All posts by BradleyCobb

That Big Announcement you were waiting on

Our friend and brother, Mark McWhorter, is a really interesting guy.  Not only did he grow up in Marion, IL (as did I), and was baptized there (as was I), and left there (as did I), he also has a great sense of humor (as do I), and spent three decades as the assistant to the premiere heart surgeon in the world (as did… wait, no, nevermind).

One of the things that Mark does is buy books.  And I don’t just mean a book here and there, I mean he buys entire libraries from Christians when they are trying to downsize, or after a preacher has passed away.  So he has come across some really interesting volumes.

Several years ago, after the death of James D. Bales (you saw the freebie by him yesterday, right?), Mark was able to procure several boxes of books and personal effects from Bales’ library and office.  And that’s where our big announcement begins…

Bales was an avid researcher.  His writings were filled with evidence to prove his points, whether he was talking about Jesus Christ, Communism, Martin Luther King Jr. (yes, he wrote a book about him), or a plethora of other topics.

Among the things Mark acquired were some typewritten pages.  Several typewritten pages.  Hundreds of typewritten pages.  And many of them were books–books which have never seen the light of day, because James Bales wrote them, but never published them.

Over the next few months, thanks to the generosity of our friend Mark, some of these previously unpublished books (some short, some longer) will be made available.  Some of them will be sold as digital editions (99 cents), some of them will be FREE downloads in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary, and some of them will be available in print (like one on the Messiah’s Mission, which deals a lot with premillennialism).  We will let you know when those are available as well.

Look for the first new James Bales item next week (and in the meantime, look for some other freebies tomorrow, and Wednesday, and Thursday, and Friday!).

Tell your friends.

-Bradley S. Cobb

So, we’ve missed a month… have a gift on us.

I’m sure you’ve noticed, but we haven’t posted anything new for about a month now.  I could rattle off a lot of different things that have happened which kept me from getting things done here, but the gist of it is that we’ve been swamped with life, work, and death here locally.  And with everything going on, pressing for my time and attention, something had to give for a while, and posting new material here was the victim.

But we’re back!

So, today we’ve got a new freebie for you, and tomorrow we’ve got a GREAT BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

I’m really trying to hold my tongue (so to speak) on what we’ve got in the works (and it involves some material that has never before been available ANYWHERE–and some of it is going to be free!).  So, please check back in tomorrow for the big announcement!

Today’s freebie is pertinent, considering the political divide in our country.  One one side, you have people calling capitalism and free enterprise “evil,” and on the other side, you have people who point to Socialism as “evil.”

In 1951, Dr. James D. Bales presented a lecture at Harding College, entitled “Christ and the Problem of Private Ownership of Property in the Present-Day World.”  In this lecture, Bales addresses the biblical evidence regarding ownership of property, and shows how it applies to the economic systems of Free Enterprise and Socialism, and shows which system fits with biblical commands.

We have taken the time to proofread and reformat this lecture for you, just like always!  To read online, or to download for later perusal, simply click the link below!

The Right of Private Property (James D. Bales)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Freebies for the New Year

First, allow me to apologize.  The day after Christmas, I wrote that a book called “Origin of the Disciples of Christ” was available as a free download in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.  Well, I meant for it to be there, but apparently I didn’t get it done.

It is there now (look under “Restoration Movement”).

But there are also a couple other free books added to the Library, that I want to tell you about.  And these might seem strange, so I’m telling you about them now, so you’ll understand why we are posting them.

First, there is a book called “A History of the Rise and Progress of the Baptists in Virginia.”  It was originally written in 1809, and then updated in 1894 (or thereabouts).  It gives some of the history of a man named Jacob Creath Sr., who later left the Baptist Church to simply be a Christian.  His nephew, Jacob Creath Jr., is one of the best-known gospel preachers of the second half of the 1800s.

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In addition to Mr. Creath, there is random mentions of others who left the Baptist Church to join “the Reformers” or “the views of A. Campbell.”  That is, some of the men described in this book left the Baptist Church in order to simply follow the Bible, and become a Christian as those in the Bible did.

