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Notes on 2 John 12-13 (Comments and Critiques Welcome)

Conclusion (12-13)

(12) Having many things to write unto you, I would not write with paper and ink: but I trust to come unto you, and speak face to face, that our joy may be full.

Having many things to write to you…

This letter is extremely short. Here, at the end of the letter, John is saying there are several things he could have added to the letter.

I’m not willing to write them with paper and ink

Another way of saying this is that there were many things he could have added, but he didn’t want to write them. The reason for this is made quite clear when he says he wants to come speak to them face-to-face. There are some things much better said face-to-face instead of in a letter.

But I trust that I will come to you and speak face to face

When you speak face-to-face with someone, as opposed to through a letter (or text message, or email, or some other written form of communication), it shows you care. Also, in person your tone, body language, and emphasis comes through. John may have had something very unpleasant things to say to them (see 3 John 9-10). John may have needed to talk to them about some things difficult to understand (see 2 Peter 3:15-16). He may have needed to have a discussion with them, to ask them questions and understand some things going on there. All of these things are much easier to do in person than by letter.

John had confidence, trust, he would be able to come see them. It is certain John prayed about it (James 4:15). We should follow the same example.

So that our joy may be full

The purpose of John’s planned face-to-face visit was to bring joy to them and to himself. We are given a clue in verse 4 about this. John rejoiced that the Christians were walking in truth. However, he didn’t say “all” of the Christians were walking in truth. Some of them were, but others were not. His plan was to go visit them, and possibly bring the wayward back to Christ. This would cause him great joy, but also bring great joy to the congregation as well. John’s joy always seems to center on the truth being followed (see also 1 John 1:1-4, especially verse 4).

(13) The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.

The children of your elect sister greet you.

Since the “elect lady” of verse 1 is the church (perhaps specifically the congregation in Jerusalem), the “elect sister” would be the congregation where John was. Her children would be the members of that congregation.

They all send their greetings. This is the same word translated “salute” in Romans 16:16 (the churches of Christ salute you). It is more than just saying “hi.” It’s a greeting of friendship and fellowship.

Amen

This means “so be it,” or “I agree.” However, it is also used at the end of some of the Biblical letters to bring the letter to a close. It is a final re-emphasis of what’s been said, and showing John meant all of it.

Notes on 2 John 10-11 (Comments and Critiques Welcome)

How to Treat False Teachers (10-11)

(10-11) If there comes any unto you, and brings not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds.

If anyone comes to you, and doesn’t bring this doctrine…

The Jews of the first century were extremely hostile towards Christians. As the end of the Jewish system got closer and closer, there were some who declared that the apostles made up the story of Jesus Christ. They said that Jesus was nothing more than a cunningly devised fable (2 Peter 1:16-18). That he wasn’t real! The Jews were doing everything they could to undermine Christianity.

This helps us understand why First John starts off with a defense of the reality of Jesus Christ’s coming to earth. John declares himself an ear-witness (“that which we have heard”), an eye-witness (“which we have seen”), and a hand-witness (“our hands have handled”).

So here in Second John, he is alerting the Christians to the Jews who were going around denying that the Christ had even come. This had the potential to destroy people’s faith, and therefore this threat must be taken seriously.

Don’t take him into house

Most translations have the word your inserted into this sentence, making it read, “Don’t receive him into your house.” However, the word your is not in the original. This is actually significant to understanding this verse.

The typical understanding of this verse is that if a false teacher comers around, don’t even let him into your house! This verse is used by some as justification for not allowing a Mormon or Jehovah’s Witness to cross the threshold of their doorway. But that’s not what John is saying.

The early church met in houses, in the home of one of the members. John is telling the Christians not to allow the false teachers to have access to the congregation. Don’t let them into the congregational gatherings. Don’t let them into the house where Christians are meeting.

The application for us today is that we should be aware of what others believe and teach before we welcome them into the congregation. We cannot give false teachers access to the congregation, because they have the potential of destroying the faith of some of the weaker or newer members.

It’s because of things like this that the early church sent letters of recommendation with members who were traveling or moving (I Corinthians 16:3, II Corinthians 3:1). This isn’t such a bad idea.

Don’t say God-speed to them, either

The word translated as God speed in the King James Version is translated as greeting in James 1:1, and as farewell in II Corinthians 13:11. But the vast majority of times, it is translated rejoice (as in Matthew 5:12). John even uses it that way in verse 4 of this letter.

This means don’t wish them well on their journey. Don’t say “good luck” to them as they go out spreading false doctrine. Don’t pray for their efforts. Don’t say anything to them that would make it seem like you approve of what they are doing. Why not?

Because the one who says God-speed to him is a partaker of his evil deeds.

Even if you don’t allow the false teacher access to the congregation, the instant you wish him good luck as he goes along destroying souls, you’ve shown your approval for his actions. And approval of sin is the same as if you had committed the sin (Romans 1:32).

But there is another way that you would become a partaker in their evil deeds. If you wish them well, they will go to other places and bring up your name as well. “Brother So-and-so wished me good luck.” And all of a sudden, your name has become attached to them and their teaching.

Be very careful about who you recommend and who you approve. When you show approval for someone, you are also showing approval for what they teach and what they do. This is most important in showing approval of Christians and recommending them to others.

But this principle also applies in other areas of life. When you vote for someone—especially if you encourage others to vote for him—you are showing approval for that person and the things he stands for. Obviously, you can’t know everything that person thinks, believes, and will do while in office. But if you know ahead of time that candidate supports homosexuality and abortion, and then you vote for him (bidding them God-speed), that makes you just as guilty.

Be very careful who you bid God-speed to.

 

Greatly Expanded (and mostly organized) list of books for sale

If this list is helpful in any way, thank my daughter, who spent a couple hours typing it all…

Items marked *NEW* are brand-new from Cobb Publishing (or donated by another publisher), but discounted to make more space.

The books in bold font are by members of the church of Christ.

Items in RED FONT are new to the list as of May 28.

Prices do not include shipping. We can take check, Paypal, or credit/debit card. Just email with the books you want, or call/text 479.747.8372 (Yes, this is the correct number this time). I will try to keep this list up-to-date as requests come in.

Thank you!

Abortion

Abortion: What is the Bible Truth? (David Alsobrook) PB $1.00

Anxiety/Worry/Suffering

Winning Over Worry (Jack Exum) PB $1.25

An Answer to Worry and Anxiety (Norman Wright) PB $0.75

How to Win Over Depression (Tim LaHaye) PB $2.50

Consolation for Christians (Leon Barnes) PB $1.50

How to Cope (Dr. E. Harold Henderson) PB $1.25

Apologetics/Hermeneutics

In the Beginning: A Study of Creation Vs. Evolution (Rita Rose Ward) PB $1.00

Situation Ethics: The New Morality (Joseph Fletcher) PB $2.00

The Bible

Why I Preach the Bible is Literally True (W.A. Criswell) HB/DJ $2.75

Biblical Truth and Modern Man: A Layman’s Guide to Understanding the Bible (Bruce D. Rahtjen) PB $2.00

Bible Background

The Land and the Book: An Introduction to the World of the Bible (Charles R. Page II & Carl A. Volz) PB $3.50

Bible Dictionaries

Nelson’s Student Bible Dictionary – PB $2.00

The New Compact Bible Dictionary (T. Alton Bryant) HB $2.00

Bibles

The New Testament: New European Version $1.00

Knowing Jesus Personally: New Living Translation NT PB $1.00

Self-Interpreting New Testament (Compiled and Arranged by Ashley S. Johnson) HB $2.50

Christian Living

Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (Kyle Idleman) PB $1.75

On Being a Christian (Hans Kung) 700 pages HB $2.75

A New Kind of Christian (Brian McLaren) HB $2.00

Boundless Living: Meditations on the Christian Life (Oliver G. Wilson) HB/DJ $2.00

Answers to Questions About Spiritual Warfare (David Jeremiah) HB $1.75

The Church

Simple Studies About Christ’s Church (Rubel Shelly) PB $2.00

Why I Am A Member of the Church of Christ (Leroy Brownlow) HB $3.25

The Churches of Christ Salute You (John B. White) PB $0.75

The TRUTH About the “Church of Christ” (Hugh Pyle, Baptist) PB $2.25

Church History

Civil War

Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South (Christopher Dickey) HB/DJ $4.50  $3.75

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer (James L. Swanson) HB $2.00

Commentaries

New Testament Postcards (Philemon, Jude, 2 John, 3 John) (Charles Swindoll) PB $1.75

Philippians: A Study Guide (Matt Chandler) PB $1.50

Moments on the Mount (R.B. Sweet) PB $2.50

Titus, Philemon, and James (J.W. Roberts) PB $2.50

The Parables of Jesus, part 2 (Neil R. Lightfoot) PB $2.50

The Gospel of Christ TV Transcripts [1 Thessalonians – Philemon] (Ben Bailey & Timothy Sparks) CB $1.50

