The Historicity Of Christ

The Tuesday before our Lord was crucified, Jesus asked the following all-important question, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?” (Mt. 22:42). They did not answer his question correctly because they did not understand the true nature of Jesus. But even today, this question demands an answer from each of us.

Christianity depends on the historical existence of Christ. The historical Jesus began a religious movement which has shaken this world as has no other. Yet some writers have actually denied the actual historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. Around the middle of the 19th century, Bruno Barr, a German theologian and historian, taught that Jesus never lived. He said he was a mythical figure. [Wayne Jackson, Essays In Apologetics, vol. 2, Apologetics Press, 1986, p. 29] A Professor Macintosh of the Yale School of Religion, published a book in 1926 entitled, The Reasonableness of Christianity, in which he argues at length that “belief in the historicity of Jesus is not indispensable, logically, to the exercise of an essentially Christian faith or to the living of an essentially Christian life” (138-139). Thus, he says if Jesus never lived at all, we could still maintain the “Christian faith.” Of course, such a view is ridiculous!

In a debate sponsored by the Associate students of a Midwestern University, the opponent of Josh McDowell, a congressional candidate for the Progressive Labor Party (Marxist) in New York, said in her opening remarks: “Historians today have fairly well dismissed Jesus as being historical….” [Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Here’s Life Pub., 1979, p. 81]

The cover of the December 1994 issue of LIFE magazine revealed an artist’s rendering of Jesus with the question “Who Was He?” In a short article they stated, “to some, Jesus is the Son of God, born to a virgin….the anointed, the Christ. To others he is just a man who inspired, through his teachings and exemplary life, ‘several faiths now incorporated into Christianity’. And to still others he’s a myth, a novelistic invention of Paul, and then, the Gospel writers, who required a charismatic anchor for their nascent (early) churches. He is, they say, an idea.” In this issue of Life magazine they interviewed many eminent thinkers. One of them, Jon Murray, the President of American Atheists, stated, “There was no such person in the history of the world as Jesus Christ. There was no historical, living, breathing, sentient human being by that name. Ever. [The Bible] is a fictional, nonhistorical narrative. The myth is good for business.”

In spite of these preceding quotes, most respectable scholars, and serious historians do not question the historicity of Jesus. As F. F. Bruce has written, “Some writers may toy with the fancy of a ‘Christ-myth,” but they do not do so on the ground of historical evidence. The Historicity of Christ is an axiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. It is not historians who propagate the ‘Christ-myth’ theories” [Evidence That Demands A Verdict, p. 81].

There was a real historical person named Jesus of Nazareth who lived, had a tremendous influence upon people and died by crucifixion. To prove this, notice three lines of evidence.

In the first place, notice the New Testament as evidence of the historicity of Christ. The New Testament documents present to us the historical Jesus, They give us an accurate portrait of Him. Since the historical evidence for the New Testament is overwhelming, its portrayal is historical. The Scriptures representation of Christ cannot be rationalized away or dismissed with a wave of the hand. While lecturing at Arizona State University, lecturer Josh McDowell was approached by a professor. He said, “Mr. McDowell, you are basing all your claims about Christ on a second-century document that is obsolete. I showed in class today how the New Testament was written so long after Christ that it could not be accurate in what it recorded.” The Professor was incorrect. In the 20th century, archaeological discoveries have gone a long way in confirming the historical accuracy of the New Testament manuscripts and their first-century origin. Discoveries of early papyri manuscripts (the John Rylands manuscript of 130 A.D., The Chester Beatty Papyri of 155 A.D., and the Bodmer Papyri II of 200 A.D., helped bridge the gap between the time of Christ and existing manuscripts from a later date [Roy Abraham Varghese, ed., The Intellectuals Speak Out About God, p.265, 267].

The evidence for the New Testament is much greater than the evidence of classical writers. For example, at least 24,633 manuscripts and portions of the New Testament have been documented. In all of ancient history, the second book in line after the New Testament in manuscript testimony is The Iliad by Homer. Yet, it has only 643 surviving manuscripts. Dr. Clark Pinnock concluded after extensive research: “There exists no document from the ancient world, witnessed by so excellent a set of textural and historical testimonies and offering so superb an array of historical date on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest person cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational bias” (Clark Pinnock, Set Forth Your Case, Craig Press, 1968, p. 58).

The New Testament gives an accurate picture of Jesus Christ to us as Son of man and Son of God.

