Category Archives: Articles

The National Church of America???

I was quite surprised to read that some people descended from the Restoration Movement actually made the claim that they were the closest thing to a national church in America that there was–and that they foresaw the day when that vision became a reality, where all the denominational groups would join together with them.

Now, some might scoff at that statement and say that the Campbells looked to unite all the denominations into one body, and that I just don’t know my history.

No, there’s a difference.  The Campbells were trying to stop the division among the denominations based on clear teachings of the word of God.  These people I’m talking about took pride in saying that none of the sermons they preached would be offensive in any denomination.  They took pride in saying that they were the only church who weren’t offensive to anyone, and who would accept anyone, so long as they would acknowledge the Bible as the word of God (whether they accepted what was written in there apparently didn’t matter, as we’ll see momentarily), and displayed a Christian attitude.

If they accepted infant baptism, sprinkling or pouring as baptism, or rejected baptism completely, it didn’t matter.  If they used instruments and women preachers, no big deal.  Ignore the Lord’s Supper?  Who cares! As long as you take the word of God and act nice, you’re more than accepted!

We have brethren today who may not be as far gone, but they’re getting close.  In the name of “Christian Unity,” they are willing to ignore anything “doctrinal,” anything to do with worship, leadership roles, and even things the Scripture clearly connects with salvation, and just proclaim to people that their sins are all forgiven and that they have a home eternally with God awaiting them–WITHOUT OBEYING THE GOSPEL!

The people that brought this post about were the early 20th Century descendants of the Christian Connexion.  In 1911, Martyn Summerbell gave a short lecture called “An Address on the Origin and Principles of the Christians,” and in it he made the claim that the “Christians” were the only ones who could bring together all the denominations.

Perhaps they could.  But bringing together all the denominations into one body still doesn’t make them the church if they haven’t come to the Father through Jesus Christ in obedient faith which exhibits itself in repentance, baptism, and a faithful life in service to our Lord.

The address, fully reformatted and corrected (and searchable) can be downloaded below.

Address on the Origin and Principles of the Christians (Martyn Summerbell)

-Bradley S. Cobb

Faith Comes by What?!?

Did You Know?

When Paul works his way backwards from salvation to God in Romans 10, he says those “who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (verse 13).  He then asks rhetorical questions, “How can they call on Him in Whom they have not believed?  How can they believe in Him of Whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without a preacher? And how can they preach unless they be sent?” (verses 14-15).  He points out that preaching alone didn’t save people, then quotes Isaiah, saying “Who has believed our report?” (verse 16).  That word “report” is important to remember.

We all know the next verse: “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”

But did you know that this isn’t actually what the verse is supposed to say?  The word “report” in verse 16 is a noun.  It is a message, something delivered to people.  The word “hearing” in verse 17—in the original—is the EXACT SAME WORD.  That’s right, it is supposed to be a noun, not a verb.  Not only that, but there’s another word in the Greek that isn’t in most English translations—the word that means “the.”  Literally, this verse reads:

“So then the faith comes by (our) report, and (our) report (comes) from the declaration of God.”

Romans 10:17, instead of being designed to show a step in the plan of salvation, is stressing the origin of the message that saves: the faith (see Jude 3) comes from the message we preach, and that message comes from God.

(Note: the Modern Literal Version, and Young’s Literal Translation both make this point clear in their translations)

-Bradley S. Cobb

New Additions to the eLibrary

TWO NEW BOOKS!

Chester Estes was a fine man, and perhaps an even better preacher.  In his life, he wrote untold numbers of articles and sermons; and also wrote commentaries.  He even did his own translation of the Bible!

He also wrote some other books, one of which is being added today to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.  It’s called “What is Truth?”

The eBook that you can download below is a scan of the original book.  I realize that isn’t our normal operating procedure (usually we completely reformat and proofread/correct every book we post), but hopefully you’ll forgive us for giving you the original this time.  🙂

What is Truth? (Chester Estes)

Now, for the people who really want to dig deep on the myth of evolution, we are presenting a booklet called “The Man from Monkey Myth,” written by Douglas Dewar.  This was originally published in a magazine in 1944, and later reprinted by James D. Bales as part of a campaign against evolution.

