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The Role of Women in the Church (Part Three)

Introduction

Easily one of the most confusing passages in the New Testament regarding the role of women in worship is found in 1 Corinthians 11.  Some people avoid it like the plague.  Others, however, flock to it to try to make it prove their side of the argument.  The funny part about it is that those who go to one extreme (women preachers) will hold this passage up as evidence; while those who are on the other side (women can’t speak, and they also have to have their heads covered) also hold this passage up as evidence.  What are we to make of this?

Turn to 1 Corinthians 11, and we will look to see what this passage has to say for us today, as well as how it fits into the question about the role of women in worship.

I Praise You…But (1 Corinthians 11:2-3)

Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things, and (that you) keep the ordinances as I delivered them to you.  But, I desire you to know that the head of ever male is Christ; and the head of the female is the male; and the head of Christ is God.

Ordinances

The word “ordinances” is usually translated “traditions,” and while it usually refers to the traditions of men, Paul uses the word to refer to the things taught by the apostles.  But in every case, it describes an act that was done for a religious purpose.

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which you have been taught, either by word or by epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

We command you, brethren, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw yourselves from every brother that walks disorderly, and not after the traditions which he received from us (2 Thessalonians 3:6).

Though it probably didn’t need to be said, we’ll say it anyway: Paul is speaking to Christians in 1 Corinthians 11, describing the things which he taught them to observe in religious service to God.  So, the context that we are looking at has to do with obeying that which is taught by God through the apostles in religious service to God.  This is why it is pretty much universally agreed that the context here has something to do with worship assemblies.

But…

Even though the Christians in Corinth (for the most part) were keeping the ordinances, there were some things that they didn’t understand.  The biggest problem with the Corinthian Christians was not lack of knowledge about the actions they were supposed to engage in, but the attitude behind it (see their treatment of the Lord’s Supper, and their desire to brag because of certain spiritual gifts).

The head of every man is Christ

Paul here immediately puts all the men (literally, males) in their place by saying that it is not up to them on how things are to be done in worship to God.  All Christian males are under the authority of Jesus Christ, and must answer to Him.  Just because a man may lead in an aspect of worship does not mean that he has the authority to change God’s divine pattern.

Paul is appealing to a higher authority than man—He is appealing to Jesus Christ.

The head of the woman is the man

One person told me that this is a universal law to be applied everywhere.  The conclusion to that doctrine is that, men, the most depraved man in the penitentiary is the head of your wife and daughters.  Not only does that violate the context, it also violates common sense.

It has been argued that this phrase should be translated “the head of the wife is the husband.”  And while that expresses a truth, it doesn’t fit the context.  And in addition to that, the same word “man” (Greek aner) is used twice in this verse.  If we are supposed to translate it as “husband” in one part, by what logic does the exact same word get translated differently in the exact same verse?  Look at the verse.  If we insert “husband,” then we would have to make the verse say, “The head of every husband is Christ…” which means that Christ isn’t the head of unmarried Christian men.  This cannot be the right interpretation, either.  And if we make this say “wife,” then we are forced into the conclusion that nothing in verses 3-16 applies to an unmarried woman or a widow—and by extension, that there is nothing in this passage that speaks to an unmarried man or a widower.

Remember the context in which this is spoken: in keeping the “ordinances” (religious directions) that had been delivered to them.  Thus, this is in the context of the church, when the religious directions were being observed.  In other words, this is during the worship assembly.  The Christian woman, in the worship assembly of the church, is to be in submission to the Christian males who are leading (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:11-12).

The head of Christ is God

Just in case there were those in Corinth who wanted to question Jesus’ authority to make commands regarding the worship of His people, Paul informs them that the authority which comes from Christ originates with the Father.  In other words, these points are not up for debate or discussion—they come from the ultimate Judge and Lawgiver, God.

Praying and Prophesying (1 Corinthians 11:4-5)

Most sermons and studies on this passage focus on the head “covering,” and often the writers and speakers gloss over (or completely ignore, in some cases) the idea of “praying and prophesying.”  But it must be addressed, for this is one of the passages that those who wish to promote women preachers cling to.  Are they right in saying this passage authorizes women to lead in public worship?

Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered dishonors his head.

Literally, Paul says “having down (from) head,” but it is not specified whether it is his hair or if it is a veil.  The purpose, though, for Paul mentioning this is that if he has his head covered (in whichever way it may be) in worship, it is a sign that he has a different spiritual head (authority) than Christ.

I believe there is enough evidence to conclude that the head covering was something cultural for the Christians in Corinth, and since the focus of this lesson is not on the head-covering, but on the “praying and prophesying” aspect, we aren’t going to dwell a lot on the covering in this lesson.

The word “praying” is the general word for such, and is the same word found in 1 Timothy 2:8—”I desire that males pray everywhere…”

The word “prophesying” is the same one used in chapter 14, and is a reference to miraculous speaking for God, or speaking words from God.

But every woman that prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaved.

Before we get into this, it needs to be said up-front that the exact same words are used for “prays” and “prophesies” in this verse as in the last verse.  In fact, this verse should be translated, “But every woman, praying or prophesying…”  So there’s nothing in these words themselves that make a distinction between the male and female.

But note that Paul tells the Christian women in Corinth that they are required to have their head covered so that they do not dishonor her head (the man/men leading in the worship).  This is a symbol of submission, of being under the authority of someone else.  I used to think this was talking about husbands and wives, and that a wedding ring was the same kind of thing, but I do not believe the context supports that conclusion.

So, how exactly is the Christian woman to engage in “praying and prophesying” while yet being in submission to the one leading in worship?  Let’s make some specific points very clear:

  1. The Bible does not contradict itself, for it is inspired by God.
  2. If an interpretation of a difficult passage of Scripture clearly violates the teaching found in an easy-to-understand passage of Scripture (in the same covenant), then that interpretation is false.
  3. This is even more clearly true when it is the same writer dealing with the same issue—and even more abundantly true when it is written to the same people…in the same letter.

There are those who point to this passage and say “women have the right to pray and preach in the public worship assembly, based on Paul’s words here.”

How does that match up with those three points we mentioned just a second ago?

  1. The Bible does not contradict itself—so if this passage teaches that women can lead in prayer and preaching in the worship assembly of the church, then we shouldn’t find anywhere in the New Testament that says otherwise.
  2. The Bible teaches plainly that it is only male Christians who are to lead in prayer in the church (1 Timothy 2:8); and that Christian women are not permitted to teach (this would include preaching) or to exercise authority over a Christian men in the church (1 Timothy 2:11-12, 3:15). Therefore, the interpretation that “women have the right to pray and preach in the public worship assembly” is false, because both points are contradicted in easy-to-understand passages of the same covenant.
  3. That passage (1 Timothy 2:8-12) is written by the same author, making it even clearer. But let’s make it abundantly clear by looking at not only the same author, but the same letter!  1 Corinthians 14:34, in the context of speaking miraculously (prayer and prophesying are both mentioned in this chapter), says: “Let your women keep silence in the churches, for it is not permitted to them to speak; but to be under obedience, as also says the law.”

Therefore, if our passage (1 Corinthians 11:5) permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then the Bible contains contradictions and cannot be trusted.

But suppose you don’t want to go that far; then how about this: If this passage permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then Paul was wrong (thus, uninspired) when he wrote 1 Timothy, as well as just a few chapters later in 1 Corinthians 14; thereby throwing everything Paul wrote into question and leaving us with the impossible task of determining which letters are inspired and which parts are not.

But suppose you aren’t willing to even go that far (though those are the required conclusions to this doctrine).  If this passage permits women to pray and prophesy in the worship assembly, then you can’t even know which parts of even this one letter are inspired—especially when Paul himself said that the command for women to keep silent was “the commandment of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).

