Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Peter, Paul, Baptism and Calling Upon the Name of the Lord

A unique phrase in Scripture is that of “calling upon the name of the Lord.” It is always synonymous with mans seeking salvation from God. Man began to seek God very early on as we read in Gen. 4:26. Later the phrase takes on an additional meaning, the looking forward to the time when salvation would be more powerful, more available and more clearly understood. The most famous quotation is that from Joel 2:32 [other similar passages are found in Zech. 13:9 and Zeph. 3:9 et. al.], a Scripture that Peter and the other apostles quoted in the Pentecostian sermon in Acts 2:21. The Joelian prophesy was for the Jews exclusively and did not, at the time of Pentecost 30 a.d., include the Gentiles. We know this for Joel makes this contextually clear in:
2:15 – “Blow the trumpet in Zion…”
2:18 – “…the LORD became jealous for his land and had pity on his people.”
2:23 – “…Be glad, O children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God…”
2:27 - “…You shall know that I am in the midst of Israel…”
The context of this passage is clearly for the Jew only. In vs. 28fl, we hear that “His spirit is to be poured out on all flesh and YOUR sons and YOUR daughters will prophesy, YOUR old men will dream dreams and YOUR young men will see visions.” Who, then, is “YOUR?” It is Zion, it is His people, it is Israel. It is NOT the Gentiles… at least not in THIS passage and not at this time. Jesus clearly though makes it clear that others beside the Jews were to be recipients of salvation. He makes this abundantly manifest in passages such as John 10:16 where He states:
“...I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”
The church of Christ is built upon the rock, which is Christ [I Cor. 10:4] and the confession of that very fact [Matt. 16:18 and John 11:27]. The church of Christ was not build upon Peter but, rather, on Peter’s confession. If we were to look at this as we would a new building, Christ and confession in Him, is the bedrock or the “chief cornerstone [Eph. 2:20]” upon which the foundation sits which then holds up the rest of the structure. The foundation, sitting upon the ROCK that is Christ and confession in Him, transitions that strength to the rest of the structure… the church. The foundation is the “apostles and prophets [“inspired speakers” – Strong’s].” In fact, the early church rested upon this foundation as we learn in Acts 2:42 as they “continued steadfastly in the Apostles doctrine.”

Peter was given [Matthew 16:19] the “keys to the Kingdom.” He was given to “bind and loose” that which was already bound and loosed in Heaven. When did he exercise this authority? He did it both where and when Jesus instructed the apostles in Acts 1:8,
“But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
He did it on 3 occasions concurrent with the 3 stages of the message of salvation as we see below:
Pentecostians / Acts 2 / Jerusalem and Judaea

Samaritans / Acts 8 / Samaria

Gentiles / Acts 10 / Uttermost parts of the world
Peter turned the keys of the kingdom 3 times, first in Jerusalem, second in Samaria and thirdly in Caesarea. Each time is was consistent with the time, the place and the people that Christ had planned. Within 10 years, the “gospel was for all!” Each time he turned the keys, the kingdom of God expanded to more people until, finally, it expanded to our Gentile ancestors. All the doors that Peter opened are still open today.

As to the so-called rivalry between Peter and Paul… it did not exist though they did have a brief confrontation as Paul describes in the book of Galatians. Peter turned the keys of the kingdom at Caesarea but did not proceed through that door beyond the household of Cornelius. Why? Because God had decreed that it would be Paul, not Peter, who would enter the house of the Gentiles with the gospel [Acts 9:15-16]. It was God’s will that the gospel be first preached to the Jews, then to the Samaritans and lastly, to the Gentiles. It was Paul’s custom, true to God’s form and fashion, to first go to the Jews in the Synagogue before going to the Gentiles with the gospel as we learn in Act 17:10 and other passages. Peter and Paul were on the same team. There was no competition, no disputing over territory and no self serving agendas.

Finally, what was Peter’s message on the 3 occasions that he turned the keys of the kingdom? It is both simple and profound… they were all to be baptized into Jesus Christ for the remission of sins in order to receive salvation and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. [Acts 2:38, Acts 8:12-16, Acts 10:48] The Holy Spirit fell on those present on all 3 occasions, not for salvation, but as a sign from Heaven that Peter was exercising his “key” ministry. How does one "call upon the name of the Lord?" One "calls upon the name of the Lord" only, exclusively and singularly in, by and with water baptism [Acts 22:16]. The Pentecostians "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. The Samaritans "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. The household of Cornelius "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism. Peter preached the same message, the people heard the same message and all the people obeyed the same message... they "called upon the name of the Lord" in baptism for the remission of their sins and received the gift of the Holy Spirit. A little history to finish up our thoughts.

In perhaps the greatest irony in history, both Dark Age Catholicism and Reformed Protestantism came to the same, and yet very wrong, conclusion. They BOTH concluded that man is not responsible for his actions! Catholicism taught a nearly total works only system while Protestaantim taught an equally nearly total faith only system. The Catholic was taught that regardless of the number or seriousness of the sin, said sin could be "forgiven" by the priest by "working acts of pennance" that were characterized by all forms of asceticism, religious pilgramages and the sale of indulgences. People were taught that they could deny the flesh, travel to various places where they could "invest" in religious relics and even purchase the forgiveness of sins past, present or future. One could even purchase the forgiveness of sins of others who had died and were languishing in Purgatory. It was said that, "when a coin in the coffer rings, a soul from Purgatory springs." Forgiveness of sin became nothing more that a business, a function of the marketplace that favored the rich and the powerful. One wound up in heaven or hell based solely upon works of piety, available to the highest bidder. Reacting to such corruption and falsehood came those who protested all of this. They were thus called "Protestants." They wanted to "reform" the Roman Catholic Church and became known as "reformers." These "reformed protestants" wheeled around 180 degress, rejected works religion and embraced salvation by grace or faith "alone." One could never do one single solitary thing to "earn" their salvation. "Works" were rejected in totality. "Faith alone in Christ alone" became a slogan. Reformed Protestantism taught that once saved, a person could live any kind of life whatsoever and still inherit eternal life. This kind of radical hypocricy culmanated in the totally corrupt life of King Henry VIII of England who established the Church of England simply because he wanted a divorce. Like a coin, one side is found the "works only" of Roman Catholicism and the other side is found the "faith only" of Reformed Protestantism.

What does all this history have to do with the present discusssion? Simply this, Reformed Protestantism teaches that baptism is NOT necessary for salvation for it is a work of man, an attempt of man to "earn" his salvation. Is baptism a "work" of man? Baptism is a work! However, it is NOT a work of man... it is a work of God! In fact, we are told in Colossians 2:12 that, like circumcission, God operates, custs off and removes our sin in the waters of baptism. There IS work in baptism but it is GOD who does the working, not man!