Dewar speaks the scientists’ language, as he shows their conclusions are unwarranted and untrue.

Fully reformatted and searchable, you can download it by clicking the link below.

Man from Monkey Myth (Douglas Dewar)

 

Can You Bear the Light?

 

Introduction

Wouldn’t it be great to be imprisoned?  To not be able to go anywhere?  To not have the freedom to get up and walk somewhere?  I mean, think of how happy you’d be if only you were in chains!!

Okay, not really.  But Paul’s example is a great one to follow.  He’s imprisoned, awaiting trial, and yet he repeatedly speaks of his joy.  Obviously his joy isn’t because he’s imprisoned, but he can have joy nonetheless.  There’s several passages throughout Philippians that prove this point—but as they aren’t the focus of this lesson, we’ll not delve into all of them.  Instead, I want you to look at Philippians 2:12-18 with me, and we will see that one reason Paul had joy was because faithful Christians are light-bearers in the world.

Light-bearing involves faithfulness to God’s commands (2:12-13)

Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

First, Paul loves them.  The word “beloved” is the noun form of agape.  Literally, it is “loved ones.”  Because he loves them, he praises them, and he also encourages them.  Isn’t that a great example of shining like a light?  When someone does something good, praise them, and encourage them to continue!

Second, they were obedient to the things Paul had delivered to them from God.  In other words, they were faithful to the commands of the Lord.  The word “obeyed” in the original is two words put together: under and hearing.  They listened to the one whom they were under (ultimately, God), recognizing Him as the Master and Ruler.  Since “obedience” includes the word “hearing,” is it really possible for someone to obey God without hearing what His word says?  And remember, that this is being spoken to Christians—Christians need to continue to “hear the word of the Lord,” or “study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”  If you want to shine like lights in the world, drawing people to Christ, then you have to read, study, listen to the commands of God.

Third, Paul encourages them to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.”  The phrase “not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence” actually goes with this encouraging phrase.  They were concerned about their salvation, they energetically worked to maintain their standing before God, while Paul was present.  Now, however, Paul encourages them to do it even more so—literally, to work out fully their own salvation—in his absence.  It’s like a parent watching his children as they clean their room, or do the dishes, or mow the yard, or whatever task it might be.  The children might work steadily and diligently while mom or dad are standing there watching, and the work will get done.  But it is far more important, far more impressive, when they do that work without mom and dad’s personal presence right there.  How those children obey, how they work when the parents aren’t right there shows what kind of person they truly are.  In the same way, Paul encourages the Philippian Christians (and us today as well) to take personal responsibility, to show our true dedication to the Lord by working out our own salvation.  2 John 8 says “Look to yourselves that we lose not the things for which we have worked, but receive a full reward.”

Fourth, they are to work out their own salvation “with fear and trembling.”   This doesn’t mean that we are shaking in our boots, afraid that God is going to strike us down the first time we sin.  This isn’t talking about never having confidence in our salvation.  It is a warning against overconfidence.  God has not given us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power.  Wardlaw says:

This fear is self-distrust; it is tenderness of conscience; it is vigilance against temptation; it is the fear which inspiration opposes to high-mindedness in the admonition ‘be not high-minded but fear.’ It is taking heed lest we fall; it is a constant apprehension of the deceitfulness of the heart, and of the insidiousness and power of inward corruption. It is the caution and circumspection which timidly shrinks from whatever would offend and dishonor God and the Savior. And these the child of God will feel and exercise the more he rises above the enfeebling, disheartening, distressing influence of the fear which hath torment. Well might Solomon say of such fear, ‘happy is the man that feareth always”

This goes along well with what Paul says in Galatians 6:1: “If you see a man overtaken in a fault, you who are spiritual restore such a man in a spirit of meekness, considering yourself, lest you also be tempted.”  In other words, work to gain the full reward, but realize that you can indeed fall, so don’t get overconfident.

