heb. 10:19). The whole message of the architecture of the temple was “Stand Back!” No ordinary Israelite could approach the most Holy Place where the presence of God was. But friends, aren’t we glad that God says to us, “come boldly.”
Even though God knows our needs, God expects us to communicate those needs to Him. “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Mt. 7:11). God wants to give us good things. He knows our needs as a Father does his child’s. Yet He desires us to communicate our needs to Him. Prayer is a means of opening a door to the Lord, who with all sufficient grace, is already knocking and who desires in most cases to enter your life, the moment you fling open that door! As James 4:2 says, “ye have not, because ye ask not.” Does God hear and respond to the petition of Christians consistent with His will? He most assuredly does. 1 John 5:14-15 says, “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.”

(4) GOD SUPPLIES OUR NEEDS.
Again we read in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” We need mercy and grace. Mercy means that God does not give us what we do deserve. Grace means that He gives us what we do not deserve. We desperately need both. Justice demands that the lost die for their sins. But grace has provided salvation through a substitute, who paid the penalty for us.
You recall the words of Christ from the Christ recorded in Matthew 27:46, “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” In what sense could it be said that God had forsaken Christ? Thayer defines the Greek word for forsaken as “To abandon, desert, leave in straits, leave helpless, totally abandoned, utterly forsaken.” I really like that phrase “leave helpless.” I think that is the idea for in the context, the people, the Chief Priests, elders, scribes and even the thieves mocked him with the idea of why doesn’t God save you if you are who you say you are. “He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Mt. 27:43). So the context is that of God helping Him off the cross.
Next, when I study the verse Jesus quoted, I find the same idea. Jesus only quoted the first part of Psalm 22:1. The second part says, “why are you so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring?” When we look at the last part of the verse, I believe we see what Jesus meant by the first part.
Third, we often think of help in connection with God’s presence as in Hebrews 13:5-6,
“Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me.” When God is with us, we have help. When God forsakes us, we are helpless. Jesus was forsaken in that God did not help Him off that cross. He was deserted. He was left helpless. His was the cry of extreme loneliness. God had the capability of helping, the Savior could have called ten thousand angels (Mt. 26:53-54), and yet that was not the will of God. The Father restrained Himself from helping the Son in that moment, that He might be able to give us the help we needed, a sacrifice, a Savior, a High Priest, and the continual supplying of the needs of His children. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:32, “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” How precious is the promise of Philippians 4:19, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”
We need grace for Christian living. In Second Corinthians 12:8-9, Paul prayed for his thorn to be removed. Yet God said, “No.” Paul, with his weakness, could still be all that God would have him to be in the accomplishing of the will of the lord as a gospel preacher. God would supply Him with the grace needed to endure. We may face situations beyond our reserves, but never beyond God’s resources! For manifold temptations or trials (1 Pet. 1:6), there is the manifold or multi-colored grace of God (1 Pet. 4:10). Draw near to the throne of grace. There is a shade of grace for every shade of heartache.
The word help in Hebrews 4:16 is a rare word, used only one other time in the New Testament. In Acts 27:17 when Paul’s ship was in danger of breaking up in a massive storm, the sailors ran cables underneath the ship to undergird the ship. Undergird is the same word for help. The ship was in trouble, and they ran cables underneath to help the ship survive the storm. Could there be a more perfect picture for the place of prayer in the Christian life? We find ourselves in dangers of breaking up when we get caught in the storms of life, and we pray in order to find the help needed to hold ourselves together in the storm. Without prayer to strengthen our faith, the storms of life would swamp us. But through prayer unto God, we find help in time of need. It is one thing to preach that. It is another to live it.