When a person "calls upon the name of the Lord," that person does so in water baptism, a place and time God has chosen to do His saving work. It is the only time and place that God does so. Should a person attempt to "call upon the name of the Lord" without water baptism, he or she does so in absolute and complete futility.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Letter to the President of the United States

Dear President Obama;

We have heard that you and your family are continuing to search for a place to worship. Thank God that you are seeking for God Himself is “seeking such to worship Him.” [John 5:23] Your decision as to where to worship will be the most important decision you will ever make. I would urge you to consider the church of Christ. Christ promised to build His church in Matthew 16:18. God then added the saved to that very same church. [Acts 2:47] Our Lord did not mince words; “I am the way, the truth and the life. No man comes to the father except by me.” [John 14:6] There truly is but “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.” [Ephesians 4:5]

The church of Christ is not a denomination for such is condemned by Paul in I Corinthians 1. The church of Christ has no head except Christ Himself [Ephesians 5:23] The church of Christ strives to neither add to or take away from the revealed Word of God as we are warned not to do in Proverbs 30:5-6. One is added to the church of Christ by God Himself once anyone: hears the Word of God [Romans 10:17], believes that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God [John 8:24], repents of all past sins [Luke 13:3], confesses that Jesus is the Son of God before witnesses [Matthew 10:32] and are immersed for the remission of sins [Acts 2:38]. Such a saved person will then live faithfully from that point onward [I John 1:7] and spread this same gospel as God directs their life [Acts 8:4].

Regardless of our political persuasions, we pray for you and all of our leaders every Lord’s Day at our congregation in Charlotte, NC. We will also now pray that this letter finds its way to your desk for your most prayerful consideration.

God bless you in every way;

Russ McCullough

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

To Jail & Back With The Gospel

We went to jail again tonight. Every Tuesday the Archdale church of Christ sends a delegation of two men to our local county jail. Jails, it seems, are part of the “world” that Jesus commanded us to go into with the gospel. Much “seed sowing” and “watering” takes place there and God WILL give the increase! Prisoners are very attentive, full of questions and eager to discuss the Scriptures. It turns out that our Bible studies are the high point of the week for the prisoners. Having said that, these men face obstacles (of their own making we must add) that few on the outside can imagine. Come with me as we visit the jail and see what awaits us.

Our Scripture passage this evening was John 9. Our purpose was to show similarities between what happened to the man born blind when he returned to his neighborhood and what will happen when these men return to their own neighborhoods. We illustrated that one’s reception upon return home from jail is often quite different than these men may imagine at the moment. Like the man born blind these men, instead of the “yellow ribbon round the old oak tree,” may find jaded neighbors, alienated family and outright opposition to their return to society. May God grant these men the strength to deal with the waves of disappointment that may await them upon their release. Just like the man born blind, the happiest day of one’s life can turn out to be, in some ways, the worst. BUT… there is always the silver lining! May these men who will soon be released know that, just like the man born blind, Jesus seeks them upon their return to the neighborhood! “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

Our message was well received by most. However one man, a professed Muslim, became highly agitated with our message and attempted to suppress it. By the grace of God and reliance upon Scripture alone, he failed. He failed to show that Jesus was a prophet only, for the man born blind wound up later in John 9 worshipping Jesus. Prophets never were worshipped in the Bible, nor did any prophet ever accept worship from other mortals. He failed to show that Jesus was slain by being forcibly overcome by sinful men. Jesus clearly states in John 9 that He “had the power to lay down His own life and the power to raise it up again!” Though the truth did not win that man’s heart, he became silent and allowed the study to continue. We closed with the sobering thought that upon the day of their release that BOTH Jesus and Satan will be seeking them. Each man will return home that day following one or the other. Our final statement as the guard re-opened the door was a reminder of John 3:36 and Acts 2:37-38 that belief alone is not sufficient for salvation. Faith and obedience are intertwined and cannot be separated and if one is to “see God” he must not only repent but be baptized as well for the remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. We always explain God’s plan of salvation each and every time for our assigned group is a transitional group, always full of men coming and going. Often, we see men only one time. Our assigned mission is critical to a singular moment in time. God be praised for the opportunity to share the gospel with these men!

The opportunities and challenges in the jail are many. The opportunities and challenges OUTSIDE the jail are many! Preaching the gospel “in and out of season” includes preaching the gospel “in and out of jail!”

We encourage all brethren everywhere to begin and sustain jail ministries. It is, after all, God’s will that “all men come to repentance,” those who wear orange and those who do not.

For A FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Reflections and Confessions

The weekend of July 11 and 12, 2009 has been an emotional tsunami for me. I experienced waves of remorse and regret rarely part of this earthly existence. I guess you might say I faced my demons. Perhaps you differ from me. Maybe your life has been totally fun, exciting and meaningful for as long as you can remember…, devoid of demons. Perhaps, but I strongly doubt it. In all likelihood, there are some un-faced demons in your life, too. The demons to which I refer are not sins per se, but rather those fears, those “nameless dreads” that haunt ones soul in the wee small hours of the morning. You know what I’m talking about, those knife sharp thoughts that race in the middle of the night robbing your mind and body of it’s much needed rest. My life had a couple of pieces missing.

It’s my prayer that by sharing these words that one or more readers will take the helm of sorrow and drive their ship into the wind as well. Someone once told me that the way to overcome that which one fears is to DO that which one fears. I can tell you that good advice turned out to be extremely valid.

By God’s grace I faced down two fears Saturday, one 43 years old and one 40. In a way they were the same fear because they both in many ways defined who I became over the intervening years. My father, Russell H. McCullough, Jr., died suddenly and without warning on January 10, 1966. He was just 46 years old. My mother was 40 years old at the time, my sister was 12 and I was 14. This wasn’t supposed to happen. I KNEW it was not supposed to happen because Mr. Grady, my shop teacher, came to our house that night. I wished that I had told him of my gratitude but speaking of such was nothing I was about to attempt in those years, certainly not to an adult two and a ½ times my age. That visit was perhaps the kindest thing anyone did for me…ever. Not only that, the day of the funeral I stepped out of that “black Cadillac” and the principal of Thomas Eaton Jr. High School was there to give his condolences. Mr. Bacuveraccus was his name, or as we called him, “Mr. B.” I was stunned, I barely knew him. “Why are you here?” was my response. I don’t recall what he replied to me but I KNEW that what was happening to us WAS NOT supposed to happen…but yet it did.

My sister and I were orphans. We had no father. Our poor mother was beyond distraught. She was devastated. For three years or more she wept through the entire worship service every Sunday morning. She wept during meals, she wept in the morning and she wept at night. She could not bear to visit Dad’s grave…ever. Two years ago this month, she went home to Abraham’s bosom where she is now comforted along with our father. “God shall wipe away all tears, there’s no death, no pain nor fears, and they count not time by years, by years, for there is no night there.”

That brings me to my first demon. This is my first confession. I, too, could not ever bring myself to visit him. My poor dead father and not a single visit in 43 years from me…, until yesterday. He deserved better. He didn’t die on purpose; he was asleep at the time, home from work and sick with bronchitis. My neglect was so pronounced that I even had to call the cemetery office and have someone meet me there to show me where he was buried, I didn’t know. I had never cared to know. Strangers surround him while mother lies resting in Tulsa, Oklahoma. On that “bright and cloudless morning” they will rise in two different places. My total neglect ended Saturday. I dropped by to see Dad.