In the second place, notice these Jewish writers as evidence of the historicity of Christ. Josephus, a Jewish historian, lived from around 37 to 100 A.D. He spoke of John the Baptist. He also wrote, “Ananius, the high priest, assembled the Sanhedrin of judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called the Christ, this brother’s name was james, also some of his companions, and, when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he had them stoned” [Jewish Antiquities, XX, 9.1]. In another passage he wrote: “Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew many after him both of the Jews and the Gentiles. He was Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the chief men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that had previously followed him did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and many other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named after him, is not extinct at this day” [Jewish Antiquities, XVIII, 3.1]. Some have questioned this passage as a possible interpolation. In defense of the passage it does appear in every copy of Josephus that has come down to us and was quoted twice by Eusebius as early as 315 A.D.

The Jewish Talmud is the civil law of the Jews consisting of the Mishna (text) and the Gamara (commentary). In the Talmud there are some occasional references to Jesus but most of them are vulgar and unquotable. They are deliberately intended to contradict events in the gospel accounts and attack the Lord’s credibility. However, the fact that the Jewish rabbis from the close of the first century on down have attempted so many attacks upon Jesus helps to prove the reality of his earthly life. In their attempts to deny his divinity, they prove his historicity!

In the third place, notice these Roman Writers as evidence of the historicity of Christ. It is true that we do not have a large number of references to Christ and even to Christians outside of the New Testament in the pagan literature of the first and second centuries. This is not because Christ and Christians were not in existence. Lots of factors may be attributed to this including prejudice, indifference, a total lack of interest, or the early seeming insignificance of Christ and Christianity to much of the world. Literature of this period is scarce anyway and much of it consists of biographies of the rulers of that time and court records. Nevertheless and fortunately, there is preserved some evidence of the historicity of Christ by Roman historians. Tacitus was a famous Roman historian who lived from around 55 to 117 A.D. Around the turn of the century he wrote his Annals in which he discussed the burning of Rome in A.D. 64. At this time Nero had been accused of having burned the city. “To suppress the rumor, Nero falsely accused and punished, with the most acute tortures, persons who, already hated for their shameful deeds, were commonly called Christians. The founder of that name, Christus, has been put to death by the procurator, Pontius Pilate, in the reign of Tiberious; but the deadly superstitution, though repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through the city (Rome) whither all things horrible and vile flow from all quarters, and are encouraged” [Annals 15:44].

Suetonius, another Roman historian who lived from around 65 to 135 A.D. wrote in his “Life of Claudius,” “Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.” This passage undoubtedly confirms Acts 18:2 that Claudius commanded all Jews to leave Rome. This included Priscila and Aquila and proves there were Christians in Rome as early as Claudius. It is well known that the name “Chrestus” was sometimes used of the heathen people for our Savior.

A Roman by the name of Pliny who lived from around 62 to 114 A.D. wrote to Trajan, when Pliny was Governor of Bithynia, to ask what he should do about the Christians. “They affirmed that the sum of their guilt or error was to assemble on a fixed day before daybreak, and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to God, and to bind themselves with an oath not to enter into any wickedness, or to commit thefts, robberies or adulteries, or falsify their work or repudiate trusts committed to them: when these things were ended, it was their custom to depart and on coming together again, to take food, men and women together, yet innocently.”

Hegesippus, in writing of Domitian who reigned between 81 and 96 A.D. says, “There were at the time yet remaining the kindred of Christ the grandsons of Jude, who was called his brother according to the Flesh. These come accused as being of the race of David, and Evocatus brought them before Domitianus Caesar; for he too, was afraid of the coming of Christ, as well as Herod.”

Lucian, lecturer, author, master of wit and sarcasm and called the Grecian “Mark Twain” is believed to have been born around 124 A.D. He wrote that the founder of the Christian religion was a man who had been fixed to a stake in Palestine, and was still worshipped because he had established a new code of morals.

What is the value of these statements of famous Jewish and Roman writers? They are valuable because they help to show absolutely that Jesus of Nazareth was a historical figure. Such evidence is not necessary to one who accepts the New Testament as historically true. But since there are those who will boldly assert that Jesus never really lived among men, this additional evidence proves that such an assertion is completely false.

Friends, Jesus of Nazareth really did live. He is a historical figure. And the historical evidence about the life of Christ and His message gives us every reason to accept the gospel accounts of His life, death, resurrection, and ascension unto Heaven above.

“What will you do with Jesus my friend? Neutral you cannot be: Someday your heart will be asking, O friend, ‘What will He do with Me?'”