The Clockwork of the Eclipse

On August 21, 2017, I traveled with my daughter, Kayla, and her friend, Maria, to Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Giradeau, to conduct some business and to watch the solar eclipse. Leaving them on campus with their friend, Cheyenne, I ate lunch with my son, Ryan and then went back to his apartment and visited with our friends, Grant and Joey. Together, the four of us watched the eclipse together. I must say that it surpassed my expectations. Just as had been predicted, an incredibly hot day with heat indexes of 105-110 suddenly became cool and pleasant. It shocked me. In referring to the sun, Psalm 19:5-6 says, “Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race. His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.” In hiding the sun, the moon gave us a merciful respite from the heat. Street lights came on. Locusts and crickets began to chirp. I pointed out the planet Venus as being visible in the sky. To my amazement, I also noticed the shadow of the eclipse on a concrete step leading down to the apartment. The sun was shining through a hole in the metal steps above. It reminded of when I was boy in the 1970’s during a solar eclipse. Having no special glasses, we used shoeboxes in which we made a hole and saw the sun’s shadow on the paper.
Taking off our special glasses and viewing the total eclipse was an awe inspiring sight. My nephew, Eric Carlson, is a skilled photographer and took some amazing photographs of it in Nashville, TN. He described it as, “definitely the most incredible thing I have ever experienced.”
Upon returning home later that evening, I watched some of Nasa’s coverage around the country. They interviewed former NASA astronaut, Mike Massimino, who is an American professor of mechanical engineering at Columbia University. Mike talked about the amazing clockwork involved in a total solar eclipse and how it is unique to our planet.
The moon is about 400 times smaller than the sun in diameter. However, the moon is also about 400 times closer to us than the sun. As a result, the sun and moon have the same apparent size in the sky, and are able to exactly eclipse each other from the point of view of an observer on earth within the path of totality as I was on August 21st. Computer studies show that this phenomenon is unique among the known moons of the solar system. In their amazing book, Our Created Moon, Dr. Don DeYoung and Dr. John Whitcomb point out: “This fortuitous size distance balance between our moon and the sun is usually described as a ‘surprising coincidence’ or a ‘lucky accident’ in nature. However, this phenomenon actually points to yet another detail of design in the moon’s creation for man’s benefit and God’s glory.” In speaking of a total eclipse of the sun, Dr. Henry Morris wrote, “The exact reason why God designed it this way is not yet evident, but the relationship is too precise to be accidental.”
Once on the island of Jamaica, Columbus threatened non-cooperative natives, “that, should they persist in their enmity, the moon would lose its light.” Columbus used his knowledge of astronomy and of a coming eclipse of the moon to gain control over them. He knew from the Astronomic Calendar of Regiomontanus that a total lunar eclipse was due on February 29, 1504 and used that knowledge to his advantage. If not for the mathematical precision of the universe, how could astronomers predict eclipses? Who was the great Mathematician who designed all of this? How did all of this “clockwork” come about?
In Job 38:33, God asked Job, “Knowest thou the ordinances of heaven?” The word ordinances means laws. God’s heavenly bodies are operated to His finely-tuned celestial laws created by His wisdom. Friends, if the celestial bodies operate according to laws, there must be a Divine lawgiver!
The Psalmist said in Psalm 33:6,8,9: “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth . . . Let all the earth fear the Lord: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.” We can look at the heavens and know that they were created by the breath of the mouth of the Lord, by the power of the word of God.
Dr. Arthur M. Harding, Professor of Mathematics and Astronomy at the University of Arkansas, described our solar system by saying, “Surely here is a gigantic machine which makes us stand in awe and wonder at the power of the Creator who could design such a machine and put it into operation.”
Astronaut Mike Massimino was right when he said the total solar eclipse was just like clockwork. I stood in awe and wonder!

Life Is A Vapor

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away” (James 4:14).

In 1994, Wilmington, North Carolina lost her most distinguished citizen. Born in Bamberg, South Carolina, Suzy Brunson was 123 years old when she passed from this life. Bill Clinton was president on the day of her death. Ulysses S. Grant was president on the day of her birth! She was seventy when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. She preceded Bell’s telephone (1875), the automobile (1895), and Marconi’s radio (1896). Among her descendants are ten great-great grandchildren! She lived in fourteen different decades, for nearly 1500 months, outlasting three husbands. She achieved a remarkable age, but she died. Mrs. Brunson serves as yet another reminder of the brevity of life. While she lived longer than many of us will, 123 years is nothing compared with eternity!

