All posts by BradleyCobb

Restoration Moments – The Rafting of Pardee Butler

American slavery had been a hot topic for many years, and tempers flared whenever it came up.  What is a Christian to do in such cases?  Should he (like Isaac Errett) pretend the problem doesn’t exist?  Or should he (like Pardee Butler) stand up and fight against it?

This week’s Restoration Moment comes from “The Personal Recollections of Pardee Butler,” which appears in Pardee Butler: The Definitive Collection.  These are Pardee Butler’s own words:

The things that had been happening in the Kansas Territory [regarding slavery] had been so strange and unheard of, and the threats of the Squatter Sovereign had been so savage and barbarous, that I wanted to carry back to my friends in Illinois some evidence of what was going on. I went, therefore, with Bro. Elliott to the Squatter Sovereign printing office to purchase extra copies of that paper. I was waited on by Robert S. Kelley. After paying for my papers I said to him: “I should have become a subscriber to your paper some time ago only there is one thing I do not like about it.” Mr. Kelley did not know me, and asked: “What is it?”

I replied: “I do not like the spirit of violence that characterizes it.”

He said: “I consider all Free-soilers rogues, and they are to be treated as such.”

I looked him for a moment steadily in the face, and then said to him: “Well, sir, I am a Free-soiler; and I intend to vote for Kansas to be a Free State.”

He fiercely replied: “You will not be allowed to vote.”

When Bro. Elliott and myself had left the house, and were in the open air, he clutched me nervously by the arm and said: “Bro. Butler! Bro. Butler! You must not do such things; they will kill you!”

I replied: “If they do I cannot help it.”

Bro. Elliott was now to go home. But before going he besought me with earnest entreaty not to bring down on my own head the vengeance of these men. I thanked him for his regard for me, and we bade each other goodbye.

Bro. Elliot had come to feel that my life was precious to the Christian brethren in Atchison county. Except myself they had no preacher. And they needed a preacher.

The steamboat bound for St. Louis that day had been detained, and would not arrive until the next day. I must, therefore, stay overnight in Atchison. I conversed freely with the people that afternoon, and said to them: “Under the Kansas-Nebraska bill, we that are Free State men have as good a right to come to Kansas as you have; and we have as good a right to speak our sentiments as you have.”

A public meeting was called that night to consider my case, but I did not know it. The steamboat was expected about noon the next day. I had been sitting writing letters at the head of the stairs, in the chamber of the boarding-house where I had slept, and heard someone call my name, and rose up to go down stairs; but was met by six men, bristling with revolvers and bowie-knives, who came upstairs and into my room. The leader was Robert S. Kelley. They presented me a string of resolutions, denouncing Free State men in unmeasured terms, and demanded that I should sign them. I felt my heart flutter, and knew if I should undertake to speak my voice would tremble, and determined to gain time.

Sitting down I pretended to read the resolutions—they were familiar to me, having been already printed in the Squatter Sovereign—and finally I began to read them aloud. But these men were impatient, and said: “We just want to know will you sign these resolutions?” I had taken my seat by a window, and looking out and down into the street, had seen a great crowd assembled, and determined to get among them. Whatever should be done would better be done in the presence of witnesses. I said not a word, but going to the head of the stairs, where was my writing-stand and pen and ink, I laid the paper down and quickly walked down stairs and into the street. Here they caught me by the wrists, from behind, and demanded, “Will you sign?”

I answered, “No,” with emphasis. I had got my voice by that time. They dragged me down to the Missouri River, cursing me, and telling me they were going to drown me. But when we had got to the river they seemed to have got to the end of their programme, and there we stood. Then some little boys, anxious to see the fun go on, told me to get on a large cotton-wood stump close by and defend myself. I told the little fellows I did not know what I was accused of yet. This broke the silence, and the men that had me in charge asked:

“Did the Emigrant Aid Society send you here?”

“No; I have no connection with the Emigrant Aid Society.”

“Well, what did you come for?”

“I came because I had a mind to come. What did you come for?”

“Did you come to make Kansas a Free State?”

“No, not primarily; but I shall vote to make Kansas a Free State.”

“Are you a correspondent of the New York Tribune?”

“No; I have not written a line to the Tribune since I came to Kansas.”

By this time a great crowd had gathered around, and each man took his turn in cross-questioning me, while I replied, as best I could, to this storm of questions, accusations and invectives. We went over the whole ground. We debated every issue that had been debated in Congress. They alleged the joint ownership the South had with the North in the common Territories of the nation; that slaves are property, and that they had a natural and inalienable right to take their property into any part of the national Territory, and there to protect it by the strong right arm of power. While I urged the terms of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, and that under it Free State men have a right to come into the Territory, and by their votes to make it a Free State, if their votes will make it so.

At length an old man came near to me, and dropping his voice to a half-whisper, said in a confidential tone: “Nee-ow, Mr. Butler, I want to advise you as a friend, and for your own good, when you get away, just keep away.

I knew this man was a Yankee, for I am a Yankee myself. His name was Ira Norris. He had been given an office in Platte County, Mo., and must needs be a partisan for the peculiar institution. I gave my friend Norris to understand that I would try to attend to my own business.