My second confession is that I dealt with my father’s death the only way I knew how. I forced myself to forget him. Unfortunately I succeeded all too well. I now recall precious little about the man except his intense love for God and a faith as resilient as steel plated amour. He now rests in the “Garden of Faith,” Lot 4, Parklawn Memorial Cemetery, Hampton, Virginia. This is as it should be. What is not as it should be is the fact that I felt no emotion when I visited him. I “felt” like I should “feel” something…but 43 years of forced repression will seer any memory. I loved my father but he is much more like a dream to me now than a memory. For 43 years I feared what “might” happen should I visit him. Were that there was enough emotion left in me to warrant such a fear. Regardless of emotion or lack thereof, there are now no more misunderstandings between us. We had that long overdo “talk” and the air is now clear. I snapped a few pictures, pulled a few weeds from around the headstone and left with my reconciliation. I’ll be back from time to time, Lord willing.

As a result of my fathers death, my high school years were fraught with loneliness, insecurity and the burden of never hanging around when my buddies spoke about their dads. No ball games, no hunting or fishing trips, no father-son “talks” for me. I was the lone man out in high school and I viewed myself as being type cast as a permanent loner for reasons I could not begin to comprehend. Combine the usual teenage insecurities with being fatherless…I ran as fast as I could to get out of Hampton, Virginia upon graduation. I couldn’t forget about those years fast enough. No memories, no looking back and for sure…no class reunions.

That brings me to the very reason for this trip to begin with. I was invited to attend the 40th anniversary of the greatest class from the greatest high school of all time…, Hampton High School - the class of 1969. We even had a chant that said it all; “We’re so great, we’re so fine, we’re the class of 69!” For months, the thought of attending such a reunion haunted me. The thought of seeing those people again was downright terrifying. BUT, I knew I needed to go. If for no other reason, good, bad or indifferent, I would have closure. Even at the last possible moment I confess that I almost did not attend. At 6:10 p.m. Saturday night I was on the phone to Nancy and told her that I was exiting the car and going in “to get it over with as quick as possible.” [People have more enthusiasm for a root canal (minus the Novocaine) than I had Saturday night for a class reunion!] In her own very sweet and practical way she made me realize that I had come too far to turn back. And so I got out of the car and went inside 1610 Coliseum Center in Hampton, Virginia to confront the past I had so long sought to avoid. At the end of the evening we took a panoramic picture of the approximately 175 souls attending. As the photographer was preparing, we sang that old fight song. “Here’s to Hampton High School, here’s to HHS, here’s to our football team, oh yes, oh yes, oh yes!” I had a great time and a great reunion and by the way,

Thanks for going with me, Dad. I love you.

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The JOY of Agreement

In the 1930’s America had a family argument with herself. The question was; “Should America support the allies in their opposition to Nazi Germany, or not?” Remembering so vividly well the carnage of the “Great War” of 1914-1918, most Americans were highly reluctant to engage in another such adventure. Despite clear warning signs that Nazi Germany could soon conquer all of Europe, and along with Soviet Russia, dominate the entire 1st world for socialism, most Americans were isolationist in their conviction, not wanting America to engage in foreign wars. However, just as with any major issue, there were strong emotions on both ends of the spectrum. Many a young American volunteered to engage the enemies of freedom in England, France, China and other places around the globe years before our nation went to war. Many sacrificed their lives in the cause of liberty. Others, however, supported the Germans openly and aggressively. The national air hero, Charles Lindbergh, was one such man. He spent much time in Germany, even meeting publicly with Hitler. The argument came to an abrupt halt on December 7, 1941 when Japan attacked us at Pearl Harbor. Several days after the “day of infamy,” Germany declared war on the United States. The argument was over and national unity and agreement swept over our great land. America had come to national agreement on the goal of defeating our enemies. Some four years later, that goal was realized.

The blessings of that national unity and agreement are still quite evident today, some 64 years after peace came in August, 1945. Unity, tranquility and agreement are blessings we should all continually seek, especially in the Lord’s church. James Allen said; “The more tranquil a man becomes, the greater his success, his influence, his power for good. Calmness of mind is one of the beautiful jewels of wisdom.” [1] Agreement, tranquility and unity bring much JOY to our hearts. There are a number of reasons.

• It is good and pleasant for brethren to dwell in unity – Psalms 133:1
• We are to have the same mind toward one another – Romans 12:16
• We are to follow after those things that make for peace – Romans 14:19
• Our God is a God of patience and consolation – Romans 15:5-6
• We are to be of the same mind and judgment – I Corinthians 1:10
• We keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace – Ephesians 4:3
• Like-mindedness fulfills the joy of others – Philippians 2:2
• Following the same rule sets an example for others – Philippians 3:16-17
• Agreement teaches us to be compassion, love, empathy and courtesy – I Peter 3:8 [2]

Agreement with God, the Scriptures and each other will render us AGREEABLE and JOYFUL! JOYFUL people make the very best AMBASSADORS! (II Corinthians 5:20)

[2]Scripture references per: http://www.naves-topical-bible.com/UNITY.html

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Friday, May 29, 2009

Division 101

Think about it. When was the very first denomination founded? Was it in the 2nd century, the 3rd, the 15th? Actually, the very first denomination, the very first false religion was founded in the Garden of Eden! Satan convinced Eve, and then Adam, to found the very first denomination! Satan convinced the two of them to become apostate from the true and living God and found their own religion based on a satanic lie! The lie that their new “religion” was founded upon was the Satan’s statement that “…thou shalt not surely die.” (See Genesis 3) Satan has been in the denominational and false religion mode since that day in the garden!

Today, Satan is more aggressive than ever in the “denomination creation” department. Once each Western nation had its own denomination. Greece, Russia, Syria and Serbia had their own brands of Orthodoxy, Germany had Lutheranism, England had Anglicanism, Scotland had Presbyterianism, etc., etc. With the advent of religious liberty in America, denominations began centering, not on one’s nation, but upon one’s favorite culture or doctrine. We had Irish Catholics, French Catholics, Italian Catholics, Puritans, Quakers, Shakers, Adventists, Mormons, Witnesses, Methodists, Baptists, etc., etc. Now in post-modern and post-Christian America, any man or woman so inclined is starting there own personal religion! The new denominations in American are likely to be called “Such and So Community Church” or “Church of the New Life” or perhaps…to borrow a phrase… “The Church of What’s Happening Now.” Freightingly, each person in America can now have their own “private” religion based on the premise that “if” there is a God, He is a “good” God interested only in making each of us happy, content and wealthy. This “god” will not send any of us to hell as long as we are “comparatively better” than someone else we knew. This “god” grades on a “scale” as long as one is “searching” or is “sincere.” Heaven will be theirs unless they become a serial killer or are a former Nazi concentration camp guard.