To take that interpretation of the passage destroys the entire credibility of the Bible.  But let’s, for a moment, pretend that such an interpretation is accurate.  Pretend for a moment that it isn’t a contradiction of other Bible passages.  Look at the verse again and see what would be required for the women to lead in prayer or to prophesy (preach) in the worship assembly.

Every woman, praying and prophesying with her head uncovered, dishonors her (spiritual) head: for that is even all one as if she were shaved.

If we pretended that their interpretation is correct, then the text requires that the woman only does it when her head is covered, showing her submission to the Christian men who are leading in the “ordinances” … or else she is supposed to be shaved bald (a symbol of shame).  No one who argues for women to be able to preach and lead prayer in the assembly would ever suggest that she is supposed to show a sign of submission to the Christian men leading in the worship—How dare you even suggest such a thing!  You note the hypocrisy there, I hope, that they want to take half of the verse and shove the other half as far away as possible.

I would love to see someone try to explain how one can be in submission to someone during the teaching, yet still be the authoritative teacher over that person.  It cannot be done!

So what does this verse mean/permit?

There are some different interpretations regarding these two verses that attempt to reconcile Paul’s wording (praying and prophesying) with the specific commands regarding Christian women keeping silence in the church (in regards to leading in worship).

The first interpretation is that Paul is speaking about women praying and prophesying, but not in a mixed assembly, that is, in a women’s-only gathering (ladies’ day, ladies’ class).  Some might claim there is no historical precedent for these kind of assemblies, but turn your attention to Exodus 15:20-21:

And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a timbrel in her hand; and all the women went out after her with timbrels and dances.  And Miriam answered them, “Sing out to the LORD, for He has triumphed gloriously!  The horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea!”

There, the prophetess went with the women only and spoke with them, leading them in worship to God.  That was around 1500 years prior to Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, so there is indeed historical precedent for a women-only assembly worshiping God.

The problem with this interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11 is that the context shows the men and women together (“the head of the woman is the man,” verse 3).  And what is the purpose of describing submission to the male Christians leading in worship if Paul’s describing a setting where no male Christians are present?

The second interpretation is that Paul is using the phrase “praying and prophesying” as a way to describe the worship service.  In other words, that all Paul is saying is, “But a woman, participating in the worship service…”  Most authors agree that “praying and prophesying” isn’t an exhaustive list, but includes everything that is done in the worship assembly—otherwise, you’d have the strange requirement that women in Corinth cover their heads only during certain parts of the worship (praying and proclaiming), but not others (like singing and the Lord’s Supper).

The idea, then, would be that Paul isn’t saying that the women lead in prayer or in prophesying (which would violate other passages), but that they participate in the worship by listening and assenting to the prayer and actively paying attention to the proclamation of God’s message.

David Lipscomb made a good point, which goes along with this idea (this is my paraphrase): Man cannot come to God without submitting to the authority of Jesus Christ (John 14:15).  In the same way, The Christian woman during the assembly cannot offer acceptable worship without submitting to the authority of the male Christians leading the worship.

Obviously, if there are no men present, then that no longer applies.

There may be other interpretations of which I am not aware, but this second one, I believe, is rational, logical, and in perfect agreement with what is said on the topic elsewhere in Scriptures.

Conclusion

This is somewhat reminiscent of the issue of “baptism for the dead,” in that once we know what it can’t be (by process of elimination, Bible-style), we are left with what it must be.

God’s word does not contradict itself.  God does not permit something in one part of the New Testament, only to forbid it in another.  That would make God a liar—something which is impossible.  Instead, we must take the totality of what Scripture says, and interpret in a way that harmonizes all of the passages dealing with any given subject.

There is nothing more important to which this applies than in salvation.  We have all messed up in our lives.  We’ve ignored the commands of God, we’ve sinned, and as a result, we’ve aligned ourselves against Him and joined with His enemy, Satan.  Satan, however, isn’t as powerful as he lets on.  In fact, he’s already lost the war, even though he’s still trying to take down as many people as possible in the process—like a kamikaze.  My job, and the job of Christians everywhere, is to invite people to join the winning side, to avoid the destruction that will come as a result of being God’s enemy.  We are to tell them about Jesus Christ and Him crucified, so that they might have faith (Romans 10:17).  But though there are verses that talk about believing as a prerequisite to salvation, there are other passages as well—passages that do not in any way contradict the ones about belief—that show belief is just the first step in a proper response to the gospel.

One must also make the decision to change sides, to join Jesus Christ.  The person who makes that decision must state his belief in the Lord, and be immersed, baptized, by the authority of Jesus.  When that is done, the person has become a Christian.  Then comes the command to grow, to “study to show thyself approved to God,” to “walk in the light.”  We want to help you be right with Jesus Christ.  If we can help you, please let us know as we stand and sing.

-Bradley S. Cobb

Identifying the True Family

The Text: Mark 3:31-35 – His brothers and His mother then came there, and standing outside, they sent to Him, calling Him.  And the multitude sat around Him, and they said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers outside are looking for you.” 

And He answered them, saying, “Who is my mother or my brothers?”  And He looked around at those who were sitting around Him, and said, “Behold, my mother and my brethren!  For whoever will do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.”

Introduction

Jesus gave some difficult commands in His life, but they were always ones that He Himself was ready to follow as well.  He has been preaching and teaching, proclaiming the Kingdom of God in the face of opposition from His associates (who thought He was crazy) and the scribes (who claimed He was possessed by Satan), but He didn’t stop.  And now, Jesus’ family shows up, wanting Him to stop teaching so He can come talk to them.

The Text, part 1 – Earthly Family Calling (Mark 3:31-32).

Satan uses peer pressure and false accusations to try to disrupt God’s work.  That’s what he did against Jesus earlier in this chapter.  Now, he uses another—very potent—device to try to stop Jesus: His own family.

Then, there came His brothers and His mother

Let’s just get this out of the way from the start.  These aren’t Jesus’ cousins.  These are the children of Mary and Joseph, all younger than Jesus, who arrived with their mother, Mary.  Matthew 13:55-56 shows that Jesus was known by the people in His own area as “the carpenter’s son” whose mother was named “Mary,” and “His brethren, James and Joses and Simon and Judas” and who had “sisters.”  It is ridiculous to claim, as the Catholics do, that the people who knew Jesus had to identify Him by His earthly father and mother, and then rattle off the names of four of His cousins, and then add that He’s got female cousins (“sisters”) too.  These are the actual brothers (half-brothers, to be specific) of Jesus who have come with Mary.

Some Greek manuscripts also include “sisters” with this group that was trying to get to Jesus.

This is the family that Jesus has known His whole earthly life.  He certainly had a spot in His heart for them.  Even though John 7 portrays them as non-believers, He visited James after the resurrection, which led to all of the brothers being present in Jerusalem, gathered with the disciples (Acts 1:13-14), and later becoming well-known Christian examples (1 Corinthians 9:5).  So these brothers of Jesus were not beyond reaching with the gospel, and Jesus knew that.  This fact would have made it very tempting for Jesus to go talk to them and try to convince them to believe in Him.

Standing outside, sent to Him, calling Him

Luke tells us that they couldn’t get to Jesus because of the massive crowd of people (Luke 8:19) who were sitting around Jesus, so instead of going to Him, they began calling to Him.  The Greek word is “phoneo,” which means they were using their voices.  So, they were telling people at the edge of the crowd, “Tell Jesus that we’re out here, and that we are looking for Him.”  So, from the edge of the crowd, this message was sent (the Greek word is “apostello”) until it reached Jesus.

The multitude sat around Him

This is something that only Mark mentions. Remember that earlier in the chapter, those close to Jesus thought He was crazy because He was allowing these massive crowds of people to crowd around Him.  But Jesus is in no danger of being crushed.  The multitude is sitting around Him.

They said to Him, “Behold, your mother and your brothers are outside looking for you.”