Others sought to persuade me to promise to leave the country and not come back. Then when no good result seemed to come from our talk, I said to them: “Gentlemen, there is no use in keeping up this debate any longer; if I live anywhere, I shall live in Kansas. Now do your duty as you understand it, and I will do mine as I understand it. I ask no favors of you.”

Then the leaders of this business went away by themselves and held a consultation. Of course I did not know what passed among them, but Dr. Stringfellow many years afterwards made the following statement to a gentleman who was getting up a history of Kansas:

“A vote was taken upon the mode of punishment which ought to be accorded to him, and to this day it is probably known but to few persons that a decided verdict of death by hanging was rendered; and furthermore, that Mr. Kelley, the teller, by making false returns to the excited mob, saved Mr. Butler’s life. … At the time the pro-slavery party decided to send Mr. Butler down the Missouri River on a raft…”

The crowd had now to be pacified and won over to an arrangement that should give me a chance for my life. A Mr. Peebles, a dentist from Lexington, Mo., … a slave-holder, was put forward to do this work. He said: “My friends, we must not hang this man; he is not an Abolitionist, he is what they call a Free-soiler. The Abolitionists steal our niggers, but the Free-soilers do not do this. They intend to make Kansas a Free State by legal methods. But in the outcome of the business, there is not the value of a picayune of difference between a Free-soiler and an Abolitionist; for if the Free-soilers succeed in making Kansas a Free State, and thus surround Missouri with a cordon of Free States, our slaves in Missouri will not be worth a dime apiece. Still we must not hang this man; and I propose that we make a raft and send him down the river as an example.”

And so to him they all agreed. Then the question came up, What kind of a raft shall it be? Some said, “One log”; but the crowd decided it should be two logs fastened together. When the raft was completed I was ordered to take my place on it, after they had painted the letter R. on my forehead with black paint. This letter stood for Rogue. I had in my pocket a purse of gold, which I proffered to a merchant of the place, an upright business man, with the request that he would send it to my wife; but he declined to take it. He afterwards explained to me that he himself was afraid of the mob. They took a skiff and towed the raft out into the middle of the Missouri River. As we swung away from the bank, I rose up and said: “Gentlemen, if I am drowned I forgive you; but I have this to say to you: If you are not ashamed of your part in this transaction, I am not ashamed of mine. Goodbye.”

Pardee Butler survived his “rafting,” and later returned to town where he was “tarred and cottoned” (they had no feathers to use).  But still he kept returning, and kept fighting against slavery until the Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Lincoln.

 

Justified by Works

The Cobb family is proud to announce the release of our newest book!

JamesCover(Front Only)

Justified by Works: A Study of the Letter from James is a 264-page commentary on what has been called the most practical book of the New Testament.

There is an extensive introduction, answering questions such as:

  • Who wrote it?
  • When was it written?
  • Does the date matter?
  • Who first received the letter?

Every verse is covered with in-depth notes discussing things like (1) how each verse and phrase fit into the overall context of the book, (2) a better understanding of some of the original words, (3) how the passages applied to the original readers, (4) how we can apply these same verses to us today.

It is thorough and in-depth, but it is also very easy to read and understand.  The books was written to be useful to new Christians as well as those who have been teaching the Bible for years.

And to celebrate the release of this new book, we’re making it available at a massive discount for this week only.

Paperback – $9.99 $5.99

eBook – $2.99 99 cents!

Bible Q&A – How Old Should an Elder Be?

We’ve discussed installing some new elders.  Some of the men under consideration are in their late 30s.  Are they old enough to be elders? –A Christian from Indiana.

That is a great question that really needs to be discussed.

It was about eleven years ago when the knocking of a hand against my front door got my attention.  Upon opening the door, I was faced with two Mormon boys who could not have been older than 19.  I asked the customary question, “Can I help you?”  Instead of answering the question, they proceeded to introduce themselves.  “My name is Elder Bob, and this is Elder Joe.”  Knowing that these boys had no idea what the word “elder” meant, I asked them a simple question.  “How are your wife and kids?”  The look of confusion across their face told me they also didn’t know what the Bible teaches about elders.  Upon explaining that an elder was the husband of one wife and had believing children, I asked them the question again.  They said “thank you” and shortly thereafter were on their way to the next house.

The word “elder” signifies, by its very definition, someone who is older.  How old?  Ask the members of the congregation what they consider to be an “older man” and you’ll have a pretty good guess.  But let’s look at some of the other things the Bible says on this matter.  There are certain “benchmarks” that also help us in determining a minimum age for an “elder.”

The first place to look is in the qualifications for elders which were laid out by the apostle Paul in I Timothy 3.  The person desiring the office of bishop (elder) must be the husband of one wife.  Literally, the wording is “a one-woman man.”  This man must have proven himself to be faithful to his wife, a dedicated husband.  Obviously this is not something a 19-year old can prove.  This is something that is proven over a period of time.  According to some sources, most men during the first century did not marry until they were in their 30’s.  Imagine, then, the age at which these people would have been known as dedicated husbands by the rest of the congregation.