Also, and this is perhaps the most interesting feature of this book, it gives some tidbits about the doctrinal stances of many of the first Baptist Churches in Virginia.  And this may surprise you.  Most of them were decidedly not Calvinistic at all.  They rejected the idea of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit, and asked men to respond to the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Not only that, but several times in this book, allusion is made to baptism being required in order to be made right with God.  That is, it sure reads like they taught baptism was for the remission of sins, in order to be saved.

Secondly, there is a book titled “A History of the Baptists in the Middle States,” by Henry C. Vedder. You might start scratching your head here, too, but let me explain.

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In this book, there is a chapter on controversies, and the first half is dedicated to the Restoration Movement’s effect on the Baptist Church in the 1820s and 30s.  For the most part, Mr. Vedder is fair with the discussion, even stating that his Baptist brethren were ignorant for taking issue with Alexander Campbell’s Sermon on the Law (which can be found in Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union, also free in the Jimmie Beller library).

In addition, he mentions very plainly that the first Baptist Churches in New York were very anti-Calvinistic as well.

It is very interesting that the Baptist churches of today in those areas are descended from men who they would call heretics.  But it may just be the other way around…

Both of these books can be found in the “Church History” section of the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Quarterly has Arrived!

You probably remember a few months ago that we made the announcement of a new publication, called The Quarterly.  In fact, we even made the Preview Edition available as a free download.  Now, we want to share the news with you…

The first official issue of the Quarterly is now available!

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ARTICLES INCLUDE:

  • Editorial: An Important Note
  • Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Loren Gieger
  • Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Stafford North
  • Equipping (Jim Mitchell)
  • The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles (Kyle Frank)
  • Elders in the Old Testament (Richard Mansel)
  • I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Strengtheneth Me (Roderick Ross)
  • Not Always Roaring… (Bill Howard)
  • Restoration Moments: The Conversion of Blue Dick (William Baxter)
  • Divine Peace (Jake Schotter)
  • The Parable of the Lighted Candle (Devin Self)
  • CHRISTIANS: Different Cultures, Different Races, Different Generations, Different People (Joseph T. McWhorter)
  • Biblical Biography: Barnabas (Bradley S. Cobb)
  • Quotes
  • What Ever Happened to Shepherding? (Jamie Beller)
  • Paul Darst: A Novel (Daniel R. Lucas)
  • Funny and Not-So-Funny Events in the Life of Elijah Martindale (Elijah Martindale and Bradley S. Cobb)
  • Poetry Corner (Deserae Cobb)
  • Sons and Daughters of Encouragement (Gerald Cowan)
  • Tabernacle Shadows (Mark McWhorter)
  • Preparing Yourself to Conduct Bible Studies (James Sims Sr.)
  • Hospitality Revisited (Perry Hall)
  • The Practical Atheist (Gantt Carter)
  • Book Review: Bobby Gayton’s My Thorn in the Flesh: A Vietnam Veteran Speaks about PTSD and the Bible (William Howard)
  • Bible Q&A: What was Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh”? (Bradley S. Cobb)
  • Children’s Puzzle Page: WHO AM I? (Questions from the Book of Esther)

If you already subscribe, then look for your copy to arrive this week.  If you don’t already subscribe, but want to, you can do that here.  If you want just a single issue, you can get it on Amazon by clicking here.

Thanks for all your support and for reading what we have to write!  There will be more real articles coming soon!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Post-Christmas Freebies

We’ve got some new free stuff for you!

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This book contains the most important documents of the early Restoration Movement writers, as well as a couple second and third generation writings.

*The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery (Barton W. Stone)
*The Declaration and Address (Thomas Campbell)
*The Sermon on the Law (Alexander Campbell)
*Our Position (Isaac Errett)
*The World’s Need of Our Plea (J.H. Garrison)

Also included are introductions to each document/writer by Charles A. Young.