The message had made its way through who knows how many people to finally get to Jesus.  He’s told that they are “seeking” Him.  The same word is used in Matthew’s account, where it is translated “desiring” to speak to Jesus (Matthew 12:46-47).  In other words, they wanted Jesus to stop what He was doing and come outside to talk to His physical family.

The Text, part 2 – True Family Identified (Mark 3:33-35)

As Jesus’ family stood outside, the crowd looked at Him, probably wondering what He would do.  Would He stop preaching and teaching to go talk to them?  Would He send them a message back through the multitude?  Would He ignore them?

He answered them, saying “Who is my mother or my brothers?”

As literally-minded as some of Jesus’ disciples were, you have to think that some of them were quite confused by this statement.  What?  Jesus, you know…your mother?  Mary?  Don’t you remember her?  And your brothers, the ones you lived with for years?  What do you mean, “Who is my mother or brothers?”  Maybe this statement, for a moment, reinforced the idea that some of them had that Jesus had lost His mind.

But Jesus wasn’t pleading ignorance, nor was He crazy.  He was asking a question to get the people to start thinking.  He wanted them to start thinking about which relationships are most important.  He wanted them to change their focus from the physical to the spiritual.

He looked around at those who sat around Him

This is Jesus pausing for effect, looking at the people who were listening, making sure they are paying attention.  Then Jesus lifts up His hand, and points it towards His disciples (Matthew 12:46-47).

And [He] said, “Behold my mother and brethren!”

The crowd had said “Behold, your mother and brother are outside,” and Jesus’ response is “Behold, my mother and brother” are right here!  Jesus explains what He means by this in the next verse, but I want you to put yourself in the shoes of Mary, or of James, Jude, Simon, or Joses.  The message certainly got back to them, and it probably didn’t make the brothers too happy.  But what about Mary?  Do you think another incident popped into her head?  Perhaps an incident that the Bible says “she kept…in her heart”?

Now His [Jesus’] parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover.  When He was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast.  And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and His mother did not know it.  But they, supposing He was with the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought them among their relatives and acquaintances.  And when they did not find Him, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking Him [this is the same word as in Mark 3:32].  And it came to pass, that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions.  And all that heard were astonished at His understanding and answers.  And when they saw Him, they were amazed: and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have you dealt this way with us?  Behold, your father and I have sought you, sorrowing.”  And He said to them, “How is it that you sought me?  Did you not know that I must be about my Father’s business?”  And they did not understand the saying which He spoke to them.  And He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them: but His mother kept all these sayings in her heart. (Luke 2:41-51).

Even from the time Jesus was 12 years old, He knew the difference between His earthly family and His true family.  The incident from Jesus’ boyhood, along with the incident in Mark 3, shows us without a doubt that Jesus knew which family was most important.

For whoever shall do the desires of God, the same is my brother, and my sister, and my mother.

Now, just to make things crystal clear, Jesus isn’t saying that His disciples were somehow His spiritual mother (or sisters).  He is saying that His true family is the spiritual family.  His true family are the people who obey the Father’s will.  Here’s something that you might want to contemplate: your earthly family is only temporary.  Your spiritual family is forever.  But praise God when your earthly family is counted as part of your spiritual family too!

The Peter began to say to Him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed You.  And Jesus answered and said, “Truly I say to you, there is no man that has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundred-fold now in this time, houses and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come, eternal life. (Mark 10:28-30).

The ones who have put Jesus ahead of their earthly family will receive a much greater family—brothers and sisters of untold numbers—here, in this life.  A person who obeys the gospel immediately gains a family of brothers and sisters in Christ—and new family members are made every day!

Jesus warned about placing your physical family ahead of Him—being a disciple of Jesus must come first in your life!

[Jesus] said to them, “If any man comes to me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and even his own life too, he cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26).

Jesus isn’t saying that you have to despise your family, but He is saying that you have to put Him first.  Earthly ties are to be secondary to your ties to Jesus Christ.

Application

Put Your Family First—Your TRUE Family.

I don’t need to tell you that people have fallen away from God, left the family of God (the church, 1 Timothy 3:15), because of their physical family.  Maybe it’s a domineering husband who berates his wife for going to worship with the saints.  Maybe it’s a wife whose religious ties are to a denomination, and she’s nagged or guilted her husband into joining her.  Maybe it’s someone who has children who are living in wickedness, but they can’t bring themselves to admit that they are lost, so they stop worshiping with the saints, lest someone ask about them, or lest they hear a lesson that deals with the sins that their children happen to be guilty of.  I know a man who left the church and tried to split it on his way out because someone dared to tell him that it was wrong for his daughter to be cheating on her husband.

We must be like Jesus, and realize that regardless of our earthly ties, it is our Father’s family, our true family that matters the most.

How Do I Become Part of God’s Family?

We become part of a physical family by being born into it.  Similarly, in order to become part of God’s family, Jesus’ family, the spiritual family, the family that Jesus claimed as His own, we must be born into it as well.  But this birth isn’t something done when you come out of your mother’s womb.  Since this is a spiritual family, it requires a spiritual birth.

“Truly I say to you, unless a man is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to [Jesus], “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a man is born of water and the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:3-5).

James 1:18 says “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  The word “begat,” when describing a father’s actions, means that he has provided the seed so that a new creature can be born. In the genealogical lists, it is said “Adam begat Seth” or “Abraham begat Isaac” and so on. The fathers didn’t give birth to them, but they provided the seed so that a birth could follow. When God begat us, He provided the seed so that a birth could follow. But what was that seed?

James tells us that it is “the word of truth”

The seed that God provided so that our new birth could take place is the word of God. The word of God is described as the seed from which Christians come (Luke 8:11). In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13), Jesus described the seed (the word of God) as going to people’s hearts. When it took hold of good and honest hearts, Christians came forth.

There is NO CHANCE of being born again without the Scriptures—the word of truth. Some people claim they had some religious “experience” and they could tell by their “feelings” that they were saved. James says quite plainly that the new birth comes by the word of truth. Being born again doesn’t come from feelings, from experiences, or from a direct action of God upon the person. It comes from following the word of God.

Peter reiterates the same idea in saying “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God which lives and remains forever” (1 Peter 1:23).  You read the Scriptures (the seed) and plant it in your heart. The birth which follows comes when you obey the commands to believe (John 3:16), repent (Acts 2:38) and be baptized (Acts 22:16).

For you are all children of God by the faith, in Christ Jesus, Because as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:26-27).

Come be a part of God’s family today!

-Bradley S. Cobb

The Model Church

Sometimes, when people realize that I’ve made a lot of old brotherhood books available again (electronically and in print), they send me requests.  “Do you have this book?”  “Can you make this book available?”  And I think it’s great!  One of the ones that I get the most requests for is today’s addition to the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary:

The Model Church by G.C. Brewer.

Here’s why: It is a good, succinct description of elders (and their qualifications), deacons (and their qualifications), and reverential worship in the church.

Having said that, brother Brewer did take the position in the book that female deacons were probably acceptable–so while there’s a lot in the book we agree with, there’s also that part that we don’t (we wrote an article that dealt somewhat with this here).  As always, compare everything with the word of God.

Here’s the chapters, to help give you an idea:

 

  1. What Constitutes A Congregation
  2. The Qualifications of an Elder
  3. The Duties of the Elders
  4. The Relation of the Overseen to the Overseer
  5. How Elders Are Made
  6. How Elders Are Unmade
  7. The Diaconate
  8. Dealing with the Disorderly
  9. Figuring on the Finances
  10. Church Music
  11. A Model Church
  12. Prayer-Meeting Topics

Because of the continual requests for this book, we are making it available in the Jimmie Beller Memorial eLibrary, but also in print for those who want to use it in their Bible classes or personal study.

To purchase the print edition, click here.

To read this book online, or save it for later enjoyment, simply click the link below!