The Gospel of Christ TV Transcripts [Hebrews – James] (Ben Bailey & Timothy Sparks) CB $1.50

The Gospel of Christ TV Transcripts [1 Peter – Revelation] Ben Bailey & Timothy Sparks) CB $1.50

The Gospel of Christ TV Transcripts [Matthew – John] (Ben Bailey & Timothy Sparks) CB $1.50

Culture

World Aflame (Billy Graham) PB $0.75

Debates/Controversy

A Review of “Shall We Splinter” (Robert R. Taylor, Jr.) PB $1.75

Putting the Church in Reverse: A Review of “The Church in Transition” (Ben Vick Jr) PB $0.50

Denominational Doctrines

The Common Catechism (an ecumenical collaboration between Catholics, Lutherans, and Presbyterians on common beliefs) 690 pages, HB $2.00

How to Get More Out Of Being Jewish Even If: A. You are not sure that you believe in God, B. You think going to the synagogue is a waste of time, C. You think keeping kosher is stupid, D. You hated Hebrew school, or E. All of the above! – Updated 6th Edition (Gil Mann) PB $1.75

Out of the Labyrinth (the autobiographical story of a priest who left Catholicism and became a protestant) HB/DJ $3.75

The Book of Confessions (Presbyterian Church USA) PB $1.50

The Westminster Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, Together with the Longer Catechism and the Shorter Catechism (1947 Printing) HB $2.25

Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomena in the Lives of Saints (Joan Carroll Cruz) PB $1.25

The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life (Jehovah’s Witness Guidebook for their one-on-one Studies) HB $1.50

Detective Novels

*NEW* Rick Wade Investigations Book 1: Murder in the City (Bill Howard) PB $4.00

*NEW* Rick Wade Investigations Book 2: The Case for Sarah (Bill Howard) PB $4.00

*NEW* Rick Wade Investigations Book 3: A Time to Heal (Bill Howard) PB $4.00

*NEW* Rick Wade Investigations Book 4: A Time to Reap (Bill Howard) PB $4.00

Devotional reading

Good Night, God: Nighttime Devotions to End Your Day God’s Way (David C. Cook?) PB $1.00

Abundant Living (E. Stanley Jones) HB $1.25

Chicken Soup For the Christian Soul: 101 Stories to Open the Heart and Rekindle the Spirit (Jack Canfield; Mark Victor Hansen; D. Van Dyke, etc.) PB $0.75

The Purpose-Driven Life (Rick Warren) HB/DJ $0.25

50 Days of Heaven: Reflections that Bring Eternity to Light (Randy Alcorn) HB/DJ $1.25

Eschatology

What Really Happens When Jesus Returns? (Gary Frazier) PB $1.50

Evangelism

You Can Have Successful Gospel Meetings (Alan M. Bryan) PB $0.50

We Want You Here (Thom S. Rainer) HB $3.50

The Church in the Rural Community (William C. Martin) PB $2.00

I Could, I MightI CanI Should, I Will!: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian (Thom S. Rainer) HB $3.50

*New* Casting Down of Strongholds: To Satan and Back – The True Story of My Experiences in the Occult , and How and Why I Left it. (Kyle D. Frank) PB $4.00

Home/Family

The Christian Home (P.D. Wilmeth) PB $2.50

Christ and Your Home (Batsell Barrett Baxter) PB $1.75

Building Stronger Families: Leader’s Guide (Royce Money) PB $1.25

Religious Education in the Family (Henry F. Cope, University of Chicago Press) HB $2.25

Humanism/Modernism

Hymnals/Song Books

Sunlight Glees: A Complete Treatise on the Fundamentals of Vocal Music (Hartford Music and Printing Co., 1947) PB $2.00

Leadership

Good to Great (Jim Collins) HB/DJ $3.00

Lectureship Books

Men’s Struggles

Novels

Through God’s Eyes (Harold E. Dye) HBDJ $1.00

Prayer

Praying in the Wesleyan Spirit: 52 Prayers for Today (Paul Chilcote) PB $0.75

All things are Possible Through Prayer (Charles L. Allen) PB $1.25

Prayer: Conversing with God (Rosalind Rinker) PB $1.00

Too Busy NOT to Pray (Bill Hybels) PB $1.75

Preaching

Psychology

Chocolate to Morphine: Understanding Mind-Active Drugs (Andrew Weil, MD & Winifred Rosen) PB $2.25

Restoration Reprint Library

Self Help/Self-Improvement

Reggie: You Can’t Change Your Past, But You Can Change Your Future (Reggie Dabbs with John Driver) PB $1.50 $1.00

Fighting the Good Fight (Reggie White) HBDJ $2.00

Believe!: Discover Success Through God and His Church, Free Enterprise, Human Dignity, and the American Way (Richard M. DeVos) HB/DJ $2.25

Walking With Saints: Through the Best and Worst Times of our Lives (Calvin Miller) HBDJ $2.00

A Funny Thing That Happened on the Way to the Future: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned (Michael J. Fox) HBDJ $1.50

Sermons

*New* Sermons on First Corinthians (George W. DeHoff) PB $4.00

*New* The Lost Sermons of H. Leo Boles (Compiled by Kyle Frank) HB $4.00

Preach the Word… (Arthur Calvin Fulbright, Th.D.) PB $2.00

Studies for New Christians

*NEW* Father, I Have Sinned (Bill Howard) PB $2.50

*NEW* Whom Seek Ye? (Bill Howard) PB $2.50

*NEW* Believest Thou This? (Bill Howard) PB $2.50

Basic Bible Studies (Howard Winters) PB $1.25

Worship/Lord’s Supper/Music

The Art of Group Worship (Robert Seneca Smith) PB $1.75

Workbooks

Group Discussion Study of 1 Corinthians (Robert K. Oglesby) PB $0.75

Group Discussion of Philippians/Colossians (Roberk K. Oglesby) PB $0.75

God’s Way for Man: The Church (Carroll C. Trent) PB $1.00

The Life and Teachings of Jesus, Part 3 (Carroll C. Trent) PB $0.50

Romans and Galatians: Bible in Life Workbook (George Snure) PB $0.50

Into Our Hands: A Study of Christian Stewardship (Edwin Broadus) PB $0.75

Gospel Advocate Adult Gospel Quarterly – Fall 1981 PB $0.50

Truth For Today – The “Today” Series Book One (???) PB $0.50

Ordinary Days with Jesus Participant’s Guide (John Ortberg) PB $0.75

The “I haven’t categorized them yet” section:

What present-day theologians are thinking. (Daniel Day Williams) HB, $1.75

Heavenly highway hymns (Stamps-Baxter shape notes songbook 1956) PB $2.00

Unexplainable: pursuing a life only God can make possible (Don Cousins) PB $1.50

What you didn’t know about the Bible: a Comprehensive Guide to Biblical Knowledge (J. Carter Swaim) HB/DJ $3.50

It Depends on How You Look at It! A Key to Practical Christian Living (Rusty Bolton) PB $1.50

Sinai Summit: Meeting God with Our Character Crisis (Rick Atchley) PB $0.50

A Layman Looks at the Lamb of God (W. Phillip Keller) PB $1.25

The Lost Books of the Bible (Shepherd of Hermas, Polycarp, Barnabas, I and II Clement, etc.) – HB/DJ $3.50

Final Dawn Over Jerusalem (John Hagee) HB/DJ $1.25

Practice of the Presence of God (Brother Lawrence) PB $0.50

Liberal Learning and Religion (Edited by Amos N. Wilder) HB $1.25

God’s Psychiatry: Wisdom for Today from the Ancient Teachings of the Bible (Charles L. Allen) PB $1.50

Your Greatest Power (J. Martin Kohe) HB/DJ $2.50

The Sunday School Worker: His Life and Work (L.F. Sensabaugh) HB $1.00

The Small Sunday School: Its Plans and Work (L.F. Sensabaugh) HB $1.00

Is There Life After Death? (Paul Kroll) PB $1.00

Things Surely Believed Among Us (Paul Rogers) PB $1.25

Email From God for Men (Andy Cloninger) PB $1.50

Leaving Self Behind (Jack Exum) PB $1.75

Lessons For Living (Mrs. Carroll Trent) PB $0.75

Sketches from the History of Collectivism (James D. Bales) PB $1.25

I Believe (Harold Hazelip) PB $1.50

My Daily Walk with God (Charles B. Hodge, Jr) PB $2.50

Great Biblical Doctrines (John Allen Chalk) PB $2.00

You Can See Forever (Compiled by Caesar Johnson) HB $1.25

The Coming King (James Edson White) HB $1.50

Twixt Twelve and Twenty (Pat Boone) HB $0.75

Heredity Evolution and Society (I. Michael Lerner) HB $1.00

Notes on 2 John 7-9 (Comments and Critiques Welcome!)