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William Whitsitt was a Baptist professor whose stated purpose was to prove that the church of Christ (known popularly as “the Disciples of Christ”) was nothing more than the offspring of the Sandemanians, a group which Baptists and some others had labelled as heretics years earlier.  George W. Longan, a preacher of the gospel, wrote a book of in reply, exposing the ludicrous reasoning (if such it could be called) of Whitsitt, and made it abundantly clear by also including scathing reviews of Whitsitt’s book–reviews that were written by his own Baptist brethren!

Updated, with a whole bunch of brand-new footnotes by yours truly.

BOTH of these books are now available in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary (look under the “Restoration Movement” heading).

-Bradley S. Cobb

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Eleven)

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Paul’s Second Missionary Journey (part one)

The Conflict over John Mark

Paul, always concerned about the spiritual welfare of his brethren in Christ, approaches Barnabas one day with a great idea—Let’s go back and check on all the brethren in the cities we stopped at during our mission trip!  Barnabas was ready to go, and decided they should take John Mark.  Paul was incredulous.  Are you serious?  I’m not going to ask the church to help support someone untrustworthy like him. I know he’s your cousin, but we’re not taking him along!1 Paul was so adamant about not taking Mark along that he and Barnabas—who had been partners in the work for perhaps five years or more—stopped working together at all.2

After Barnabas left with Mark to Cyprus to strengthen the churches he and Paul had planted there, Paul chose Silas, a brother from Jerusalem who had accompanied him to Antioch with the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem.  Together, with the aid and blessing of the church in Antioch, they went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the congregations.3

Circumcision

Traveling over land, Paul returned to Derbe and Lystra—the latter being the place where an angry mob stoned him nearly to death.  In Lystra, Paul found a young disciple named Timothy who was already well-known and well-respected in both Lystra and Iconium (both places where Paul was heavily persecuted).4  This young man would end up being one of Paul’s closest companions and friends for the rest of his life.

In a completely PR5 move, Paul took Timothy (a half-Jew) and circumcised him.  He did this so that Timothy could have more influence with the Jews, access to speaking in their synagogues, and to show Timothy’s respect for the Law of Moses.  But at the same time, Paul shared the letter from the apostles and elders in Jerusalem, saying that Gentiles had no obligation to submit to any part of the Law of Moses.  Because of the clear instructions and expectations for the Gentiles, and the show of respect to the Law for the Jews, Paul became all things to all men, and the church grew daily.6

The Macedonian Call

Paul, along with Silas, Timothy, and perhaps some others, traveled and preached through Phrygia7 and Galatia.8  He really wanted to go to the province of Asia (which included the massive city of Ephesus), but the Holy Spirit had other plans for him and told him not to go at that time.9 So instead, Paul heads north through the area of Mysia,10 and planned to enter the province of Bithynia, but again the Holy Spirit had other plans, and told him not to go there.11  So, instead, Paul and company went down toward the seaport city of Troas, where he met a doctor named Luke.12

While in Troas, Paul received a vision from the Lord: he saw a man from Macedonia begging him to “Come over into Macedonia and help us.”  Immediately, he described the vision to Silas, Timothy, and Luke, and they all agreed that this was what God wanted, so they made plans to sail to Macedonia to preach the gospel.13

Bradley S. Cobb

1 Colossians 4:10, NKJV.  The KJV says that Mark is “sister’s son,” or nephew to Barnabas, but the Greek work means “cousin,” and is so translated in every major translation of the past 150 years (ASV, NKJV, RSV, ESV, NASB, MLV, etc.).  The word eventually took on the sense of “nephew,” but not until many years after the New Testament was completed, according to Robertson, Vincent, B.W. Johnson, and others.

2 Acts 15:36-39.  They worked together for a year in Antioch before making the trip to Jerusalem with aid for the churches in Judea; upon returning (no length of time is given for this mission), they worked again in Antioch until they were sent on their missionary journey, which took at least a year (most estimate it as 1½ to 2 years); they came back to Antioch and remained there a “long time” before the circumcision controversy raised its ugly head; they went to Jerusalem, preaching along the way; they returned from Jerusalem, and “continued in Antioch”; and it was “some days” later that Paul made the suggestion of leaving.

