Category Archives: Articles

Mark Knows Who Satan Is…

Recently, I heard someone make the claim that “Satan” isn’t the name of the devil.  Their argument is that “Satan” is just the Hebrew word for “adversary,” and can refer to any adversary.

While that might sound good to some, it runs into some problems, especially when we get to the New Testament.

In the New Testament, the word “Satan” is still used, even though the writers wrote in Greek–not Hebrew.  Greek had its own words for “adversary,” and it wasn’t “Satan.”  Those Greek words are used multiple times in the New Testament, so it isn’t like the biblical writers were unaware of it.

Now some will say that the New Testament was written by Jews (except for Luke/Acts), and most of the original readers were Jewish, and so the use of “Satan” to describe the devil was just using a common word that they already knew–sort of like how Americans can say “adios” without needing to explain its meaning.

So how can we know for certain?  If you read through the gospel of Mark, you’ll see “Satan” mentioned multiple times.  And that settles the matter.

Wait, what?

Mark wrote to a Roman audience, not a Jewish one.  We know this because he took pains to explain every Hebrew phrase that he used–showing the readers weren’t Jews–and used several Latin words instead of the Greek counterparts (without feeling any need to explain the Latin).  So if “Satan,” which is a Hebrew word, is used by Mark to simply mean “adversary,” then he would have explained to his Roman readers what that meant.

Instead, Mark says “THE SATAN” (Mark 1:13, 3:23,  3:26, 4:15). By the way, in Greek, you will quite frequently find the word “the” in front of proper names.  It isn’t ever translated in English, because it would just read horribly weird to see “The Jesus said to the Peter and the James and the John,” but it happens A LOT in Greek.

A Roman reader would have no clue that “Satan” was a Hebrew word that meant adversary.  So if Mark meant “adversary,” he would have used the Greek (or Latin) word for it–or else, he would have explained what the word meant, like he did with every other Hebrew word/phrase he used.

The only reasonable explanation for Mark referring to “Satan” by that name is that the devil’s name is actually “Satan.”

-Bradley S. Cobb

O Immanuel

Ask someone who is even vaguely aware of the Bible, “What is Immanuel?” and they’ll tell you the answer is “Jesus.” But what a lot (I’d guess it is close to 99%) of religious people don’t realize is that the word “Immanuel” only appears once in the New Testament, but twice in the Old.

The first instance is Isaiah 7:14 (which Matthew quotes and applies it to Jesus). In that context, Isaiah has gone to the king of Judah, and asks him to select a sign from God so that he can know Isaiah’s prophecy would come to pass (this prophecy was that the two kings—and they are mentioned by name—who were giving Judah trouble would be defeated). The king refuses to ask for a sign, so Isaiah gives him one—again, to prove that the prophecy just given would come to pass. He says that “the virgin shall conceive, and shall bear a child, and shall call his name Immanuel…” and Isaiah adds some other details, showing that by the time this child is just a few years old (if that), these two kings would be gone.

This word Immanuel means “God with us.”

In Isaiah 8, God says that before Isaiah’s son is old enough to say “my father” or “my mother,” those same two kings would be defeated. Then in verse 8, after God shows that the Assyrian will be used to defeat the enemies of Judah, He lets them know that Judah (because of their unbelief and reliance on earthly power) would also be overtaken “up to the neck” (that is, not completely, but close. The only reason they aren’t completely overcome is because of God. At the end of the verse, God says “O Immanuel.”

So, much more than simply being a name/description applied to Jesus, the word Immanuel serves both then and now as a promise that God is there, God knows, God cares, God sees, God punishes, but God also saves.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Obadiah, Sure… But Which One?

The shortest book of the Old Testament is called Obadiah, and is a scathing condemnation of the Edomites for their treatment of Israel when the Jews were attacked and looted by their enemies.  If we were asked, “Who wrote the book of Obadiah,” the answer would be, “Obadiah, of course.”  But which Obadiah? (Because there are actually several in the Bible.)

In 1 Chronicles, there is an extensive genealogical list (several, actually) that lasts nearly ten full chapters.  Five different men named “Obadiah” are listed in those chapters (3:21; 7:3; 8:38; 9:16, 44).  The same book also mentions a warrior from the tribe of Gad named Obadiah: this man was a fighter who was elevated to become one of the captains of David’s army (12:9-18).  Yet another Obadiah is mentioned as the father of Ishmaiah, the ruler/governor over Zebulun (27:19).  Then there’s a Levite named Obadiah, who faithfully oversaw repairs made to the temple of God (2 Chronicles 34:12).