Also, the elder must have faithful children (Titus 1:6).  Does this mean faithful to him or faithful to God?  Skipping this question for a moment, let us look at the simple point that the man must have children who are old enough to show they are faithful.  The children must be old enough to make decisions and show that they have been raised to make the right ones.  They obey their father because they are in subjection to him (I Timothy 3:4).  This does not describe children under the teenage years.  If this means children who are faithful to God, it means that the children must be faithful Christians.  If it means faithful to their father, this age of accountability would be about the same, wouldn’t you think?  This man’s children must be known to be obedient.  This again is something that takes time to prove, especially if it is referring to being a faithful Christian.

Looking at the likely age of marriage (say 30-35), adding the time it would take for their children to get to be teenagers (add another 15 or more years), as well as tacking on the time it would take for the children to prove themselves “faithful” once they reach the age of accountability, and you get someone who meets these first two qualifications for being an elder probably around age 50.

Let us also consider one last point.  The apostle Peter, approximately 61-63 AD, said he was an elder of the Lord’s church (I Peter 5:1).  If we accept that he was about Jesus’ age when he became a disciple of the Lord, then Peter would be about 65 years old when he wrote this.  He commanded the elders to whom he wrote, using the fact that he was an elder as back-up for his commands (I Peter 5:1-4).  This is not something that a newly-appointed elder would likely do, so Peter had likely been an elder at the church in Jerusalem for some time, perhaps a decade?

From a Biblical perspective, there is no way that a 19-year old could be an elder.  It would be pushing it to say someone in their 40s would qualify as “older,” as the word “elder” necessitates.  Though the Bible gives no specific age, it does give certain milestones (faithful husband and faithful children) which would be very difficult to reach and prove before their late 40s/early 50s.

Plus, unless you’re asking teenagers, no one considers a 40-year old to be an “older man.”

-Bradley S. Cobb

Is the Church a Denomination?

James Bales wrote a tract with the above title many years ago (my copy is so brittle that is didn’t survive the scanning process).  We present it here for your enjoyment and consideration.

Is the Church a Denomination?

We are faced with religious divi­sion and the denominational conception of Christianity. These various denominations did not always exist. Secular history records their origin and they are not mentioned in the New Testament. They exist in spite of the New Testament, for Christ prayed for unity which would be based on His Word (John 17:20). Yet when people today discover that you are a Christian they ask you to what denomination you belong. They cannot conceive of one who is just a Christian without being some particular brand of a Christian. This is in contrast to the fact that in the days of Paul if one said that he was a Christian no one would then ask him, What denomination do you represent.

I. Denominationalism: Its Meaning, Cause, Curse, Naming and Cure

The Meaning of Denominational­ism.

Denominationalism as it exists among professed Christians is the organization of professed Christians into different religious bodies. These bodies do not claim to be the whole church, but only a part of it. It means that people regard the church as something which is divided, with various groups with different faiths and practices in many instances. Denominationalism conceives Christianity as divided into sects.

The Causes of Denominationalism.

First, the party, self-centered, spirit which attempts to build up a certain group instead of the church as a whole. These look away from the Bible and walk more or less by their own wisdom. Second, mis-interpretations of the scriptures which are pressed and bound on others to the point of divisions. Third, a division over personalities. People form groups around certain individuals (Acts 20:30). Some in Paul’s day tried to form parties around various preachers and Paul condemned that condition (I Corinthians 1:1042). Fourth, some do err and form denominations because they are ignorant of the Scriptures and of the power of God. Fifth, others build a sect on one passage of the Scripture, or one doc­trine, to the neglect of other passages and doctrines. Sixth, at the root of all denominationalism is sin in one form or another. Once a denomina­tion is formed it is perpetuated by the ignorance of its adherents of Bible teaching, by pride and by the party spirit. Children often take the religion of their parents without even once comparing what their denomination teaches with what the Bible teaches.

The Curse of Denominationalism.

First, it opposes the prayer of Christ for unity (John 17:20). Second, it is a cause of infidelity and brings reproach on Christ for people discredit the Bible by saying that it cannot be right and teach so many conflicting doctrines. However, the conflict is in the ignorance of the people and not in the Bible. Jesus prayed for a visible unity on earth that the world might believe (John 17:20). Third, such division is condemned by Paul (1 Cor. 1:10-12). Fourth, It is a mark of carnality (1 Cor. 3:1-4; Gal. J :19’21). Fifth, it consumes time and money because of the duplica­tion of work. Sixth, it hinders world evangelism because each tries to build up his own sect rather than convert the world.

The Source of Denominational Names,

First, names of persons. Second, names of countries. Third, names of ordinances. Fourth, names drawn from forms of church govern­ment. Fifth, some are named from a certain doctrine which they stress.

The Cure for Denominationalism.

First, the proper respect for Christ and for the word by which we are to be judged (John 12:48; Acts 17: 30). Second, a sincere effort to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent (1 Pet. 4:11). Third, a study of the New Testament to determine what constitutes the church. Fourth, a study of our own faith and practices in the light of the New Testament with the willingness to change wherein we fail to abide by the New Testament. Fifth, love and forbearance which do not press and bind differences of opinion (Rom. 14).

II. Is The Church of Christ A Denomination?

The Meaning of the Term “church.”

