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Be of Good Cheer, I Have Overcome the World!

It is Jesus’ darkest hour.  The hour when His disciples abandon Him.  The hour when one of the men who had performed miracles, who had preached “the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” betrayed Him with a kiss.  The hour when He agonized in prayer, sweating as it were great drops of blood.  His final 24 hours of life before being tortured, beaten, mocked, and killed.

They bound the hands of Jesus in the garden where He prayed; They led Him through the streets in shame; They spat upon the Savior, so pure and free from sin; They said “Crucify Him! He’s to blame!”

And in this hour—the hour in which Jesus pleaded with the Father, “Please, let this cup pass from me”—we catch a glimpse of Jesus as an encourager.

How is it that someone who knows they are about to suffer excruciating pain [the word “excruciating,” meaning out of the crucifix, was created because there was no word strong enough to convey the pain of being on a cross]—how is it that He could possibly think about encouraging people at a time like that?

Look at John 13 with me.  We’ll start there.

You’re Going to Suffer

We are in the final evening of Jesus’ life.  He, along with the twelve apostles, have been in the upper room, sharing what would be their final meal together before the darkest event in human history took place.  The Passover has been celebrated, Jesus has washed their feet, then Judas leaves—setting everything into motion for the grand finale of the Jews’ plans to rid themselves of this Jesus.  This is the setting in which some of Jesus’ most famous statements are found.

It is here that Jesus said, “I shall [only] be with you a little while longer…Where I am going, you cannot come” (13:33).  The person that they had followed for 3 ½ years, that they were dedicated to—the man who was both their hero and their friend—says He’s about to leave, and from here on out, they won’t be coming with Him anymore.  If you’ve ever had to say goodbye to someone you loved, knowing that you’d never see them again this side of eternity, you can understand the pain and heartache this would cause in the disciples.

It is here that Jesus cryptically tells Peter specifically that the apostle will be killed too: “Where I am going, you cannot follow me now, but you shall follow me afterward [or, later]” (13:36).  Peter expresses his devotion to Jesus, says that he will die for the Lord, only to hear the words “Will you lay down your life for my sake?  Most assuredly I say to you, the rooster shall not crow till you have denied me three times!” (13:37-38). Peter, especially, suffers internal disappointment here, knowing that his Master doesn’t believe him.  Worse yet, the Master thinks that he will forsake Him.

Just a bit later, in chapter 15, Jesus drops another bomb on them.  Once He leaves, things are going to get bad.  “The world hates you…If they persecuted Me [and oh did they ever], they will also persecute you” (15:19-20).  You can imagine their thoughts here: Wait, you’re leaving, and then they’re going to start attacking us?

“They will put you out of the synagogues” [literally, make you outcasts from the synagogue] (16:2).  The Jews will excommunicate them.  The synagogue was the center of the Jews’ religious life week in and week out.  Being an outcast from the synagogue in essence made you an outcast among the Jews—the very ones they wanted to save.

“Yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service” (16:2).  Wait, what?  KILL us?!?  They will be so rejected, so persecuted, their names and character besmirched so much that the Jews would think that killing them is actually doing God a favor, a service, by removing the worst kind of false teachers possible.  This is some heavy-duty hatred and persecution that they’re in for.

“Because I’ve said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart,” Jesus says (16:6).  “Most assuredly I say to you, that you will weep and lament” (16:20) because Jesus was going to “go away”—that is, going to die.

Then Jesus completely cuts the legs out from under them.  Not only will all these bad things happen to you after I leave, Jesus says, but “Indeed the hour is coming—yes, has now come [it is here!]—that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave me alone” (16:32).  Outside pressures are hard.  Persecutions are hard, but if you know you’re being persecuted for doing the right thing, at least you have some kind of peace in that knowledge.  But Jesus tells them, in essence, ‘Y’all are about to cave to the pressure; you’re about to show your weakness; you who claim to love me are going to completely abandon me, run away like scared little children, and hope no one knows you were my disciples.’  They were going to have internal character failure, which is often the most difficult kind of persecution there is—knowing that you failed someone else in their time of need.