— Mike McDaniel

The Greatest Gift

Karen Cogan wrote, “Wanting to personalize my daughter Tiffany’s holiday gift for her Sunday school teacher, I decided to make homemade Christmas cookies. I baked the cookies a few days in advance, storing them in a recycled margarine tub in the refrigerator. The Sunday before Christmas, I hurriedly grabbed the container, wrapped it, and added a red bow. When we returned home from church, my husband John began digging in the refrigerator for lunch possibilities. “There’s some leftover tuna in a container,” I said. A minute later, he emerged with a puzzled look. “The only container I can find is full of Christmas cookies.” My daughter’s teacher ended up with festively wrapped tuna.

The greatest gift we have ever received is that of our Savior. Of course, many people will celebrate the giving of that gift on December 25th. However, we do not know exactly when He was born. From the few references made in the Bible to the time of Jesus’ birth, it seems highly unlikely that it was in the winter time. It would be unreasonable for the government to require people to travel long distances during the winter season to be taxed. It is also unlikely that shepherds would be out in the fields at night with their sheep (Lk. 2:8). During the winter months, sheep were kept in pens at night. There is other Biblical evidence surrounding the Levitical priestly course of Zacharias which seems to point more to the month of September or possibly to March. But the Bible does not tell us specifically the birthday of Christ. The Lord did not see fit to share that date with us, nor did the Lord authorize any special celebration of His birth on any single day. To do so in some special way on a specific day is not to do so in the name of Christ or by His authority (Col. 3:17).

The date of His birth is unimportant. It is the fact of the incarnation that counts. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law” (Gal. 4:4). We rejoice in that fact always regardless of the exact date.

Simeon had the wonderful opportunity to behold the greatest gift. Luke 2:27-29 states, “And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word.” To the mass of people swarming through the temple that day, Jesus was just another baby nestled in the arms of a young mother. No one would have noticed him * no one, that is except Simeon. The prayer of Simeon was answered when he saw Christ in the temple. How Simeon recognize this infant as the promised Savior we do not know. But the moment he saw His face, he knew. And he took Him up into his arms. What a touching scene this is: an aged man holding the baby Jesus in his arms and praising God knowing the significance of this moment in time. He blessed or thanked God for keeping His promise of sending the Messiah and giving him this special gift of seeing Him before he died. He was ready to die and die happy because He had seen the promised Messiah come to earth. Here is a man that could sing, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come.” He needed nothing else to convince him.

You may feel that Simeon was more blessed than we are because he had the privilege of actually holding Jesus as a baby. Truly, this was a special gift for a special person. But we must realize that even Simeon was exercising faith. He was holding in his arms an infant born to a couple that perhaps, he had never met before. His assurance came through the word of the Holy Spirit. You and I today depend on that same word of the Holy Spirit not in dreams or visions, but in written form as the basis of our faith. Near the end of our Lord*s time on earth, when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection, He said to Thomas in John 20:29, “Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Through the eyes of faith, we need to see the Savior, believe in Him, and be satisfied like Simeon.

There will be people today who will not be satisfied with their Christmas gifts. There are many people today who have a longing to be fulfilled. As people rush through life * hurrying from paycheck to paycheck and from job to home and then doing it all over again * many of them feel empty inside. What are you looking for? A satisfying life? A meaningful life? A fulfilling life? A happy life? Many long for something to make their existence more meaningful and fulfilling. Unlike Simeon, many people don*t know what will bring happiness. The Holy Spirit had told Simeon that he would not die until he had seen the promised Messiah. When that extraordinary day came and Simeon came to the temple to meet the promised Messiah, his satisfaction was guaranteed. There is a longing in every heart that only Jesus can satisfy. As someone has written: “Now none but Christ can satisfy, None other name for me; There*s love and life and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in Thee.”

— Mike McDaniel

Are The Ten Commandments Binding Today?

Many people think that the ten commandments are binding today, but such is simply not the case. Some have failed to learn that the ten commandments were a covenant made exclusively for Israel. Moses was in the perfect position to know the answer to the question, “To whom were the ten commandments given?” God called him to the summit of Sinai to receive these ten commandments written on two tables of stone. Furthermore, it was Moses was inspired to write the two wherein we read of these ten commandments. Exodus 20 is when they were first given. Deuteronomy 5 is when Moses repeated them for the sake of the new generation soon to inherit the promised land of Canaan. “The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. The Lord made not this covenant with our fathers, but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day” (Deut. 5:2).

One of the ten commandments involves the keeping of the Sabbath day (Deut. 5:14). To whom did God give the Sabbath? Did he give it to the whole of humanity or to a part of humanity? In the latter part of Exodus 31:17, God said the Sabbath was a sign between Him and the children of Israel.