When a portion of the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, a man named Obadiah brought 218 men (probably children, grandchildren, nephews, younger brothers) with him (Ezra 8:9).  Later on, one of the priests who helped with the rebuilding project was named Obadiah (Nehemiah 10:5, 8).  Another Obadiah (though it is conceivable that it is the same one) during that time was a protector of the prison (Nehemiah 12:25).

But the two most likely candidates for the writer of the book of Obadiah are not among those eleven men.

One was the governor of King Ahab’s house, but risked his life to hide a hundred prophets of God, and even fed them (presumably with Ahab’s food) during a great famine (1 Kings 18:1-16). This man was also acquainted with Elijah, which was also very dangerous at this time, since that prophet had a death sentence hanging over his head by Jezebel.  But Obadiah remained faithful to the Lord and His prophets.

The other one is a man chosen by King Jehoshaphat to travel around the kingdom as a teacher of the Law, to bring the people back to God—and it seems to have been so effective that the nations around them even feared the Lord as a result (2 Chronicles 17:3-10).

We may never know for certain which man wrote Obadiah, but now at least you know a little bit more about the possibilities.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Simeon the Prophet

Simeon, that was called Niger (Acts 13:1)

Simeon is an alternate spelling of the name Simon (Acts 15:14 spells Simon Peter’s name Simeon). The name Niger means “black.” Some have suggested that this means that Simeon was a black man. If this is the case, then it would imply that Simeon was a Gentile, and would therefore be the first recorded Gentile prophet in the New Testament. If the fact that he was called “black” means that he was indeed of African descent, then that makes the Antioch church look even better, because they didn’t care about skin color.

Others state that in the Roman Empire, the surname “Niger” or “Black” was just as common as the name “Black” is today in the United States.

A third suggestion which is made is that this Simeon/Simon was one of the people mentioned in 11:20, and that the phrase “of Cyrene” applies in 13:1 to both Simeon/Simon and Lucius. If this is the case, then it would identify this man with Simon of Cyrene who was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus Christ to Golgotha.1 According to Mark 15:21, he is also the father of two men whose name pop up elsewhere in the biblical record: Rufus2 and Alexander.3

Luke has a habit of rarely mentioning people by name unless they show up elsewhere, are well-known to his readers, or are a main character in the narrative. For example, there are two disciples on the road to Emmaus who meet the resurrected Christ. One of them (Cloepas) is named, the other is not. According to John 19:25, Cleopas (also spelled “Cleophas”) was the husband of one of the women who stood at the cross of Christ. Though this isn’t definitive proof, it points to Simeon being someone who appears elsewhere in the biblical record. For that reason, it seems as though identifying him with the man who carried the cross of Jesus would make the most sense.

But look at the beauty of this: A man who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time was grabbed and forced to carry Jesus’ cross. There’s no indication that this man was a disciple of Jesus at this point. But then comes Pentecost, and Simon of Cyrene hears the gospel, and obeys it. He returns home and teaches them. He hears about the household of Cornelius, and he knows the importance of that event. He rushes to Antioch and starts preaching Jesus to the Gentiles there, and watches the church grow and flourish. While he’s there, he meets Saul of Tarsus, the former persecutor-turned-prophet, and gets to know him. And it’s also about this time that his name becomes immortalized, because Matthew—one of Jesus twelve apostles—has published the first official gospel account,4 and it is making its rounds among the Jews and Jewish Christians. And there, near the end of it, Simeon sees the words, “And as they came out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled him to carry (Jesus’) cross.”

Is it any wonder that Simeon is mentioned in this list?

-Bradley S. Cobb

1 Luke 23:26

2 Romans 16:13

3 Acts 19:33

4 Some scholars date Matthew as early as AD 38. It is not within the scope of this work to debate/prove the order in which the gospels were written. However, we would submit that every collection of the gospels in Greek and Latin have Matthew first. We would also submit that it was the universal assertion of early Christian writers (at least, of those who spoke to the order of writing) that Matthew and Luke were written first, then Mark, then John. J.W. McGarvey suggests a date between AD 42-58, while seeming to lean towards the earlier end of the spectrum.