Really put yourselves in their sandals.  No one wants to be persecuted, but they were going to be—that had to scare them.  No one wants to be hated, but they were going to be—that had to cause their heart to drop.  No one wants to be thought of as a coward, but that’s what they were going to be—and that had to make them sad.  No one wants to lose their hero, their friend, but that was about to happen—and that would make them sad for their own loss.   But the worst part of it all is that no one wants to watch their friend get tortured, mocked, spat upon, beaten, and killed—the helpless feeling had to overwhelm them as they realized they couldn’t save Jesus.

We all like to think that we could be a hero, stopping injustice, stepping in when someone is being wronged, standing up for the ones who are falsely accused or punished.  But seeing Jesus on the cross, they wouldn’t—couldn’t—do anything.

Then in verse 33, Jesus gives the understatement of the evening: “In the world, you will have tribulation.”  The sinful world, the world that doesn’t follow God, who doesn’t care about the doctrine of Jesus Christ—they will do their best to destroy you.  They will try to undermine your efforts for God.  They will make fun of you.  They will mock you.  They will try to discredit you.  They will try to make you feel guilty for sharing the truth.  They will try to pass laws to keep you from speaking up against sin.  And that’s every bit as true today for us as it was for the apostles.

If we just left it here, it would seem like Christianity is a life of constant misery.  If Jesus just stopped with the things we’ve touched on, then who could have blamed the apostles for running off?

But Jesus didn’t stop there, and we shouldn’t either.

Cheer up!

A quick glance through the same few chapters gives us some interesting insights.  It seems that Jesus wasn’t trying to scare them, He was trying to prepare them.  He wasn’t trying to frighten them, He was trying to enlighten them.  He didn’t want to bring them fear, but cheer!

“Let not your heart be troubled,” Jesus said.  “You believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (14:1-3).  Jesus says, Yes, I’m going away, but don’t be afraid or sad.  I’m going to get a place ready so we can all be together forever and never have to separate again!  I’ll be coming back to get you.  This separation is only temporary!

“My peace I give to you… Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.  You have heard me say to you, ‘I am going away and coming back to you.’  If you loved me, you would rejoice, because I said, ‘I am going to the Father,’ for the Father is greater than I.  And now I have told you before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe” (14:27-29).  Jesus says, Don’t be sad, and don’t be afraid.  In fact, you should be happy for me, because I get to go home to be with the Father!  But I want you to know what is going to happen ahead of time, so it doesn’t take you by surprise.

“Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends…” (15:13-14). I’m going to die, the Lord says, but I am doing it for you—because you are my friends.

There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, No, not one; No, not one.

“They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service… But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them” (16:2, 4).  Yes, bad things will happen to you, but you will be prepared, and not be taken by surprise at the persecutions.

“You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” (16:20).  My death will cause you great sadness, but it will lead to a greater joy than you’ve ever known.  I will be coming back, and your world—nay, the entire world—will never be the same.  You will be persecuted, but instead of depressing you, you will rejoice over it!  You will be blessed beyond measure to see some who persecute you turn in humble repentance and become your friends, co-laborers, and fellow-heirs of salvation.  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake indeed!

“You now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one can take from you” (16:22).  When I come back, nothing will be able to take away your joy, your inner happiness.  Because when I come back, you will know that your work is vindicated.  You will know that you are truly serving the one true God.  You will know that death is no longer anything to fear—because I will have conquered death.  And if I am raised, you can know assuredly that you will be raised too.

On that resurrection morning when the trump of God shall sound, we shall rise (Hallelujah) we shall rise!

“You will be scattered…and will leave Me alone.  And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me” (16:32).  You are going to see me alone on trial, alone on the cross, and you’re going to be sad for my sake—but don’t be.  The Father is with Me—I’m never truly alone.