The Greeks used the term to design­ate an assembly called out by the magistrate, or by legitimate author­ity. In the Gospels, Christ said that I will build my church (Matt. 16: 18). The term is used, when speaking of His church, with reference first to individual congregations (Acts 8:1; 9:22, 26; Rom. 16:1, 4, 5; Gal. 1:2) and second the whole body of believers or Christians (Matt 16:18; Eph. 1:22; 5:10; Heb. 12:23). (Samuel W. Barnum, Smith’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the Bi­ble, 1868, p. 175).

The unbelieving Jews referred to it as the sect of the Nazarene and as the sect which was everywhere spok­en against (Acts 24:5; 28:22). They believed it was a division which had been cut off from the Jewish faith or church. However, that which they regarded as heresy (Acts 24:14), and as everywhere spoken against, constituted God’s church and God’s only church in this dispensation. The church, it is true, was named and cut off, separated, from all other reli­gious bodies. However, it was not a denomination in the modern sense of the term which defines a denomina­tion as a religious organization con­taining a part of the saved; a group which constitutes a part of the church instead of the whole church. What the Jews called a sect was in reality the church.

The church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:18, 24; Eph. 1:22, 23). The saved are in Christ’s body, in His church, and they got there by being baptized into Christ (Eph. 5:23 Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:27; Acts 2:40, 41, 47; John 3:5). They are born into it (John 3:5). The church of Christ is not a part, it is the whole. It has done nothing to break itself off from those who are Christians and Christians only. It is not a denomination because: First, it is the body of Christ, composed of the saved, and there are no saved people outside of it. One cannot be a Christian with­out being a member of Christ’s church. Second, it was founded by Christ’s apostles and it is the only church founded by them. Third, it is characterized by the names which are set forth in the New Testament. Fourth, it does not preach a denominational message. Fifth, its head is Christ. Sixth, its creed is His word. Seventh, its wor­ship is in spirit and in truth. Eighth, it is entered by the new birth (John 3:5). Ninth, it is both undemoninational and anti-denominational.

There are those who deny that it is possible to be only a Christian. They assert that one must be denom­inational Christian. However, the disciples of Christ in Paul’s day were Christians only and we today can be Christians only by following God’s word. The seed, which is God’s word, when planted by itself in a heart, produces a Christian only (Luke 8:11). It takes something more or less than the Word of God to make something else.

It is true that some Christians have wandered into denominations. All who have been born of water and the Spirit have been added to the church by God Himself (Acts 2:38-47). However, those who have wandered into denominationalism ought to forsake it and be just Christians. They ought to come out of Babylon (Rev. 18:4).

It is true that members of the body of Christ often fail to live perfect lives. Thus at times they may adopt a denominational attitude and fail to respect both the voice and the silence of the Scripture. However, such shortcomings do not mean that de­nominationalism is approved or that the goal and message of the church of Christ is wrong. It means that in­dividual Christians fall short and that they ought to try to do better.

Friend, why not be a Christian and a Christian only? This is possi­ble, desirable, necessary and scriptural.

Restoration Moments – A Lesson in Giving

You have only a dollar to your name–and no food to feed your family.  Then a man comes to your door, deeply in need, begging for help.  What do you do?

Today’s Restoration Moment comes from Memoirs of Abner Jones (by his son, A.D. Jones), which will appear in the upcoming Abner Jones: A Collection (Volume 2).  Enjoy!

How often I have heard the good old man relate this story, which, however, it might affect others, never failed to bring tears into his own eyes:

On Saturday morning, as I was sit­ting in my study, pondering the poverty of my condition, my wife came in with her accustom­ed inquiry of “well, Mr Jones, what shall we have for dinner?” Adding, “we have not a grain of meal,”—flour was out of the question—”nor a particle of meat of any kind in the house. Then the sugar is out, there is no butter, and in fact there is nothing to eat, and tomorrow is Sunday.”

So saying, she quit the room, leaving me in such a state of mind as may well be con­ceived, when I say that a solitary one dollar bank note was the only money I had on earth, and no prospect whatsoever appeared of getting any until the accustomed weekly contribution should be put in my hands. And what would a single dollar do at the prevailing high prices, towards feeding seven hungry mouths for two whole days? I saw no way of escape, and in the agony of spirit which may well be guessed, I lifted up my heart in supplication to Him who feedeth the ravens when they cry. And a sin­gular answer to my prayer I seemed speedily to attain.

I had just risen from my knees, when my wife again appeared at the door, all unconscious of the struggle which was going on within me, and ushered a gentleman into my study. His whole appearance was of that shabby genteel which betokens a broken-down gentleman.  And from the first moment of beholding him, I took him to my confidence as unfortunate but not debased. “Sir” said he, “I am a stranger to you, and you are utterly so to me, save that I once heard you preach in ______.”