Elders in the Old Testament

The following essay was written by Richard Mansel, and was featured in the first issue of The Quarterly (Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

INTRODUCTION

Leadership requires a level of courage that eliminates the timid or vacillating. Some are drawn to the flame because of inadequacy or vanity while others heed the call to makes things better. Leadership exposes the character beneath the surface in a way that bluster and bravado can never deliver.

Church government that is common to the New Testament is somewhat foreign to the Jewish society of former days. They resided in a theocracy led by God and were governed by the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:1-2).Those who answer the call of leadership must have the spiritual courage to “stand in the gap”1 (Ezekiel 22:30), ready to face whatever comes. Our faith should be resilient enough to withstand the “flaming darts of the evil one” (Ephesians 6:16, ESV) and persistent enough to never waver (Hebrews 11:6; Revelation 2:10).

The modern tolerance of the aged is in stark contrast to the respect they received in ancient societies. Accordingly, their wisdom was utilized and expected in moments of urgency and gravity.

THE TERM

Ancient cultures commonly elevated their elders to leadership positions of varying degrees because of their sage advice and keen eye for reading situations. In Genesis 50:7, we read about the elders of Egypt and in Numbers 22:7, the elders of Midian and Moab. As heads of certain family groups, they had accumulated some wealth and influence in their lives and were able to command authority.

The concept of an elder was akin to the senator in Latin and the sheik in Arabic.2 The Semitic root means “to be hoary” which refers to advanced age.3 “The hoary head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness” (Proverbs 16:31, KJV). The English Standard Version translates it as “gray hair” and the New King James Version says “silver-haired.”

The Hebrew word for “elder” literally means “beard,”4 so it did have reference to age. However, “In Israel, as among all ancient peoples, the elder is not only a person of advanced age, but also a man of distinct social grade.”5

“In all but a few instances, the elders in the Old Testament appear as a distinct social grade or collegiate body with certain political and religious functions, and not merely as ‘old men.’…but we must bear in mind that the word in actual usage need not by its etymology signify an old man any more than ‘Senator’ or ‘alderman’ does in the United States.”6

Further complicating the picture is the ambiguity of Scripture on this point.

“The Old Testament does not explain who the qualified, leading men of Israel were. Although Israel’s elders are mentioned some 100 times throughout the Old Testament, no detailed description of their organization, appointment or qualification is given.7

We therefore turn to their limited role in Israel’s leadership.

LEADERSHIP

We know that elders were of more than average age and were men of social standing and influence. Above that, we know very little. We don’t have specific passages addressing their qualifications the way we have in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1). We just have to tie together a variety of passages and make application.

When we talk about their responsibilities we need to remember that they were performed by human beings subject to sin, weaknesses, prejudices, political alliances, etc. (Romans 3:23). Some will do well and others will fail. Sadly, how the leadership goes, Israel follows.

In Exodus 18, Moses is overwhelmed with trying to counsel and judge the growing population of Israel. His father-in-law, Jethro, is alarmed at Moses’ work load. His tasks included judging disputes and teaching the Law to the people (Exodus 18:16). Jethro says to Moses after watching him judge the people the entire day, “What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” (Exodus 18:14).

Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you. If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.” (Exodus 18:21-23).

Moses complied and the providence of God instituted a legal system that would propel the nation into the future. Examining their qualifications we see God’s hand. They were “literally men of might”8 who had the “three qualities of piety, veracity and strict honesty, or incorruptness.”9

They were to be “able” or “capable” (NET Bible) men who were undoubtedly able to render decisions on their own without constant supervision. The word “connotes ability, leadership, management, resourcefulness, and due respect.”10

[A form of the word ‘able’] is…used in expressions like “mighty man of valor.” The word describes these men as respected, influential, powerful people, those looked up to by the community as leaders, and those that will have the needs of the community in mind. They will be morally and physically worthy.11

Naturally, they must be men who fear God and exhibit humility and respect for the Word of God (James 4:10; Deuteronomy 4:2; 12:32; Proverbs 30:6; Revelation 22:18-19).

From the time of their appointment, the ‘rulers’ were not merely judges, but ‘heads’ of their respective companies, with authority over them on the march, and command in the battlefield. Thus the organization was at once civil and military.”12

While these qualifications are for judges and not elders, we know that elders worked with judges for many years to come. Furthermore, we see the type men God desires for leadership. These points are crucial when we look ahead for men who will be leaders in the Lord’s kingdom. Their vision and sagacity will be crucial as they discern the proper paths to lead the brethren.