The Model Church (G.C. Brewer)

-Bradley S. Cobb

How do You Want to be Remembered?

When your time on this earth is through, how do you want to be remembered?  Some people want to be thought of as having been a great financial success, others want to be remembered as being famous, and still others want to be remembered for some single achievement that they did.

There was a man who lived in Vermont over 200 years ago.  He was at one point a deacon in the Baptist Church.  But in 1806, he led that congregation out of denominationalism and taught them to simply be “Christians Only.”  That same year, after the Baptist Church officially dissolved, he helped form the “Christian Church,” and served as an elder there for over 25 years.

In the early 1800s, he was one of the primary men who tried to help unite different groups who were trying to restore New Testament Christianity.  He was present at the baptism of both Abner Jones and Elias Smith, and was well-respected by both.  He baptized nearly 100 people during 1808.  He was instrumental in training other men for the ministry.

It has taken me a significant amount of time in research and reading to find out much about this man.  He’s mentioned in passing in several biographies and autobiographies, but never is there much detail given about him.  He never wrote a book about himself.  He never sought the limelight.  Instead, he worked tirelessly as an elder and occasional preacher for a single congregation for nearly three decades.

Near the end of his life, he moved a few towns over and helped serve a congregation there.  He died in the service of His Lord.

He left behind a very simple legacy.  Those who pass by his tombstone will only see his name, date of his death, and then the words “Elder of the Christian Church.”

That is what Elias Cobb [no relation] wanted people to know about him.  What do you want people to know about you?

-Bradley Cobb

Stay in the House!

There are sounds of gunfire and screaming coming from outside his window.  The man slowly moves the curtain aside to see what’s going on, his kids getting more and more worried.  “Dad, what’s that noise?  Is somebody hurt?”

The man barks at them, “get back!”

He makes his way to the front door, and with tears the kids start begging, “Dad, don’t go! Stay here with us.”

The dad opens the door slowly and lightly steps out onto the front porch. Hesitating, he turns around, looks his children in the eyes, and sternly says, “Stay in the house!”

The door shuts, and the children don’t see their father anymore.  They run to the window and look as bullets fly and their father falls to the ground dead.

And through the crying and tears, they are haunted by the question that they can never answer: Why didn’t daddy stay in the house?

Why would a man tell his children to “stay in the house!”?

Because there is safety in the house. There is security in the house. There is protection in the house.  Because there is danger outside. It could cost them their lives to go outside.

In the Bible there was a strict command given to “stay in the house!”

It’s found in Joshua 2.  The Israelites—almost 3 million of them—are camped next to the Jordan River.  Across the Jordan stands the city of Jericho, surrounded by its two protective walls.

From the top of Jericho’s walls, you can see the Israelite camp, their tents, their campfires, and more people than you’ve ever seen in your life—and they’re about to attack.  Then, two of them show up in the city; on the walls; in your house!

Scared for your life, you don’t dare turn them in—you don’t want to anger their God.  You quickly hide them on your roof, and when the soldiers come to your door, you send them on a wild-goose chase—because you don’t want to anger the powerful Jehovah of the Israelites.  You send the spies out safely, but beg them to spare you and your family when they finally attack.

The spies agree, but give you the stern warning: “stay in the house!

If you want to be safe, get in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to get in the house (Joshua 2:18).

The spies said “when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee.”  Literally, they said, “into your house.”

The only way that anyone in the city of Jericho was going to be saved was if they got in the house.  So, Rahab found her family, and brought them into the house with her—because she wanted to be saved, and she wanted her family to be saved too.

To refuse to come into the house was to refuse salvation.  To refuse to come into the house was to bring death on themselves.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “get in the house” (Acts 2:47).

The house of God is the church (I Timothy 3:15 – “the house of God, which is the church”).  All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47)—there are no saved people outside of the church.  Christ’s blood is required for salvation, and it only covers those who are in the church (Acts 20:28).

You’re surrounded by enemies who are ready to destroy you—and the only way to be safe is to “get in the house!”  Salvation is only found in the church, because it is the house of God, the body of Christ.

To reject the church is to reject salvation!  To reject the church is to bring destruction upon yourself!

If you’re not in the house yet, GET IN IT!

And if you are in the house, why aren’t you trying to get other people in it with you? Do you want them to be destroyed? Are you content to think, “Well, I’ll be saved, so it doesn’t really matter about anyone else?”

If you want to be safe, stay in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to stay in the house (Joshua 2:19).

“And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we shall be guiltless.”  Basically, the spies said, “If they leave the house, they’re dead. And it’ll be their own fault.”

Rahab and her family get all their belongings, and they all huddle together in the house. They look out the window, scared for their people, but also confident that God would keep His promise. They see hundreds of thousands of soldiers march around their city once a day for six days—and the soldiers don’t say a word. It is eerie, disconcerting, and frightening.

But through it all, they stay in the house because they know that they are only safe if they stay in the house.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “stay in the house!”

Almost every letter in the New Testament contains warnings about losing your salvation.  But this is nowhere more clearly stated than in Revelation.

Jesus walks among the seven golden candlesticks, which are his church (Revelation 1:20).  A church who ceases to follow Christ will have its candlestick removed—that is, they will no longer be part of the church (Revelation 2:5).  In fact, Jesus describes the process as vomiting them out of His mouth, His body—vomiting them out of the church (Revelation 3:16).

When you leave the church, you leave the protection of the blood of Christ—and you bring it on yourself!  Those who returned to the Law of Moses willingly left the church of Jesus Christ—and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

You’re surrounded by an enemy that is ready to destroy you. You’re in the one safe place [the church] where they can’t harm you. And then you open the door and walk out—into the destructive hands of the enemy.  That’s like being in a storm cellar in the middle of a tornado, and then getting out as it goes right over you. You’re dead!

Instead, stay gathered with your family—your brothers and sisters in Christ—stay safe in the house (the church).

Conclusion:

On the seventh day of the siege, the hundreds of thousands of Israelite soldiers marched around the city seven times. The people in Jericho knew something was coming. As they looked out over the wall and through windows, they could see nothing but soldiers—silent soldiers—being led by God Himself.

Then, without warning, trumpets blast and six hundred thousand voices scream all at once. The ground shakes and the walls of the city crash to the ground. And through the dust they see the screaming soldiers running straight into the city with their swords swinging. Blood splatters and pools on the ground and person after person falls lifeless to the ground. Then comes the fire, destroying the city and everything in it.

But one section of the wall never fell. One small section of the wall still stood, with a house sitting on top of it. Inside that house was a woman who wanted to be saved. Inside that house was her family. Inside that house was a group of people who trusted in God’s promise.

What made that house different? Why did it stand when all the others fell?

After all, there were plenty of other houses. There were plenty of other people huddled in other houses. What made this one different? This house had a window. Out of that window hung a cord—a scarlet cord. That cord is what made that house stand out. That cord is what marked that house for salvation. That scarlet cord saved the spies, and now it saved Rahab and her family.

“And Joshua saved Rahab…and her father’s household” (Joshua 6:25).

On the final day, destruction will come upon this entire world. The trumpet will sound and Jesus will shout (I Thessalonians 4:16). No one will be able to stand in the face of His fierce destruction. And then comes the fire—the eternal fire (Mark 9:43-48).

But one house is spared. Inside that house are people who wanted to be saved when destruction came. But what made that house different? What makes this CHURCH different? After all, there’s plenty of other churches out there.

This church is different because of scarlet—the scarlet of Jesus’ blood. It is that blood which sets this church apart. It is that blood that makes this church stand out. The scarlet marks this church—this house—for salvation.

The people in this house are also saved by Joshua—of course, we know this Joshua by His Greek name, Jesus.

Jesus said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18). There is only one church that Christ recognizes. There is only one church that God adds to (Acts 2:47). Christ only built one church. Man has built many. Only Christ’s church—the one protected by the scarlet—will be saved.