3 On the first missionary journey, Paul had sailed to Cyprus, and then after crossing the island, sailed to Asia Minor.  On the second journey, since Barnabas had gone to Cyprus, Paul took the land route to Asia Minor, visiting congregations that he apparently planted, but which are not mentioned by Luke in the book of Acts.  Luke’s purpose in writing did not include giving Paul’s every movement, but to give the history of the establishment of the church and the spread of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, and perhaps also as an aid for Paul’s legal defense before Caesar, showing his innocence in the matters of which he was accused.  So it shouldn’t be a concern that no mention was made of Paul and Barnabas visiting cities in Cilicia and Syria and planting the church there.

4 Acts 16:1-2.  This indicates that Timothy had been working with the churches in both cities, probably preaching.

5 Public relations.

6 Acts 16:3-5.

7 Acts 16:6.  Phrygia is in Central Asia Minor.

8 Acts 16:6.  “Galatia” was used two ways in the first century.  One referred to the Roman province, and the other to a larger area describing the people who lived in that area, including the cities of Antioch of Pisidia, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe.  Luke is using “Galatia” to describe the Roman province, which was to the north.  This is certain because it was after leaving Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe (ethnic Galatia) that Luke records them visiting Galatia.

9 Acts 16:6.  It is important to note that Paul wasn’t forbidden to ever enter Asia—he did go there later on during this very missionary journey, and stayed there for three years.  For a more detailed discussion of this forbidding, see this author’s book, The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, comments on this passage.

10 Acts 16:7.  Mysia is a Roman colony, never becoming an official province, that was at the north end of the province of Asia, along the Mediterranean Sea, and bordered the province of Bithynia.  Troas was the chief city in this region.  See Robertson’s Word Pictures on Acts 16:8.

11 Acts 16:7.  Bithynia was a Roman province in the northwestern corner of Asia Minor.  The Holy Spirit (some Greek manuscripts have “the Spirit of Jesus”) forbade Paul to go evangelize there, but it wasn’t because God didn’t want the gospel spread there.  1 Peter 1:1-2 shows that someone had gone to Bithynia and evangelized, and that many were converted.  In AD 110-115, Pliny became governor of Bithynia, and in a letter to the emperor Trajan, wrote that there were many Christians in the area, to the point where most of the heathen temples had been abandoned.  See International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Bithynia.”

12 The pronouns “they” and “them” are used until Paul arrives at Troas.  Once Paul is in Troas, Luke starts using the pronouns “we” and “us” (see Acts 16:10), showing that he is now part of their company.  The details of their first meeting and Luke’s conversion (most likely by Paul), we are not permitted to know, for this historian kept himself out of his writings as much as possible.  Luke is called “the beloved physician” in Colossians 4:14.  See the section in chapter one on the “Companions of Titus” for a fuller discussion of Luke.

13 Acts 16:10.  The phrase “assuredly gathering” (KJV) means they all came to the same conclusion.  Luke uses the pronoun “we,” showing that it was the group that came to the conclusion, and the group that made plans to leave for Macedonia.  Obviously, it was at Paul’s urging, but they were all in agreement.

This… is why we’ve been so quiet here lately

We’ve been trying to keep our lips sealed as much as possible, but we’ve finally decided it is time to break the silence.

Over the past couple months (and it is still ongoing), we’ve been working on several projects, and we want to tell you about some of them today!

Bible Broadband

This book, written by our good friend, Stephane (“Stefan”) Maillet, creator of AddedSouls.com, and the “Added to the church of Christ (Acts 2:47)” Facebook page, is a brief collection of tips and tactics for effectively reaching people with the gospel via social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.).  Interspersed throughout the 52-page book are actual messages these endeavors have received from people he’s never met in person, showing the impact that one can have for Christ through this medium.

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100% of the profits from the sale of this book go to help this worthy and dedicated Canadian preacher in his efforts for Jesus Christ.