Jethro instructs Moses in the art of delegation and elders will fall into their roles, as a result.

Wise, decisive, compassionate leadership is a gift from God that every human community needs. Yet Exodus shows us that it is not so much a matter of a gifted leader assuming authority over people, as it is God’s process for a community to develop structures of leadership in which gifted people can succeed. Delegation is the only way to increase the capacity of an institution or community, as well as the way to develop future leaders.”13

As the nation grew and time progressed, delegation led to the functions of elders. “From earliest times a judicial body of elders was formed to give judgment on certain cases. They gathered in the gates of the city where rulings were pronounced” (Deuteronomy 21:19; 22:15; 25:7; Ruth 4:1-2).14

They were tasked to specific kinds of cases. “No professional judgment [was] necessary in such cases: the elders presided over a case, whose consequences [were] clear beforehand.”15 Judges sat for advanced cases where more skilled knowledge was needed.16

Concerning the elders of the city, their “functions [were] best exemplified by the pertinent laws of Deuteronomy.”17 They were usually involved in matters of blood redemption (19:12), rebellious children (21:19), the defamation of a virgin (22:15), and levirate issues (25:9). “All of these cases dealt with the protection of a family and local patriarchal interests.”18

Judges served in local courts (Deuteronomy 17:8ff; 19:17-18; 25:1-3).19 Only once do we find situations where the elders were involved in a legal matter as advanced as a murder case. The elders of the city closest to the site of the corpse had certain responsibilities that had to be performed (21:1ff).

The elders of the people represented the people in spiritual matters and in the teaching of the law (Exodus 19:7; 24:1, 9; Deuteronomy 27:1; 29:9ff; 31:9; Joshua 8:33; 24:1). They appointed leaders (1 Samuel 8:4), declared war (Joshua 8:10) and conducted political negotiations (Exodus 3:16-18; 4:29; Numbers 16:25; 2 Samuel 3:17; 5:3).

APPLICATION

The position of Elder under the Law of Moses is different than the position in the New Testament. Yet, we take what we’ve learned and make a few applications so we can better understand God’s plan for the Church today. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

It appears that “elders” served an organic function. Their society revered the aged and their influence was obvious. Naturally, God used them to accomplish His goals. Yet, in their origins, we find a nugget that the church can use.

Like the elders of Israel, elders in the New Testament aren’t given age parameters. They must be mature in the faith (1 Timothy 3:6), married and have children (1 Timothy 3:2-5; Titus 1:6). Yet, they come from the people. They’re men who are already working and serving the Lord. The respect they have cultivated helps elevate them to the eldership. By wisdom, presence, and example, the people have witnessed their seriousness of mind and soul.

Elders under the Old Covenant were servants and remained within their boundaries. They worked for and with the judges, kings and leaders of the nation. Their responsibilities were limited but important. They were expected to handle them with respect and sobriety.

Elders in the Lord’s Church need to remember that they’re servants called to do the Lord’s work of tending the flock (Acts 20:28). They must know the brethren, their minds, fluctuations, and trends.

The judges, leaders, and kings had their own problems and stressors. They depended on the elders to be the barometer of the nation and to do what needed to be done in that respect. Likewise successful elders today are focused on their responsibilities rather than trying to do the work of the preacher or the deacons.

The elders were numerous and were to be a united front (Psalm 107:32). Their collective nature is of even greater importance today. As men of God stand for truth and against error, there must be complete agreement and commitment to the doctrines of Scripture.

However, just like today, elders sometimes followed their base instincts instead of God and the nation suffered. Because of their influence, their moral integrity was integral.

During the early monarchy, the kings depended much on the elders’ cooperation for successful rule” (1 Samuel 15:30; 30:26; 2 Samuel 5:3; 1 Chronicles 21:16).20

David “knew their weakness and fickleness, especially in their unstable political condition. He also knew that he could shepherd the nation effectively only with their cooperation. In a real way, the elders in each city functioned as David’s undershepherds.”

Of course, they fell for Absalom’s deception and caused great pain to David (2 Samuel 17).

They refused to stand for truth when they served under Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21). During the days of Josiah, the missing Book of the Law was discovered by Hilkiah and was read to the king and the people (2 Kings 22). The elders should have been more diligent to help preserve the Word of the Lord.