When I was a boy, I would go visit my great-aunt who lived next door. She made tea the old-fashioned way. Her tea kettle was nearly always on the stove, and I would hear it whistle and watch the steam rise from it. Just like the steam rising from that boiling tea kettle, James said our life is like a vapor that is quickly gone. The brevity of life is a truth which everybody believes, and yet how many really act as if they believe it. We are often made conscious of the brevity of the lives of others, but we persuade ourselves that our time is not quite so limited as theirs. “All men think all men mortal but themselves.”

Death is more expected when it comes to someone of advanced age in the wintertime of life, but what if it occurs in the springtime of youth? As I ate breakfast at our local restaurant called the Roundhouse the other day, I noticed on the wall an old metal Cracker Jack advertisement. As I looked at the sailor boy, it reminded me of the story behind it. When Cracker Jack creator Frederick Rueckheim decided to put a logo on the product’s package in the early 1900s, he modeled it after his own beloved grandson Robert, who often wore a sailor suit. But just as the first packages bearing the sailor boy rolled off the assembly line, Robert got pneumonia and died. Today little Robert’s tombstone in Chicago bears the Cracker Jack logo he inspired. Little did Mr. Rueckheim know when he put little Robert’s likeness on his Cracker Jack boxes that his grandson’s life would be only as vapor that appeared for a little time and then vanished away. In Psalm 39:4 David wrote, “Lord, make me to know mine end, and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am.” How we need to be reminded of that!
Since life is a vapor and time is valuable, with whom, young or old, should you spend some time today?

— Mike McDaniel

Encourage Your Songleader

Mark 14:26- “And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.”

The last thing Jesus and His disciples did in the Upper Room was to sing. Some believe they may have sung the traditional Passover hymn based on Psalms 115-118. Imagine our Lord singing when the cross was only a few hours away. I wonder . . . who led the song? Did our Lord do it or one of His apostles? What must it have been like to sing with Jesus?

If I were not a preacher, I would be a songleader. One day, my wife and I visited Hoyt McPherson in Dunmor, Ky. He was a dairy farmer and elder in the church. We had not seen him in sometime. As we got out of the car in his driveway, he smiled and said, “the singing preacher.”
My father, James McDaniel, was a songleader. His father, Clarence McDaniel, was a songleader. Many remark in different places about my wife, Martha’s, beautiful voice. Her father, Raymon Wallace, was a well-known and much used songleader. My daughter, Kayla, is also developing a beautiful voice, and now my son, Ryan, is becoming a capable songleader, much to his parent’s delight. We recently bought him a songleader’s edition of our hymnal to encourage him.

Growing up, some of my fondest memories were of attending singings with my grandparents throughout Gibson County, Tennessee on Sunday afternoons. For awhile, Dad was in charge of scheduling those monthly singings.

In addition, there was those Sunday afternoons in the home of my grandparents in Trenton, Tennessee where we would all sing together. Those were lasting memories to be treasured. A few years ago, a family member produced a tape of a singing that we recorded on one of those days. It was a fond reminiscence.

A songleader is a worship leader. They should appreciate the opportunity to lead the people of God in worship and seek to utilize wisdom in selecting the songs and pray for God’s help in making the worship of others as meaningful as possible. And if the word of God is dwelling in us richly as Colossians 3:16 suggests, then we will participate in the worship and sing with grace in our hearts unto the Lord as the songleader directs us.

Tom Holland wrote, “Singing has the power to convict us or to challenge us; the power to encourage and to exhort; the power for self-examination and the power to sustain our souls.” How meaningful the last hymn our Lord sung on this earth must have been!
Can you think of some ways in which you can encourage songleaders?