In Second Corinthians 3:7, Paul talks about the two covenants and contrasts them. We do not have to be in doubt as to what that the old covenant included. “But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away.” What was it that was written and engraven in stones? We read in Deuteronomy 5 how God wrote the ten Commandments on tables of stone. Concerning that law written in stones Paul affirmed that the law written on tables of stone is “done away” and is “abolished” in Second Corinthians 3:11,13. How could Paul have been any clearer? Colossians 2:14 says the old law was nailed to the cross. Hebrews 10:9 settles the matter once and for all time to every Biblical believer, “…He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second.”

There is also the common fallacy that to say we are not under the ten commandments is to say that we can commit these sins or could not condemn sin in our world. When you present the case from the Bible that we are not under the ten commandments the response that you will often hear is: “Then are you not saying we can worship idols, profane God’s name, dishonor parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness against others and covet?” Such does not follow.

In the new covenant which God has made, we find nine of the points covered by the ten commandments incorporated and enlarged upon. They are binding; not because they were in the Old Covenant, but because they are in the New Covenant. Commandment 1 prohibited having any other Gods save the one and true God. “Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve” (Mt. 4:10). Commandment 2 prohibited idolatry. “Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 Jn. 5:21). Commandment 3 forbade taking God’s name in vain. Jesus said, “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Mt. 6:9). Commandment 4 commanded Sabbath day keeping. Neither Christ nor any of his apostles ever enjoined Sabbath keeping on us. If they did where is the book, chapter, and verse? But friends, if the TEN commandments are still binding, then we are obligated to keep the Sabbath day or Saturday holy, with all that entails. Commandment 5 commanded honoring father and mother. Paul wrote, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this right. Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise” (Eph. 6:1-2). Parental honor, respect, and obedience are demanded by Christ and His apostles. This is why such is to be obeyed today. Christ, not Moses, is our lawgiver today. Commandments 6 & 7 legislated against murder and adultery. In the sermon on the mount, Jesus cut off murder and adultery at their infamous roots- anger and lust (Mt. 5:21-30). Commandment 8 forbade stealing. Paul said, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). Commandment 9 prohibited bearing false witness. “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds” (Col. 3:9). Finally, Commandment 10 prohibited covetousness. “Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5).

Why are we not free to murder, steal, lie, or covet? Because Christ prohibits all these acts in the thinking, in the planning, and in the action thereof. Under Christianity, these sins are attacked at the point of origin, at the heart! We respect these principles of morality because they are part of the law of Christ under which we live today. Our Law is the law of Christ and not the ten commandments.

— Mike McDaniel

Shall We Sing During The Lord’s Supper?

As one of the moderators of the television program, A Bible Answer [cf. www.oabs.org], it appears that this issue must be of concern to many people due to the volume of questions received concerning it. This issue is not of recent origin. For example, it was hotly debated in the pages of the Firm Foundation in 1961.

I was recently told that a number of years ago, this practice was introduced in a certain congregation, and it was only after several members left or threatened to leave that it was finally terminated.

In Matthew 26:26-30, we read the following:

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

Thus, our Lord sang at the last meeting with His disciples before His death. We are not told anything concerning the beauty of our Lord*s voice, but it must have been a touching joy to have been present on that occasion and to hear them sing together.

In an article appearing in Words of Truth (July 2, 1993) brother Flavil Nichols pointed out that the night Jesus instituted His supper, He and the apostles sang an hymn AFTER, not during the Lord*s Supper. And although hymns are right at other times in the worship, at this particular time * during the communion, Jesus said of the bread, “THIS do in remembrance of me” (Mt. 26:24). He did not say SING at this particular time, in remembrance of me. Of the supper He said, “THIS do ye as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me” (Mt. 26:25). He did not say at this point in worship * Sing in remembrance of me.

While there are those among us who may be engaging in this practice of singing during the Lord*s Supper, this writer does not believe such a practice is authorized, practical, or orderly.

 

(1) SUCH A PRACTICE IS NOT AUTHORIZED

How does the Bible authorize? First of all the Bible authorizes by direct statement. We used to say simply by command. However, there are some direct statements which authorize which are not in the form of a command. There is no New Testament command or direct statement to sing while eating the Lord*s Supper.

Second, the Bible authorizes by implication. This used to be called necessary inference, but over the years we have found that it is more properly called implication. Inference is something we do. Implication is something God has done. It is upon the basis of what God has done that we have authority, not on the basis of our inference or reasoning. There is no New Testament implication from which a necessary inference must be drawn which demands that we sing during the Lord*s supper.

Third, the Bible authorizes by approved example. Our obligation is to ascertain when accounts of action in the Bible constitute a pattern for us today. But when we look in the New Testament, we find NO example of any congregation singing while partaking of the Lord*s Supper.