Fifth, as light-bearers, those who are faithful to God’s commands, we must realize that it is God working in us.  We aren’t the source of the light, God is.  When we do good for others, it is God working in us.  People in the world don’t see God working and blessing their lives, offering them salvation, except through His people who have the desire (the “will”) and who follow through with the work (the “do”).  Just as it is said that Jesus baptized more disciples than John, yet He didn’t do it personally, but through the apostles—one way God works on the hearts and lives of people (Christians and non-Christians) is through His chosen people: faithful Christians.  It’s a solemn responsibility and a great honor to know that God is working in us!

Light-bearing involves the proper attitude (2:14-16a)

Do all things without murmurings and disputings so that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.

It is very rare (if at all) that a biblical writer says anything in a vacuum.  That is, it is very rare (if at all) that anything recorded in the Bible isn’t connected in some way to the context around it.  Verse 14 is often used without consideration of its context.  The principle is still valid, but there’s a purpose behind Paul’s saying “do all things without murmurings and disputings” (without whining and complaining).  And here’s the purpose in a nutshell: you can’t shine as lights in the world, bearing the light of God to souls both lost and struggling, when you’re complaining.

My family and I drove across the country to the east coast a couple years ago.  In order to save money, we decided to drop in on some family members along the way, making use of their spare bedrooms.  In each place we went, we were told we were welcome to stay (we did contact them all ahead of time, so it wasn’t a surprise).  However, at one place, it was made clear to us that it was an inconvenience for them to let us stay the night.  They were put out.  Their attitude in helping us out was such that we won’t ever go there again.

You can’t take the gospel to others and expect them to respond when you have a complaining attitude.  Imagine it.  You go up to someone and say, “I’ve got this great news.  Wish I didn’t have to tell it to you, though.”  What kind of response are you going to receive from that?  I’ll tell you: You’ve lost the chance of ever reaching them with the gospel ever again.

The NIV translates it as “complaining and arguing.”  We snuff out our light when all that people see from us is arguing.  While there is a time and place for discussing biblical topics with brethren—yes, even having disagreements and perhaps even arguing (depending on what the other person is advocating)—your public Facebook feed probably isn’t the place for it.  Some people’s Facebook profile is nothing but calling out or condemning people in the church!  And one such person, when asking a friend to study the Bible with him, received a rejection because all he saw from this man was arguing with his own brethren!

After making that statement, Paul explains why they should “do all things without murmurings or complainings: “So that you might become blameless and harmless, children of God, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation [literally, generation], among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

We need to be concerned about how we are viewed by non-Christians.  We must live blamelessly—live in a way that we can’t be accused of maliciousness or evil intent.  We must live harmlessly—doing no damage or injury to others by what we say or do.  We must show ourselves to be children of God.  Jesus said that “by this shall all me know that you are my disciples: if you have love one for another.”  He also included a similar idea in His prayer in John 17: “that they may be one…so that the world can see that you have sent me.”  A requirement for elders is that they “must have a good report from those outside” (1 Timothy 3).

We become blameless, harmless, children of God, and we shine as lights in the world when we have the proper attitude and use that godly disposition to show the love of Jesus Christ to others!  The world is in darkness, and God shines forth, giving light to those lost and stumbling in sin through us.

But Paul closes this thought with a reminder that it isn’t just the attitude, it must include the Scriptures as well: “Holding forth the word of life.”  We keep our lives aligned with the word of God, and when we share the love of Christ with others, we make sure to point them to the same thing: the engrafted word which is able to save their souls (James 1:21).

Light-bearing leads to eternal rejoicing (2:16b-18)

So that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain. Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.

Ultimately, God through Paul is saying that true light-bearers will receive the eternal reward. It will be a day of great rejoicing on different levels.

First, Paul himself would rejoice “in the day of Christ.”  He would rejoice to see familiar faces in that great resurrection reunion.  His rejoicing was because he would be reunited with friends and loved one, but also that his work among them was not in vain.