— Mike McDaniel

Victory In Jesus

Jesus gives us victory in sin*s forgiveness. Colossians 2:11 says, “In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ.” Under the old dispensation, the covenant mark was the circumcision of every male member. This was a physical, outward sign that the male belonged to the Abrahamic covenant. But under the New Testament there was to be a new circumcision not made with hands. This was to affect the hearts of all members. The word circumcision literally means * a cutting round or off, and when used figuratively, it refers to the separation of a person*s sins from one*s life by his obedience. When is this spiritual operation completed? “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead” (Col. 2:12). The final act of the spiritual circumcision is by baptism, and men are said to be buried with Christ. This phrase is used because in baptism, the person is placed under the water and then raised again, thus going down and up in the form of a burial and resurrection. It is said to be with Him because He commands it, and also because He died and was buried and rose again. It was impossible for the Colossians to “walk in a new life having received Christ” until they had been buried. If such was true then, it certainly remains true for us now. How can we walk in a new life until we have died and have been buried with Christ? Should one be honest enough to sit down with Colossians 2:8-13 and read these verses without thinking of any pre-conceived ideas regarding how one is raised with Christ, the plain pattern of New Testament salvation would be unmistakable.

Under the Old covenant, the physical outward sign of the covenant was circumcision of the male. It was external surgery. It affected only a part of the body. It was done with hands and sin was not completely conquered. But under the New Testament, there was to be a new circumcision. It is internal surgery to the heart of man. It removes the whole body of sin. It is done without hands, and it enables us to be forgiven from our trespasses. He calls this the operation of God. God removes our sin, quickens us or makes us alive and forgives us. When does this operation of God occur? When does the circumcision of Christ happen? It occurs when we are buried with the Lord in the waters of baptism. When we are risen with the Lord, God*s operation has occurred.

The Greek aorist tense here puts the burial contemporaneous with the circumcision. Ye were circumcised when ye were buried. Notice this argument on when we are forgiven. (1) If the burial is contemporaneous with the circumcision, (2) and the circumcision is simultaneous with putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, (3) then the moment at which one is buried with Christ in baptism is the very moment when one*s sins are severed from one*s soul. The power is not in the water, but in God and the blood of His Son. Baptism will not remit sins by water, only by the blood of Christ. One is to be baptized in faith that the same God, who operated in power to raise Jesus from the dead, will likewise operate through the power of His Son*s blood to raise the spiritually dead from a watery grace of baptism to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4).

Colossians 2:13 then says, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses.” Death means a separation, and as long as these people were living in their sins, they were separated from God and were dead to him. They likewise were uncircumcised at that time since their sins had not been cut off. To be “quickened” means to be made alive, or to have the condition of death reversed by obedience to the gospel. “With him” means with Christ, which was done when they were buried “with Him” in baptism. When all of this was done, God forgave them their trespasses. Through Christ, this victory over sin is made possible. Only a gracious God has the right to forgive sins and this He is willing to do for those who hear the gospel, believe in Christ, repent of their sins, confess their faith and are baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins” (Is. 43:25).

Several years ago, a businessman found out about an elderly widow who was unable to pay her rent. Feeling pity for her, he went to some of his friends and asked them if they would be kind enough to contribute something to help pay her rent. They responded, and he got two months’ rent. He went to the widow’s house that week to deliver the money. Although he knew she was inside, when he knocked he got no answer. He knocked a second time and still no answer. He knocked a third time, still no answer. He knocked a fourth time. Not knowing what else to do, he returned to his business. A couple of days later, he saw her downtown on the sidewalk looking destitute. He walked up to her and said, “Ma’am, some friends of mine and I found out about your situation. We want to help. We got enough money together to give you rent money for two months. I came to your house to give it to you this week, but I knocked several times and got no answer.” She took a gasp of breath and put her hand to her face. She said, “Oh, I thought you were the landlord coming to evict me.” How many people turn a deaf ear to an opportunity to take care of the greatest debt of all, their sin debt? Will we turn a deaf ear to forgiveness?