That sums up the American view of denominationalism, but what do others think? The Russians, for example, have a completely different view of American denominationalism than we do. Today in Pravda we read the following regarding American denominationalism:

…their (America’s) faith in God was destroyed, until their churches, all tens of thousands of different "branches and denominations" were for the most part little more then Sunday circuses and their televangelists and top protestant mega preachers were more then happy to sell out their souls and flocks to be on the "winning" side of one pseudo Marxist politician or another. Their flocks may complain, but when explained that they would be on the "winning" side, their flocks were ever so quick to reject Christ in hopes for earthly power. Even our Holy Orthodox churches are scandalously liberalized in America.[1]

Quite a different perspective. Even more important…what does GOD think of denominationalism? God, in fact, wrote down His perspective on this subject! He left it for us to read in the Holy Bible. Here it is:

• Jesus promised to build but one church – Matthew 16:18
• On the very day His church was established, God added the saved to only one church – Acts 2:47
• Paul denounced four denominations that had cropped up in Corinth – I Corinthians 1:10ff
• Paul called (twice) “accursed” anyone, including an angel from heaven, that taught “another gospel” other than the one he had preached – Galatians 1:6-10

What shall we do, America? Division and discord among God’s people is something that God hates (Proverbs 6:16-19). Why not leave all of our preconceived notions at the door, open our Bibles and accept nothing more and nothing less than “thus saith the Lord?” Let’s believe what the infant church believed, practice what they practiced, live as they lived and become simply “Christians” as they were! Let’s hear the gospel (Romans 10:17), believe in Christ (John 6:47), repent of every sin (Luke 13:3), confess the Name of Christ before witnesses (Matthew 10:32), be baptized for the remission and forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), live faithfully from that moment on (I John 1:7) and spread this same gospel (Acts 8:4)![2] God is calling America to restoration! “Let’s roll!”


[1]Stansilav Mishin, “American Capitalism, Gone With a Whimper,” as reprinted in Pravda, May 29, 2009
Via: http://english.pravda.ru/opinion/columnists/107459-0/
[2]For more information on Christ and His church, click on: www.archdale.org/reasoningtogether.shtml

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Joy of Comforting (Others)

The book of Job teaches us many lessons. One of the most significant lessons is not found until the closing statements in the very last chapter. In Job 42, Job has repented of ever having challenged God as to “why” he suffered. God, in fact, never told Job why. Instead, when Job discovered who God REALLY is, his own questions regarding his circumstances paled in comparison with the glory and majesty of the Almighty. Though Job suffered much, he never gave up on his faith. In fact, God restored Job, not through “things” but through bringing comfort to others! Perhaps the most significant verse in the entire book is Job 42:10:

And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before.[1]

When Job finally took his eyes off of himself and his own physical distress and focused on the spiritual distress of his three friends…then God restored his good fortune that doubled his first situation! Job achieved JOY through COMFORTING others! So can we!

There is nothing in life more invigorating than comforting another person in their distress. Opportunities to comfort others will be remembered…with joy when they are done and with sorrow when they are not. Mark Twain put it this way:

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you
didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, Sail away
from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream.[2]

In the end, though, we must understand that true joy is elusive. Like happiness, it is a byproduct of the acts of one in total disregard of self. Joy cannot be obtained until it is given away. It can only be found when we quit seeking it. Joy is only received when we seek it, not for ourselves, but for others. Like Job, we must cease the focus upon circumstance and turn totally to the gratifying work of comforting others. There is an unlimited supply of people lacking in the much needed comfort of the gospel. C. S. Lewis reflects:

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.[3]

Our Lord put it best;

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.[4]

Let us go and do likewise and we will “find JOY in the morning!”

[1]The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA. All rights reserved. Job 42:10 [Emphasis added – RM]
[2]Via: http://angel-on-my-shoulder.com/comfortq3.html
[3]Via: http://thinkexist.com/quotations/comfort/
[4]The Holy Bible – English Standard Version, op. cit. Luke 4:18-19

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Joy of Restoration

Two years ago, Italy’s Sienna University conducted a survey regarding the decline of happiness among Americans. Combing through data collected from 1975 – 2004, the researchers discovered that Americans are far less happy today than thirty years ago. Why is that?

…while the average American paycheck had risen over the past 30 years, its happiness-boosting benefits were more than offset by a drop in the quality of relationships over the period.
"The main cause is a decline in the so-called social capital -- increased loneliness, increased perception of others as untrustworthy and unfair," said Stefano Bartolini, one of the authors of the study.
"Social contacts have worsened, people have less and less relationships among neighbors, relatives and friends.(1)

We must agree, that on some level, these findings are correct. As Christians, though, we must ask the question, “Is there a deeper and more significant cause of unhappiness among Americans?” What changes in our lives would actually cause us to REJOICE in our circumstances? Our brother Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit gives us the answer! In his concluding thoughts in II Corinthians 13, he tells us to “Finally, brothers, rejoice.” Rejoice in what, Paul?
1. “Aim for restoration”
2. “Comfort one another”
3. “Agree with one another”
4. “Live in peace” (2)

Over the next several weeks we will examine Paul’s prescription for a life of rejoicing. Today, we examine Paul’s request that we “aim for restoration.” Paul, among other things, was history’s very first restoration leader! Wait a minute Russ! Didn’t the Restoration Movement take place in the 18th and 19th century led by Stone, Campbell, Scott and others? Yes, these men did initiate “A” restoration, but they were far from the first! Paul, called for the “restoration of the ancient order” as early as ca. 49 a.d. in Galatians 1! Listen to his clarion call to “restore the gospel:”

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to another gospel – not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.(3)

Not long afterwards, Paul issued a similar appeal to restoration and unity to the Corinthian brethren in I Corinthians 1 when he taught against the dangers of denominationalism. In our quest for joy and happiness, we must begin by restoring the first principles of God’s will in our lives. We cannot dilute the gospel in anyway lest “we drift away from it.” (Hebrews 2:1) We must remain dedicated to the fact that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God,” (Romans 10:17) that everyone who would come to God must repent of every sin, (Acts 2:38) that everyone who would come to God must confess before witnesses the Name of Christ (Acts 8:37) and that everyone who would come to God must be baptized into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1ff).

Those who would relegate “restoration” to some kind of singular historical event in the 18th and 19th century are in error. Those who would say that, instead of being simply Christians, we are just part of the “Stone-Campbell Movement” are in error. Those who would say that the early American Christians were just dupes and robots of John Locke and other Enlightenment philosophers are in error. Paul enjoins us all (EVERY Christian in EVERY age) to continual “restoration” as our “aim.” By doing so, we have much cause to rejoice! Every individual Christian and every Christian generation must engage in it’s own “restoration movement.” Let us all rejoice as we “aim for restoration” and share that good news with a lost and dying generation that are seeking true and lasting happiness. Thank you, bro. Paul.


(1)Deepa Babington, “Americans Less Happy Today than 30 Years Ago – Study,” Reuters, Friday, June 15, 2007
(2)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2000, 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers, 1300 Crescent Street, Wheaton, IL 60187, USA All rights reserved, II Corinthians 3:11
(3)Ibid., Galatians 1:6-7
(4)For more information on the history of the Lord’s church through the ages, these two sources are quite valuable:
Mattox, F. W., The Eternal Kingdom – A History of the church of Christ, (Gospel Light Publishing Company, Delight, AK, 1961)
Powell, J. M., The Cause We Plead – A Story of the Restoration Movement, (21st Century Christian Publishing Co., Nashville, TN, 1987)

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Our First Family Reunion!

Remember those family reunions of summers gone by? Remember meeting your long lost aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews, nieces…not to mention those relatives “several times removed?” I always wondered who removed them and why? (I digress!) Keeping up with family members we rarely see can be challenging! What is NOT challenging is the fun, fellowship and love that we experience when we “all get together.” I remember the summer of 1977 when Nancy and I, married just 8 months, went to the Turnbull family reunion in Tacoma, WA. For the first time I understood the meaning of the word “slew,” as in, “a slew of relatives!” I also enjoyed for the first time fresh caught salmon cooked on a barbecue grill. What a feast! It was great! I’m sure you have had similar experiences. In many ways our families define who we are. More importantly, our spiritual family defines who we are, not only for now, but for all eternity!