Paperback, $6.99
digital, $2.99

Evenings with the Bible

This three-volume collection of in-depth Bible studies, full of practical application and encouragement for a deeper faith in God, Christ, and the Bible, is now available in a brand-new, updated, corrected, and fully-reformatted edition, complete with new explanatory footnotes for any obscure or archaic words.evenings01front evenings02front evenings03front

Volume 1: Genesis through Solomon
Volume 2: Rehoboam through Esther
Volume 3: John the Baptist, the early life and ministry of Jesus, and the characteristics of Christianity.

Each book is approximately 280 pages, and will be officially released January 3rd, but we are taking pre-orders now.

3-Volume Set (paperback): $24.00 (Regularly $32.00)
Digital 3-Volume set: $7.00 (Regularly $12.99)

Recollections of Men of Faith

This is a Restoration Movement book unlike any other.  Stories, incidents, anecdotes (humorous and not-so-humorous), and reflections on pioneer preachers, written by someone who knew and traveled with them.  Why did Alexander Campbell request tobacco before speaking?  Why was B.F. Hall afraid of cats in the worship? Why did John T. Johnson tell a group of girls not to be interested in a young preacher who was traveling with him?  What caused Jacob Creath to break down in tears in the forest?  These and many other interesting tidbits are revealed in this book by W. C. Rogers.

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194 pages, completely updated, corrected, reformatted, and includes explanatory footnotes where necessary.

Officially available January 3rd, this book is now available for pre-order.

Paperback: $8.95 (Regularly $10.95)
Digital: $2.99 (Regularly $5.99)

Dawn of the Reformation in Missouri

This book chronicles the rise of the Restoration Movement (which they then called “The Present Reformation”) in the state of Missouri, and gives biographical sketches of several well-known servants of the Lord, but also some others who are not as well-known.  In its 36 chapters (not counting the introductory section on the history of Missouri), well over 50 faithful gospel preachers are covered.  This book is quite encouraging in showing what men of God went through to bring souls to Jesus Christ, and gives great examples for faithfulness and devotion to God that we would do well to emulate.

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Officially Available January 24th, this 339-page book is also available for pre-order at a discounted price!

Paperback: $9.95 (Regularly $13.99)
Digital: $3.99 (Regularly $5.99)

Other Projects

In addition to these projects above, work is still ongoing on our book, Who Were the Apostles? as well as on our book on Revelation, our Sermon Commentary on Mark, and the first issue of the Quarterly.

That, and about 19 more projects that we hope to have finished and available by the end of January.  Look for more announcements in the coming days and weeks.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions.

Bradley S. Cobb

Kill the Cat!

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The following anecdote is taken from Recollections of Men of Faith, by W.C. Rogers (soon to be in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary, as well as in print from Cobb Publishing).  This is from the chapter on B.F. Hall.  Enjoy!

One night he (B.F. Hall) was much disturbed in the beginning and during the delivery of his discourse. A white cat had noiselessly, and no doubt innocently, followed someone into the meeting-house, and just as the Doctor entered the pulpit he spied the unfortunate truant. Immediately, and with much ado, he ordered that the cat be thrust out from among the good people who had come together to hear him preach, alleging, with more or less emphasis, that he could not possibly preach if he even knew that a cat was in the house, although it might be hid; that he hated cats and dogs immensely. A dear brother snatched poor pussycat, and, notwithstanding it may have wanted a corner ever so much, he flung it out the door violently, and as a presumptuous intruder.

When the Doctor took his text and began speaking, he seemed to be unhinged — altogether or largely out of kilter. He appeared to be thinking of the cat, fearing that it might make its appearance while he was engaged in preaching. And, sure enough, he heard the fatal mew. Stopping suddenly, snapping his eyes in a peculiar manner, he remarked with indignation, “Brethren, I was afraid of this when I commenced preaching; here is this abominable cat again; the devil has sent it just to ruin my discourse; I cannot, I will not, preach another word until you have killed that infamous thing, or put it in durance (imprisonment) vile.” The cat was again waited upon by someone, and was this time handled so roughly that it returned not again during the evening services. But alas! The Doctor was not able to overcome his embarrassment, or recover himself sufficiently to do himself justice, or speak to the edification of his hearers. It was clear to all that it was an uphill business to speak throughout his entire discourse, and all on account of a cat.