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace” (16:33).  It is turbulent, trying to live in the world, living by the world’s standards and judgments, being surrounded by people who don’t know or don’t care about God and His word.  But there is a peace—a peace that surpasses all understanding—that I want to give to you.  Put your trust in Me, keep my commandments and be My friend, and know that I will come back to get you.  Know that I will have a place prepared for you in the home of the One who loves you, who cares for you, and who wants to take care of you and be with you forever.  I want you to know that in Me, you can have that peace.

“In the world, you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (16:33).  The god of this world will come after you—He came after me too.  But I won.  His power is broken. It might seem like the world—his world—wins later today, as I am lifted up on a cross and murdered, but it will really be his undoing.  And through my overcoming, you can overcome.

Then Jesus prayed for them (John 17).

Throughout this time of stress, this time of impending doom and trial, Jesus gave His apostles encouraging words.  They were going to suffer, but they would be able to endure.  Not just endure, but rejoice.  Not just rejoice, but emerge victorious!

But Does this Mean Anything to You?

Obviously, we aren’t the apostles—we weren’t the ones specifically being spoken to on that fateful night/early morning.  So what, if anything, do these sayings of Jesus mean to us?  The answer is plenty!

The last thing we mentioned that Jesus did for the apostles was pray for them.  But did you know that Jesus also prayed for you at the same time?  Yes, you, sitting there in the pew, were prayed for specifically by Jesus Christ less than 24 hours before He was brutally murdered.

Neither do I pray for these alone [the apostles], but for them also who shall believe on Me through their message (John 17:20).

How do we believe in Jesus Christ today?  We didn’t see Him in person; we didn’t walk with Him or see His resurrected form ascend into heaven.  No, but we have the written accounts from eyewitnesses, and from those who were inspired by God!  This is what we need in order to believe! (John 20:31).  Therefore, Jesus prayed for us before He died!  This message of hope, of peace, of cheer—it is for us too!

There is a peace that comes only in Him (16:33).  Now, if it is possible for us to be “in Him,” then we, too, have access to that peace.  And it so happens that we can!  When we believe in Jesus with all our heart, turn to Him in repentance, and are baptized “into Christ,” we can enjoy all the spiritual blessings that can only be found “in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3, Romans 6:3-4, Galatians 3:27).  We can take hold of the peace that is so powerful that it surpasses all understanding.  It allows us to be content when the world is crashing around us.  It helps us to rejoice when we are tempted, knowing it helps to create patience.  It helps us to endure the fiery darts of the wicked and continue to march in the fight against Satan’s wickedness (Ephesians 6).

We look at these passages of encouragement from Jesus, and we can know that it extends to each one of us as well.  It reaches through the centuries, up from the pages of your Bible, and deep into your heart—if you will let it—to cheer you on your journey through this land.

Footprints of Jesus, that make the pathway glow!

“In My Father’s house are many mansions”—that’s because we have a place there too!

“I go to prepare a place for you.  I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”  When He comes again, the dead in Christ shall rise, and the living Christians at that time will rise to meet Him in the air (1 Thessalonians 4).  Brethren, this is a promise for every Christian throughout the last 2,000 years, and through the end of time itself—and it includes you!  Jesus is coming back to get you, and take you home to be with Him!

“Greater love has no one than this: than to lay down one’s life for his friends.  You are my friends if you keep My commandments.”  Jesus’ death is for His friends—His church (Acts 20:28)—those who are trying to walk in the light (1 John 1:7).  Does that describe you?

I’ll be a friend to Jesus.  My life, for Him, I’ll spend.  I’ll be a friend to Jesus until my years shall end.

We know that we will have trouble in this world, because the god of this world is Satan.  But Jesus died to crush the power of Satan, to give mankind hope, to bring about the eternal kingdom of God, to make salvation possible, and to bring true joy and peace.  Yes, we will have tribulation in this world.  But cheer up—celebrate!  Because Jesus overcame the world—and He did it for us so that we can do it too.