Description of False Teachers (7-9)

Starting with this section, John explains why he is reminding them to walk in the commandments of God (verse 6).

(7) For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.

For

John had just reminded them—begged them, actually—to love one another and to walk in the commandments of Jesus Christ. But why? Why was it so important for John to remind Christians about this? The word for in this verse means because. What follows in this verse is the specific reason why they needed to be reminded—because false teachers are here!

Many deceivers

Deceivers have existed for thousands of years. Jacob deceived Isaac into thinking he was Esau in order to steal the firstborn’s blessing (Genesis 27:19-29). Simon the sorcerer deceived the Samaritans into thinking he was a truly powerful person from God (Acts 8:9-11). But the deceivers John is discussing are not simply those who misrepresent themselves. These deceivers could cause someone to lose their soul.

There were many of these deceivers going about during the time of John the apostle. False teachers were prevalent then, and they are prevalent today as well. We would all do well to realize not everyone speaks the truth. We should be like the noble Bereans who searched the Scriptures daily to make sure what they were being told matched up with God’s word (Acts 17:11).

Are entered into the world

This is spoken of in the past tense. It has already happened. This is not a warning of something yet future, but it is a warning of a very present danger. These deceivers were out in the world already deceiving people. The time to be aware of false teachers is now.

Who do not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.

These liars (deceivers) did not confess Jesus actually came in the flesh. There are differing views as to exactly what this means.

Most believe this is a reference to the Gnostics, a group of false teachers who were prominent in the second century. The Gnostics promoted (among other things) the idea Jesus just appeared to come in the flesh, but was actually just a spirit who appeared to be flesh. Why would John warn Christians about these false teachers? If their doctrine was true, then there really wasn’t a death on the cross, nor a resurrection. And, as Paul said, if there is no resurrection, then we are still lost in our sins (I Corinthians 15:17-18). This doctrine denies the very thing upon which the Christians’ salvation rests: the death of Christ on our behalf.

The Gnostics were not prominent until the 2nd century, though the seeds of their doctrines would have been sown much earlier. However, it is difficult to believe full-blown Gnosticism was already a present problem in 67-69 AD when this book was written (see introduction for a brief discussion of the date of 2 John).

It is more likely the Jews, the constant thorn in the side of first century Christians, had begun going out and telling people Jesus was a made-up character. The apostle Peter had to deal with this same issue. He stated “we do not follow cunningly devised fables [made up stories]” (2 Peter 1:16). Instead, Peter says he was an eyewitness to Jesus Christ and His transfiguration (2 Peter 1:16-17). Peter, in the mid-60s AD, had to counteract false teachers who were teaching the story of Jesus was a cleverly designed fable. This accusation said Jesus did not come in the flesh. It is worth noting John begins his first epistle with a defense of the historical truth of Jesus’ physical coming (1 John 1:1-4). If Jesus never existed, then our sins are not forgiven. Truly this is a damnable heresy (2 Peter 2:1).

This is a deceiver

If it wasn’t clear with John’s first statement about many deceivers, he clarifies it here. The people who teach Jesus didn’t come in the flesh are liars. Literally, this verse says, “This one is the deceiver [or, the deceiving one].”

This is…an antichrist

If it wasn’t clear to Christians that these liars, these false teachers should be avoided, John uses the word “antichrist.” “Antichrist” is not a name of a person, nor is it a title. It is a description. “Anti” means against, or opposed to something. “The antichrist” is literally translated as “the one opposed to Christ.” In the entire Bible, this word appears in just three other verses:

Little children, it is the last time [literally: final hour]: and as you have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. (1 John 2:18)

Who is a liar but her that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denies the Father and the Son. (1 John 2:22)

And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already it is in the world. (1 John 4:3)

When you read these verses—the only times in the whole Bible the word “antichrist” appears—it should become obvious John was talking about something taking place when he wrote. After all, the fact these “antichrists” (plural) are on the scene was proof the final hour (the destruction of Jerusalem—see Matthew 24:24) was near. The ones who say Jesus didn’t come in the flesh are deceiving and opposed to Christ. To accept their doctrines is to also be opposed to Christ. To be opposed to Christ means eternal destruction (Hebrews 10:26-31, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

Within the last 150 years, many doctrines have cropped up about a future person described as “the Antichrist” who will come to power and deceive many shortly before Jesus comes again and sets up an earthly kingdom. This verse proves all those theories false.

Remember the following:

  • These deceivers had already (past tense) come into the world and began their work of deceiving in the first century. John is not speaking of some future character (especially not one 2,000 years away from his own time).
  • There were many deceivers, not just one.
  • These deceivers who existed in the first century are the antichrist.

Any doctrine that denies the antichrist was a first century reality is a false doctrine which should be flatly rejected.

Some well-meaning Christians have said the phrase “the antichrist” never appears in the Bible. While this is true in the King James Version, it is not true in the original Greek. This verse in Second John does indeed say “the antichrist,” or literally “the one opposed to Christ.”

(8) Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward.

Look to yourselves

A recurring theme in the Scriptures is the need for constant self-evaluation. Paul says “Examine yourself, whether you are in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5). Here, John tells Christians there is an important need to look within. Look to yourselves to make sure you have not bought into the false doctrine peddled about by the deceivers and ones opposed to Christ (see notes on previous verse). John expresses the need to examine ourselves, and then gives two reasons why we should do it.

That we don’t lose the things which we have accomplished.

The Christian life is not an easy one (Luke 9:62). It takes work (James 2:24). But the work builds up treasure in heaven (Matthew 6:20, 19:21). If someone were to spend his life obeying Christ’s will, and building up treasure, but then fell prey to these false teachings stating Jesus never came in the flesh, those treasures would be lost. Frequently, people will claim “once saved, always saved.” John says those spiritual things which we worked so hard for can be lost. Who will you believe? An inspired apostle or an uninspired denominational “pastor”?

Receive a full reward.

By continuing to examine ourselves frequently to make sure we have not fallen prey to false teachers, we keep a hold of the treasures we have laid up in heaven. Eternal life is the full reward being spoken of. Jesus phrased it this way, “be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10).

Denominational teachers frequently say “Not of works! Not of works!” But the inspired writers say justification (being made right in God’s sight) is by works, and not by faith only (James 2:24). Here, John uses the word reward. A reward is something given based on the actions of someone else. The Greek word means payment, wages, or reward. Truly, the inspired apostle John didn’t believe or teach the false doctrine of “faith-only salvation,” or “once-saved, always saved.” For John spoke of a wonderful payment awaiting faithful Christians. The Scriptures teach we will be judged eternally based on our works we do while on earth (Revelation 20:12-13).

(9) Whosoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son.

Whoever transgresses

The word transgresses means to go beyond something. The idea here is of a set boundary. Everything inside the boundary we’ll call “the doctrine of Christ.” Once you go outside the boundary, you have transgressed, or gone outside the borders of Christ’s kingdom. In short, you’ve left Christ behind. John clarifies the thought a bit further by saying transgressing is “not abiding” in the doctrine of Christ.

And does not abide in the doctrine of Christ

This means he does not stay in the doctrine of Christ. This is talking about someone who was saved, who became a Christian, who was in the church. This person, once saved, has left the doctrine of Christ. No one can forcibly take you out of God’s hand (Romans 8:34-39), but you have the freedom to leave on your own.

…the doctrine of Christ

Some have argued over this short little phrase. Is this the doctrine taught by Christ, or is it the doctrine about Christ?  In order to satisfactorily answer this question, let’s consider the context. (1) John mentions antichrist, (2) describes the antichrist as anyone who doesn’t confess Christ came in the flesh, (3) then discusses the ones who don’t abide in the doctrine of Christ. The other times antichrist is mentioned, the same points are brought up (see 1 John 2 and 4).

So, there is no doubt the context is talking about the doctrine Jesus Christ came in the flesh. It is the doctrine about Christ.

But what are the logical implications? If we accept Jesus is the Christ, and He really did come in the flesh, that requires we follow His teachings (John has already made this clear in verse 6).

So, is this the doctrine about Christ, or the doctrine taught by Christ? The answer is both. You can’t have one without the other. We have to remain in the teaching about Christ as well as Christ’s teaching.

Notes on 2 John 4-7 (Comments and Critiques are Welcome!)

Walking in the Truth (4-6)

(4) I rejoiced greatly that I found of thy children walking in truth, as we have received a commandment from the Father.

I rejoiced greatly

John frequently speaks of rejoicing. This fact alone should make us examine our lives. Are we the joyful people we should be? Do we rejoice in suffering (Acts 5:41)? Do we rejoice when we learn the truth (Acts 8:39)? Do we rejoice when we read the eyewitness accounts in the Scriptures, knowing we can have confidence in their accuracy and truthfulness (I John 1:1-4)? Do we rejoice when we hear about other Christians remaining faithful (III John 4)? Christians should be the most joyful people on the planet!