 

The Judge Who Objected to Muddy Baptism

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The following story is recorded in Recollections of Men of Faith, by W.C. Rogers, in the chapter on John. T. Johnson.  This book will soon be available in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary, as well as in print from Cobb Publishing.  But we thought this section was well worth sharing, and we hope you do too.  Enjoy!

In company with Elder R.C. Ricketts, a prominent preacher in Kentucky, John T. Johnson visited Little Rock, Ark., for the purpose of proclaiming the Gospel in its primitive purity and power.

After the meeting had advanced a number of days, and quite a number of persons had become obedient to the faith, an incident occurred of more than ordinary interest, and which I feel ought to be preserved. Judge Johnson, of the city of Little Rock, a brother of the evangelist, a prominent politician, had been attending the meeting nightly with his wife, but neither belonged to any religious body. Like many others, Judge Johnson had never given the subject of Christianity very much thought; perhaps owing to the fact that he was constantly engaged in the affairs of this life, and had no time, as he supposed; it may have been that he knew not what to do, because of the many sad divisions in Christendom. Through courtesy or curiosity, he and his amiable wife had been attending church and listening to the preaching of John T. Johnson and R.C. Ricketts. But sometimes it turns out that those who attend religious services through curiosity become deeply concerned for their souls’ salvation. This was the case with the Judge and his wife at the time of which we are speaking, although, I presume, neither would have acknowledged it.

One morning after breakfast, seated in the parlor with his brother, John T., Elder Ricketts, and his wife, the Judge filed several formidable objections to the course pursued by the preachers in the meeting they were then conducting. Of course he did this, be it understood, in the most polite manner possible; still, with honesty, and desiring, no doubt, that a change be made in the management of the meeting. When offering his advice, the Judge supposed he understood himself perfectly — knew precisely what he would do under given circumstances. But it is difficult to know one’s self. It is certainly not an easy task to divine what the strongest minded persons would do under heavy pressure of circumstances. “The best of men are men at best.” It would be well to remember this in all of our wise forecastings. The preachers had baptized several persons in the Arkansas River, and now the Judge had come to the conclusion that this ought to be stopped. And why? Because the waters were too muddy in which to administer this divine ordinance. “If I should ever be baptized,” he continued, “it will “never occur in the Arkansas River. I will never go down into that muddy stream of water — never. I would prefer to go to a beautiful clear pool of water near the city, should I ever consent to be baptized. Besides, I seriously object to your administering the ordinance of baptism, while the lawyers, doctors, and the reckless ones about the city, are lining the banks of the river, and some are engaged in talking and laughing and making unbecoming remarks. This is certainly not in good taste — is certainly not in harmony with my views of propriety or good order, under such circumstances I could not consent to be baptized. I must have pure, clear water, and only a few friends.”

“Very well,” said Bro. Ricketts, “we will go with you and a few chosen friends to some clear pool and baptize you whenever you are willing to make the good confession — whenever you are prepared to submit to this command of Christ.”

The Judge replied: “Understand me, I am not saying that I ever intend to become a member of the church. I do not know that I will ever join any church. I am only telling you that I do not think it proper to baptize in the Arkansas River, and that I never could, under the circumstances, consent to be, as others have been. Again, should I ever join the church — and I may or may not — I trust to be able to control my feelings a little better than some who have come forward during this meeting and confessed faith in Christ. They have shown great weakness in weeping like children — at least it seems so to me. Should I ever be induced to go forward and confess Christ, I hope I shall have manliness enough about me to do so without shedding a tear.” “Come forward, Judge, in your own way; if you are a believing penitent, and fully prepared to obey the Gospel from the heart, in order to the enjoyment of all the blessings promised, we care not as to the manner,” rejoined Bro. Ricketts. The following remarks were offered by the Judge in closing: “You and my brother may suppose from what I have said that I purpose becoming a member of the church. I confess that I understand the teaching of Christ and the Apostles as I never did before. I see a fitness, beauty, and adaptation in the plan of redemption which has been hid from me heretofore. But I have not at all determined to join the church. I am fully persuaded that it is the duty of all persons to attach themselves to the church of Jesus Christ, but I am not prepared to say I am ready to do so now. I trust you will not look upon what I have said to you as meddling; pursue your own course. Still, I am convinced that there is far too much feeling manifested by those who confess Christ and obey him in your meeting, and that you ought, if in your power, to suppress it.”