My home is in that place—if indeed I may now claim a home. I sailed from that port nearly a year since, with all my earthly possessions, and embarked in a promising adventure. My ship fell into the hands of the enemy and I became a prisoner, my property of course became lawful plunder. After suffering many hardships and much indignity, I effected my escape on board a vessel bound to St. John. From that place to this I have worked my way along with incredible fatigue and pain. I have suffered much from hunger, cold and wet, and have slept many a night in the open woods. And here I am, in one word, Sir, penniless, and altogether too much worn down to proceed further without aid. I have friends in ________, to whom I am pressing on as fast as I can, and who will relieve my necessities when I reach them. I am an utter stranger in your town, and you are the only person I ever knew or saw in the whole place. I cannot beg, and I feel entirely reluc­tant to ask a loan of an utter stranger.”

Here was a struggle. I was poor, very poor; but here was one poorer than I. I had a hungry family to feed—so had he. And even more, a heart-breaking fact, his family was even now mourn­ing him as dead. I could hesitate no longer. I thrust my hand mechanically into my pocket, and pulling out my last dollar, which I pressed upon the unfortunate mariner—for he could hardly be persuaded to take it, when he knew how low my finances were,—I blessed him in God’s name, and he left me with no words of thanks; but I knew that, had I from a full purse bestowed a liberal sum, he could not have felt more grateful.

When he had gone, and absolute hunger for me and mine, stared me full in the face, I be­gan to doubt the propriety of my act in taking the very bread from my children’s mouths to feed a stranger. But it was now too late to repent. The last dollar was gone and my chil­dren must go dinnerless and supperless to bed. For myself I cared nothing, but how would my family bear this unusual fasting? I seized my hat and cane and rushed into the street to escape from my own thoughts, which had become too painful to endure. I knew not—cared not whither I should bend my steps.

As I walked moodily and mechanically on, thinking o’er all the bitterness of my situation, suddenly the thought came into my mind: — why should I despond? Have I ever gone hun­gry, even for a day—me and mine? Has not the Lord provided hitherto? And will he not in time to come? —in the present time?  I had scarcely concluded this soliloquy, when one of my neighbors, whom I knew to be a Universalist, and whom I had occasionally seen at our meetings—the members of his family came frequently—accosted me with, “good morning, Mr. Jones. I have been thinking for some time past that I ought to discharge a debt I owe you.

“I was not aware,” I replied, “that you had incur­red such an obligation.”

O, but I have,” said he, “my family goes occasionally to hear you preach, and once in a while I go myself. Now as the laborer is worthy of his hire, and as I wish no man to labor for me without pay, I beg you will accept this trifle as in part a liquidation of the debt.

The “trifle,” was a five dollar note, which I received with feelings that I will not mock by attempting to describe. I returned to my house, and after again falling on my knees, hum­bled under a sense of my lack of confidence in God, and grateful for his goodness to me, all unworthy as I felt myself to be; I sallied forth to the market, and soon came back ladened with the things necessary to our comfort.

James D. Bales – Woe Unto You?

Who were the Pharisees?

Why did Jesus condemn them?

Are you under the same condemnation?

Bales - Woe Unto You Cover

The Pharisees are constantly a thorn in the side of Jesus.  And Jesus uses the words, “Woe unto you,” to describe them.  This book examines the many different times that Jesus uses this phrase.  Why were the Pharisees condemned?  And are we guilty of the same thing?

This 121-page, 13-lesson book is specially designed to encourage Christians to examine themselves in the light of God’s word.  This is the third book in the official James D. Bales eBook Collection.

From the introduction:

“Our study of Christ and the Pharisees is not just a matter of historical interest, nor just to learn what Jesus said about somebody else. In our study we must constantly be aware of the fact that Jesus clearly said: “For I say unto you, that except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no wise enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:20) When this is kept in mind we shall examine our own lives to see whether or not we have been following the same principles which the Pharisees follow­ed. If we are following these principles, if we have become like them, then these woes are unto us as surely as they were unto the Pharisees. Thus the very title of this study urges the reader to ask himself: Are these woes unto me?”

  1. JESUS AND THE PHARISEES
  2. WAS CHRIST TOO HARD ON THE PHARISEES?
  3. THE RESPONSE OF THE PHARISEES
  4. HOW THE PHARISEES ATTACKED JESUS
  5. AS THEY BID, NOT AS THEY DO
  6. TO BE SEEN OF MEN
  7. SHUTTING THE KINGDOM
  8. THE PRAYING “PREYERS”
  9. TWO-FOLD MORE A SON OF HELL.
  10. SWEARING AND TITHING
  11. HYPOCRISY
  12. THE LAMENTATION OVER JERUSALEM
  13. WOE UNTO YOU?

Available now for just $2.99

Bible Q&A – Is the Bible Incomplete?

I heard someone say that our Bible is incomplete because we don’t have the “real” First Corinthians (I Cor. 5:9) or the “Letter from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16).  Is our Bible incomplete?–A.Y., from Oklahoma.

Thanks for the question.  This goes along with the question we discussed last week as well on the so-called “lost books of the Bible.”  It’s true that some people say we have an incomplete Bible because it appears we might be missing some letters written by the apostles.  By saying this, they try to cast doubt on God’s revealed word.  After all, how can you know you are going to heaven if you don’t even have the complete Bible?  What should the Christian’s response be to such charges?