Fourth, the Bible authorizes by expediency. “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not” (1 Cor. 10:23). An expedient is that which expedites or helps to carry out a lawful obligation. It is that in which there is some advantage and which may be selected by the elders of the church in carrying out any obligation of the church * that obligation growing out of that for which there is Bible authority by approved example, an implication, or a direct statement. But when we talk about singing, we are talking about an avenue of worship that has been commanded, that has been mandated for worship and not a mere expedient. So this writer*s conclusion is that there is absolutely no Bible authority for singing while the Lord*s Supper is being eaten.

 

(2) SUCH A PRACTICE IS NOT PRACTICAL

It is simply not practical from a physical standpoint. Do you remember what your mother used to tell you about talking with your mouth full? Would you like to try singing with your mouth full? Is that really something God has planned for us to do? So this is a practice that is not practical from a physical standpoint.

It is also not practical from a mental standpoint. In this regard, brother Guy N. Woods wrote, “Worship, in order to be acceptable to God, must be performed in the right spirit and from proper motives and in harmony with the expressed will of God (Jn. 4:24). It is utterly impossible to engage in singing and partake of the Lord*s Supper at the same time and follow these divine guidelines.” (Questions and Answers, Vol. 2, p 38).

Brother Woods further explained in an earlier volume that “Observance of the Lord*s Supper and singing are two separate and distinct acts of worship, involving very different, physical, mental, and spiritual participation (Questions and Answers, Vol. 1, p. 336). Let us expand upon this theme.

We know that singing necessitates thought. “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). There are four important divine purposes which quickly come to mind concerning singing. (1) One of the divine purposes for singing is to bring praise to God (Rom. 15:9; Eph.5:19). This requires mediation or thought. (2) A second divine purpose for singing is to admonish others to righteous living (Col. 3:16). This requires mediation or thought. (3) Another divine purpose for singing is to communicate ideals. Singing conveys our heart’s feelings, morals, and thoughts to others. This also requires thought. (4) Another basic divine purpose for singing is to teach and instruct (Col. 3:16). Brethren, it is evident that all four basic divine purposes of singing require thought. Paul said, “What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15). If we are going to sing with the spirit and with the understanding, then we must give attention to the lyrics, and we must follow the music to which the lyrics are set in order to properly sing in unison with others. You see, even the mechanics of singing requires mediation and thought.

When we consider the Lord*s Supper, we realize that it also requires thought and meditation. We should look at the Lord*s Supper in four ways. First, there is the inward look in that we examine ourselves in the act of observance (1 Cor. 11:28). Second, there is the outward look in that we proclaim the Lord*s death by our participation (1 Cor. 11:26). Third, there is the backward look in that we remember and mediate on the events of Calvary (1 Cor. 11:25) Fourth, there is the forward look in that we keep alive in our hearts and before others, his second coming (1 Cor. 11:26) (Cf. Guy N. Woods, Questions and Answers, Vol. 1, p 336).

It should become obvious to us that neither singing nor partaking of the Lord*s Supper can be properly engaged in while attempting the other. One simply cannot do these two acts of worship at the same time acceptably for each of them requires meditation, thought, and undivided concentration.

 

(3) SUCH A PRACTICE IS NOT ORDERLY

There can be no doubt that churches of the first century maintained an orderly procedure in their public worship. After much instruction relative to the Lord*s Supper, Paul said, “And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come” (1 Cor. 11:34). Again he said, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (1 Cor. 14:40). In order means everything in its place and in its time. Most of our congregations have followed an orderly sequence in their worship. They recognize that there is a time and place for congregational singing, a time and place for prayer, a time place for the contribution, a time and place for the sermon, and a time and place for the Lord*s Supper. The order may differ from congregation to congregation, but worship should be done in an orderly fashion. It would be out of order to sing while the public prayer is being worded for the congregation. Someone says, “Well you can sing a prayer.” And that is true. But surely we can see that there is a difference in singing a prayer and singing during a publicly led prayer. It would be out of order for a song leader to get up and lead a song at the same time the preacher is preaching. Likewise, it is simply out of order to sing during the communion. It is confusion. “For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Cor. 14:33). That word translated confusion means a state of disorder. But the word for peace in that verse means good order. It is the very opposite of the Greek word translated confusion (cf. Thayer*s Greek-English Lexicon, p 21, 182).

This writer relishes the peaceful, personal, intimate, quiet time with our Lord as we partake of the Lord*s Supper in memory of Him. It is a beautiful time. Years ago, brother Batsell Barrett Baxter asked more that 500 college students to evaluate their own activities in worship. A vast majority indicated that their worship felt most meaningful in the eating of the Lord*s Supper. In this activity, they felt a higher degree of intimacy with God than in any other act. This is not to say that it is more important, but it is different. It is personal. It is intimate (Batsell Barrett Baxter, The Family of God, p 117). Friends, God designed it to be that way. Why intrude on that? To intrude would be rude.