Isaiah rebuked the elders of their waste, poor stewardship, abuse of the poor, and for failing to follow God’s will (Isaiah 3:14ff).

The lessons are obvious. Elders today must stand alone if necessary to preserve the way of the Lord. They mustn’t allow wolves into the fold (Acts 20:29) and never back down from those who threaten the Church. Elders must be warriors for truth.

CONCLUSION

Men of God have been indispensable since Adam failed to lead spiritually in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:1-6). The greatest problem in the Lord’s church today is a lack of sound leadership. The more we can learn about God’s plan for leaders, the better off we will be.

The qualities God desired in judges, prophets, priests, elders, husbands and fathers have, despite their functions and contexts, been basically the same. Put the Lord first, be men of prayer and the Word. We must show our family and the world that God is the answer we all seek. Godly men of strength will desperately be needed until the end of time.

1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture references will be from the New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1984).

2 Moshe Warfield, “Elder” jewishvirtuallibrary.org/ jsource/judaica/ejud_0002_0006_0_05737.html

3 J. Conrad, “Elder.” Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterwick and Helmer Ringgren. Translated by David E, Green. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003), 4:123.

4 F. Charles Fensham, “Elders,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 2:53.

5 Warfield

6 Alexander Strauch, Biblical Leadership: An Urgent Call to Restore Biblical Church Leadership (Littleton: Lewis and Roth Publishers, 1986), 139.

7 Strauch, 137.

8 Exodus 18:21, Pulpit Commentary, e-sword, electronic resource.

9 Ibid.

10 Theology of Work Project; www.theologyofwork.org/old-testament/exodus-and-work/israel-at-the-red-sea-and-on-the-way-to-sinai-exodus-1317-1827/the-work-of-justice-among-the-people-of-israel-exodus-181-27/

11 Note 62; www.christianleadershipcenter.org/exod.32.pdf

12 Pulpit Commentary, Exodus 18:25, e-sword, electronic resource.

13 Theology of Work Project

14 ISBE 2:53

15 Weinfeld

16 Ibid.

17 Ibid.

18 Ibid.

19 Ibid.

20 Strauch, 144.

The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles

The following article is by Kyle Frank and Bradley S. Cobb.  It originally appeared in The Quarterly Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

This sad tale follows a brown satchel. Yes, a brown satchel.  For years, H. Leo Boles served the Lord as a preacher, writer, editor, and debater.  In January 1946, he came down with a bout of pneumonia to go along with the phlebitis (an inflammation of a vein) which had severely hindered his mobility.  However, by February, he had recovered from the pneumonia, and was successfully overcoming the phlebitis, and was expected to make a full recovery.  But early in the morning of February 7, 1946, he awoke his wife and his secretary with a horrible scream of pain. He passed from this life to the next that same morning.

After his unexpected death, his funeral was conducted by N.B. Hardeman, S.H. Hall, and B.C. Goodpasture.  It was soon after this event that the brown satchel came into play, and the story of the lost sermons begins.

H. Leo Boles wrote his sermons in brief outline form, and expanded on them as he was preaching them. They were usually typewritten, and he would often write the date and location where he used the outline at the bottom of the page. After his death, his office was cleaned out, and all of his known outlines were put into his brown satchel.  Mrs. Boles, in a show of appreciation to her husband’s secretary, gave her this satchel.

This secretary’s name was Miss Violet Devaney.  She came from a very wealthy family, and had several sisters, but no brothers.  Growing up, they all dreamed of getting married and having families of their own.  However, their father had other ideas.  He gave them an edict, that if they ever married, they would be completely taken out of the will, and would receive not even a penny of the family fortune.  Perhaps he did this so that his daughters would find men who were more interested in them than in their inheritance.  Or perhaps he was slightly off his rocker.  Only God knows the answer to that.

One of the daughters fell in love, and married.  She was promptly removed from the will, and the father did it with such a vehemence that none of the other daughters ever became a bride.  This married sister comes into play later in our story.

Miss Devaney lived the quiet life of a spinster, her only real male friendship being that which she had with Brother Boles. Then he died. The years that went by were spent in relative solitude.