Sometimes when we are preparing to bury that old man of sin in the waters of baptism, the song leader will get up and lead a song or two. I don*t think it appears in our songbook, but there is a song in several hymnbooks under the title, “Did you repent?” The song asks, “did you repent, fully repent of your past sins, friend; when you confessed his name on high? Another part of the song says, “did you obey what He commanded?” The song finally asks, “Did you repent all the way through?” And the man who led this song while a person was preparing to be baptized probably didn*t give much thought to the negative impact that the song could have on a person, but those who did got tickled. There is another song that is often sung following a baptism which has the same title as this article, “Victory In Jesus.” Will you not claim that victory today?

— Mike McDaniel

Tithing Or Free Will Offerings?

Often, this writer has found that people are greatly surprised by the fact that churches of Christ do not teach or practice tithing today. Tithing to most religious people, means to give ten percent of one’s income to a religious organization. Most people in Protestant denominations have been taught that it is their obligation to tithe. Because the emphasis on tithing is so great and so constant in Protestant denominations, most people are greatly surprised to learn that tithing is neither taught nor practiced in the church of Christ.

Of course, tithing was commanded and otherwise referred to numerous times in the Bible, in most cases, in the Old Testament. The first reference to tithing is in Genesis 14:20 in which Abram voluntarily paid tithes to King Melchizedek. This is referred to in Hebrews 7:4.

Numerous laws requiring the payment of tithes to God were common to the law of Moses. At Sinai, three specific tithes were bound upon the Jews as part of the Law of Moses. These three were (1) The Levitical tithe for the support of priests (Num. 18:21,24), (2) The Festive tithe for the feast days (Deut. 14:22-27), and (3) The third year tithe for the support of the poor (Deut. 14:28-29). They were also required to leave their land idle one year out of every seven and to forgive all their debts each fiftieth year, a year of jubilee. They were to leave the corners of their fields so that the poor might glean from them. In addition, there was the regular giving of animals for certain special sacrifices. Later, when the kingdom was established, they had to give another tenth to the support of their government (I Sam. 8:15-17).

When all of the things which they were required to give is added up, it is estimated that from thirty to fifty percent of everything that came into a loyal Jew’s hands was to be returned to God. Thus, from the Old Testament, we gather examples of people giving ten, often thirty, and up to fifty percent. Which one of these, if any, is our standard today?

Generally, modern religious groups have bound a 10% tithe on their membership. But there is neither example nor command in the New Testament for tithing. Since tithing was a part of the Old Testament command and practice and since the authority of the old law was taken away with the death of Christ (Col. 2:14), there is now no scriptural authority for tithing. It is because we rely upon the New Testament for our religious authority, that we do not teach or practice tithing. To bind the tithe or any portion of the Mosaic law on Christians is to fall from grace and be severed from Christ even as did those who bound circumcision on the saints in the first century (Gal. 5:4-6).

There are at least four different arguments which have been used to try to justify tithing today. First, it is argued from Hebrews 7:4 that Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek. The question is asked, “If Abraham, a type of the Christian, paid tithes to Melchizedek, a type of Christ, how can we who are the seed of Abraham not pay tithes to Christ?” But that question is not Paul’s argument in Hebrews seven. He was not trying to prove that Christians should tithe. The gift Abraham paid was voluntary. If this manmade argument is correct, it just proves that Christ does not demand a tenth, but if the Christian voluntarily gives it, He will accept it.

Second, it is argued that since Abraham gave tithes to Melchizedek before the Mosaic law was given, it is an eternal law and carries over to us today. But that argument does not account for the fact that when the law of Moses was taken away, all of the good about it was brought into the new covenant, the law of Christ. In fact, all that was good and right in all former dispensations was brought into it. But the law of tithing is absent in the New Testament. It was not a law repeated in the New Testament, and therefore, it is not binding on us today.

Here is a third argument which some use to try to justify tithing today. Some would go to Matthew 23:23 which says, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” During the ministry of our Lord, the eagle-eyed Pharisees searched constantly for wrong in Him, but never once criticized Him for failure to tithe, though this was immensely important to them, even to the tithing of the smallest of garden and medicinal herbs. Jesus approved their tithes, but denounced them for omitting the weightier matters of the law. But friends, it is a poor argument indeed to bind the tithe on the basis of Jesus’ practice, for He kept all the other ordinances of the law as well, including animal sacrifice. We are under a different law today than either He or the Pharisees.