The question now is this: Are you part of that church?

-Bradley S. Cobb

Sermon Thursday – Assembling With the Saints

This week, we continue our look at the Fundamentals of the Faith and look at the topic of assembling with the saints to worship.

Introduction:

I’ve been saved, why do I need to come worship with the church?  I mean, I can think of quite a few reasons not to come:  I’m tired; I’ve got other things to do; I don’t like the preacher; I don’t know the songs; if I go, they’ll expect something out of me; I just don’t like church.

Some people teach that gathering with the saints isn’t necessary, others teach that it is.  The truth of the matter is that coming together with other Christians is an outgrowth of what’s in your heart.  If you don’t come, then that shows where your heart is.  If you do come, but you complain about it or are unwilling to participate, that also shows where your heart is.  If you come, and you actively join in, then that shows where your heart is as well.

We all would (I hope) agree that the Bible is our standard of right and wrong.  So today, let’s look at what the Bible says about gathering with the saints.

When was it done?  Where was it done?  Why was it done?  Must it be done?

When did the saints meet for a specific time of worship?

There are several religious groups who claim that the church met on the Sabbath (Saturday), and that meeting on Sunday is from Satan.  But we’re not interested in what they have to say.  We’re only interested in what the Bible has to say about it.

Jesus rose on the first day of the week (John 20:1-ff). This obviously isn’t proof in and of itself, but it is evidence that points in a certain direction.  Christianity is completely based on the fact that Christ rose from the dead, it would make sense that the church would gather on the same day of the week.  This is circumstantial evidence, proving nothing by itself, but it does help point the way.

The disciples gathered together on the first day of the week after the resurrection (John 20:26). In this passage, it says “after eight days…”  The Jews counted time by including whatever day it happened to be at the time, so they would have counted the Resurrection day as day 1, so the eighth day would have been the next Sunday.  “After” would place it on Sunday evening.  This, as well, isn’t definitive proof, but it is noteworthy nonetheless.

The church was established on the first day of the week (Acts 2). Pentecost literally means “fifty days.”  It took place fifty days after the feast of Passover.  This places the first sermon in the church, the first meeting of the church, on the first day of the week.

But, let’s look further.

The disciples came together to “break bread” on the “first day of the week” (Acts 20:7).  This is talking about the Lord’s Supper.  But even if it wasn’t, it is noteworthy that the apostle Paul waited an entire week in the city of Troas so that he could meet with the saints there (20:6-7).  This shows us—without any doubt—that there was a specific gathering of the saints on the first day of the week, at least in Troas.

But was this just a local custom, or was it something that took place in all the churches?

The church in Corinth—by apostolic authority—met on the first day of the week.  In Acts 18, Paul went to Corinth, and he is the one who planted the church there.  He stayed for 18 months, teaching them the doctrine of Jesus Christ, and how God is to be served in the Christian era.  He later wrote to them, and said, “Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay by him in store” (in other words, take up a collection), I Corinthians 16:2.

But notice that this is something that was to take place on the first day of the week—the day that Paul obviously told them was their day to come together and worship God.

But there’s more—the verse before it says that Paul made the exact same command to the churches in Galatia; that is, to take up a collection on the first day of the week.

When did the church in the Bible gather together for worship? On the first day of the week!  By inspiration of God, Paul commanded it.

It is also significant that there is not one passage in the New Testament that shows Christians gathering for worship on the Sabbath.  There are passages where Paul went to the synagogue on the Sabbath to teach the Jews—because that’s when the Jews would meet.  But not one passage that says the church ever gathered on the Sabbath.

It’s true that especially at the beginning of the church, the Christians met together daily for food, encouragement, and support (Acts 2:46).  But meeting specifically for worship (specifically the Lord’s Supper and giving) was expressly stated to be on the first day of the week.  Is it any surprise that it has been known as “The Lord’s Day” for almost 2,000 years?

Where are the saints to gather together?

The city doesn’t matter.  We have records in the Bible of Christians meeting in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46).  But also in Corinth (II Corinthians 1:1), Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1), and many other cities.

The churches met in different types of places.  The church in some locations apparently met in synagogues (James 2:2 – the word “assembly” is the Greek word “synagogue”).  The church in Troas met in an “upper room,” but nothing is specified as to whether this was on top of a house or above a merchant’s shop, or perhaps even a community building (Acts 20:6-8).  The church in Laodicea met in the house of Philemon (Philemon 1-2).  It is possible that the Christians in Jerusalem met at the temple for a time (Acts 5:12).

What can we take from this?  That the physical location is unimportant.  The important thing is to actually meet with the saints, wherever they are meeting.

Why should the saints gather together?

God never gave a command that was arbitrary—every command has a benefit for us.  So, what is the benefit of gathering together with the saints?  To the Bible for the answer!

To take the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7).  Judging by the biblical testimony, it appears that the Lord’s Supper was the centerpiece, or focal point, of the early Christian worship.  Acts 20:7 says that they came together in order to break bread (take the Lord’s Supper).  Paul severely chastised the Christians in Corinth because when they came together, it wasn’t for that purpose (I Corinthians 11:17-20).  In fact, he called it heresy! (v 19).

This isn’t to say there weren’t other things that took place (as we will see), but that was to be the main reason—remembering Christ’s death through the memorial feast.  The saints should gather on the first day of each week to take the Lord’s Supper and honor Jesus Christ through it.

To give as they have been prospered (I Corinthians 16:1-2).  In the context, Paul was specifically telling them that they needed to start taking up a collection each week so that the poor Christians in Jerusalem could be aided.

But we can easily take this principle and apply it to other financial needs that may arise, such as assisting others (Galatians 6:10), paying those who proclaim the gospel and do other work for the church (Luke 10:7), purchase food for feeding the members of the congregation (Acts 4:37; 6:1), and helping out Christians who had need (Acts 4:34-35).  Is there ever a time when there is not a need?

But what benefit do we get from this?  It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  It is a time to remind ourselves of the blessings that God has given to us.  It’s an opportunity to show our love for others and for God by sharing some of what we’ve been blessed with.

To sing praises to God (I Corinthians 14:15-19, 23).  Singing songs of praise to God was to be done “in the church” and when “the whole church is come together in one place” (these are phrases used in the context of verse 15).  Thus, they were to be done when they church comes together.  They were to be intelligible songs (sing with the understanding).  These songs are to teach (Colossians 3:16).  These songs are to be sung to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).  These songs uplift and edify us.

To encourage one another (Hebrews 10:24).  “Let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together.”  Coming together as a family shows support, encouragement, and love for one another.  This is one of the many blessings that come with assembling with the saints.

To study God’s word (Acts 20:7).  When the Christians of Troas came together, Paul preached to them.  When the Corinthians were gathered together, it was understood that someone would be bringing a message from God (I Corinthians 14).  What better time than this to study God’s word deeper?

Must the saints come together?

We’ve seen when, where, and why the saints came together in the Bible; now the question is “Must the saints come together?”  Is it required?  Is it mandatory to get to heaven?  Again, let’s go to the Bible for the answer.

“Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching. Because if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sin” (Hebrews 10:25-26).

The inspired writer here says that if you sin willfully, your sins will not be forgiven.  In fact, he goes on to say that the only thing you will have to look forward to is judgment and fiery indignation reserved for the enemies of God (10:27).

But look at what his example of willful sin is—verse 25 – forsaking the assembling of yourselves together.  This isn’t missing a service here or there because you’re sick or otherwise physically unable to come.  This is willfully deciding that you aren’t going to worship with the saints.  And this is the example of willful sin that makes you an enemy of God!

Must the saints come together? If they want to go to heaven, they do.

I don’t like hearing people say “I have to go to church.”  Our attitude should be “Ain’t it great? I get to go to church today!”  Skipping services isn’t the problem, it’s just a symptom of a spiritual problem.