I rejoiced…that I found your children walking in truth

John’s specific reason for rejoicing is Christians were continuing to live faithfully. People frequently drift away from God’s word and place their opinions as the standard. Whether those opinions are binding where God never bound or loosing where God never loosed, or completely changing the message—either one means that person is no longer “walking in truth.”

Walking in truth is the same as “walking in the light” (I John 1:7). The inspired Psalmist said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105). It means you, dear reader, must base your life upon God’s precepts.

One man described it this way: God’s word lights the one and only path leading to heaven. You are wandering about in a world of darkness. Then you see this one lighted path. In that path is safety. In that path, you can see where you are going. It is a difficult path, to be sure, but it is well-lit. The light is God’s word. Walking in the truth or the light is the equivalent of following God’s commands from the heart. Only by that path can anyone reach the Promised Land of heaven. Why is it so many people choose to stay in darkness?

Why did this cause John to rejoice? When someone is “walking in the light” (I John 1:7) or “walking in truth,” he can have full assurance of heaven because all of his sins are forgiven him. John is rejoicing because he knows they will be in heaven! Wasn’t the entire point of the apostles’ mission to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15)?

The word found is the Greek word euraka (we get our word eureka from this). With all the people who had been falling away (see 2 Timothy 1:15), John rejoiced to hear of Christians remaining faithful.

Walking in truth…as a commandment of the Father

Walking in truth is not just something we should do; it is something we are commanded to do. John says walking in truth is a “commandment from the Father.” This should come as no surprise. It has been this way since the beginning. Adam and Eve were commanded to obey (Genesis 2:17). David said God’s grace is upon those who “walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11). There must be a renewed emphasis on teaching others about the necessity of obedience. That does not mean we will ever obey perfectly; but if we do not obey at all, we are not walking in the light. If we are not walking in the light, our sins are not forgiven (I John 1:7). If our sins are not forgiven, we have no hope of going to heaven.

(5) And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment to thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.

I beseech thee

To beseech is to beg, to plead, or to urge someone to do something. It is not a commandment, as can be seen from Philemon 8-9, but instead an earnest request. It is interesting to see John begging them to keep the commandment of Jesus Christ: to love one another. He’s not commanding them to obey Jesus, but begging them to.

Not…a new commandment

John is not revealing something new to them. Like the prophets of the Old Testament, there were not new commandments for the Israelites to obey, but instead they were reminded to “remember the Law of Moses” (Malachi 4:4). In this letter from John to Christians, he is not giving them some new commandments, but telling them to “remember the law of Christ.”

From the beginning

This language is very similar to 1 John 2:7, “Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which you had from the beginning…”

Here in this passage, john says this commandment is something we (John, as well as the Christians he’s writing to) have had from the beginning. The Old Testament gave the command to “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18). This command also became part of the New Testament. This one statement summarizes many of the Ten Commandments (Romans 13:9, Galatians 5:14). James called this the “royal law” (James 2:8).

This commandment was heavily emphasized in Jesus’ ministry. However, when Jesus gave this commandment, He called it a “new commandment” (John 13:34). The reason is, it is an even deeper, more powerful love commanded. Jesus said to “Love one another, as I have loved you.” Instead of just treating others the way you want to be treated, this new commandment was “be willing to die for each other.” Most people would not willingly die for a friend, let alone a total stranger. But this is the kind of love Jesus commands His disciples to show for each other.

John said which you had from the beginning, and he’s referring to either (1) the beginning of their Christian walk, (2) the beginning of Christianity itself, or (3) the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry. The gist of his saying this, though, is to tell them this isn’t something new to them. It’s something they should already be doing, because they already knew it.

Love one another

As stated above, this commandment isn’t new, but is found clearly stated in the Law of Moses (Leviticus 19:18) and intensified in the New Testament. Jesus made this the badge of a true disciple (John 13:34-35). If one does not love his brother, he cannot honestly claim to love God (I John 4:20). Love for other Christians was also emphasized by John in verse 1 (see notes there).

(6) And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

This is love

The word “love” here is agape, a Greek word which describes sacrificial love, a mindful love. Agape doesn’t describe warm, fuzzy feelings towards someone else. Instead, it describes the conscious decision to put someone else first no matter what may come. John frequently writes about love, and every time, it has reference to putting someone else ahead of you.

That we walk after His commandments

Jesus clearly stated, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Many in the world of so-called “Christendom” claim all you have to do is accept Jesus into your heart and then you are saved forever. Will Jesus save someone who refuses to keep His commandments? If you love Jesus, you will keep His commandments. If you don’t keep His commandments, then you hate Him. There is no third option.

Many people want to show the world how “loving” they are by accepting everyone and everything, and never speaking out against sinfulness or against those who are not in obedience to Christ’s commands. However, the Bible defines love as keeping the commandments. In Mark 10:21, Jesus looked at the rich young ruler; and the Scriptures plainly state Jesus “loved him.”  As a result of loving this man, Jesus pointed out where he needed to change. Love will not accept people in their sins, but will point out their sins so they can change. If we love others, we will point them to the truth and the need to obey His commandments.

That, as you have heard from the beginning, you should walk in it.

This walk is not a one-time event. It is a continuous lifestyle of obedience to Jesus Christ. All those who become Christians do so after hearing the gospel (Romans 10:17). But every New Testament writer emphasizes the necessity of continuing to obey. 1 John 1:7 says, “If we walk in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ…cleanses us from all sin.” Literally, it says “if we are walking [presently, continually] in the light…the blood of Jesus Christ…is cleansing us [presently, continually] from all sin.”

These Christians (and all Christians) heard these things from the beginning of their conversion. All Christians must continue to walk in these commandments if they expect to have their sins forgiven.

Notes on 2 John 1-3 (your comments and critiques welcome!)

Salutation (verses 1-3)

(1) The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth;

The Elder

The apostle John here does not identify himself by name. This follows the pattern laid out in the other writings which we call by his name (the Gospel of John, I-III John). Instead, he refers to himself as “the elder.” Some have taken this to mean John was old when he wrote this letter. In the first century, people were considered “aged” when they were in their 60s (see Philemon, verse 9). It is also possible John means he holds the office of an elder. He was, after all, a pillar of the church in Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1, 9). Peter, who was also mentioned as a pillar in the church in Jerusalem, later called himself “an elder” (I Peter 5:1). While it may indeed reference the age of the apostle, we should not ignore that John may have been an elder in the church in Jerusalem and identified himself as such.

The Elect Lady and her children

“The elect lady” has been the subject of some debate over the years. Who exactly is this elect lady? Is she a literal woman? Or is it a figurative way of describing the church? The most prominent possibilities, along with the pros and cons, are listed below.

Possibility #1: The elect lady is Mary, the mother of Jesus. This option obviously assumes the “elect [literally “chosen”] lady” is a literal woman. Mary was indeed chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus (Luke 1:26-28). First, given the timeframe of writing (67-69 AD), Mary would be over 80 years old if she is still alive at all. Secondly, John had taken Mary in as his own mother according to Jesus’ wishes from the cross (John 19:26-27), so it seems strange that he would write a letter to someone he was caring for. Also, John mentions everyone who has known the truth loves both her and her children. One would be hard pressed to prove everyone who became a Christian even knew about all of Jesus’ brothers and sisters, let alone loved them. It is unlikely Mary is the one under consideration.

Possibility #2: The elect lady is some prominent Christian woman who John knew in the first century. Some say her name was Kuria or Kyria (the Greek word translated “lady”). Some have pointed out Kuria is the Greek form of the Hebrew name “Martha” and suggest that as her name. It is difficult to believe some woman, unknown to us today, could be so prominent that every single Christian not only knew of, but loved her and her children. If such a woman existed, she and her children surely would have been mentioned in Scriptures.

Possibility #3: The elect lady is the bride of Christ, the church (Ephesians 5:25). In this understanding, the children would be the members of the church. In the Old Testament, Jerusalem was often pictured as a woman (Jeremiah 3:1 Ezekiel 16:30-32), and the inhabitants were described as her children (Joel 3:19, Jeremiah 3:14). The church is the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:9-10), so it makes sense if the church is referred to as a lady and her inhabitants as her children. Every single person who knows the truth should love the church (collectively) and the members (individually). Opponents of this view point to the “children of thy elect sister” (verse 13). This leads us to the next option.

Possibility #4: The elect lady is an individual congregation of the Lord’s church. Her children, then, would be the members of that congregation. The question, then, would have to be, “What congregation was so well-known John could say every single Christian loved it and the members thereof?” Some have suggested the church in Jerusalem, with the apostles as members, would fit the bill. Others suggest the mission-minded congregation at Antioch. Still others suggest Ephesus. This would also help to explain John’s closing statement, “the children of thy elect sister greet thee” as being the congregation with whom John was worshiping. If one specific congregation is under consideration (and it seems to be the case, because John wishes to speak to them face to face), it is impossible to know exactly which one it is without knowing where John was writing from.