Bro. Ricketts added that he thought there was no improper excitement in the meeting. There had been no shouting, no clapping of hands, no swooning or fainting. No unjust means had been used to compel persons to become the disciples of Christ. The Gospel had been presented in its fullness, so far as the speakers were enabled to offer it to the people. “This glorious Gospel is God’s power to save those who believe and obey it, and, mark you, there is no power like it in this world. All persons are not alike in their make-up. Some, in renouncing sin, weep bitterly; others show but little feeling. This is owing to the difference in the emotional nature. And there is no need in our attempting to regulate these things; they must take their course. But few persons know themselves.”

The following night the Judge and his wife came to church and sat a little nearer the pulpit than usual, the wife placing herself on the end of the bench and next the aisle; the Judge occupying a place near the center of the house and directly in front of the pulpit. At the conclusion of the discourse, and while the invitation song was being sung, the Judge’s wife stepped forward and gave her hand to Bro. Ricketts. She took her seat on the front bench preparatory to making the good confession. The Judge, seeing this, could bear up no longer; so, stepping right over the benches, forward he came, and, weeping as a child, seated himself beside his wife, the great tears rolling down his furrowed cheeks. Making the good confession with much feeling, he remarked in the hearing of many, “I am now ready to go down into the muddy waters of the Arkansas and be baptized in the presence of the lawyers, doctors, and all who may be inclined to witness my obedience to the faith.” How few know themselves.

 

From Murderer to Missionary – The Life of the Apostle Paul (Part Ten)

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Paul’s Defense of His Gentile Ministry

While Paul was in Antioch, working with a congregation made up of both Jew and Gentile Christians, some men came from Judea, and began to teach the brethren than unless they were circumcised, in accordance with the Law of Moses, they couldn’t be saved.1  This threatened to destroy not only the congregation in Antioch—which had a great number of Gentile Christians—but also all the work Paul had accomplished in his first missionary journey.  The teaching those men were bringing undermined (1) the Holy Spirit, who sent Paul and Barnabas on the mission; (2) the validity of the prophets—including Paul and Barnabas—in Antioch, who received and delivered the message from the Holy Spirit; (3) the confidence of the congregation in Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, since they had sent these men and most likely financed a good part of their journey; (4) the good name of the congregation in Antioch, who had sent Paul and Barnabas as “apostles,” representatives of the church at Antioch; (5) God Himself, who had confirmed the apostolic message by miracles; (6) the salvation of a vast number of people, both in Antioch and across Asia Minor.

With so much at stake, it is no wonder that Paul and Barnabas’ argument and debate with these Jews was “not small.”  Paul no doubt showed from the Old Testament Scriptures that salvation was open to the Gentiles as Gentiles—not as proselytes to Judaism, but still these Judean teachers would not back down.  The disturbance was so great that the church sent Paul and Barnabas, as well as some of the other brethren, to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles and elders to get an authoritative answer to the question2—even though Paul knew what the answer would be before they ever left.