Conclusion:

I’m glad you made the decision to gather with the saints to worship God today.  It is my prayer that you have been blessed by being here.

Jesus Christ gave His life for you, and is it really asking all that much that you devote a few hours of your week to coming together with His people?

If you truly appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice, then you’ll want to devote your entire life to Him.  If you’re not a Christian, then what are you waiting for?  You’re lost in sin, surrounded by the fiery pits of hell on all sides, but Jesus is reaching out to save you!  All you have to do is take hold of Him by believing that He is the Christ, the Son of God; repenting of your sins, confessing His name, and being baptized—the water saves you from the fire!

If you are a Christian, and your priorities haven’t been where they should be, why not make it right today?

Sermon Thursday – The Nature of the Church

This week, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  This week’s topic: What is the Nature of the Church?

Introduction:

Want to be confused? Read these quotes:

“The church is a purely human institution created by man to control the minds of people.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God to bring people back to Him.”
“The church is a divinely given institution created by God when His first plan goofed up.”
“The church is comprised of every denomination that claims to believe in Jesus.”
“The church is comprised of some denominations, but only those who believe Jesus is eternal.”
“The church IS a denomination.”
“The church is comprised of those who come to God in faithful obedience to His commands.”
“The church is something you can join (choose the church of your choice).”
“The church is something you have to be voted into.”
“The church is something that God puts you in.”

Confused yet?

All these things are said by people about the church. Most of them are things said by various denominations about the church. All you have to do is look across the religious landscape of our country to see that there is a lot of confusion about the nature of the church.

But we’re not interested in what people say about the church; we should only be interested in what the Bible says about the church.

What does the Bible says about the nature of the church?
Who created the church and why?
Who is in the church?
How do they get into the church?

These are the questions we will examine from the Bible today.

Who created the church, and why?

Matthew 18:16 – Jesus said, “I will build my church.”  It is absolutely true that there are some churches that were created by man—many of them for the purpose of getting rich (like the Mormons). But the church of the Bible was created by Jesus Christ, at the direction of God the Father.

Daniel 2:44 – In the days of these kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom (the church) which shall never be destroyed.  The church of the Bible—the ONLY true church—was created by Jesus Christ, and was in existence beginning in Acts 2.

Acts 2:47 – And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.  We covered this in the last lesson, but just to repeat it, the church of the Bible was created by God through Jesus Christ.  This is why Scriptures refer to it as the church of God as well as the church of Christ.

But WHY was it created?

To fulfill prophecy.

Isaiah 2:1-4, Joel 2:28-32, and Daniel 2:44 were all fulfilled when the church was established in Acts 2.

Joel 2:28-32 was quoted by Peter, and he specifically said that the things which were taking place on Pentecost were fulfilling that prophecy (Acts 2:16).

Isaiah 2:1-4 said that in the last days of Jerusalem, God’s kingdom would be established and His law would go forth from Jerusalem.

On Pentecost, 40 years before Jerusalem was utterly destroyed, God’s kingdom (the church) was established in Jerusalem, and the new law of God went forth from there.

Daniel 2:44 prophesied that the kingdom would be set up in the days of the kings of the Roman Empire—which is exactly the time that the church was set up.

To replace the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people.

Read the parable of the householder in Matthew 21:33-43.  Jesus said that the kingdom would be taken away from the Jewish nation and given to a nation that was bringing forth the fruits of the kingdom (21:43).

To the Christians, Peter wrote “You are a chosen generation, a holy nation, a royal priesthood” (I Peter 2:9).  Christians are the nation of God that brings forth the fruit of the kingdom—and they do that by spreading the word of God (Matthew 28:19-20, Luke 8:11).

Acts 4:12 – Neither is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.  This was spoken to Jews – and they were told that salvation only comes through Christ.  The Jews were basically told that being a Jew meant nothing anymore, because salvation is only through Jesus Christ.

God made the final rejection of the Jews permanent when He sent the Roman armies to destroy Jerusalem and the temple in AD 70.  It has been physically impossible to follow the Law of Moses since that date.  There’s no temple to worship in.  There’s no altar to offer sacrifices.  There’s no priesthood—let alone a Jewish high priest.  There’s no genealogical records—no one could even prove that they are from the tribe of Levi.

The church is God’s only chosen people.

To proclaim God’s word, and to reveal the great wisdom of God.

Ephesians 3:10-11 – To the intent that now unto principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Jude 3 – contend for the faith which was once delivered to the saints. The faith, the wisdom of God, the PLAN of God which He purposed in Jesus Christ has been fulfilled in the establishment of the church.  And it the responsibility of the church to make that message known to the world (II Timothy 2:2, Mark 16:15-16).

Why is it important that we understand why the church was created? Because the Scriptures say that it was in God’s plan…

  • In the 500’s BC (when Daniel prophesied).
  • In the 700’s BC (When Isaiah prophesied).
  • In the 800’s BC (When Joel prophesied).
  • Before the creation of the world (Ephesians 3:10-11 – the “eternal purpose of God which was purposed in Christ Jesus,” the “Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world” – Revelation 13:8).

Yet a very prominent teaching in some denominations is that Jesus came to set up an earthly kingdom, but somehow God goofed and had to quickly come up with an emergency back-up plan because Jesus got rejected.  They teach that the church was put in as a temporary measure until God is ready to send Jesus back to try again.

So, which one is right? Man or the Bible?

What is the church?

The word “church” is used different ways today.  Is it the building (there’s my church…)?  Is it the worship service (“going to church”)?  Is it one specific denomination (the Catholic Church…)?

What does the Bible say?

The word “church” is used in two ways to describe God’s people.

The universal church, comprised of every saved person everywhere in the world.  Ephesians 5:23 – “Christ is the head of the church.”  This refers to all Christians everywhere, not just a certain group of them.  And it doesn’t refer to anyone who isn’t a Christian.

The local group of Christians, comprised of those who meet together in one certain location.  To Philemon our dearly beloved and fellow-laborer, and to our beloved Apphia, and Archippus our fellow-soldier, and to the church that meets in thy house” (Philemon 1-2).  Paul wrote “to the churches of Galatia” (Galatians 1:2).

Who is in the church?

Truthfully, this is quite plain from the Scriptures.

Acts 2:47 – and the Lord added to the church daily, those who were being saved.  The church is composed of the people who have been saved.

Acts 20:28 – …the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.  The church is composed of the people who have been bought with the blood of Christ (another way of saying “the people who have been saved”).

The church is made up ONLY of saved people, but just as important to remember, EVERY saved person is in the church.

There are no saved people outside of the church.

People who claim to be saved, but say they’re not part of the church are actually saying they aren’t really saved.

How does one become a member of the church of the Bible?

There’s lots of different ways to become members of man-made churches.  But we’re not interested in man-made churches; we’re interested only in the church of the Bible.

As we’ve seen, one becomes a member of the church of the Bible by being saved.  When you are saved, God adds you to His one true church (Acts 2:47).

So, the question that we really need to ask is this: How can I be saved?   And when we answer the question, “How can I be saved?” then we have the answer to “how do I become a member of the church of the Bible?”

In order to be saved, there has to be a Savior.  That Savior is Jesus Christ, and He has already done His part in dying on the cross so that we can attain forgiveness of our sins.

In order to be saved, we have to hear about his offer of salvation.  If you’re drowning, and you don’t know about the life-preserver that has been thrown out, you’re going to die.  But when you hear about that life preserver, you can start trying to find it.  You can’t be saved by Jesus Christ without first hearing about Him (which is made clear in Acts 2:22-24).

In order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus Christ, and that He died and was raised up (Romans 1:16, 10:9).

In order to be saved, we have to repent of our sins (Acts 3:19).

In order to be saved, we have to confess Jesus Christ (Romans 10:10).