This writer holds that the letter was addressed to a specific congregation (like most of Paul’s letters), but was intended to have a widespread distribution, and thus was also applicable to all congregations. Thus, it was both written to a specific congregation and the church in general at the same time. So, the best option seems to be a combination of numbers 3 and 4 above.

The Truth

Something often overlooked in this verse is this: John clearly states it is possible to know the truth. It seems everywhere you look, people say you cannot know anything for sure about God or the Bible (or anything else, for that matter). But the Bible tells us, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). If it is not possible to know the truth, then it must follow that it is impossible to be free.

We should take great comfort in knowing God has made His truth available through His word, the Bible. God wants us to know the truth. God made it possible for us to know the truth. That should give us great cause to rejoice! On the opposite side of the coin, however, it also places a responsibility upon us to seek the truth, read the truth, and obey the truth. Jesus said, “Seek and ye shall find” (Matthew 7:7). The truth is not going to just magically get zapped into your head. You have to actively look for it in God’s word.

But as you seek for God’s truth in His word (John 17:17), you can rest in confident assurance—knowing the truth is possible!

(2) For the truth’s sake, which dwells in us, and shall be with us forever.

For the truth’s sake

It is for the sake of the truth (or because of the truth) that all Christians should love the church (as a whole) and the members thereof (individually). Because Christ died for all of us, purchasing the church with his own blood, we should place great value on each Christian as well as the church itself as an entity.

What is “the truth” spoken of in these verses? Is it the truth that the earth is round? Is it the truth that the world was created in six literal days? What truth is being spoken of when John says “the truth”?

The truth is God’s word. Specifically, John has reference to the gospel of Jesus Christ. The truth is to be obeyed (Galatians 3:1). It includes those things placing one into Christ (faith – Hebrews 11:6, repentance – Acts 2:38, and baptism – Romans 6:3). But also, it includes those things which one must continually do after becoming a Christian. Stated concisely, the truth is the commands of Jesus Christ which must be followed from the heart and which will result in a home in heaven. The commands are all summed up in the phrase, “walk in the light” (I John 1:7).

Truth…which dwells in us

The truth dwells in us. At least it should. Since we have accepted the Bible as God’s word, we should constantly read it and apply it to our lives. The apostle Paul said, “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” (Colossians 3:16).  When people cease reading and applying the Scriptures to themselves, they slowly slip away from being the follower of Christ they should be. Eventually they may find themselves one day completely away from Christ with no idea how they got there. Most people don’t get up one morning and decide, “I’m going to quit being a Christian.” Usually it is a gradual decline. That is the reason Paul reminded the Corinthians to “examine yourselves, whether you are in the faith” (II Corinthians 13:5). Later on in this very book, John stresses the need to “look to yourselves” (II John 8).

Truth…shall be with us for ever

Truth is eternal. John says the truth shall be with us forever. There will never be a time when God’s word does not exist and apply. Jesus said heaven and earth would pass away, but his words would not pass away (Matthew 24:35).

(3) Grace be with you, mercy, and peace, from God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

Grace

This was the common Greek form of greeting during the first century. It was a wish of favor upon people. It is similar to saying, “good morning.” We may not think of it much, but we are wishing favor upon people when we say that. Grace is getting something good we don’t deserve or haven’t earned. Generally grace is described as “unmerited favor.”

Peace

This was the common Hebrew greeting. It is the word Shalom (or Salom, or Salem). It was common for Hebrews to include a wish of peace to those they met or corresponded with. This word was integrated into various names in the Old Testament.  Melchizedek was called the “King of Salem, which is, the King of Peace” (Hebrews 7:2). Jerusalem was originally called Jebu-Shalom, or “the peace of the Jebusites” who originally lived there. Absalom and Solomon both have this word as part of their names.

Mercy

Like Paul, John wishes the blessing of mercy upon those he writes to. Mercy is not receiving the bad things one deserves. In court cases, someone who is guilty may beg for the mercy of the court. That means, “Don’t give me what I deserve, please!” If we all got what we deserved, we’d all be struck dead like Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11).

From God the Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father

While Grace and peace were common greetings, John doesn’t give them their common meaning. Instead, John is clear to say he was wishing them the grace, mercy, and peace that only comes from God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Therefore, John wishes God’s favor upon them. John wishes the mercy of God upon them. John wishes the peace of God upon them (see Philippians 4:7). The only source of true grace, mercy, and peace comes from the Father through the sacrifice of His Son.

John also makes a point to show the deity of Christ as “the Son of the Father.” Some religious groups (most notably the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses”) claim since Christ is the “Son of God,” He can’t be God, or be deity. However, He’s also the “Son of man.” Does that mean Jesus wasn’t a man? Of course not! The son of a human is a human. He will share completely in the nature of being human. The Son of God is also God, deity. The Son of God will share completely in the nature of being God.

In truth and love

As can be seen throughout this short letter, John emphasizes the importance of truth. This verse makes it very clear that the grace, mercy, and peace of God are found inside truth and love. Outside of the truth, these blessings of God cannot be found. Since the truth is to be obeyed (Galatians 3:1), these blessings cannot be found outside of obeying the truth. Ephesians 1:3 tells us all spiritual blessings are “in Christ.” That means there are no spiritual blessings outside of Christ. Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey him (Hebrews 5:9).

John goes on to say in this letter that love means keeping the commandments (II John 6). Some people wish to claim Jesus without following His words. They claim to love God, yet they live their life as though God doesn’t matter. Jesus said, “This people…honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). John, in this verse, makes it clear: love and truth are interconnected. And without both (the love of God and following the truth), there is no grace, mercy, or peace to be found.

An Introduction to Second John

Greetings, friends.

Over the next several days, I will be posting sections of my unpublished commentary on Second John, titled “The Truth and the Liars,” for your consideration. Today’s installment is the introduction to the letter.

If you find any mistakes, clunky wording, or areas needing clarifying, please feel free to email me, and let me know so I can take care of those issues before issuing a final version of it.

Thank you!

The letter we call II John has an older man writing to encourage people to continue walking in the truth so they can be prepared to recognize and avoid false teachers.  The apostle John is usually referred to as the apostle of love, but in this book John’s focus is on knowing and living the truth.  This should come as no real surprise, because Jesus said, “if you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  Knowing and living the truth will protect us from false doctrine that exists in the world.

The Writer

The apostle John (the son of Zebedee, and brother of the apostle James) has long been acknowledged as the writer of this and four other New Testament books (The Gospel of John, I John, III John, and Revelation).  Most biblical language experts agree the same person wrote all the books bearing John’s name because of the striking similarity in style and substance.  Therefore, we should conclude whoever wrote one of those books/letters wrote them all.  In the Gospel of John, the writer clearly states he was a disciple of Jesus Christ (John 21:20-24).  This disciple was also present at the Last Supper (John 13:23), which was only attended by Jesus and his twelve apostles (Matthew 26:19-20). I John 1:1-3 also makes it clear the writer claimed to have been a close disciple of Jesus.  Unless the writer of these books is a liar, we can know he was one of the twelve apostles.

In the book of Revelation, the writer gives his name as “John” (Revelation 1:1, 9).  Only one of the apostles was named “John,” eliminating anyone else from consideration.  The apostle John is the writer of this book.

There are those who, based on a fragment of a 4th century quotation of a 2nd century writing, claim all the books which bear John’s name were written by another disciple of Jesus named John who they call “John the Presbyter.”  The above evidence including the writer of John being present at the Last Supper should eliminate this idea from consideration.

To Whom was it Written?

There is debate as to who the “elect lady” mentioned in II John 1 is.  While this will be discussed in more detail in the comments section on that verse, we shall here give a brief overview of the main candidates for the “elect lady.”

  1. Some believe the “elect lady” is a literal woman. Among this group, some believe it is Mary, the mother of Jesus, who is being addressed.  Others believe it is some woman unknown to us, but possibly named Kyria (the Greek word translated “lady”).  Still others hold it is some woman John held in high esteem, but whose identity we will never know.
  2. Others believe the “elect lady” is speaking of the bride of Christ, the church. Among this group, some believe it was written to the entire church as a whole.  Others believe it was written to a specific congregation of the Lord’s church.

Regardless of the original recipient(s) of the letter, all can agree it was written to Christians, and as such has value and application for all Christians today.

The Date of Writing

It has become very popular in the last 50+ years to say all of John’s writings were done in the last ten years of the first century.  However, the evidence says otherwise.

Historically speaking, the apostle John is said to have been so infirmed near the end of his life he had to be carried everywhere and could hardly make out any more than the words, “love one another.”  It is hard to picture this man then giving the statement about Diotrephes, “Therefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he does…” (III John 10).  If John expected to be able to travel and stand up to the bully of the congregation, it must have been before he became so old he couldn’t even walk.  Also, in Revelation, John is told, “You must prophecy again before many peoples, nations, tongues, and kings” (Revelation 10:11).  It is hard to imagine an almost 100-year-old John who could barely speak or move being able to go around prophesying to different nations.  Historically and biblically speaking, the “late date” theory doesn’t make much sense.