Three years ago, Jesse and I took in three Indian boys in order to keep them out of “the system” when their parents went to jail.  It was a rough couple months for us, as those boys hadn’t been disciplined, hadn’t been trained, didn’t care about schoolwork.  But we labored with them until their parents got out of jail.  Earlier this month, I got a message from one of the boys thanking us for everything we did for them, and how the time with us is a bright memory for them.  When you hear things like that, you can’t help but rejoice that your labor was not in vain—that the work you did had an impact on the lives of others.  It’s no wonder Paul said he would rejoice in the day of Christ!

Second, Paul would rejoice that he had the smallest part in helping them—and that they had the larger part to play.  Literally, Paul says “if I be poured out on the sacrifice…” In both Jewish and pagan sacrifices, the drink offering, which was poured out, was the smallest part of the offering.  Paul said that the “sacrifice” (the main part of the offering) was their faith.  Paul knew that bringing the gospel to them, working with them, and teaching them was important—but their final salvation ultimately rested on their faith put into action.  Paul’s rejoicing came as a result of knowing that the little work he did with them led to their own personal faith and works in the Lord as light-bearers.

Third, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice as well because of their soul’s salvation in the day of Christ.  Paul says “I joy, and rejoice with you.”

Fourth, the Christians in Philippi would rejoice because they got to be reunited with the one who brought the gospel to them: “For the same cause, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.”

Sing the wondrous love of Jesus,
Sing His mercy and His grace,
In the mansions, bright and blessed,
He’ll prepare for us a place
When we all get to heaven
What a day of rejoicing that will be
When we all see Jesus
We’ll sing and shout the victory.

Conclusion

From the time I was a little kid, sitting in Sunday school, I sang the song “This little light of mine.”  (sometimes “Christian light” or “gospel light)  In that song, we try to teach the children to let their lights shine for Jesus.  “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”  We try to teach this principle to the children, but we might want to start realizing it applies to us adults as well.

Hide it under a bushel?  No!  I’m gonna let it shine!

Won’t let Satan [blow] it out, I’m gonna let it shine

Let it shine, all the time, let it shine.

If we let God’s light shine through us by our obedience, our love, our attitude, and our actions, then we will make it to heaven—but more than that, we will be able to rejoice because of others who are there as a result of our labor with them.

Are you a light-bearer?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Division at Henderson, Tennessee

Henderson, Tennessee, is well known for being the home of Freed-Hardeman University.  But did you know that this symbol of conservative schooling was once in the control of those who favored the use of instruments of music in worship?  And that the congregation there used instruments for a time?

It might be hard to believe, but it’s the truth.

Today, we are proud to present to you an unpublished manuscript by Grady Miller (preacher at Pikes Peak church of Christ) which deals with the division in the church at Henderson in January, 1903.  Miller wrote this document while a student at Freed-Hardeman in 1975, and has graciously permitted us to post it here for you to read and enjoy.

Please feel free to comment.  All comments will be passed on to Mr. Miller.

Division in Henderson, TN (Grady Miller, 1975)

Peter’s “Love” Problem

Did You Know?

After Peter denied Jesus three times, he ran away and wept bitterly.  However, after Jesus’ resurrection Peter proclaimed his “love” for Jesus three times—and then got sad!  Why is that?  The Greek helps us to understand this conundrum much better.

When Jesus and Peter are walking together, in the last chapter of John, Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me more than these?”  Jesus uses the word agape, which is a sacrificial love, a willing love, a higher love.  Peter answers back, “Lord, you know I love you.”  The problem is that Peter doesn’t use the same word that Jesus does.  Peter uses the word phileo (where we get “Phil-adelphia), which means like, or friendship, or warm affection.  In essence, Jesus says, “Peter do you love me,” and Peter’s response is, “Lord, you know I’m your friend.”

Jesus again asks the same question, using the same word as before, and Peter’s response is the same—still not willing to use the word agape to express his level of commitment to Jesus.