Brother Tillit S. Teddlie was one of our greatest song-writers. Brother Teddlie wrote a couple of very good articles on this subject for the Firm Foundation in 1961. In one of them, he wrote the following: “The Lord*s Supper needs no embellishments, no ornaments, and no fanciful decorations to make it more beautiful, more solemn, or more sublime. The simplicity of the Lord*s Supper adorns it with a divine beauty. One might as well try to aid the sun on a clear noonday by striking a match and holding it aloft, as to add beauty to the Lord*s Supper by singing a musical accompaniment.” He went on to say, “Four part harmony adds beauty to the song service, but singing during the communion service does not add beauty to it, but confusion. Singing, however beautiful and harmonious, is out of time and place during the Lord*s supper” (Tillit S. Teddlie, “Singing During The Communion Service,” Firm Foundation, July 18, 1961, p. 454). To brother Teddlie*s comments, let us say, “amen.”

— Mike McDaniel

Is A Person Saved By Water Or By The Grace Of God?

While people often pose this question, the Bible does not teach that it is an either/or proposition. A person is saved by the grace of God when that person meets the conditions of His grace. One of those conditions happens to be baptism in water for the remission of sins. But a lot of people today do not want to meet God*s conditions. Some want to deny that God has even given any such conditions. If He hasn*t, then everyone would be saved. God has given us the freedom to choose to be saved or lost. Those saved will be saved by grace for no one can earn their salvation. But God*s grace will not overlook the command I will not obey.

Titus is a good book to turn to in response to this question. “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men” (Tit. 2:11). God’s grace is His doing for us that which we did not deserve and which we could not do ourselves. God so desired our salvation that He gave us what we needed, but could never deserve…a savior. But not all will be saved for grace has to be appropriated by man through the conditions revealed by God. “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). What God does for us is a matter of grace: the death of Christ, His blood, and His gospel. What we do in response to His grace is by faith. That is our part. Too many want to claim the grace of God without the response of faith, but it cannot be done. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2).

Now look at Titus 3:5, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” We are not saved by works of righteousness but according to the mercy of God. Does this mean we are saved by the mercy of God and not without any conditions at all? Not at all! Paul says God saved us by the washing of regeneration. The washing of regeneration is baptism in water. Notice that by this we are saved. We are saved by the washing of regeneration. God saves us when we meet His conditions of salvation. The phrase “wash away thy sins” was used by Ananias in Acts 22:16 in his conversation with Paul. In both phrases, the word “wash” is used showing the connection of water with the removal of sins. It is the blood that washes away our sins spiritually when we are baptized in water for their remission (Acts 2:38). It is only after this “washing of regeneration” that Paul can speak of us as “having been justified” and heirs of the hope of eternal life (v7)

Some people have been taught error on baptism so long that they have come to classify baptism as a work of righteousness and contend that we are not saved by such works (Eph. 2:8,9). But note here that the washing of regeneration is NOT a work of human merit. It is contrasted with such. Thus, baptism stands in contrast to works of human merit and is excluded from them. The two are not in the same category. Baptism is not a meritorious act of human effort. It is the final condition in God’s plan for saving man which includes faith (Jn. 8:24), repentance (Lk. 13:3), and confession (Rom. 10:10). It is the means by which God cleanses the alien sinner from sin (Acts 22:16). While the blood of Christ is the cleansing agent, baptism in water is the place in which this operation of God occurs. “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).

— Mike McDaniel

What About The Rapture?

The word “rapture” is not found in the Bible. It comes from the Latin word “rapere” which means to seize and carry away. Thus, the rapture is supposed to refer to a time when the Lord will come for the righteous dead and living, and take them to be with Him for a period of seven years.

What does the Bible say? “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). The Bible teaches that Jesus will come again and that the saints will be caught up to be with Him. But it does not say that the saints shall be caught up to meet the Lord in the air only to return after seven years. Rather it says, “and so shall we EVER BE with the Lord.”

Those believing the Rapture theory cannot understand why the expression “as a thief in the night” would be used with reference to our Lord’s coming if a secret coming is not suggested by it. However, the Lord’s coming is compared to that of a thief’s only because both will arrive at an unknown and unexpected time (Mt. 24:44). In 2 Peter 3:10, the Bible teaches that the Lord will come like a thief on the same day that the earth will burn! How then can this coming of the Lord be secret and how can the wicked be left here for seven years? On the day that Christ comes every eye shall see Him (Rev. 1:7). On that great and final day the trump of God will sound the wake-up call for everyone in the grave (2 Thess. 4:16,17; Jn. 5:28,29). Rather than a secretive coming, this sounds like quite a noisy event, doesn’t it?