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that overcomes the world: our faith (1 John 5:4).

Or to put it a more familiar way:

Encamped among the hills of light, you Christian soldiers, rise and press the battle ‘ere the night shall veil the glowing skies.  Against the foes, in vales below, let all our strength be hurled.  Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world.

His banner over us is love; our sword the word of God.  We tread the road the saints above, with shouts of triumph, trod.  By faith they, like a whirlwind’s breath, swept on o’er every field!  The faith by which they conquered death, is still our shining shield.

On every hand, the foe we find, drawn up in dread array.  Let tents of ease be left behind, and onward! To the fray!  Salvation’s helmet on each head, with truth all girt about, the earth shall tremble ‘neath our tread, and echo with our shout!

To him that overcomes the foe, white rainment shall be given.  Before the angels, he shall know his name confessed in heaven.  Then onward from the hills of light!  Our hearts, with love aflame, we’ll vanquish all the hosts of night in Jesus’ conquering name!

Faith is the victory!  Faith is the victory!  O, glorious victory that overcomes the world!

Listen to the confidence, the certain hope, the peace, the joy in knowing that we have salvation in Jesus Christ.

There will be tribulation, but don’t be sad.  We will overcome the world too.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Jesus – Our Great High Priest

(It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything, but perhaps this will be ‘worth the wait,’ so to speak. Thanks to those who have encouraged us and asked [demanded?] that we write more and post more often.)

Introduction

It wasn’t until studying for this lesson that I discovered an interesting fact.  The phrase “high priest” appears in 21 verses of the Old Testament. Just four times in the Pentateuch (the “books of Moses,” Genesis through Deuteronomy).  Yet the phrase appears in 56 verses of the New Testament—16 times in the book of Hebrews alone.  That should give us a clue: the New Testament has just as much to say—if not more—about the true meaning of the High Priest than the Old Testament does.

The writer of Hebrews addressed an audience of Israelites—those who were raised to hear, believe, and obey the Law of Moses.  It’s important that before we look into the idea of Jesus as the “Great High Priest,” we try to get some grasp of the background that the original readers would have had, and the ideas that would have sprung to mind when discussing this issue.  As we look at these Old Testament passages, try to picture in your head how these things pointed forward to Jesus Christ, and how He fulfills these things even today.  We will discuss the connections later in the lesson, but try to make those connections as we go through these verses.

The High Priest in the Old Testament

Though it isn’t the first time we read about the high priest, the words “high priest” first appear in Leviticus 21:10-14.

He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes; nor shall he go near any dead body, nor defile himself for his father or his mother; nor shall he go out of the sanctuary, nor profane the sanctuary of his God; for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is upon him: I am the Lord. And he shall take a wife in her virginity.  A widow or a divorced woman or a defiled woman or a harlot—these he shall not marry; but he shall take a virgin of his own people as wife.

First, note that the high priest (“priest who is chief” – ESV) is a brother, a relative, to those he serves.  It would have been unthinkable for the Israelites—God’s chosen people—to have to rely on a foreigner to lead them in the spiritual matters which included the removal of their sins as a nation.  God chose the tribe of Levi, specifically Aaron and his lineage, to serve as priests. But the fact remains, they were all Israelites.

Second, note the high priest’s anointing (see Exodus 29:5-7).  This was something done in order to set him apart for a specific task to which he was called.  God used the same method to set apart kings (1 Samuel 15:1; 1 Kings 1:34; etc.) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16).  The high priest was chosen by God to serve His people in their need for sin removal.

Third, note that even in the event of the death of close relatives, the high priest was not to cease performing his work.  Though some might view this to be harsh, the work of serving God and serving the nation of God’s people had to come first.