We are, as Christians, all part of Abraham’s family as noted in Galatians 3:29: “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.” Pretty impressive! We can trace our family tree back some 4,000 years! The family of Abraham is the greatest family ever! What a blessing to be part of THAT family! When the family of Abraham, in the 3rd generation, had but 70 people…they had a reunion! What a reunion it was!

Because of the sin of the brothers of Joseph, the family had experienced decades of hurt, heartache and misery. Finally, when Judah and his brothers repented of the wrongs they had done to their brother by selling him into slavery and then lying about it to their father Jacob, the family was reunited down in Egypt! Joseph and Pharaoh treated our family to the very best Egypt had to offer…up to and including the entire land of Goshen! Three important lessons were experienced by God’s family (our family!) on that occasion, that repentance and obedience lead to God’s blessing, that thanksgiving is the key to God’s blessing and that we have all been given a ministry of blessing for others. Let's examine further:

1) REPENTANCE & OBEDIENCE LEAD TO GOD'S BLESSING - In Genesis 46 we learn that when Judah and his brothers repented of their sins against Joseph and Jacob, the blessings of God that had been dammed up for decades came gushing forth like water pouring through a broken dike! God took the family from famine to plenty, from the desert to Goshen and from guilt to forgiveness!

2) THANKSGIVING IS THE KEY TO GOD'S BLESSING - In Genesis 47:29-31 we find that the broken hearted Jacob, now at the end of his days, was finally able to worship God with a thankful heart. For years he had grieved his losses and his faith was blinded by circumstances. Now, after the repentance of his sons he could clearly see God’s will in his life and worshiped God upon learning that Joseph would grant his fondest wish…to be buried with the family in Canaan. He died 17 years later a thankful man.

3) GOD GIVES US ALL A MINISTRY OF BLESSING TO OTHERS - Finally, the family learns that their odyssey winds up being a blessing to them, to Pharaoh, to Egypt, to the entire known world at that time…and to all nations for all time! (Genesis 47:7-12) By preserving Jacob’s family through the faithfulness of Joseph, God sponsored this most wonderful family reunion! Through the suffering of the family of God, the family was preserved through the famine, the Egyptian nation was preserved through the famine and other nations were preserved through the famine. Most importantly, Judah was preserved for Jesus Christ to come into the world! In a most fascinating and wonderful way, God was thinking of you and I…way back then in our very first family reunion! You may ask, "Just what is my ministry of blessing today?" Jesus clearly tells us what it is in Matthew 28:1-20 - "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world." (ASV) The greatest thing about our "family reunion" is that we can invite any and everyone! Won't you join us at our next "reunion" next Lord's Day at the church of Christ? We will be looking for you!

For a FREE Bible Study e-mail : rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

When Was the Philippian Jailer Saved...And How?

A Roman jail was not a place anyone wanted to go. They were places where people went in…and never returned more often than not. You may recall the jail scenes in the movie Ben Hur for example. Not only were they dark, unsanitary and cruel, one was considered guilty until proven otherwise, most likely by the use of outside money and influence of a benevolent third party. To add insult to injury, the inhabitants of these jails were many times brutally beaten within an inch of their lives before they were thrown into prison. After a prisoners deposit into one of these pits, their only sustenance had to come from outside. All food, clothing and other life sustaining items had to come from the outside from family or friends.

All this describes the plight of Paul and Silas as they found themselves inside the Roman prison in Philippi. They were thrown into the jail after the locals rioted at the proclamation of the gospel. Denominational missionary W. P. Nicholson once said that “…when a mission was begun it was not long before they had either a riot or revival.” Such was the scene at Philippi upon the arrival of these two brave souls. After establishing the church of Christ in that city along the riverside with Lydia and her companions, Paul and Silas had “went to prayer” (Acts 16:9) and met a slave girl possessed “with a spirit of divination” who was aggressively used by her masters for “much profit by fortune telling.” This slave girl followed Paul and Silas “many days” proclaiming aloud that “these men are servants of the most high God, who proclaim to us the way of salvation.” Finally, Paul being “greatly annoyed”, cast the evil spirit out of her by the power of God. When her masters saw that their source of income was gone they stirred the locals to riot. (Acts 16:18-22) Such rioting caused the magistrates to come to the scene where “they tore off their (Paul and Silas) clothes and commanded that they be beat with rods.” Roman “justice” not only presumed guilt before innocence, it also instituted punishment before trial! Afterwards, Paul and Silas had their feet locked in stocks in the most secure area of the prison. Under normal circumstances, their lives would have been very short one way or the other. God, however, had other ideas!

As we all know from those wonderful summer VBS days of days gone by, Paul and Silas were praising God with prayers and hymns about midnight with the other prisoners as an attentive audience. Never, we suppose, had Roman prisoners heard such a response to an arrest, beating and imprisonment! While this was taking place, a great earthquake shook the place to the point that “all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were loosed.” What happened next was even more amazing!

The jailer, whose name is still unknown, was awakened. He saw that the doors of the prison were thrown open and he assumed the worst…the prisoners were all gone and he would be held responsible by Rome. Though the text does not tell us his motivation, he took out his sword and was about to kill himself. Seeing this about to take place, Paul “called out with a loud voice…”Do yourself no harm for we are all here!” At this point we come to one of the great question and answer interchanges in Scripture. “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” -- “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Wanting very much to “pound a round peg into a square hold,” much of the religious world today strives to point to this passage as a “salvation” passage that supports the Calvinist presupposition that salvation comes only from “faith alone through Christ alone.”

This passage teaches just the opposite! The jailer was NOT saved at this point! Let’s look at the facts: 1) The jailer had no knowledge of who Paul and Silas even were at the point of his question. Just minutes before they were just another couple of prisoners and he was comfortably asleep in the comfort of his bed. 2) The jailer had no idea who Jesus Christ was as he had never yet heard the gospel! 3) The jailer was stopped in the midst of a suicide attempt and was interested SOLELY in the preservation of his life, family and livelihood. His question regarding salvation, therefore, had to do…not with eternal salvation…but physical and career salvation. It is impossible, therefore, that the jailer was saved at this point for we know from Romans 10:17 that “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” No one has ever been saved prior to hearing the gospel, not then and not now.

Since the jailer was not saved at the point of this interchange, when was he saved? Let’s examine the continuing chain of events. 1) Paul and Silas, AFTER the exchange “spoke the Word of the Lord (the gospel) to him and all who were in his house.” (Acts 9:32) 2) The gospel was preached and believed for “in the same hour of the night he washed their stripes.” (Acts 9:33) 3) “Immediately (upon hearing the gospel) he and all his family were baptized.” (Acts 9:33)

The Philippian jailer was saved the same way everyone was or ever will be saved…by hearing, belief, repentance, confession and baptism. He and all his family were saved at the point of their baptism into Christ and not a moment before. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!