According to this theory, during the seven years after Christ secretly comes, the saints will be at peace with Christ while sinners will be in great tribulation. But Jesus taught in the parables of the tares and of the fishnet that there will be no separation of the good and evil until the end of the world (Mt. 13:49, 50).

Friends, the Bible teaches that on that great day of the Lord, there will be no secretive “rapture” of the saints. It will indeed be sudden (1 Thess. 5:26), but there will be nothing secretive about it.

How sad it is that many are basing what they believe about the end of the world on the latest popular premillennial book to come from the press and not from the Book of books.

— Mike McDaniel

Church Membership

Acts 9:26 says, “And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.” Today we often hear the phrase “join the church.” Did Saul “join a church” as we hear it spoken of today?

In Acts 2 we read of the beginning of the Lord’s church. There we find two things: (1) people being saved in obedience to the gospel (Acts 2:38), and (2) these same people being “added” by the Lord to His church. Acts 2:47 says, “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” According to the New Testament, what a person does to be saved, he does to obtain membership in the Lord’s church. Becoming a member of the church of Christ is not a matter of comparing several religious groups, deciding which suits one best, and then applying for membership or “joining up.” Rather, it is a matter of obeying the Gospel, at which time the Lord Himself immediately adds you to His body, the church. This is the only means of entering the church of Christ.

Since that is the case, and since Saul had already been added by the Lord to the church, what was he attempting to do here? The word church is also used in a local sense to refer to Christians who assemble and work together in a given community. A Christian is a member of Christ’s body,…he is baptized in one body, but he is not a member of every local congregation around the world. When Saul assayed to join himself to the disciples at Jerusalem, he was simply seeking to become identified for the time being with them. He had already been added by the Lord to His church, but he was seeking to work and worship with that local church.

Likewise, when we obey the Gospel and are added by the Lord to His church, we then need to assemble and work with a local, faithful, congregation of God’s people. We need to submit ourselves to a local eldership (Heb. 13:17; 1 Pet. 5:2). There is no doubt that for our good, for the good of others, and for the good of the kingdom, God desires that we make known our intentions to be a part of a faithful local congregation of His people. This can be made known by letter or by announcement.

The Meaning of “Personal Work”

“I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work” (John 9:4).

As Christians, we should be concerned about working for the Lord because of His infinite grace in our lives. All work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Sometimes we may use that phrase just for the work of evangelizing the lost or seeking to restore the fallen. But when you think about it, all work for the Lord should be “personal work.” Yet often, it is not. Many do not take it personally.

Jesus knew that the Lord*s work is “personal work.” Jesus and His Father had a personal work to do. “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work” (Jn. 5:17). Christ came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). Christ’s work was summed up by Peter in Acts 10:38, “How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him.” Jesus realized that He must work. Question: If Jesus, the Son of God, had to work while here on earth, what about us??? Surely we must conclude that we must work also! Our text stresses to us the importance of our personal work.

The idea that salvation is of grace and not of works has led many to think that there is no necessity for work. Ephesians 2:8 states, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” That passage is not suggesting that the Christian does not have work to do. That has reference to meritorious works, works of merit wherein people falsely think they can earn their own salvation. No one can work their way to Heaven. God’s grace, His favor toward us is unmerited. There is nothing we have done or ever will do that can earn our salvation. “So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do” (Lk. 17:10). The Lord does not encourage us to try to work our way to Heaven. However, He does demand that we do the works commanded of us. We must obey the commands of the Lord and do his will to be saved.

James 2:17-18 says, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” A question that we should ask concerning our faith is this: Is it active or inactive? Do we have faith-in-action or faith inaction? Do we have a faith that demonstrates itself by action or do we possess a faith that is characterized by inaction? Paul exhorted the Galatians to have a faith which worketh by love (Gal. 5:6). He reminded the Ephesians of the need for an active faith when he said, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Those listed in Faith’s Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11 are remembered because their faith was active. By faith Abel offered; Noah prepared an Ark; Abraham obeyed and sojourned; Abraham offered up Isaac; and the list goes on and on. The faith that saves is the faith that obeys. It is the faith that works. If we would be pleasing to God, we must have a faith that is active. We must perform.