But the third time’s the charm, so to speak.  The third time Jesus asks the question, He says, “Do you like [phileo] me?”  Jesus uses Peter’s own word, and asks if Peter’s commitment is even that strong.  And the inspired Scripture tells us, “Peter was sorrowful, because [Jesus] said the third time, ‘Do you phileo me?’” (John 21:17).  Twice Jesus asks “Do you love me?” and the final time, He basically asks Peter, “Are you really even my friend?”  No wonder Peter was sad.

-Bradley S. Cobb

David Lipscomb: Child of God, Soldier of the Cross

It’s nice to have friends.

Lee Parish, who preaches in Marlow, Oklahoma, was kind enough to send a paper he wrote in 2013 on David Lipscomb to be placed in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary.

The paper looks at David Lioscomb’s life in the following headings: (1) His Early Years, (2) Not a Preacher, (3) The Civil War, (4) His Prolific Pen, (5) The Greatest Man on the Continent, (6) “Aunt Mag”, and (7) A Life that Lives On.

He does send a note along with it, that his “works cited” page somehow disappeared.  But the references are scattered throughout the paper.

Enjoy!

David Lipscomb: Child of God, Soldier of the Cross (Lee Parish, 2013)

Poor vs. REALLY Poor

Did You Know?

We all remember the time when Jesus stood with His disciples, watching people come and go, and putting money into the collection box for the temple.  Then along came this poor widow, who put in two mites—a very small sum.  The Bible even calls her a poor widow (Luke 21:2).  But just how poor was she?

Luke calls her poor, the original word meaning “needy.”  She didn’t have enough to make ends meet, and was in need of assistance.  That was before she gave her two mites (which equate to 1/64th of a day’s wages—in other words, less than two dollars in today’s money).  But after she gave that money to the Lord, Jesus uses a different word for poor (Luke 21:3).  The word Jesus used means “reduced to begging,” or “completely destitute.”

In other words, when she came to the temple, she was poor.  When she left, she was really poor—completely destitute and broke.  And Luke makes that distinction for us.  Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb

A History of the Birdell-Noland churches of Christ

History is a hobby of mine.  Especially church history.  But I’m not alone in that hobby.

Joshua Dement, who lives and works in Northeast Arkansas, is quite the history buff as well, and he specializes in researching the history of congregations in his area.

Today, thanks to brother Dement’s kind permission, we will be presenting a portion of his research, showing the Restoration Movement in action in the planting of several congregations in that part of the state.

If you happen to have more information about the congregations or individuals mentioned therein, I’m sure Joshua would love to hear from you.  Send a note via our contact page, and I’ll make sure it gets to him (don’t want to just publicize his email address for the world to see, you know).

Until then, enjoy!

History of the Birdell-Noland Churches of Christ (Joshua Dement, 2014)

The Evil Jonathan and His Righteous Ancestor

Did You Know?

Most of us are at least somewhat familiar with Jonathan, the son of Saul, who was the bosom friend of David.  Jonathan comes across in the biblical narrative as a true friend, selfless, loyal, devoted to God and to righteousness.  However, there is another man named Jonathan in the Bible—one who is nothing like the friend of David.

In Judges 17-18, a man named Micah (not the prophet) had built an idol, and acquired the services of a Levite to serve as his personal priest (even though this Levite was not a descendant of Aaron).  This Levite claimed to speak to Micah on behalf of God, and in worship, apparently used an idol that Micah had built.  The Levite was treated very well for his services.

Later on, some men from the tribe of Dan came and stole the idol, and convinced the priest that it would be far better for him if he was priest of an entire tribe instead of just Micah’s house.  So, this false priest gladly went after the power and possessions that came with this new opportunity.  The problem is, he was violating God’s law by presuming to act as priest when he wasn’t of the right lineage, and condemning himself by being associated with idol worship.

This Levite’s name was Jonathan.  And though his actions were sinful and self-serving, it gets worse.  Judges 18:30 says “the children of Dan set up for themselves the graven image: and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Moses, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land” (ASV, ESV, NIV, etc.).  This Levite who completely disregarded the law of God was the grandson of the most famous Israelite in history—Moses.

Did you know?

-Bradley S. Cobb