1) All quotations are from the New King James Version (KJV)
2) The W. P. Nicholson quote is from: http://www.evanwiggs.com/revival/portrait/nicholso.html

For a FREE Bible Study: e-mail: rmccull6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Response, Opportunity & Obedience in John 3:1-21

The restoration plea has always called us back to the Scriptures as they were first written. From the day our brother Paul penned I Corinthians 1:10fl until this very moment constitutes what we refer to as the Restoration Movement. God continually, through His Word, hearkens us back to what He said in the first place; clear, singular and plain truth. God “says what He means and means what He says!” When we presume to add to or take away from the Word we are found to be liars (Proverbs 30:6). Unfortunately, many continue to distort the very words of God.

A certain passage, perhaps more than any other, continues to be assaulted by those who would have God’s Word conform to their preconceived notions. That passage is John 3:16. Most recently it has been misapplied by a famous denominational author in a book entitled; 3:16. Since the time of Martin Luther and John Calvin, most Protestants have claimed that baptism is a “work of man” and therefore not necessary for salvation. (The Bible clearly identifies baptism as a work…a work of God as noted in Colossians 2:12). Based upon this false premise (that baptism is a work of man), the author of 3:16 replaces the “…should be saved” conditional language of the original Greek with the subjectively arrived at “shall be saved” contractual language of circular interpretation. Under this kind of devilish eisigesis, the universal opportunity of salvation upon responsive obedience morphs into the “assumed” universal “guarantee” of salvation for the non-responsive and non-obedient “believer” regarding the absolute necessity of baptism. (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Acts 22:16; Romans 6:1fl; et. al.) Few changes to God’s Word have rendered more damage over the years to the truth of the gospel.

A contextual look at John 3 will reveal that Jesus exegesis of Numbers 21:4-9 in John 3:14 is not only critical to the understanding of the entire John 3 passage, it is core, central and foundational to that understanding. Jesus teaches in John 3 that God’s Salvation requires a RESPONSE to an OPPORTUNITY through OBEDIENCE.

Though Satan twists the passage to teach a “faith only” pseudo-salvation, Jesus clearly teaches that “faith alone” will do as much to save one spiritually as “staying in the tent” saved the Israelites physically!

Non-response and non-obedience to God’s opportunity of salvation will leave one dead in their sins now, just as it did in the wilderness. Here is an exegetical outline highlighting Jesus’ teachings on this critical subject in John 3 in order as they are made:

1. John 3:3 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
2. John 3:5 – Jesus tells Nicodemus that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
A. When Christ had died on the cross a soldier pierced His side and “out flowed both blood and water.” – John 19:34
B. Christ came “by both blood and water.” – I John 5:6
C. Jesus shed his blood in his death.
D. We are baptized “into his death” (Romans 6:3)
E. There is “no remission (of sins) without the shedding of blood. “ – Hebrews 9:22
F. The Blood of Christ renders many gifts:
1) Propitiation – Romans 3:25
2) Justification – Romans 5:9
3) Salvation – Romans 5:9
4) Redemption – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
5) Forgiveness – Ephesians 1:7 & Colossians 1:4
6) Peace – Colossians 1:20
7) Reconciliation – Colossians 1:20
8) Remission – Hebrews 9:22
9) Sanctification – Hebrews 13:12
10) Cleansing – I John 1:7
G. The blood of Christ renders “remission (of sins).” – Hebrews 9:2
H. Baptism is for “the remission of sins.” – Acts 2:38
I. The Gift of the Holy Spirit is given ONLY in baptism – Acts 2:38
J. “Three” bear witness in the earth.” – I John 5:8
1) The Spirit
2) The Water
3) The Blood
a. These 3 are found together ONLY in Baptism and no where else!
K. NOTE on John 3:5 – The well know evangelical preacher John MacArthur et al assert that this passage could not possibly refer to water baptism for the church had not yet been established and Nicodemus could have had no knowledge of things to come. “IF” such were the case, then the entire gospel section of the New Testament applies ONLY to the Old Testament dispensation! In truth, the gospels contain the WILL of Chirst, His New Testament if you please. This WILL was read on the day of Pentecost and required both repentance and baptism for ALL persons of understanding there present. John 3:5 DOES refer to baptism for the remission of sins, regardless whether Nicodemus understood it or not and is the time, place and portal of salvation under the current Will of Christ.

3. John 3:9-13 – When Nicodemus asks the question (“How can these things be?”) Jesus replies with ALL the authority of the Godhead.
A. As “The” teacher of Israel, Jesus asserts that Nicodemus should have already been aware of Messianic prophesies in the Old Testament in the form of a rhetorical question.
B. “WE speak of what WE know, and bear witness to what WE have seen…” – If Nicodemus ever listened to anyone or anything…this is that time!
1) Jesus speaks with the authority of the triune Godhead.
C. Jesus speaks on His own singular authority as well as the “son of man.”
1) No one ever (except Jesus Christ) EVER did, or ever will, ascend and descend to and from heaven as He did.
D. These verses contain perhaps the most powerful introduction to any
statement in the entire Scripture! What follows next is the key verse
in the entire passage and essential to understanding the passage in
it’s proper context. In fact, ANY exposition of John 3 not hinging upon
John 3:14-15 will miss the message of salvation!
4. John 3:14 – “And as Moses…” are the three most important words in the entire passage. Jesus sets up a metaphoric parallel between the uplifted serpent and the soon to be uplifted Christ. In other words the physical salvation of physical Israel in the wilderness is a type, a shadow, of spiritual salvation of spiritual Israel. Salvation in the wilderness required a physical response to God’s free offer of salvation just as God’s free offer of spiritual salvation requires a physical response today. Jesus tells Nicodemus in the very strongest of terms (a direct message from the Triune God by way of the Son of Man) that Nicodemus (and us by extension) cannot understand what Christ says next in 3:16-17 until Nicodemus (and us by extension) grasps what Christ says in 3:14-15.
A. The word “as” is from the original kathos which, according to Strong’s means: “…according to which thing, that is, precisely as, in proportion as: - according to that, (inasmuch) as.”
1) By using kathos, Jesus makes clear the fact that we understand, comprehend and partake in our spiritual salvation “as” the Israelites in the wilderness understood, comprehended and partook in their physical salvation.
5. John 3:15 – Jesus here uses very specific language when discussing the opportunity for and response to the free gift of salvation just alluded to by the serpent / cross parallel.
A. “Whomsoever / Whoever” – The opportunity of salvation is universal and is offered to every person.
B. “Should / May” – The response, however, is conditional. Some will respond and be saved, others will not and be lost…JUST AS with the Israelites and the brazen serpent. All were offered salvation in the wilderness, not all took advantage of the free gift of life. The same parallel reigns true today, ALL are offered salvation…some respond to it, some reject it. The language is clearly conditional when these words are chosen. Mere belief without response is not sufficient as it was not sufficient in the wilderness…those who stayed in their tents perished. “Just as….”
6. John 3:16 – The world’s most beloved verse…for all the wrong reasons.
A. God DOES love the world enough to send His only begotten Son that…
1) “Whosoever / Whoever” – The opportunity for salvation is universal and open for all.
2) “Should / May” – The response Jesus referred to in vs. 14 and 15 requires responsive action “just as” the Israelites in the desert had to physically respond to God’s free gift of life…
a. They had to move out of their tents far enough to actually look upon the brazen serpent to complete their obedience and be saved from physical death.
b. In like manner, (“And as Moses..”) we must contact the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism (water and spirit of vs. 5) where “the Spirit and water and the blood bear witness in the earth” for “life is in the blood.” (Leviticus 17:11) Jesus Christ shed his blood in his death, into which we are baptized, for “without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” (Hebrews 9:22)
c. Jesus’ language here to Nicodemus is not contractual in a quid quo pro kind of way with God, it is conditional upon a proper physical response…just as in the desert.
7. John 3:17 – “…in order that the world through Him might be saved.”
A. Again, the language of salvation used by Jesus to Nicodemus is conditional.
8. John 3:18 – “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned…”
A. As the Israelites “belief” in the desert required a response, so does the belief Jesus is relaying (the new birth) to Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
1) Belief and obedience are synonymous
a. “He that believeth on the Son hath eternal life; but he that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him.” – John 3:36 (ASV)
A) Believeth – pisteuo – “…to entrust, commit…”
B) Obeyeth – apeitheo – “…to disbelieve, disobedient, obey not, unbelieving…”
1. Belief and obedience are synonymous as are faith and works (James 2:14-26)
a) Repentance cannot be achieved and validated without baptism (Acts 2:38)
b) Forgiveness of sins cannot be achieved without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
c) The Gift of the Holy Spirit cannot be received without both repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38)
9. John 3:19 – Judgment is that Light has come into the world and the people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.
A. Evil deeds = darkness
10. John 3:20 – Evil deeds mean two things:
A. Evil deeds = a hater of the light
B. Evil deeds = will not take one to the light
C. Why?
1) So evil deeds will not be exposed by the light
11. John 3:21 – True deeds mean one thing
A. True deeds take one to the light
B. Why?
1) So that it will be clearly seen that “his works have been carried out in God.”
12. Conclusion of John 3:19-21:
A. Belief…true belief that is both intellectual and responsive…is required of Nicodemus, and by extension, you and I.
B. Evil deeds condemn
C. True deeds save.