First, we need to understand the seriousness of the charge these people are making.  To say we have an incomplete Bible is to question everything we know about God’s word.  Imagine for a moment that there are parts of the Bible that were lost to time, and they included specific commands regarding worship or salvation that we simply do not have anymore.  We couldn’t know whether or not we were pleasing to God.  We couldn’t know if we were saved.  We couldn’t be sure about anything!  II Timothy 3:16-17 says Scripture is given so that we may be equipped for EVERY good work.  But if part of the Scripture is missing, are we still equipped for EVERY good work?

Also, this charge goes directly to the core of God Himself!  To say God’s message to mankind (the Bible) is incomplete is to say that God is not all-powerful.  Ask yourself this: Can God make sure His word is available to all mankind through the ages (see Mark 13:31)?  Would a loving, all-powerful God allow His message to disappear to where it is impossible for people to follow it?  Of course not!  God providentially made sure that we have all that we need to be pleasing to Him (Romans 10:17, Hebrews 11:6, II Peter 1:3).

Are we missing any inspired writings?  It is very possible that the apostles wrote letters which we do not have today.  After all, can we say for certain that Andrew, James, Phillip, Thomas, Bartholemew, James (son of Alphaeus), Simon (the zealot), Thaddeus, and Matthias never wrote a letter to Christians?  Can we say for certain that in over 30 years of preaching and traveling that Paul only wrote 13 letters total?  That Peter only wrote two letters?  That John only wrote five (including Revelation)?  While it might indeed be true, you would be hard-pressed to make a convincing argument that says the majority of the apostles never wrote anything.  But, what we do have is what the all-powerful God of heaven decided was necessary for us to have.

We do not have recorded for us all the words and acts of Jesus Christ.  In fact, John said it would be impossible to write everything that Christ did (John 21:25).  But do we have what we need?  Absolutely!  Even if we do not have everything written by each apostle, we still have those things we need to get us to heaven.  The all-powerful God has given us what He decided we need.  Other letters would not give us anything new or different than what we already have.

So, if someone tries to claim that the Bible is incomplete, let them know that the all-powerful God has made sure we have everything that we need to get to heaven.  The Bible, therefore, is perfect and complete.  God included everything we need.  If God wanted other books in the Bible, they would already be in there.

-Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – The Man Born Blind

The Man Who Was Born Blind (John 9)

An entire chapter in the book of John is dedicated to relaying the time when a man was healed of his infirmity. While that might not seem like such a notable thing to point out, it is notable that though the entire chapter (forty-one verses) deals with this man, we are never told his name. He is called “the blind man” (John 9:6), “him who formerly was blind” (John 9:13), and “the man who was blind” (John 9:24). Though we don’t know this man’s name, we know that he was a man of great courage.

When you think of people in the Bible (or anywhere else, for that matter) who exhibited great courage, you generally think of people who have accomplished great things in the face of adversity and overwhelming odds. You might think of Gideon and his small band of 300 soldiers taking on an enormous Midianite army. You might think of little teenage David who ran out to meet a nine-foot tall armored soldier named Goliath in one-on-one combat. Events like these are what cause people to be viewed as heroic. But I want you to stop and consider the amazing amount of courage exhibited by a blind man who was healed by Jesus Christ.

Blind from Birth

The story of this courageous blind man begins with him almost being seen as an afterthought. “Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth” (John 9:1). However, this was no chance meeting. There was a reason that Jesus saw this man, and a reason that He took notice of him, and a reason that He healed him.

The disciples were like the typical Jews of that day – and much like many people today as well. They assumed that if something bad had happened to someone, it had to be the result of that person’s sinfulness. The disciples asked Jesus whose sin was to blame for this man being born blind, “this man or his parents?” (John 9:2). Stop to consider how deeply ingrained this belief was in the disciples. They actually asked Jesus if this man sinned in the womb, causing himself to be born blind. This event which is recorded for us by the apostle John serves to put this false belief to rest, because Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

What was the purpose of this man being blind from birth? It wasn’t because of sinfulness on his part nor his parents’, but it was so that the power of God and His Christ could be revealed! It is very important to remember that this man was indeed born blind. Had Jesus healed a man who developed blindness later in life, it might have been touted as a medical marvel, reversing something that had happened. But the impressiveness of this miracle of Jesus is seen later when it is said, “Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind” (John 9:32).

Healed by Works

This man was healed through an obedient faith. Jesus spit on the ground and made a clay, which He then put on the man’s eyes. But that didn’t heal the man. Jesus told the man to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. This blind man walked to the Pool and did as he was commanded (John 9:6-7). Before you simply gloss over this fact, try blindfolding yourself and see how easy it is for you to walk very far without being able to see.

If this man had simply stayed put and said, “Sir, I have faith that you can heal me,” he would have remained blind until the day he died. Jesus required works from this man in order to achieve the healing that was being offered. This doesn’t mean at all that somehow the blind man earned his sight, but he did that which was required to receive it. In the same way, Jesus requires us to put forth effort in order to receive the spiritual healing that He offers. It is not by faith only. Instead, Jesus commanded that we “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). It isn’t that we somehow earn our salvation, but we still have to do what is required to receive it.

It was only after the blind man went to the Pool of Siloam and washed that he “came back seeing” (John 9:7). He was healed through faithful obedience.