Fourth, note that he was only permitted to marry a virgin—a pure bride—of his own people.  The high priest was not permitted to marry someone who was not a follower of God, one of God’s chosen people.

Now, look at Exodus 30:7-10:

And Aaron shall burn fragrant incense on it. Every morning when he dresses the lamps he shall burn it, and when Aaron sets up the lamps at twilight, he shall burn it, a regular incense offering before the LORD throughout your generations. You shall not offer unauthorized incense on it, or a burnt offering, or a grain offering, and you shall not pour a drink offering on it. Aaron shall make atonement on its horns once a year. With the blood of the sin offering of atonement he shall make atonement for it once in the year throughout your generations. It is most holy to the LORD.

The altar of incense, which stood before the veil to the Most Holy Place, is under consideration in these verses.  Every morning and evening, the high priest burns incense to the LORD.  But the only incense allowed is what God has commanded/authorized.  Then at the end of this section, God reveals that the blood of the atonement sacrifice makes the incense acceptable.

Now, Leviticus 16:32-34:

“And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father’s place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments. He shall make atonement for the holy sanctuary, and he shall make atonement for the tent of meeting and for the altar, and he shall make atonement for the priests and for all the people of the assembly. And this shall be a statute forever for you, that atonement may be made for the people of Israel once in the year because of all their sins.” And Aaron did as the LORD commanded Moses.

Here we have the Day of Atonement sacrifice described.  It cleanses the tabernacle, and it removes the sins of the people of God—and this setup was given by the command of God.

We could appeal to several more passages to get even more in depth about the high priest, but these will have to suffice.  The question we want to ask before we go any further is: How did the Jews view the high priest?

  1. They viewed the high priest as absolutely essential to having their sins forgiven.
  2. One could pray to God, but it was understood that only the high priest could approach the presence of God on behalf of the people.
  3. The high priest was the visual representation of the entire Mosaic worship system. When the people thought about the Law of Moses, one of the first images that would come into their heads is the high priest in his robe and crown, offering sacrifices for the people on a constant basis.
  4. Though they understood (intellectually) that the high priest was still a human and susceptible to sin, he was viewed as “HOLY BEFORE GOD” (that message written across the crown he wore). Thus, he was seen as more holy than everyone else—or at least they knew he was supposed to be.

Of course, by the time of Jesus, the purity and holiness of the office of high priest had faded badly.  Instead of following the God-given directive to have a high priest for life, the Jews had multiple high priests, alternating their years of filling that role (see Luke 3:2; John 18:13).  In the few centuries leading up to the birth of Christ, the office of high priest was filled by whoever paid the ruling nation (be it the Seleucids, Ptolemies, or Romans) the most money—it became a political office instead of a religious one.

So the time was ripe for a new high priest to emerge.

Jesus as the Great High Priest

When Jewish Christians, torn by doubt, persecution, tradition, and family pressure, began to go back into Judaism, God inspired a man to bring them a powerful message about what they had in Christ—and how vastly superior Jesus Christ is than the fading relics of the Law of Moses.  One of the main areas of emphasis in this book is how Jesus’ priesthood is better than the priesthood of Aaron.  In other words, Jesus is the High Priest above every high priest who had ever existed before Him.

Speaking of Jesus, this inspired penman states:

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18).

The first thing we noted earlier was that the high priest had to be related to the people he served.  Here, Jesus is the merciful and faithful high priest for “his brothers.”  But unlike the Jewish high priests (especially in the centuries prior to the birth of Jesus), He served as a merciful High Priest, and a faithful High Priest.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:14-16).

The Old Testament high priest came into the presence of God only by means of coming into the Most Holy Place, and approaching the mercy seat.  But Jesus didn’t have to bother with that.  Instead of going into the tabernacle and standing before the Ark of the Covenant, Jesus “passed through the heavens” and went to the Father in person for us.  The blood of the sacrifice—His own blood—was taken into heaven.