Fourth, many turn to Matthew 5:20 and try to find justification for Christian’s tithing there. Matthew 5:20 says, “For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” Some have twisted this verse and interpreted it to mean, “the Jews tithed. They gave a tenth, and our righteousness must exceed the Jews by giving more and doing the same thing- therefore the Christian must tithe plus.” But this is a misapplication of the text. Tithing is no more a part of Christianity than any other element of Judaism. The Bible commands free-will offerings, but it does not command tithing. Paul wrote two whole chapters on giving (2 Cor. 8 and 9) and did not write one word on tithing. Why is that?

Friends, the truth is, the righteousness spoken of in Matthew 5:20 is self-righteousness or self-justification. The Pharisees were trying to save themselves through their own system of so-called righteousness. Paul speaks of how the Jews “being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). Jesus Christ brought into the world a system of righteousness which differed from that of the Pharisees and exceeded it not in degree, but in KIND. It was the righteousness of God, God’s own system of justification through the gospel. Without this righteousness, no man can enter the kingdom of Christ. That is what Matthew 5:20 really teaches. What is lacking in all four of these popular arguments for tithing is actual authority for the practice.

What does the New Testament teach concerning our giving today? “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:2). Here we see we are to give (1) periodically- “upon the first day of the week,” (2) personally- “Let every one of you”, and (3) proportionately- “as God hath prospered him.” “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Cor. 9:7). Here we see we are to give (4) purposely- “as he purposeth in his heart,” (5) pleasantly- “not grudgingly or of necessity,” and (6) plentifully. “But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (2 Cor. 9:6). We should give plentifully.

There is no set amount or percentage of one’s income that a Christian is commanded to give. Christ has placed us on the “honor system” in our giving, and expects us to give generously in proportion to our God given prosperity.

— Mike McDaniel

Understanding The Three Dispensations

Paul said to Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Many preachers and teachers do not know how to rightly divide the Bible. They may just as soon turn to the book of Psalms to learn about conversion as to the book of Acts.

An understanding of the three dispensations of Bible history is important to a good Bible student. The word dispensation is used in this article as “a divinely appointed order or age.”

The Bible covers three dispensations of time, the Patriarchal, the Mosaical, and the Christian. It is imperative that we realize the fact that God has dealt with man in three different distinct systems of religion and that we live in the time of the third system. This fact is absolutely essential to understanding the Bible. In referring to these systems of religion, we generally use the word dispensation or age.

THE PATRIARCHAL DISPENSATION

(1) The Patriarchal age or dispensation gets its name from the father of the family or tribe. Patriarch means father. Under this system, the patriarch was prophet, priest, and ruler. He directed the affairs of his family both religiously and politically. God spoke to the head of the family, and he, in turn, spoke to the members of the family. The title of Patriarch is applied to Abraham in Hebrews 7:4, “Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.” Stephen spoke of this period in Acts 7:8 when he said, “…so Abraham begat Isaac, and circumcised him the eighth day; and Isaac begat Jacob; and Jacob begat the twelve patriarchs.”

(2) This has been called a family system of religion, as each family received instruction from God. They had no written system of religion. What was a command unto one patriarch may not have been a law unto the other patriarchs. For instance, God commanded Noah to build an ark, but the other patriarchs received no such command. Abraham was commanded to make preparations to slay his son Isaac in order to test his faith, but the command was not applicable to the heads of other families.

(3) This system of religion lasted from Adam to the giving of the law of Moses at Mt. Sinai. Some believe that this system of religion continued for the Gentiles until the cross.

THE MOSAICAL DISPENSATION

(1) This dispensation grew out of the promise made to Abraham in Gen. 12:2-3. The Law of Moses was an outgrowth of this promise and was given four hundred and thirty years afer the promise was made (Gal. 3:16-17). That this promise might be kept, God gave them a government, the law of Moses, which guided them religiously and politically.