The Courage of the Man Who was Born Blind

Many lessons can be learned from John chapter 9, but the one on which we will be focusing here is his great courage. He showed great courage by taking an unpopular stand. He showed great courage in not being like his parents. He showed great courage in correcting religious error.

He showed courage by taking an unpopular stand. It was most likely earlier that same day that the religious leaders took up stones to kill Jesus with (John 8:59). It was before these same people that the formerly blind man was brought to answer questions about Jesus (John 8:13, 9:13). They had already shown willingness to try to kill Jesus, so standing up for Christ wasn’t exactly a popular thing to do.

While the Pharisees argued amongst themselves about Jesus, some saying “This man is not from God because He does not keep the Sabbath” and others saying “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?”, the blind man responded with “He is a prophet” (John 9:16-17). This proclamation did not sit well with the Pharisees. In fact, they began to accuse this man of lying about having ever been blind in the first place (John 9:18).

How does this make the man who was born blind courageous? Imagine yourself in front of a group of people who just tried to kill someone. How easy would it be to stand up for the person they wanted to kill? It would have been much easier to do what some others did and claim ignorance, or to say, “I don’t know.” So many people today, when faced with questions about Jesus, simply say, “I don’t know” or they look for other ways out of giving an answer because they fear what the other person will say or do. It takes real courage to stand up for Jesus and state the truth about Him. Even when it is unpopular, we still need to stand for Jesus.

He showed courage by not being like his parents. This man’s parents were called to speak before the Pharisees, and it was insinuated that they were liars as well. The Pharisees said “Is this your son, who you say was born blind?” (John 9:19). The parents did indeed state the truth that they knew he was their son and that he was born blind, but because they were afraid, they refused to say how he was healed (John 9:20-22).

They were afraid of being cast out of the synagogue for speaking up for Jesus, so they faked ignorance. They were more interested in social standing and the approval of people than they were in standing up for the truth. This is seen even more clearly when you realize that they were more interested in this approval than they were in their own son. When they were asked, they pushed all questions off on him (John 9:21). They knew that if he stood up for Jesus, he would be kicked out of the synagogue (which is what happened – John 9:34), but they seemed okay with that so long as it didn’t happen to them. This is much like King Hezekiah who was told that his descendants would be taken captive and many of them killed. His response was “at least there will be peace and truth in my days” (Isaiah 39:7-8).

Because he spoke the truth, the man was kicked out of the synagogue. As such, his parents would not speak to him, lest they be labeled as “Jesus sympathizers” too. But this man showed great courage, even though it likely cost him his relationship with his parents. He was more interested in following God than pleasing people.

He showed courage in correcting religious error. The Pharisees began again to chastise the man. In their demands upon him, they implied that he was giving glory to a sinner instead of God (John 9:24). They then re-questioned him on how he was made to see, and he was fearless in his response: “I told you already, and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?” (John 9:27).

In their anger, the Pharisees reviled him, and treated him like he was worthless. They mockingly said to him, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses. As for this fellow, we do not know where He is from” (John 9:28-29). The constant accusations which are implied against this man are incredible. They had accused him of lying about having been born blind, they accused him of giving glory to a sinner instead of God, and now they are accusing him of rejecting the Law of Moses.

In the face of accusations like this, many people would back down and simply be quiet, or perhaps say the things necessary to appease the accusers (like Peter did in John 18:15-18, 25-27). Instead, this man who was unable to see until that very day stood firm and pointed out their hypocrisy and contradictions. He said very plainly, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet he has opened my eyes! Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. If this man were not from God, He could do nothing” (John 9:30-33).

Courage is seen in someone standing up for what is right in the face of those who are against it. These Pharisees were supposed to be the religious experts and leaders. But this man – who had been able to see for only a few hours – could see that they were wrong. And he did not hesitate to tell them so to their faces. As a result, he was accused of being a sinner from birth (something that Jesus said wasn’t true – John 9:3), and kicked out of the synagogue (John 9:34). These Pharisees didn’t care for the truth. They cared only for their own prestige and power. But even with being kicked out of the synagogue, the man whose name was never given to us proudly proclaimed to Jesus, “Lord I believe!” and worshiped Him (John 9:36).

Are You Courageous?

It is easy to imagine ourselves doing what is right when we have lots of people watching us as we face overwhelming odds. We know what the right thing to do would be in those circumstances. The true test of courage is this: will you show courage in the normal, day-to-day aspects of your life? When someone says something against Jesus, will you stand up for your Savior or will you remain silent? When a crowd of people makes fun of Christianity, how will you respond? If you own parents give you an example of trying to appease others, will you still stand up for the truth? Even if it means social rejection and being called a liar, will you stand up for Jesus Christ?

It takes courage to do what is right. Follow the example of the un-named man who was born blind and proudly proclaim your belief in Jesus Christ and follow His command to go to the water where your spiritual ailment (your sins) will be washed away!

–Bradley Cobb

Preconceived Notions

There are many times in life when mistakes are made because one has preconceived notions that prove to be false.  People bring their own biases to the Bible when they read and study it.  Perhaps they view it through the lens of Calvinism, Pentecostalism, or even atheism.  Whatever it is, these people have preconceived biases or notions.