There is almost universal agreement that all the books bearing John’s name were written around the same time period, whenever that may be.  So, if we can deduce the date of one of the books, then we have a very good idea when the other books were written.

One writer said it is amazing the single most climactic event in the area was never referred to as a past event in Scriptures.  He is referring to the absolute destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70.  It is prophesied by Jesus in the gospel accounts, but none of the writers ever say, “and it happened just like he said it would.”  Because of that fact, A.T. Robertson, a self-proclaimed liberal, said he had no choice but to date the entire New Testament prior to AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed (A.T. Robinson, Re-Dating the New Testament).

In I John, the apostle says, “Little children, it is the last time [literally “it is the final hour”]: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now there are many antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last time [final hour]” (I John 2:18).  John basically tells the people, “You heard when the antichrist came, the last time would be here.  I’m telling you now there are many antichrists, so you know that time is now!”  An inspired apostle is telling them the last time is then a present reality.  Since we still exist some 1900+ years later, we must ask, “What is he talking about?”

Jesus, in Matthew 24, describes the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 and says one of the signs the end of Jerusalem is near is “false Christs” shall arise (Matthew 24:23-25).  A false Christ says “I am the Christ,” as though he was Jesus, returning.  So, when John said antichrists were around when he wrote, therefore they could know it was the last time, he was talking about the same thing Jesus mentioned:  Jerusalem is about to be destroyed.  In II John, the antichrists are mentioned again as a present reality (II John 7).  If we put all of these things together, we must come to the conclusion I John and II John were both written close to the time before the destruction of Jerusalem, probably between 65-69 AD.

This matches with the Old Testament foretelling the end of prophecy (that is, inspiration and miracles) would take place sometime between the death of Christ and the destruction of Jerusalem (see Zechariah 12:10-14:2, especially 13:2).[1]

[1] For a fuller examination of this topic, see the author’s The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts, Appendix: The End of Miracles.

A Reply to an Objection on “How Old Should an Elder Be?”

Occasionally, we get comments on older posts.  One of those came in last month, responding to my 2014 article, “How Old Should an Elder Be?” The comment read (in full):

So what you are saying is an unmarried man or a married man with no children can NEVER be an elder no matter his age. By this standard, Jesus Christ was not considered an elder nor qualified to Shepard a flock and many of his Apostles also were not qualified to Shepard the flicks and could not have been considered elders. I find your conclusions severely flawed.

Below is what I offered in reply:

So what you are saying is an unmarried man or a married man with no children can NEVER be an elder no matter his age.

First, let’s be honest with each other. It doesn’t matter what I say. It matters what God says. And God is the one who said an elder MUST (that is, it is a necessity, a non-negotiable) be the husband of one wife. So it is GOD who is saying an unmarried man can never be an elder. God is also the one who said an elder MUST have faithful children. So it is God who says a married man without children cannot be an elder.

Do you believe the words that God wrote?

By this standard, Jesus Christ was not considered an elder nor qualified to Shepard a flock and many of his Apostles also were not qualified to Shepard the flicks and could not have been considered elders.

Jesus wasn’t an elder. And it is His church, therefore His rules. He is the one who says an unmarried man cannot be an elder in the church.

All of the apostles, except for Paul, were married (1 Corinthians 9 says this). John was an elder, as was Peter. We aren’t told whether the others ever served in such a capacity. Paul is the one that wrote that an elder “MUST be the husband of one wife.” He understood the words he wrote down, as they are very clear and straight-forward.

Do you believe the words that God inspired Paul to write down regarding elders?

I find your conclusions severely flawed.

By that, I assume you mean you disagree with what God put in the Bible regarding an elder having a wife and children. I recommend you open up your Bible and read what is actually written in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Then ask yourself, did God mean what He said when He said an elder “MUST be the husband of one wife”?

Revelation Commentary available for pre-order!

Ever heard this one?

Revelation is impossible to understand, and anyone who says otherwise is lying to you.

Of course, there’s also the people who say this one:

The events in Revelation are happening now!  Or at the very least, they’re about to happen.  The end is near!

People have been trying to use the book of Revelation to predict the end of time for years.  And every time, they are proven wrong.  Why is that?  Because Revelation isn’t a book about things that are happening today, tomorrow, or sometime in the future.

Revelation is about things which have already happened.

Oh, don’t take my word for it.  Read Revelation 1:1 and 3.  Then read chapter 22, verses 6 and 10.  Twice at the beginning of the book, and twice at the end of the book, God told the readers, these things are close.  They’re about to happen!

Do you want to know what the book of Revelation is really about?  Do you want to see the proof, straight from the Bible?  Do you want to know why the stuff in Revelation was so important to the Christians who first read it?

Literally thousands of hours (seriously) of work have gone into this 500+ page book, so that you can know what Revelation is talking about.

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Use the coupon code REVELATION to get free shipping!

What others have said:

If you want to understand Revelation, talk to Bradley Cobb–Michael Shank (author of Muscle and a Shovel).

I’ve studied the Bible for over fifty years, and this is the first time Revelation has ever made sense to me.–A long time Bible teacher.

I can’t believe I didn’t see this before.  You’ve made it so clear and easy to understand.–an elder.

Awesome.  Just awesome.–another elder.

The [Revelation] material you have online has been a great help to me in my studies.–A long-time preacher.

Politics, Religion, and Race: An Interview with John DeBerry

This interview is from the latest issue of The Quarterly, available here. To subscribe, visit CobbPublishing.com/Quarterly

Please share this interview on social media.

[John DeBerry has served as Tennessee State Representative for 26 years, and has been a gospel preacher for over 50. He lives in Memphis.]

What I’ve got in mind to talk about are three non-controversial topics: politics, religion, and race.

[Laughter] Okay, it don’t get more uncontroversial than that!

Personal History

Where did you first hear the gospel?

I’ve heard the gospel all my life. My dad was a gospel preacher. I was born into the church twice. I was born into the church as a child in my parents’ family. My great-grandparents, brother and sister Enos and Mary Garrett were Christians, my grandparents, Starling and Susie Hall, and my mother and father, John and Pearl DeBerry were Christians, so the church was just part of my life from my first waking moment.

Being a preacher and a Christian was just part of my normal desires in life. I wanted to preach the gospel ever since I was in first grade. So I was introduced to the gospel as a child in my parents’ house. There was reading of Scripture in the evening before we went to bed. The prayer at the table. The talks my mother and father gave us about what’s right and wrong, and what was moral and not moral. That’s my introduction to Christianity.

When did you start preaching?

I actually started preaching in 1967 in the 10th grade. I gave my first formal sermon in the 9th grade, but I had been preparing to preach the majority of my life.

I tell folks all the time I had a little church in one of the big closets in my momma’s house when I was growing up. My grandfather built me a little pulpit, and I say my little church broke up because my brothers and sisters and cousins said I preached too long [laughter]. So that was my first church.

But I started preaching, I think my first sermon was at the Lincoln Street church of Christ in Alamo, TN, 1967. And I’ve been in the pulpit almost every Sunday since then.

Civil Rights and Protests

What do you remember about your personal interaction with the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s?

I remember my first interaction with the Civil Rights Movement, again, from my family. Civil rights, as the way it was taught to me, with the leadership of my family, was really a continuation of what we taught as Christians. My father did not believe in violence. He marched in Memphis with Dr. King. He went to the speech that was made in Washington DC in 1963. My family, I understand, raised money for him to go; he was going to be the representative of the entire family. So civil rights was the right to have the constitutional rights that my father, as a Korean War veteran, had fought for and had stood for. We were always taught to give respect so that we receive respect. We were never taught that anything was free. We were never taught that everybody had an entitlement. We were taught that we had to work, but that the country had to be fair, to give us a chance to work, a chance to achieve, to learn, to educate ourselves, and to be successful. That’s what our parents taught us—they never taught us that anything was free, that there was a free lunch, that we were supposed to wait on anyone to take care of us. We were always taught that we had a right to the opportunity to work and achieve and find success. So civil rights was not a “We’re kicking the door down because of something that we want,” Civil rights was peaceful protest, saying that it was time for the country to change. It was time for us to grow up, to mature, to realize that we have various cultures and ethnicities, and give everybody a reasonable and equal chance. That’s what it was about.

Do you think, had it been violent, the
changes would have happened?
Or do you think it was the “peaceful” part
that made people willing to listen?