Once while Fritz Kreisler, a great violinist, had several hours to spend between trains, he went into a music store. He laid his violin case, which had his name on it, on the counter. The storekeeper, seeing the name, thought that the musician’s violin had been stolen, and called the police. Upon their arrival, they went about to arrest Kreisler, thinking that he was a thief. All the time, Kreisler insisted that he was not the thief, but that he was the real Fritz Kreisler. Finally, he asked the storekeeper if he had one of Kreisler’s recordings. He did, and the record was played. Upon completion of the record, Kreisler opened the case, removed the instrument and played the same piece. The storekeeper and the policemen immediately knew that he was the real Kreisler. His performance proved his profession. We profess to be Christians. The only way we can prove it is by performance. Does our faith cause us to work for Jesus?

The book of Titus emphasizes “personal work.” “Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work” (Tit. 3:1). “This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men” (Tit. 3:8). “And let ours also learn to maintain good works for necessary uses, that they be not unfruitful” (Tit. 3:14). We have our own personal work to do.

Paul likens the church to a physical body. “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular” (1 Cor. 12:27). Like the physical body, each member has a part to play. Paul said that every joint supplieth something to the body (Eph. 4:16). There will be differences as far as abilities, opportunities, and even desires; but all are expected to do their share of the work. The work of the church is for every member of the body of Christ. Every Christian must take it “personally.”

“Once upon a time there were four men named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. There was an important job to be done, and Everybody was asked to do it. But Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it. Anybody could have done it. But Nobody did it. Somebody got angry about it, because it was Everybody’s job. Everybody thought that Anybody could do it, and Nobody realized that Everybody wouldn’t do it. It ended up that Everybody blamed Somebody, and Nobody did the job that Anybody could have done in the first place.” Each Christian has his own personal work to do. Jesus said, “I must work.” Friends, this is what “personal work” really means!

— Mike McDaniel

Out Attitude At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday of all. It highlights the home and family. It is a time of quiet reflection upon the past and an annual reminder that God has ever been so faithful to us.

It is also a good time to examine ourselves and see if our attitude is as it should be. A good attitude begins with gratitude to God. Most of us are fond of doing our share of complaining, griping, and grumbling. With that kind of attitude, we probably see few blessings. Why? Because our attention is focused on the negative rather than the positive.

Some people fail to see how serious such a negative disposition can be upon their home, upon their work environment, and certainly upon the local church. That we might see the seriousness of such, take a look at the following verses:

“And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord: and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp. And the people cried unto Moses; and when Moses prayed unto the Lord, the fire was quenched. And he called the name of the place Taberah: because the fire of the Lord burnt among them” (Num. 11:1-3).

Here is a striking example of God*s disapproval of the grumblers and fault-finders. God had blessed them by sending them a great leader in Moses, by bringing them out of the bondage of Egypt, by providentially caring for them, and leading them this far on the way to Canaan. But they had a bad and sinful attitude. How often do the problems of the present, blind us to the blessings of the present?

Notice what they had said in Exodus 16:3, “And the children of Israel said unto them, Would to God we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the flesh pots, and when we did eat bread to the full; for ye have brought us forth into this wilderness, to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” Sitting by the flesh pots, eating bread to the full hardly seems to be a fitting description of them suffering as slaves under hard taskmasters. But this is typical of murmurers and grumblers. They will often portray present things in the worst possible light and portray past things in the best possible light. In the Israelite complainers, we see how distorted their perspective was. How often do the problems of the present, blind us to the problems of the past? How is your perspective? Are you often guilty of doing something similar?

Psalm 106:24-25 lists three sins that kept the Israelites in the wilderness and out the Promised land for many years. “Yea, they despised the pleasant land, they believed not his word: But murmured in their tents, and hearkened not unto the voice of the Lord.” They despised the blessings of the promised land. They did not believe God*s word that all would be well there. They did not heed God*s voice of direction. Instead, they chose to sat in their tents and complain. As a result, God led them around in circles in the wilderness. God wanted to bless His people, but their bad attitude would not let Him. As a result, God did not allow most of that generation to enter the land.

What do we learn? We see that grumblers have a negative effect on themselves, on God*s people, and even on God. Are we impoverishing ourselves when God is longing to bless us with His best, but cannot due to our terrible attitude? Think about this: if our words of complaint and grumbling over the past eleven months of 2004 were placed alongside our expressions of gratitude to God and others, how truly thankful would we appear?

Remember the words of Paul in Colossians 3:15, “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”

Someone has written:

“When things go wrong, I would not be a grumbler,

Complaining, seeing everything as grim:

For when I think of how the Lord has blessed me,

I cannot help but give my praise to Him.”

Make no mistake about it, a good attitude begins with gratitude to God.

— Mike McDaniel