(2) Unlike the Patriarchal dispensation, during the Mosaic dispensation, the Jews had their own written law. Abraham*s descendants, in their exodus from Egypt, were led to the foot of Mt. Sinai, and God gave to them the ten commandments written upon two tables of stone (Ex. 19,20). He also gave them other laws for their good which Moses wrote by inspiration.

(3) One purpose of the Mosaic dispensation was to keep Abraham*s descendants a separate and distinct race until Christ, the promised seed, should come. The law of Moses served as a middle wall of partition (Eph. 2:14), for it separated the Jews from other nations.

(4) One evident weakness of the Law of Moses was that there was no complete forgiveness of sins provided by it. All of the many sacrifices offered by the Levitical priesthood upon the altar of God in the tabernacle and later in the temple resulted only in paying the interest on the debt of sin without completely removing the debt (Heb. 10:3-4).

(5) God intended for the Mosaic dispensation to be temporary. Galatians 3:19 says, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” Since the seed refers to Christ (Gal. 3:16), the law was to be abolished at the coming of Christ. Thus, this age was to last until the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise in Christ.

THE CHRISTIAN DISPENSATION

This period extends from Pentecost of Acts 2 to the Lord’s final coming. This period is the time in which we must hear Christ as He speaks to us through His New Testament. This is the time in which everything we do in religious matters must be authorized by the New Testament (Col. 3:17). During this time, Christians serve as “an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).

Under the Christian dispensation, we must obey Christ. Back during the Mosaic age, Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” In Acts 3:22,23, Peter teaches that this prophecy has been fulfilled in Christ and “that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”

This was also affirmed at the transfiguration. Christ was transfigured, and Moses and Elijah also appeared. Peter wanted to build three tabernacles, one for each. But the plan was destroyed by these words of God: “this is my beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased; hear ye him” (Mt. 17:5). There was a time when man was to listen to Moses and Elijah, but now he must listen to God’s Son. “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds” (Heb. 1:1-2). We are living in the Christian age and must do the will of Christ. Let us pray that we might always do His will.

— Mike McDaniel

Strengthening Our Marriages

None ought to think that they are immune to the possibility of divorce. Many people have been stunned, even shocked, to have a mate announce, “I want a divorce.” You may be quite content with your marriage, but that doesn*t mean that your mate shares your contentment. Here are some things that every husband and wife should do to strengthen their marriage against the ravages of divorce.

(1) Center your life in God (Mt. 6:33). Make obedience to his will the top priority of your life together. Remember the words of Ecclesiastes 12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.” Take time to pray together. Do those things necessary to grow spiritually and become a stronger Christian. The fact is that the more you become what God wants you to be, the more you become what your mate deserves, and the stronger your marriage becomes.

(2) Communicate with your mate. It involves listening as well as talking. There should be kind communication. Once a psychiatrist asked a couple, “What do you have in common?” The wife was not the kindest of communicators and she answered, “Just one thing: neither of us can stand the other!” Often we lose control and say things we regret later. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” Let’s try the soft answer instead of the hard words that stir up anger.

(3) Commitment is the key. God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), and allows it only on the basis of fornication under the law of Christ (Mt. 5:32, 19:9). One who is motivated by the spirit of reverence or respect for God, will be faithful to their marriage vows and will not have the possibility of divorce in the back of their minds as a possible future option. A wise and loving father wrote this to his daughter soon after her marriage. He said, “Likely you have already made this commitment (if not you should today): *I am married to Bobby for life. I will never consider breaking my vows, God being my helper. I will overcome every obstacle. I will survive every problem. I will never allow myself to consider the possibility of another mate while my husband lives. If my marriage fails, it will be in spite of me and over my strongest efforts.*” Perhaps if all marriages began with this type of commitment, this type of reverence for God and His marriage law, the statistics would not show nearly one out of every two new marriages ending in divorce. Our society today needs a good dose of Matthew 19:6, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.”