Well, peaceful protest changed the world. I did an interview earlier, and I said that America is a child of controversy. We began in controversy. America began in revolution. So revolution, change, protest is part of our DNA as Americans. We change things that are wrong—we fix things that are wrong. That’s why our constitution is so malleable. There were a lot of things that weren’t necessarily up to speed and right in America. We had our flaws, our failures, our faults, but America’s faith always carried its problems. We had the Constitution, the greatest document written by man, because it was based on the greatest document ever written—the Word of God. Therefore, because we were Christians, peaceful protest was the only thing we knew; the only thing we would accept; the only thing we would be part of—we would not be part of anything else, because it wouldn’t be Christian, and it wouldn’t be Christ-like. So if more folks would think, first of all, before you protest—which is an American right—before you have your free speech, before you do what you have to do to change things in in America, because America has been in change and revolution and growing and maturing for 200 years—folks have to first of all check their faith, look introspectively, and ask themselves, as the Lord said one time, “Are you building or are you tearing down?” If you’re not building up, then you’re tearing down. If you’re not being peaceful, if you’re not being respectful, then you’re being destructive.

I think that folks need to realize that peaceful protest ends peacefully, and when there is anarchy and chaos, it only breeds more anarchy and chaos.

You had a well-publicized speech against the rioting going on in several cities.

That speech was entirely because of that issue, of watching what was happening in Chicago, and Washington, and Portland, and other places around the country. Watching the anarchists tearing down statues, defacing public property, burning down people’s livelihood, burning down their stores, their cars, their homes—that was what initiated that speech.

That speech was no more than a continuation of some of the things that I had said in the past that led [my former party] to the decision that I couldn’t associate with them anymore. [My ouster] was about my vote on the heartbeat bill and my vote on parental choice.

Do you attribute the violence today in
the riots to a removal of God from
the public sphere?

I’ve said over and over and over, we have the most spiritually illiterate, the most historically illiterate generation in the history of this country. We have folks who don’t know who Jesus is, don’t know who Adam or Moses or David or Solomon are; and they don’t know who George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Mary Bethune Cookman, Dr. [George Washington] Carver, or even really who Martin Luther King is—they don’t know either, because they’ve been taught not to have allegiance to America. Not only has God been put out of the marketplace, but American history has been put out of the marketplace, the Pledge of Allegiance has been put out of the marketplace, true American history that shows the heroic value of men and women who put everything they owned, and everything they were on the line to get this country started—that has all been thrown away! Now our monuments are offensive—the Washington Monument is offensive, the Lincoln Monument is offensive, the Jefferson Memorial is offensive. Why? Because they haven’t been taught to love the country—it’s just the opposite! We have allowed foreign teachers and professors in our colleges and teachers in our schools who have no allegiance to America to change an entire generation of young people into anarchists instead of patriots. That’s what we are suffering right now.

What is the remedy for that?

One of the things we have to do is start opening our mouths, stop sitting by the wayside and allowing the atheists, the agnostics, the evolutionists, the revolutionists from other countries who want to create their own revolution in America—it’s time for folks to open their mouths and speak up. Speak up by their vote. Speak up by their activities. Speak up by the rearing of their children. Speak up by being strong in their faith. And speak up by electing men and women who fight for what we fight for and what we believe. We have sat by the side of the road, and just as the Lord said in His parabolic teaching, “While men slept…” We have slept. And all of us know the old adage, “The only thing it takes for evil to prevail is for good people to do nothing.” And that’s what we’ve done—we’ve done nothing. Folks say, “Well, I’ll pray about it.” Well, the Lord prayed, but the Lord also got up from His prayers and changed the world, and that’s what we’ve got to do—we’ve got to change the world. The Lord didn’t send us to go along to get along. He didn’t send us out to say “don’t rock the boat, don’t shake the tree, don’t cause no problems, don’t make folks mad at you—the Lord sent us out to change the world, and we are not doing that. We are letting the world change us, and we need to change that before it’s too late.

It seems like we think we ought to be meek, quiet, not saying anything when challenged.

You do not help a man when you tell him he deserves something that he has not worked for.

I’ve preached this for 50 years: meekness is not weakness! Meekness is power under control. A horse with a bridle is not weak, but he is under control—that power is under control. When the Lord tells us to be meek, He isn’t telling us to be weak, He isn’t telling us to be docile, He isn’t telling us to lay down and let folks walk on us, He’s not telling us to allow folks to poison the minds of our children with propaganda, He’s not telling us to allow the greatest country that has ever been created to just be given away to those who don’t love her, who want to simply dismantle her, and who want to take all of her resources. The Lord never told us to do this. He told us to be wise as serpents, harmless as doves—meaning you need to know when to fight, and you need to know when to run. We have just been running, and we need to turn around and fight.

Politics and Entitlements

What caused you to want to
enter into politics?

It’s my upbringing in general. It’s my mother and father’s activism. My great-grandparents and grandparents’ self-sufficiency—they were all business people, they owned their homes, they went to church, they worked every day. I never had a hungry day, because somebody was cooking, making biscuits, making pies, or whatever. In other words, I saw what character, what virtue, what faith was first-hand. And then I, as an adult, I see the country in a totally different direction. I see children being unraised, I see families falling apart, I men absent from the homes, I see mothers who are doing the best they can to rear the children with their meager resources, but unable to do everything that a man and a woman would be able to do. I saw politicians become corrupt—smiling, styling, and profiling instead of doing the people’s business. I watched this as I grew up, and worked in television, and preached the gospel, and at a certain point, I felt like I had to be part of the change, just as my daddy made that decision in the early 60’s. He had to be part of the change, [and] I could not just stand by the side of the road any longer.

Why did you choose the Democratic Party when you went into politics?

My grandparents and great-grandparents were Eisenhower Republicans. My parents were the first to depart, when John Kennedy ran. They were a young couple, fresh out of the military. And Kennedy won the debate, and so they voted for Kennedy. Over the years, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were only split by style of government. Remember a lot of folks who are Republicans now used to be Democrats back in the day. So it was style of government, big government, little government. It’s not what it is today. Now the split is over social issues, the belief in God, the belief in life, the belief in the family, the belief in marriage—all of those things. So, when I ran in my district in 1995, it was an extremely conservative district. It had been a Republican district up till 1995—that was the first year it was a Democratic district. It was drawn Democratic, but there was a very good, healthy mix of Democrats and Republicans, and the majority of them were very conservative on these issues. So that was fine, but all of that started changing about 12 years ago [2008].

Do you think the lack of entitlements brought you up into the person that you became?

The trickiness of that subject is that the media, the liberal politicians, and (in my opinion) the propagandist and the poverty pimps—excuse the expression—have styled it toward people. What they have done is wrapped up a loss of self-sufficiency, a loss of self-esteem, a loss of self-worth—they have all wrapped it up in a nice pretty package of entitlement. And that’s wrong, because one thing that characterized the people of the last generation—whether they were black or white, Native American or whatever they were—one thing that characterized them was they believed in working for what they got. They got up in the mornings, many of them in the farms or the factories, some put on white uniforms or blue uniforms or green uniforms, caught the bus, many of them in the rain, went and worked. They built nice communities, nice schools, raised their children, and a whole generation, like my generation, were the first to go to college. Why? Because they believed in working and pulling themselves up and being self-sufficient. You do not help a man when you tell him he deserves something that he has not worked for. You do not help a person when you tell them to expect someone else to take care of them if they are able to take care of themselves. The sad thing about it is this: that our elderly, our sick, our disabled, our veterans who have been injured and hurt in war, many of the children who are born with birth defects—these are the people who suffer when the money is going to able-bodied people who could get off their sorry ends and go to work every day, instead of sitting around expecting someone else to take care of them. Nobody’s saying that people who need help shouldn’t get help—and that’s what help used to be. That’s what the projects used to be. That’s what the food handouts used to be. That’s what welfare used to be. It used to be a hand up, “We will help you; we have a great country, and we will help you while you’re down so you can get up on your feet and make it on your own.” I have so many friends that those programs helped get on their feet. They eventually became homeowners, business owners, educated their children. You know why? Because they used the help, the food, the projects, whatever the government offered to stand up on their own feet, and they were proud that they didn’t need it anymore. That’s not what we have right now. Now we have a perpetuation of entitlements where we have generation after generation after generation that have never had a job. We have created a subclass, and we have created a permanent underclass with these entitlements.

Have Christians turned over their responsibility to help people to the government?

Let’s talk about something novel. What if every family took care of their own family the way it was; where if a person had a fire, lost a home, if they lost their jobs, the family came in and took care of that person? What if the church did like it used to do?

I remember our house burned down when I was in third grade, and the church surrounded us with love. They brought us clothes and food, and they helped my parents get back on their feet while the house was being rebuilt. They brought furniture, the women made curtains—it was wonderful! What if we went back to the family of the church and the natural family that God gave us?

Because of the breakdown of the family—both in the church and in the home—we see folks out there with no safety net, no teaching, no upbringing, no counseling, no religion, no faith—they’re lost. The walking wounded. If the church would go back to the preaching of the gospel, the way the Lord said—the Lord told the folks to sit down, He fed them, and then He taught them. In His teaching, He taught them how to love themselves—He said “Love your neighbor as you love yourself.” He taught them to love themselves, in other words, I will help you. If you’re sick, I will heal you. If you’re ignorant, I will teach you. And when I’m finished, you get up and take care of yourselves.