In order to be saved, we have to be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38).

After, and only after we do those things, we are saved, and God adds us to the church—His church.

There are some denominations who say that being saved isn’t good enough to be part of their church—they have to vote on you, whether or not they want you as part of their church.  Any church that does that is not the church of the Bible.

When you are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ through baptism, you are a part of the church of the Bible, the church that belongs to Christ. Period. There are no extra steps.

The church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians 5:23), the chosen people of God who have been saved by the blood of His dear Son (Acts 20:28).

Have you been saved?

Salvation is easy, and it is within your reach.

 

–Bradley Cobb

Sermon Thursday – The Establishment of the Church

Today, we continue our series on “Fundamentals of the Faith.”  Today’s topic is the establishment of the church.  Enjoy!

Introduction:

Everyone knows what the church is! Well, not exactly. Just like baptism (which we discussed in the last lesson), there is a lot of confusion about the church. This is even true about people who are parts of the many different churches that exist!

What kind of confusion, you may ask?

There is confusion about who founded the church (was it Moses? John the Baptist? Jesus? Peter? Joseph Smith? Alexander Campbell? Or one of the many other people since Bible times?)

There is confusion about when the church was founded (was it in the Old Testament? Did Jesus found it while He was on earth? Was it founded when Jerusalem was destroyed? Pentecost perhaps?)

There is confusion about where the church was established (Jerusalem? Rome? Mt. Sinai? England?)

And those questions all deal just with the “founding” of the church. With all these questions and disagreements, can we know the answers?  We can if we stop listening to what people say and let the Bible speak for itself.  Today, we will look at these questions and be able to come to a Bible-based conclusion, free from all opinions.

But before we do that, we have one thing that we must look at.  The church is the kingdom that was promised in the Old Testament. This is a subject of debate among some people, but the Bible is actually quite plain on it.  Some argue that the kingdom won’t exist until Jesus comes again, but we will prove that theory false with a few plain statements from the Bible.

First, look at Matthew 16:16-19.  And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” And Jesus answered and said unto Him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona, for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven…”

Notice that Jesus told Peter, “I will build my CHURCH,” and “I will give you the keys to the KINGDOM of heaven.”  Jesus was using the two words (church and kingdom) interchangibly. But, lest someone objects, let’s go a bit further.

Keys are for opening things (like doors) so that someone can enter. Peter was given the keys to the kingdom, so that means Jesus expected Peter to be able to open the door to the kingdom.  If the church isn’t the same as the kingdom, then Peter never got to use those keys—because he’s been dead almost 2,000 years.

It’s also worth noting that Jesus said Peter would do this while Peter was still alive—on earth.  “Whatever THOU (Peter) shall bind ON EARTH…”  Without any doubt, Jesus’ kingdom existed on earth while Peter was still alive.

The kingdom is the church—and we’ll see that even clearer as we go through the lesson.

Who founded the church of the Bible?

There are many different religious groups, all with different founders—can we know which one is right?  If we look to the Bible, we can.

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  We will look at “the days of these kings” a bit later, but right now I want you to concentrate on the words “the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom.”   Who set up, built, or founded this kingdom? God did.

Matthew 16:18 – “I [Jesus] will build my church…”  Who did Jesus say would build the church? Himself.  Whose church did He say it was? His church.

This seems so simple that it ought to be obvious, but the fact is there are a lot of religious groups who claim to be the church (or part of the church) who claim different founders than Jesus Christ.  Joseph Smith is the founder of the Mormons.  Charles Taze Russell is the founder of the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Ellen G. White is the founder of the Seventh-Day Adventists.  John Wesley is the founder of the Methodists.  John Calvin is the founder of the Presbyterians.      Martin Luther is the founder of the Lutherans.

The Baptist Church claims that their founder is John the Baptist.  But if you read Matthew, you’ll see that John the Baptist was dead in chapter 14. And in chapter 16, Jesus said “I will build my church.”  This is in future tense, as in the church isn’t built yet, but it will be built. If John had founded the church, then one of two things must be true:  (1) John’s church isn’t Jesus’ church (because Jesus hadn’t built his yet). Or (2) Jesus was lying about the building of the church still being in the future.  Neither one of these options match with the Bible.  The fact is, John never established a church—Jesus did.

There is only ONE church in the Bible, and it didn’t come until after John the Baptist was already dead.

When was the church of the Bible founded?

Daniel 2:44 – “In the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed.”  When Daniel said this, he had been explaining the meaning of a dream that the king of Babylon had.   It was of a big statue with a head of gold, chest of silver, belly and thighs of brass, and legs of iron, and feet of iron mixed with clay. He said that the head represented Babylon (2:37-38). He said that the chest of silver was another kingdom that would come after them (Which, historically was the Persian Empire) (2:39).  And a third kingdom was represented by the belly and thighs of brass (historically, this is Alexander the Great and the Greek Empire). Then a fourth kingdom that would rule the world and break them like iron (historically, the next world empire was Rome) (2:40).\

And then Daniel says “in the days of THESE kings, God will set up a kingdom.”  So, based on Daniel’s prophecy, the kingdom (church) would be set up during the days of the Roman Empire.

Just for historical reference, the Roman Empire began around 100 BC (or thereabouts), and fell in the year 476.  The church—God’s kingdom—had to have been set up before that date.

Matthew 3:1-2 – In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  If something is “at hand” that means that it is near—very close.  In the days of John the Baptist (which was during the time of the Roman Empire), the kingdom was very near—but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 4:17 – From that time, Jesus began to preach and to say “Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  This was said during Jesus’ life on earth—the kingdom was very close, but it hadn’t come yet.

Matthew 16:18 – “I will build my church…”  This is close to the end of Jesus’ life, and the church still hadn’t come.  Well, we’re seeing that it hasn’t been built yet at these points, but when did it actually begin to exist?

Acts 2:47 – “And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.”  This is on the Day of Pentecost, fifty days after Jesus died.  This is when Peter started preaching (Acts 2:14)—giving people access to the church (using the “keys of the kingdom”).  According to this verse, the church existed at this point.  After all, you can’t be added to something that doesn’t exist.

Some people still say, “well, the church existed, but the kingdom still hasn’t come yet.”  Let’s let the Bible speak to answer this objection.

Colossians 1:13 – “[God] has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.”      This is spoken in the past tense, describing something that has already happened.  God had already transported people INTO the kingdom of his dear Son.  You can’t be put into something if it doesn’t already exist.  The kingdom existed already when that was written.

Revelation 1:9 – “I, John, am your companion…in the kingdom.”  John said he was in the kingdom—and he died over 1900 years ago.   The kingdom had to already exist for him to be in it.

The church was established after Jesus died, and people began entering it on the Day of Pentecost (which was during the days of the Roman Empire).

Where was the church of the Bible established?

Isaiah 2:1-3 – “Concerning the last days of Judah and Jerusalem – and it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow into it…for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”

According to this prophecy about the kingdom of God, where would it be established? Jerusalem.

Acts 1:4 – [Jesus] commanded them [the apostles] that they should not depart from Jerusalem.

Acts 2:5 – And there were dwelling at Jerusalem Jews, devout men out of every nation under heaven.

Acts 2:14 – Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted his voice and said, “Ye men of Judea and all ye that dwell at Jerusalem…”

This is the chapter we looked at earlier where we saw the church was established.  Where were they? IN JERUSALEM.

Any church that was established somewhere other than Jerusalem cannot be the church of the Bible.

Conclusion:

Any church that was founded by someone other than Jesus Christ is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded after the day of Pentecost is not the church of the Bible.

Any church that was founded somewhere other than Jerusalem is not the church of the Bible.

I could spend a lot of time going through the various churches and when/where they were established and by whom, but the important thing to ask is “Am I a part of the church talked about in the Bible?”