A couple years after Boles’ death, Violet was approached by B.C. Goodpasture, editor of the Gospel Advocate, who was seeking some of the sermon outlines that he had been informed she possessed.  She gave him several, and those were then published in a book called “Sermon Outlines of H. Leo Boles.”  This book is no longer in print.  Three decades passed, and Miss Devaney still kept that brown satchel.  In the 1980s, Arthur K. Gardner approached her, asking if there were any outlines that he could use in a book on brother Boles.  She gave him some, and they were published, along with a brief biography, in “The Life and Lessons of H. Leo Boles” (available from Gospel Light Publishing, Delight, Arkansas).

But that brown satchel still contained more outlines that hadn’t seen the light of day since that fateful February morning in 1946.

By the mid-1990s, Miss Violet Devaney was a member of the Lord’s church in Russellville, Alabama.  It was here that she left this world behind, having faithfully obeyed her father’s wishes, dying an unmarried woman, and went to be in paradise, the home of the faithful.

After her death, her sister—the one who had gone against her father’s edict and chose marriage and family over wealth—came to Russellville to take care of her estate.  Among her worldly goods was a very old, very worn, brown satchel.  This satchel remained faithful to its duty, caring for the papers and outlines entrusted to it.

When Miss Devaney passed to her reward, Benny Johns was the preacher for the church in Russellville. The sons of Violet’s married sister gave him full access to the outlines to type them up and hopefully make them available to future generations. He typed them all up, but they remained unseen by the almost the rest of world for two more decades.  In the late 1990s, the writer of this article was permitted to see them, and obtained a copy of each of them, which he has kept since that time, unsure of what to do with them, and how to make them available.

It is now 2017, and it has been 71 years since H. Leo Boles took his final breath on this earth.  But through his writings (including his sermons), “he being dead, yet speaks.”  His sermons are no longer “lost.”  By the time you read this, “The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles” will be published for the world to see. Unfortunately, the brown satchel is lost, and probably gone forever.

It is my hope that by putting these sermon outlines into print, they can be used to bring glory to God, who makes all things possible.

Insights from Seasoned Ministers: Loren Gieger

The following interview was conducted by Jim Mitchell, and was featured in our magazine, The Quarterly, Vol. 1, No. 1 (January 2017).  We hope you enjoy it!

Recently I had the opportunity to sit down with two men who have been a part of Oklahoma Christian University for decades and have had a positive impact on thousands of students over the years. Both are still very active in the Lord’s work, and their insights on how things have grown and changed carried both encouragement in things which have been positive as well as concern for the challenges the Lord’s church faces.

Dr. Loren Gieger served as a Professor of Biblical Studies at OC for 31 years before retiring from the University classroom. He continues to teach the Early Bird class on Wednesday evenings at the Memorial Road church of Christ in Edmond, OK – which he has done for over a quarter of a century, and he preaches for the church of Christ in Stroud, OK. Dr. Gieger is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and the Near Eastern Archaeological Society. He has done archaeological studies in Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, and Egypt.

What changes have you seen within the Lord’s church through the years?

LG: The first change I see is a decline in numbers. Small congregations in rural areas continue to decline as smaller communities dwindle and people migrate to the cities. It seems like congregations that are doing well are the larger congregations as people become more attracted to congregations with huge numbers. The strength of the leadership within many congregations is declining as membership in general is “graying.”

My second concern is with the soundness of the church. I think that younger ministers have not fought the battles a previous generation did with denominationalism. Younger ministers in general seem unaware of the dangers of the vocabulary used where there are non-Biblical terms frequently used in the religious world. Generally, as I listen to younger preachers, they don’t seem to know the book or how to exegete passages properly. They endeavor to appeal to a wider diversity of members and as a result, the distinctiveness is losing ground. I do think we need to turn some of these trends around.

What things do you see happening today which are encouraging?

LG: Our preachers are more formally educated than ever before. They tend to be very sharp, eloquent and good communicators. They are much better at illustrating lessons, stories are interesting, the lessons they give include lots of examples. However, as a result of that emphasis, there is a lot less Biblical proclamation in their preaching.

There are more opportunities and ministries for local congregations which is fantastic. Visual presentations (utilizing things such as power point) make lessons interesting and memorable more than ever before. The internet gives us opportunities which are unparalleled as we can communicate with Christians and missionaries around the world. Generally speaking, members of the church are more prosperous (at least in this country). We have finer homes, but may actually use them less in Christian hospitality than previous generations. The younger generation in the Lord’s church are very service oriented and take advantage of multiple mission trips, camps, and campaigns around the globe.