The conclusion of the entire passage is that God’s free gift of salvation, just as it was with Moses and the children of Israel in the wilderness, requires a RESPONSE to the message. The message of salvation is an OPPORTUNITY that can be accepted or rejected. The proper RESPONSE to the OPPORTUNITY is OBEDIENCE. OBEDIENCE requires that a person must be “born again of both the water and the spirit.” Jesus came by both “blood and water.” We access the saving blood of Christ in the waters of baptism. OBEDIENCE to both repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that takes us to the light. One cannot be saved without OBEDIENCE to the commands of Christ which includes baptism. Repentance and baptism is a “true deed” that RESPONDS to the OPPORTUNITY of salvation in complete OBEDIENCE. Thank God for the inquiry of Nicodemus!

Russ McCullough
8 April 2009 – Charlotte, NC

For a FREE Bible Study: e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

10 Things America Needs to Know...NOW

A Tale of Two Cities begins with the phrase, “it was the best of times and the worst of times.” We could say the same for The Year of our Lord 2009. (Perhaps our problems began when we quit using the phrase, “in the year of our Lord.”)

Our times are the “best” because, no matter how bad things get, we still get to weather the recession in America instead of somewhere else in the world. What a huge blessing! ”Thank You, God!” Though we have lost much, none of us are sifting through a garbage dump somewhere in the third world looking for a scrap of food to eat today in order not to die tomorrow. I’ve seen that with my own eyes and those scenes are burned in my memory. People elsewhere would fight to the death to get at what you and I put down the disposal every night. Our garden sheds would pass for luxury housing in many parts of the world.

Our times are the “worst” for we find ourselves within the most serious economic crisis, some say even more so, since the Great Depression of 1929-1941. Homes, jobs and fortunes in staggering numbers have simply vanished since last September. Economists, politicians and journalists are scrambling to find an “economic silver bullet.” Even more argue over who to “blame” for our current malaise. These “experts” are pouring over spread sheets in near panic to find that elusive “switch” to turn the economic machine back on.

Regardless as to the symptoms of this latest crisis and regardless of our own individual circumstances…we would do well to understand that our crisis is far more spiritual than economic. Though not primarily a book on economics the Bible contains pure truth revealed by God Himself. He speaks to economics as well as many other subjects. We would be wise to both hear and do what He says! Consider these truths as we all ponder our own economic circumstances:

1. God creates wealth, not the Federal Reserve – Deuteronomy 8:18
2. Just one soul exceeds the value of everything else – Matthew 16:26
3. Debt is slavery – Proverbs 22:7
4. Prosperity is not our top priority – Matthew 6:33
5. Life does not consist of the abundance of one’s possessions – Luke 12:15
6. There is more value in the giving than in the receiving – Acts 20:35
7. Subsidizing the idle is wrong – II Thessalonians 3:10
8. Look to God for your substance, not the government – Genesis 14:22-24
9. Greed is not good, in fact, it is idolatry – Colossians 3:5
10. Sin is our greatest national problem…by far – Proverbs 13:44

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8 (Websters 1833 Bible, courtesy www.e-sword.com, (emphasis added - RM)

For a FREE Bible study - e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Are You an "Ice" or an "Ex?"

There is a world war being fought with renewed intensity these days. It is a war, not of guns and bullets, but one of truth and error. This war began in the second century and continues to this very moment. It is a war of biblical interpretation.

The Scripture is very clear about what it is and how it is to be interpreted. Two passages come quickly to mind:

II Peter 1:19-21 – We have also a more sure word of prophecy; to which ye do well that ye take heed, as to a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day-star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (American Standard Version(ASV)

II Timothy 3:16-17 – All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works. (ASV)

These verses are saliently clear, ALL Scripture is inspired of God and Scripture is not to be interpreted according to one’s own emotions, feelings or opinions. This was the un-contested understanding of the early church. However, near the end of the 2nd century, this began to change. Origen of Alexandria began to teach that the Scripture had “multiple meanings” and that each person could “interpret” each Scripture “allegorically,” i.e. according to their own individual experiences. This philosophy, grounded in the pagan Homeric Greek philosophy of Plato, took hold in the apostate church and holds sway to this very day. It is a philosophy embraced by the Roman Catholic Church and “emergent” theologians such as Brian McLaren. It is a man centered philosophy that essentially places God in a secondary position in the search for and the establishment of truth. Mechanically, this “allegorical method” is one that looks inside the Sacred Writ and allows the seeker to “pour in” his or her own “meaning” into the passage. The “truth” that is therefore “discovered” is of the making of the seeker and in the “image” of man. This is what Paul warned of in Romans 1:25 when the “interpreters” of his day…”changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshiped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” (Webster' 1833 Bible) This madness is known to us today as eisigesis (ice-a-gee-sis). A relative new term coined ca. 1878, eisigesis is defined as;

“The interpretation of a text…by reading into it one’s own ideas.” (Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary, (Merriam-Webster, Inc. Publishers, Springfield, MA, 1991), pg. 399)

To coin a phrase, for one to embrace eisigesis in the pursuit of truth would lead one’s search for salvation onto the “thin ice.” Eisigesis has brought us everything from 2nd century Gnosticism to 19th century liberalism to the so-called “Emergent church” of today. The process takes one in circles, always searching and yet never finding. Eisigesis allowed King Saul to rationalize keeping alive the king of Amalek as well as the best of the herds and flocks instead of utterly destroying them as God had clearly commanded in I Samuel 15. Today, eisigesis allows men and women to rationalize all kinds of things un-biblical though the Scripture clearly teaches that additions and subtractions to God’s Word are strictly forbidden as we see in Proverbs 30:6.