— Mike McDaniel

The Soul Of Man

The Bible informs us as to the origin and nature of man. Paul teaches that man’s whole nature is body, soul, and spirit (1 Thess. 5:23). The body refers to the physical tabernacle of clay in which the immortal part of man resides. The spirit of man refers to the immortal part of man. Spirit is a specific term for that part of man given directly from God and not susceptible to death. God is the Father of spirits (Heb. 12:9). The prophet Daniel said, “I Daniel was grieved in my spirit in the midst of my body, and the visions of my head troubled me” (Dan. 7:15). Zechariah 12:1 says the Lord forms the spirit of man within us.

The soul is harder to define because it is a generic word which refers to different things in different contexts. It can be used to describe the whole person as in Exodus 1:15. It can be used to denote the life that animates the physical body as in Psalm 78:50. In other places, the word “soul” and the word “spirit” are used interchangeably and seem to refer to the same thing (cf. Lk. 1:46,47). In Acts 2:27, it is obvious that the word “soul” is used to refer to the spirit or immortal nature of the Lord,..that part which did not die. And so in most places, any distinction between soul and spirit is very hard to make. However, Hebrews 4:12 states, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” Evidently, while such a distinction can be made, this verse also expresses the difficulty of doing it. It is compared to dividing the joints from the marrow.

Understanding some of these things about the nature of man is vital to understanding death. James 2:26 says, “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.” James tells us that the body without or apart from the spirit is dead. The word death means “separation.” Death involves the separation of the spirit from the body. Life is their union, and death is their separation.

Ecclesiastes 12:7 says, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” The body is mortal (Rom. 8:11). It returns to the dust from whence it came (Gen. 3:19). But the inward man does not perish as does the body (2 Cor. 4:16). The inward part of man does not continue its union with the body at death. After our earthly existence, a separation takes place. The body returns to the earth, but the spirit returns to the Father of Spirits who gave it (Heb. 12:7). The Sadducees denied the spirit (Acts 23:8), but Jesus plainly demonstrated to them that those whose bodies had long since decayed were themselves still alive because, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Mt. 22:29-32).

There is a soul that survives the death of the body, both of the righteous and the wicked.

Matthew 25:46 states, “And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.” Let us realize the value of our eternal souls. Jesus said they are worth more than the whole world (Mt. 16:16).

— Mike McDaniel

The Preaching Of Noah

The Holy Spirit guided Noah in his preaching. God has always given the message to be preached unto His messengers. Today, we have it in an inspired book. Then, they had it in an inspired man. In order for Noah to have something to preach, God must have given it to him. Second Peter 2:5 says, “And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly.” Noah was God’s preacher of righteousness in that world of unrighteousness. Yet, in Genesis 6:3 we read, “And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.” God says that during this time, His Spirit was striving with man. How was He doing that? I submit to you that God’s Spirit was striving with man through the preaching of Noah.

Was it not with Noah as it was with God’s people during the wilderness wandering? Of that period of time Nehemiah 9:20 records, “Thou gavest also thy good spirit to instruct them, and withheldest not thy manna from their mouth, and gavest them water for their thirst.” Later, Nehemiah 9:30 says, “Yet many years didst thou forbear them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit in thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the people of the lands.” God in His longsuffering strove with His people in the land of Cannan. How did God do this? He testified against them BY His Spirit IN his prophets! So it was in the days of Noah.

The longsuffering of God waited during the days of Noah for some 120 years (Gen 6:3; 1 Pet. 3:21). During this period of time God strove with the people by His Holy Spirit in Noah the preacher. Obviously, the Holy Spirit guided Noah in his preaching.

Was it not with Noah as it was with the other preachers and prophets of God? Peter wrote, “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Pet. 1:21).

One final thought,…can we not say that God’s Spirit is striving with man today? Certainly so! The Holy Spirit is using His sword (which is the word of God, Eph. 4:11) to lead us to repentance. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). As God’s people use the word of God to convict the hearts of others, God strives with them. In His longsuffering, Christ has not yet come. But one day, those days of longsuffering will end just as they did in the days of Noah. Peter writes, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men…The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:5ff).

— Mike McDaniel