More than that, because He has cleared the path for us, we can approach God with confidence, praying to the Father through His Son Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:17; Philippians 4:6-7). He is there, and He lives to make intercession for us (Hebrews 7:25-26).  Our High Priest doesn’t have to go to an appointed place on an appointed day and wait for God to come and accept the offering.  Our High Priest is right next to the Father in heaven, and delivers our requests personally!

God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power… (Acts 10:38).

The Old Testament priests had to be anointed by a man in order to serve (Aaron was anointed by Moses).  If they weren’t anointed, then their offerings wouldn’t be accepted.  But instead of being anointed by man, our Great High Priest was anointed directly by God Himself!  He was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power after His baptism (see John 1, Matthew 4).  If this hadn’t happened, He couldn’t have offered the sacrifice acceptably—Jesus had to be a priest to make that sacrifice acceptable.

He holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens (Hebrews 7:24-26).

We saw before that the Old Testament high priest was not permitted to cease his duties, even in the event of the death of a loved one.  Our Great High Priest “lives to make intercession” for His people.  He never stops His role as our High Priest.  When one of His near relatives (faithful Christians) dies, He rejoices, for “precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psalm 116:15).  And if one of His brethren should die spiritually, that is incredibly sad, but Jesus does not stop His work on behalf of the remaining saints—His role is of the utmost importance for us.  He loves us so much that He keeps working for us, even through heartache for those who fall away.

You may also recall the responsibility of the Old Testament high priest to offer up incense to God, every day, morning and evening.  Revelation 8:3-4 pictures this burning incense as delivering the prayers of the saints to God.  As our Great High Priest, Jesus delivers those prayers—not just once or twice, not weekly, not monthly, but continually.  Every day.  Morning and evening He presents our petitions to the Father and intercedes on our behalf.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27).

Just as the Old Testament high priest was only permitted to marry a virgin, a pure woman, so our Great High Priest is married only to a pure, unspotted bride.  And to make sure His church is this unspotted bride, our High Priest purified her, cleansed her by the washing of water (baptism) through the word (from which we can have faith).  We are made new creatures in Christ (Romans 6:3-4), and only through that can we be part of the bride of the Greatest High Priest.

Hebrews 9:7 spells out that the Day of Atonement sacrifice was done for the “errors” (KJV) or “sins done in ignorance” (NIV) or “unintentional sins” (ESV) of the people.  Then God inspired the writer to say this:

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. (Hebrews 9:11-17)

For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:24-28).

The sacrifice of our Great High Priest is so powerful, so effective, that He only had to offer it one time.  That sacrifice purges us of our old sins (2 Peter 1:9). But more than that, it continually cleanses us of our sins—every day, morning and evening, when we “walk in the light as He is in the light” (1 John 1:7).

One of the greatest worries of many Christians is that they have sinned, but they didn’t realize it, and therefore didn’t ask for forgiveness.  But if the Old Testament high priest could offer a sacrifice that removed the punishment for the “unintentional sins” or the “sins done in ignorance” (that is, sins they didn’t realize they committed), then even more so will the blood of Christ completely take care of that for us as well!  “If we confess our sins [we can only confess that which we know we have done], He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, lives to make atonement and intercession for us, and His blood continually covers all our sins—the ones we know about and repent of, and the ones we don’t know about.  In other words, our Great High Priest takes the worry out of being a follower of God.  And He does it every day.

One final thought, and then we will close.  The Old Testament high priest served until he died, and then a new high priest took over.  There might be times when that happened that there was a bit of learning on the job, of nervousness or worry from the new guy.  After all, can you imagine having the sins of millions of people resting on what you were doing at that very minute?  But with Jesus, there is no worry, no nervousness, no learning on the job.  He is the Great High Priest who will never die, never be replaced, and who never—not even once—fails to fulfill His role perfectly.

And He does it all for us.

Praise God for our Great High Priest!

-Bradley S. Cobb

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