As they made their way from Antioch to Jerusalem, financed in their journey by the church at Antioch, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, and Paul declared to the Christians they met about the conversion of the Gentiles—in other words, he was sharing the good news about the salvation of Gentiles in Christ while he was on his way to a big event whose purpose was to determine if these Gentile converts were really saved.  Paul knew what the decision would be, and shared the joy with others before the apostles and elders gave their decision on the matter.  This news which he proudly spread to the churches in Samaria brought great joy—the Samaritan Christians wouldn’t have had the same prejudices against Gentiles as the Jews.3

Arriving in Jerusalem, Paul and Barnabas were welcomed warmly by the church, the apostles, and the elders.  They shared the good news of how God used them as missionaries, but instead of bringing joy to all the people like it did in Samaria, it got some people upset.  Some of the Christians who were also Pharisees stood up and basically denied that the Gentile converts had ever really be saved, because they hadn’t been circumcised, nor did they follow the Law of Moses.4  This caused the apostles and elders to convene a public hearing on the matter.5

After much discussion (or questioning, ASV) on the matter, in which the Pharisees would have been able to present their case, Paul watched as Peter stood and affirmed that the Gentiles had no obligation to follow the Law of Moses to be saved.  Then Barnabas and Paul6 stood, “declaring the miracles and wonders that God had worked by them among the Gentiles,” re-affirming what Peter had said: that God showed His approval of Gentiles coming into the kingdom without the Law of Moses.7  After James gave the verdict, and a letter was written to send to the Gentile Christians, Paul and Barnabas (along with Judas and Silas) went back to Antioch to share the good news—their salvation was secure, and sealed with apostolic approval.

Bradley S. Cobb

1 Acts 15:1.  Several questions arise when considering this event—first and foremost among them How/why did these teachers from Judea get access to the church?  We cannot doubt that they were sincere in their belief, and it is not likely that they attempted to be stealthy about it.  However, this shows the wisdom of not letting someone teach without first knowing them.  This responsibility falls on the elders.  Secondly, these men were teaching that unless one was circumcised after the manner of Moses, they couldn’t be saved.  Yet the covenant involving circumcision pre-dates the Law of Moses, going back to Abraham (Genesis 17:13).  Additionally, Moses wasn’t too good at remembering to circumcise (Exodus 4:24-26).

2 Acts 15:2.  Paul was inspired, as was Barnabas and the other prophets in Antioch.  As such, their answer should have been sufficient to put the matter to rest.  However, Paul’s status as an apostle was not as well-established among the Judean Christians at this point, so it was decided to appeal to a universally-recognized authority among the Christians—the apostles.  It’s interesting that the apostles and elders were mentioned as authoritative in the matter.  It is quite likely that the elders there included many of the 70 men that Jesus sent forth during His earthly ministry.  These were leaders among the first church of Christ (in Jerusalem since Pentecost), and were given great respect by those in Antioch.

3 Acts 15:3.  This final point was brought out by J.W. McGarvey in his original commentary on Acts.

4 Acts 15:4-5.  Some have questioned why it is that this argument was even brought up in the first place.  After all, didn’t they know that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross and fulfilled in Jesus Christ?  Did they not know that God’s New Covenant was in force?  What were the apostles teaching them anyway, if they didn’t know this extremely basic concept?  Part—perhaps even most—of the answer can be found in understanding that the Law of Moses was not just a religious law, but also a civil or national one.  At the death of Jesus, as the perfect sacrifice, the Law of Moses ceased to have any religious power.  But at the same time, it was the law of the land, and so faithful Jewish Christians would be obliged to follow the Law of Moses as the national law, except in instances where it could have violated the law of God.  This is why the Jewish Christians would celebrate the Passover, observe the Sabbath, keep the Jewish dietary laws—because it was the law of the land, which is to be obeyed unless it causes one to violate the law of God.  So Jewish Christians, especially in Jerusalem, would have never stopped observing the Law of Moses, even after becoming a Christian.  So, since they never stopped observing the Law of Moses, it was very difficult for them to comprehend being right with God without the Law of Moses.

5 Public as far as the church is concerned, at least.  Verse 12 says that there was a “multitude” in attendance, which would have been more than just the apostles and elders.

6 This reverses the order used throughout their missionary journeys, probably showing that Barnabas took the lead in speaking.

7 Acts 15:6-12.