Within the younger generation, the commitment to the restoration of New Testament Christianity is not something which I see today as much as in the past.

What can you share from your ministry which was unusual or humorous?

LG: When I was in Fort Worth, one of the elders gave me a call late at night about the death of one of our members and told me he would come by and pick me up to go visit the family. I dressed hurriedly and slipped my shoes on (I had two pairs of shoes sitting by the couch). When we arrived at the home and rang the doorbell, one of the two elders with me said “Hey preacher, look down at your feet.” I had put on one white shoe and one black shoe. I tried to hide one foot behind the couch, but finally just brought both feet and told them that I have on one black shoe and one white shoe as you can see, but that I had another pair just like it at home. When I arrived back home, the front porch light was on, and my wife had set the other white and black shoe out on the porch. Later, the congregation took up a special contribution to give me a trip to the Bible lands. They rented a banquet room and had a dinner to see me off on the trip. Every man who came to that dinner came wearing one white shoe and one black one. The story made the front page of the local paper in Fort Worth.

What concluding thoughts do you have as we bring this interview to a close?

LG: I am afraid that the restoration mindset may be fading away, and I’m not sure how to stop that from happening. I also think there are some things we have taught we need to continue to revise, we never want to get away from scripture, but there are some things that are problems in today’s society that we really haven’t faced as well as we should. We have taken a [prohibitive] stance in churches of Christ (you can’t do this and you can’t do that) but we have not taken a redemptive stance, that is, how do you handle people that are in certain situations. I think we need to take another look at how we conduct funerals. We can do a better job ministering to the family of the deceased in times of grief. I think we need to teach people how to give. I think we have converted people (even on the mission fields), but we don’t teach those people to give like previous generations have given. I don’t want to sound negative, but I do think that along with the positives taking place, there are problematic areas we need to continue to address.

Luke the Historian

Did You Know?

Luke has been called a “first-rate historian” by a man who was an atheist.  This atheist (Sir William Ramsay) set out to prove the Bible false by traveling the same route that the Apostle Paul traveled.  However, he found that everything Luke said was 100% accurate, even down to the names and ranks of various Roman officials at the time Paul went through (though those officials may have later changed roles).

Perhaps the most contested part of Luke’s writing, from a historical standpoint, was his statement about a census during the governership of Cyrenius over Syria.  It was stated that (1) Cyrenius was never governor over Syria—he held a different role; and (2) there was no record of a census (“taxing”, KJV) during the time under consideration.  Sir William Ramsay, an archaeologist himself, discovered inscriptions in Syria, dating from that same time period, describing Cyrenius as “governor.”

Never once has archaeology found anything that disproves the biblical record.  Not once.

-Bradley S. Cobb

The “Wiles” of the Devil

Did You Know?

In Ephesians 6:11, God inspired Paul to alert us to the “wiles” of the devil.  Some translations render it “schemes” of the devil.  It is because of the wiles or schemes of the devil that we are to wear the whole armor of God.  But why exactly is the word “wiles” or “schemes” used to describe the attacks of the devil?

Well, first off, we need to remember that as God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5), Satan is the opposite—a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44).  Because his very nature is sin, everything he does is opposed to God and God’s people.  The word translated “wiles” or “schemes” in Ephesians 6:11 is the Greek word methodeia—methods.  All of Satan’s methods are evil, they are parts of his attempts to devour the followers of God.  And since all of his methods are evil, we need to be constantly on guard.  NOTHING that Satan says or does will help us or do us anything but harm.

Satan, by nature, is wiley, a schemer, a creature with only evil methods designed to harm us.  Praise God that He has provided us with His armor to protect us!

-Bradley S. Cobb

Paul’s Past Hubris

DID YOU KNOW?

When relating his former life as a persecutor of the church of Christ, the Apostle Paul describes himself as “a blasphemer…persecutor…injurious” to the cause of Christ (1 Timothy 1:13).  The original word translated “injurious” (KJV) or “insolent” (NKJV) is hubristes.

In English, the word hubris means “the excessive pride and ambition that usually leads to the downfall of a hero in classical tragedy.”  It is interesting that Paul’s hubris as an enemy of Christ led to his downfall as a Jewish hero.  He spoke boldly against Christ, and Christ triumphed.  Is it any wonder that Paul said that he counted his past life as rubbish? (Philippians 3).

-Bradley S. Cobb