The church talked about in the Bible was founded by Jesus Christ, and follows the laws given by Him.  If you want to be part of the church talked about in the Bible, then you have to do the things that the people in the Bible were told to do in order to be a part of it.  Hear about Jesus (Acts 2:22-24).   Believe (Acts 8:37).  Repent (Acts 3:19). Confess (Acts 8:37).  Be baptized (Acts 22:16).

When you do what they did, you will be added to the same church that they were added to, for God’s church will never end, never be destroyed.

The way into the church has never changed!  Come join the church of the Bible today!

-Bradley Cobb

Is the Church a Denomination?

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

Is the Church a Denomination?

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

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

The Meaning of Denominational­ism.

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

The Causes of Denominationalism.

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

The Curse of Denominationalism.

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

The Source of Denominational Names,

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

The Cure for Denominationalism.

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

II. Is The Church of Christ A Denomination?

The Meaning of the Term “church.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sermon Thursday – Stay in the House!

Stay in the House!

There are sounds of gunfire and screaming coming from outside his window.  The man slowly moves the curtain aside and peers through the glass to see what’s happening. His kids are worried, “Dad, what’s that noise?” “Is somebody hurt?” The man barks at them, “get back!” He makes his way to the front door, and the kids start begging, “Dad, don’t go! Stay here with us.”  The dad opens the door and steps out onto the porch. He turns around and sternly says, “Stay in the house!”  The door shuts, and the children don’t see their father anymore. They run to the window and look as their father falls to the ground dead. And through the crying and tears, they are haunted by the question that they can never answer: Why didn’t daddy stay in the house?

Why would a man tell his children to “stay in the house!”? 

Because there is safety in the house. There is security in the house. There is protection in the house.  Because there is danger outside. It could cost them their lives.

In the Bible there was a strict command given to “stay in the house!”  It’s found in Joshua 2.

The Israelites—almost 3 million of them—are camped next to the Jordan River. Across the Jordan stands the city of Jericho, surrounded by its two protective walls.  From the top of Jericho’s walls, you can see the Israelite camp, their tents, their campfires, and more people than you’ve ever seen in your life—and they’re about to attack.

Then, two of them show up in the city; on the walls; in your house!  Scared for your life, you don’t dare turn them in—you don’t want to anger their God. You quickly hide them on your roof, and when the soldiers come to your door, you send them on a wild-goose chase—because you don’t want to anger the powerful Jehovah of the Israelites. You send the spies out safely, but beg them to spare you and your family when they finally attack.  The spies agree, but give you the stern warning: “stay in the house!”

If you want to be safe, get in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to get in the house (Joshua 2:18).   The spies said “when we come into the land, thou shalt bind this line of scarlet thread in the window which thou didst let us down by: and thou shalt bring thy father, and thy mother, and thy brethren, and all thy father’s household home unto thee.” Literally, they said, “into your house.”  The only way that anyone in the city of Jericho was going to be saved was if they got in the house.

So, Rahab found her family, and brought them into the house with her—because she wanted to be saved, and she wanted her family to be saved too.  To refuse to come into the house was to refuse salvation.  To refuse to come into the house was to bring death on themselves.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “get in the house” (Acts 2:47).   The house of God is the church (I Timothy 3:15 – “the house of God, which is the church”).   All saved people are in the church (Acts 2:47)—there are no saved people outside of the church.     Christ’s blood is required for salvation, and it only covers those who are in the church (Acts 20:28).   You’re surrounded by enemies who are ready to destroy you—and the only way to be safe is to “get in the house!

Salvation is only found in the church, because it is the house of God, the body of Christ.   To reject the church is to reject salvation!   To reject the church is to bring destruction upon yourself!  If you’re not in the house yet, GET IN IT!  And if you are in the house, why aren’t you trying to get other people in it with you? Do you want them to be destroyed? Are you content to think, “Well, I’ll be saved, so it doesn’t really matter about anyone else?”

If you want to be safe, stay in the house!

For Rahab and her family to be safe, they have to stay in the house (Joshua 2:19).  “And it shall be that whosoever shall go out of the doors of your house into the street, his blood shall be upon his head and we shall be guiltless.” Basically, “if they leave the house, they’re dead. And it’ll be their own fault.”

Rahab and her family get all their belongings, and they all huddle together in the house. They look out the window, scared for their people, but also confident that God would keep His promise. They see hundreds of thousands of soldiers march around their city once a day for six days—and the soldiers don’t say a word. It is eerie, disconcerting, and frightening.  But through it all, they stay in the house because they know that they are only safe if they stay in the house.

For anyone today to be saved, they have to “stay in the house!”    Almost every letter in the New Testament contains warnings about losing your salvation.  But this is nowhere more clearly stated than in Revelation.  Jesus walks among the seven golden candlesticks, which are his church (Revelation 1:20).   A church who ceases to follow Christ will have its candlestick removed—that is, they will no longer be part of the church (Revelation 2:5).  In fact, Jesus describes the process as vomiting them out of His mouth, His body—vomiting them out of the church (Revelation 3:16).  Those who returned to the Law of Moses willingly left the church of Jesus Christ—and had “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

When you leave the church, you leave the protection of the blood of Christ—and you bring it on yourself!  You’re surrounded by an enemy that is ready to destroy you. You’re in the one safe place where they can’t harm you. And then you open the door and walk out—into the destructive hands of the enemy.   It’s stupid! It’s like being in a storm cellar in the middle of a tornado, and then getting out as it goes right over you. You’re dead!  Instead, stay gathered with your family—your brothers and sisters in Christ—stay safe in the house (the church).

Conclusion:

On the seventh day of the siege, the hundreds of thousands of Israelite soldiers marched around the city seven times. The people in Jericho knew something was coming. As they looked out over the wall and through windows, they could see nothing but soldiers—silent soldiers—being led by God Himself.

Then, without warning, trumpets blast and six hundred thousand voices scream all at once. The ground shakes and the walls of the city crash to the ground. And through the dust they see the screaming soldiers running straight into the city with their swords swinging. Blood splatters and pools on the ground and person after person falls lifeless to the ground. Then comes the fire, destroying the city and everything in it.

But one section of the wall never fell.

One small section of the wall still stood, with a house sitting on top of it. Inside that house was a woman who wanted to be saved. Inside that house was her family. Inside that house was a group of people who trusted in God’s promise.

What made that house different? Why did it stand when all the others fell?

There were plenty of other houses. There were plenty of other people huddled in other houses. What made this one different? This house had a window. Out of that window hung a cord—a scarlet cord. That cord is what made that house stand out. That cord is what marked that house for salvation. That scarlet cord saved the spies, and now it saved Rahab and her family.

And Joshua saved Rahab…and her father’s household” (Joshua 6:25).

On the final day, destruction will come upon this entire world. The trumpet will sound and Jesus will shout (I Thessalonians 4:16). No one will be able to stand in the face of His fierce destruction. And then comes the fire—the eternal fire (Mark 9:43-48).

But one house is spared.

Inside that house are people who wanted to be saved when destruction came. But what made that house different? What makes this CHURCH different? After all, there’s plenty of other churches out there.   This church is different because of scarlet—the scarlet of Jesus’ blood. It is that blood which sets this church apart. It is that blood that makes this church stand out. The scarlet marks this church—this house—for salvation.

The people in this house are also saved by Joshua—of course, we know this Joshua by His Greek name, Jesus.

Jesus said He would build HIS church (Matthew 16:18). There is only one church that Christ recognizes. There is only one church that God adds to (Acts 2:47). Christ only built one church. Man has built many. Only Christ’s church—the one protected by the scarlet—will be saved.

The question now is this: how do you get in the house? How do you save yourself from the destruction? How do you get covered by the blood of Jesus?  Those who are baptized into Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27) are the ones who are added to the church (Acts 2:47)–God puts them into the house!

Are you in the house?

–Bradley Cobb