The same thing was true in biblical times.  Throughout the Gospel accounts and Acts it can be seen that people had preconceived ideas of what the Messiah would be.  Therefore, they read all the prophecies with that lens, expecting the prophecies to back up their biases.

That the Israelites expected an earthly king is obvious.  Jesus refuted the idea by stating to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36).  It was not just the common Jews or even the overly strict Pharisees that thought this.  This view even permeated into Christ’s own chosen apostles!  One would think that after three years of teaching, they would understand the nature of Christ’s kingdom, but still they did not!  Even in the last moments of Christ’s time on earth before the ascension, they still expected an earthly kingdom.  Acts 1:6 says, “they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?”  Even Jesus’ closest disciples had preconceived notions and biases.  Can Christians today possibly be so bold and brash as to say they do not?

All throughout the first part of Acts, it is apparent that Peter and the other apostles had to deal with people’s preconceived notions.  He proclaims,  “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know (Acts 2:22).”  Peter was telling them: LOOK!  This was happening right in front of you!  God was showing His approval of Christ in that Jesus was working miracles through Him, and you saw it!  In preaching to the crowd of onlookers, he said “Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you…which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began (Acts 3:20-21).”  Peter is basically telling them: God has been telling you about the Christ since the beginning.  You should have known Jesus was the One.  Earlier in the chapter he acknowledges that they were ignorant of the true meaning of the scriptures (Acts 3:17-18).  Peter convicted them, saying that their preconceived ideas kept them from recognizing that Jesus was the Christ.

Jesus is called “the stone which was set at naught of you builders, which is become head of the corner (Acts 4:11).”  This is a reference to the Jews rejecting Jesus.  It is strange that the Jews were looking forward so much to the Messiah that when He came, they didn’t recognize Him.  The reason for this was that they had preconceived ideas of what He would be.

If they would have let the Scripture speak for itself, they would have known Jesus as the Christ from the beginning.  Christians today also need to let the scriptures speak for themselves.  There are many doctrines in the religious world that people assume (preconceived idea) are in the Bible.   Ideas such as “faith only” and “once saved, always saved” are not found in the Bible.  But when some read the scriptures, it is read through that lens.  In doing so, the truth that is plain to see is missed.  All should learn from the lesson of those Jews.  Preconceived ideas should be left behind and the Holy Spirit should be allowed to plainly speak the truth to all through His Word.

–Bradley Cobb

Restoration Moments – Samuel Rogers’ Surprise

He’s cold, wet, and completely at the mercy of total strangers.  And when he sees their faces–he learns something very important.

Today’s Restoration Moment comes from the pages of Toils and Struggles of the Olden Times: The Autobiography of Elder Samuel Rogers, available in print or as an eBook from Cobb Publishing.  Enjoy!

It had been raining on me most of the way, but it now suddenly blew up from the North and be­came quite cold. I crossed a small river about dark, near Madison, called Indian Kentuck. I learned of the ferryman that my way led up a small stream, and that the nearest house was about five miles distant. I suppose I could have found lodging with the ferryman, but, being anxious to get home, I determined to pass on to the five-mile house. I found the way very rough, and, I think, in going the four miles, I crossed this stream, which I was following, at least a dozen times. I now came to what proved to be the last ford I had to cross until I arrived at camp. There was a thin ice upon the water, and my horse seemed unwilling to cross. I struck him with my whip, and he plunged into the water, which covered horse, saddle and all; but Paddy, being an excellent swimmer, landed me safe on the shore; but I was completely drenched up to my waist. I had gone but a short distance when I discovered that my clothing was frozen stiff upon me. I now traveled at a rapid gait until I came to the house alluded to, and saw through the window a large, blazing fire. Never in my life had a fire appeared so inviting. I hallooed, and a gentleman came to the fence to learn what I wanted. I soon told him my condition, and was not slow in making known my wants. “Light,” said he, “and go in to the fire; my wife will assist you in drying your clothes, while I will attend to your horse.”

I was soon by the fire, and the woman of the house was very active and handy in waiting upon me. To my astonishment, I discovered that she had a black face. When the gentleman came in, I saw that he was of the same color, but I felt that this was no time for drawing nice distinctions. They were kind, their fire was warm, their house was comfortable, and I was made welcome.

The whitest faces could do no better.

In the course of the conversation, the woman found out that I was a preacher, and that I had obtained my first license from Barton W. Stone, at Cane Ridge, in Bourbon County. “Why,” said the woman, “my father-in-law lives there now; and we are all members of that church.” Upon inquiry, she told me her father-in-law’s name was Charles Mason. I knew him very well. We now seemed almost like kinsfolk. A good, hot supper was soon prepared for me, and I enjoyed it very much. We then had worship. They then left me for the night, to enjoy to myself a warm room, nice, clean bed, and refreshing slumbers. They were up before daylight; had a blazing fire for me to get up by; had my horse fed, and an excellent breakfast prepared, which I ate with a relish. I offered to compensate them for their trouble, but they would not receive anything. After a morning prayer, I thanked them, and went on my way for sweet home. I shall ever remember with gratitude the kind­ness of those people, and I hope they may be abundantly rewarded— here and hereafter.