There we are enjoined to “…not add to His words or He will rebuke you and prove you to be a liar.” (Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.)

On the other hand, those who wish to honor God and move “neither to the right or to the left,” view Scripture from an exegesis [ex-a-gee-sis (“ex” – out of)] basis. Exegesis is what Jesus Christ referred to as “having ears to hear.” It is the mindset that instead of injecting our own opinions into the Scripture, we humbly extract God’s will for us from the Scripture without question or argument. The exegete is totally subservient to his or her Lord and Master’s Word, the final say in the on-going war of biblical interpretation. In I Samuel 15, Samuel was the exegete while Saul was the eisigete. Samuel is now honored among the faithful while Saul was removed from the throne of Israel. Just how we interpret God’s Word has the most serious of consequences.

Eisigesis views the Word of God as a collection of “stories, historical fiction and fables” to be “interpreted” via one’s own life’s experiences rendering God a god of “confusion” and “contradiction.” It produces a foundation of sand causing both spiritual collapse and spiritual death. The end of eisigesis is unbelief and the end of unbelief is death eternal.

Exegesis views the Word of God as 100% “God breathed,” “Holy Spirit inspired” and is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (Websters 1833 Bible, op. cit., II Timothy 3:16) It has nothing to do with our own life’s experiences, opinions or conjectures. It is not influenced by circumstance or any kind of pragmatically conceived benefit. It produces a foundation of rock solid faith rendering both spiritual stability and spiritual life. The end of exegesis is belief and the end of belief is life eternal.

So dear reader, which are you, an “ice” or an “ex?” Heaven and hell anxiously await your response.

For a FREE Bible Study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Towards Salvation or Resulting in Salvation? - An Analysis of Romans 10:9-10

Paul speaks of the fact that "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth" in Romans 10:4 (KJV). Words mean things. When we read the word "end," we naturally think of the conclusion, termination or cessation of a matter. Not knowing otherwise, we might interpret this verse to mean that belief in Christ results in righteousness i.e. salvation. However, the word "end" in this verse is the Greek word telos, "...the result of a state or process," according to Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

The concept of the word "end" meaning "process" is supported by the use of the word "believeth" in the original text. In Young's Literal Translation, this verse is rendered: "For Christ is an end of law for righteousness to every one who is believing, ..." Paul continues in this same vein five verses later in Romans 10:11 where he states again; `Every one who is believing on him shall not be ashamed,...' The phrase, who is believing, indicates an on-going process not the final conclusion of a matter.

We can conclude, therefore, that "believeth" is part of a salvation "process" and not the "completion" of salvation as many would have us to allegorically assume.

You may now ask; "Just what does all of this have to do with the subject at hand?" Simply this: for those who would view the word "end" as a destination, the same would view both "belief" and "confession" in Romans 10:9-10 as resulting in salvation, NOT part of a not-yet-completed process. But they, dear reader, would be in error should they view it so.

There is much mistranslation of these verses in multiple versions. Said mis-translations are due to the fact that many versions are translated (interpreted) by scholars whose theology is driven by the Reformed, Calvinistic and Evangelical tradition. Romans 10:9-10’s treatment by many translators reveals a “theological tail” wagging the “theological dog” in rendering the original meaning of these two key verses. A brief review of how vs. 10 in handeld. Instead of believeth unto righteousness and confession is made unto salvation, we have:

* In the usually accurate English Standard Version: "...one believes and is justified," and "one confesses and is saved."
* The also usually accurate New American Standard Bible says, "resulting in righteousness" and "resulting in salvation."
* The rarely accurate so-called "dynamic equivilence" New International Version says, "are justified" and "are saved."
* The darling of the modern day "Alexandrian School," the Enlish Majority Text Version says, "resulting in righteousness" and "resulting in salvation."

Many versions, however, render this passage correctly such as the American Standard Version of 1901:

Rom 10:9 & 10 – “…because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved:
for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. “

The original language texts use the Greek word eis which corresponds in English to our word unto. “Unto” (eis) is defined by Strong’s as “…expressing motion.” In other words, in Romans 10:10, both belief and confession are “flowing towards” a goal not yet achieved. We come now to the crux of the matter. Since belief and confession do not result in salvation, when and how is salvation achieved? Paul quickly tells us in vs. 13:

Rom 10:13 “…for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” KJV

There we have it. We are saved (past tense) once we have “called on the name of the Lord.” Peter proclaimed at Pentecost that this would take place (Acts 2:21). Paul himself clarifies what “calling on the name of the Lord” is…it is baptism! He clearly states in Acts 22:16, in his own account of his own conversion, that this is so:

Act 22:16 “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” - KJV

In conclusion, Paul clearly teaches the necessity of baptism for salvation in Romans 10…contrary to the teachings of the vast majority of the denominational world. Our challenge is great is this vast sea of lostness but “God is for us and who can be against us?”

For a FREE Bible study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Dreams Are Expensive!

Dreams are expensive! Martin Luther King dreamed that one day his children would be judged, not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. He died for that dream. Abraham Lincoln dreamed of a post Civil War America that embraced malice towards none and charity towards all. He died for that dream. Col. Sanders dreamed of success in business that eluded him until he was 65 years old. In the Old Testament Joseph dreamed that he would one day be a leader of men. He was sold into slavery and assumed dead for years for that dream. The Kenny Rogers song opines with the words; “Don’t fall in love with a dreamer!” School children are berated for “day dreaming” by their teachers.

Yes, dreams are indeed expensive! However, as Walt Disney taught us, “dreams do come true!” Our founding fathers dreamed of a new nation where “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” They pledged their “lives, fortunes and sacred honor” to see the dream of liberty come true. The list is endless. President Roosevelt dreamed of winning World War II. We did. President Kennedy dreamed of putting a man on the moon before 1970. We did. President Reagan dreamed of defeating communism without war. We did. Henry Ford dreamed of assembly lines producing increasing number of goods at ever decreasing prices made by workers paid at every increasing wages. He saw that dream fulfilled.

We might think…WHO is the biggest dreamer of all? Who dreamed the most fantastic dream of all time? It was God! “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whosoever should believe in Him should not perish but have everlasting life!” (John 3:16) His dream is not just for a few, not just for many, not just for a majority…but for EVERYONE! Peter tells us in II Peter 3:9 that “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.” God’s big dream of atonement is FAR from “limited!”

Isn’t it GREAT to be the OBJECT of the greatest dream of all history? Our God is a dreamer of expensive dreams! How about you and me? Let’s dream BIG for our God this year! You might ask; “Just how do I become a recipient of God’s great dream?” His instructions are clear, simple and easily identifiable. One must BELIEVE in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), REPENT of all past sins (Luke 13:3), CONFESS that Jesus Christ is the Son of God before witnesses (Matthew 10:32), be BAPTIZED for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) and LIVE FAITHFULLY towards God from that point forward (I John 1:7).

Friends, we must not neglect such a great salvation! (Hebrews 2:3)

For a FREE Bible study, e-mail: rmcculls6@bellsouth.net!

Thy Kingdom Come - The Truth About the Rapture - The Introduction

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