And I hate to prolong this, but remember when the Lord protected the woman who was caught in sin? She had a death sentence; in a few minutes they were going to bludgeon her body with stones, and she was going to die that day, because of her own sin—caught in the very act. Jesus saved her life, and then said, “I don’t condemn you.” But the words he said at the end of this are often forgotten from some of our contemporary teachers. Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” In other words, You go change your life. Don’t let me find you in this position again.

What if we helped people, taught people, strengthened people, encouraged people, gave them skills, and taught them how to fish—what if we did this and said, “we don’t want to see you in this position again,” and actually gave the tough love that the Lord gave?

What do you think brought the changes
in social policies within your old party?

I think what brought it on was what was happening with the national issues. With the legalization of abortion in 1973—that sent a signal throughout the country that America was certainly not the same place anymore. I remember my mother campaigning against abortion until her death in 1970, when I was a freshman at Freed-Hardeman College. I remember some of the things they were saying about abortion. I remember learning how Planned Parenthood started, who the people were that started it, and what was behind them starting Planned Parenthood. I learned all this stuff in the late 60s and in the 70s. So when abortion was approved in 1973, that signaled that America was gradually changing, right then and right there. Twenty years before, or let’s say 1963, in spite of all the turmoil that might have been going on in the country, when MLK made his speech in Washington in 1963, I guarantee you the majority of the people—black and white—would never have thought that ten years from now, we would be killing the unborn. I guarantee the majority of them never would have thought that would happen. But it did happen ten years after that speech, in 1973, the Supreme Court of the United States of America took away the constitutional right of life from the unborn. And now millions and millions and millions and millions of babies have suffered for it. Because of this, we have categorically changed the culture and the faith and the religion and the character of this country to where now, it’s all about whatever we want. It’s not about what the Bible says, it’s not about what’s right, it’s not what faith dictates, it’s just whatever we can get the majority of the vote for. That’s why we have that, we have the desecration of marriage, we have the killing of children, and the disrespect for parenthood and the home, and our aged and the veterans because of it.

Christians as Politicians

Do you think more Christians ought to serve in public office?

Oh, I absolutely do. Especially now. There was a time when you had the Dwight D. Eisenhowers, and you had men of character, the Ronald Reagans, the Jimmy Carters—whether you agree with them, Republican or Democrat, whether you agreed with them on everything or not, you knew they were good men who loved the Lord, who loved the country, and you knew they were going to do their best. That’s not what we see now. We see politics turning into the biggest racket in town, and the racketeers are those who run for office, the propagandists who feed people what they want to hear, not what they should be told.

Christians need to take a long look—in my opinion, of course—take a long look at Ephesians chapter 6, when the Apostle Paul was saying to the church at Ephesus, in the middle of the Roman Empire, with all that the Caesars and others were doing—Paul said fighting people, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” What was Paul’s solution? Stand! Somebody needs to stand in the legislatures. Somebody needs to stand on the board of education when they’re trying to push these books and all of this rotten education upon our children. Somebody needs to stand in the Congress, stand in the Senate, when it’s time to put people on the Supreme Court who will make a decision based not on what is popular, but on what is right. Yes, I think Christians need to stand wherever the Lord deploys us so that we can fight the fight that we’ve got to fight. The Lord wasn’t killed at church. The Lord was killed on a garbage heap on the outside of Jerusalem as a political obstructionist by a Roman politician and a Jewish politician. Why? Because He stood against their politics, and for that reason, they put Him to death.

If a Christian decided to run for office, how would he prepare himself mentally and spiritually for that, and what are some dangers he would need to look out for as he is running and then serving?

First of all you got to prepare your mind, meaning, you’ve got to be a Christian. If you’re not a Christian, don’t do it. You got to be someone who has a fortified faith that is rooted and grounded. A tree is rooted, a building is grounded, and neither one of them are shaken very easily. A Christian who has a faith that is going to lead them, that’s going to give them sight, that’s going to give them vision, that when it is time to sit down and make the tough votes, you can decide between character and popularity. And those are hard decisions. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that they’re not, but I had to make decisions on voting for the heartbeat bill, I had to make decisions on voting for education that gave parents the right to educate their children as they see fit. I understood the implications, I understood the consequences. I knew that the very next day I would be called everything but a child of God in the newspaper, on radio, on billboards, or wherever they could stick my name with something negative—and that’s exactly what they did. But I was ready for it. I was ready for it, not because of my strength, but I was ready for it because of the strength of the Lord. Because He fortified me to know what is really important, and what is really lasting.

I encourage young people to educate themselves, know what a great country this is, understand, don’t listen to the folks that are trying to teach you a changed history. They’re revisionists who want to make our country something that it is not. I was talking to someone the other day, a teacher, who said “Well you know, Christopher Columbus was this, that, and the other.” I said, “Ma’am, in 1492, if my memory serves me right, when Christopher Columbus sailed and found that new land, there wasn’t a democracy on planet earth—no such thing as democracy. America created this democracy. They created the one-man, one-vote, everybody-can-speak, free-speech, right-to-religion, right-to-have-your-doors-locked, right-to-carry-your-weapon system—America created this! So when the revisionists want to tell you how sorry America is, we need to go back 300 years—go back 250 years—and you won’t find anything on the planet earth like America. What’s the relevance? It’s worth fighting for.

I was like a lot of folks. I was ready to throw up my hands and say, “You know what, it’s not worth saving. It’s too far gone. I’m really tired of these crooks and politicians and liars and propagandists.” I was in that boat, brother, and you know what God did? He put a grandchild in my hands. And when that grandchild wrapped her little hand around my finger, I went back to the day that my first child and my second child [were born], and the energy I had about giving them a life, and I said, “My grandchild deserves the same thing that I had and my children had—I gotta fight for this.” And I wish more grandparents and big sisters and big brothers and uncles and other family members decided, “You know what, the children have a right to a good country. We need to fight for this country or we’re going to lose it.”

What dangers do elected Christians face?

You have to make sure you don’t sell out. It’s takes a lot of money to run for office. When people send me money, I have a pretty good war chest. You know why I have one? Because first of all I lay it back. I have learned from the church to lay by in store. At the same time, I war a good warfare, so people send money—[people] who I have fought on the floor, because they know I fight with integrity. They know what I’m fighting for. So don’t be a sellout. There are a lot of folks who want you to sell your principles, to sell your virtue, sell your morality, sell your faith. They want you to sell out. And if you don’t know who you are, what you are, and whose you are, that temptation will be there. They know one thing, they can send anything they want to, I’m going to put it in the bank, and use it to get reelected so I can come back and fight you again. My vote is going to stay the same. My character is going to stay the same. If I fought against your bill in 2019, I’m going to fight against it in 2020. It doesn’t matter what you send. So people have got to have a resolute, rock-solid understanding of who they are, and what they intend to be, whatever the changes [around them] are.

Another thing is, you have got to have some tough skin. I’ve had billboards put up with my face on it, with curse words, big electronic billboards with curse words and my face on it. I’ve had mail-outs, nasty mail-outs, one with me on one side and President Trump on the other. And at that particular time, I had not even met President Trump. “DeBerry and Donald: Too Conservative, Too Dangerous.” And they sent that out all over my district. I’ve had all types of attacks on radio. I’ve been called an “Uncle Tom,” or “Stepin Fetchit.”[1] I’ve been called all those things on the radio. But you know what, each time, when I don’t flinch, don’t change, don’t alter, don’t capitulate, don’t compromise, my people reelect me and send me right back up there to continue to stand. That’s what they’ve done thirteen times, regardless of what they’ve called me or said.

So I say to young people, have a tough skin. Know who you are. Because right always wins. Light always overcomes darkness. And God has already promised, Jesus has already promised, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto me.” I lift up Christ in my life, in my politics, and wherever I am, and they’ve got to do the same.

Choosing a Candidate

What do you feel a Christian should focus on when choosing a political candidate? (And you can pass if you want to on this)

Oh I’m not going to pass on that. What we have allowed the American media to do is bombard us with personality. “Oh, you don’t like this person, do you. You don’t like the way they talk. You don’t like the way they dress. You don’t like their hair. You don’t like their mouth. You don’t like their wife. You don’t like their children.” We have allowed the American media to make these [elections] issues of personality instead of issues of principles and platform. What I advise a Christian to do is remember what God has commanded: Don’t allow yourself to be part of another man’s sin.

First of all, we know that we’re not electing saints. Many times, they’re not even members of the church—we know that. But at the same time, the Lord commanded us “Judge a tree by the fruit it bears.” What’s the fruit when you look at a political office and a political candidate? The fruit it not how well they speak or dress or look. The fruit is the platform. What’s the platform they’re standing on? Are they for abortion or against it? Are they for the biblical standard of marriage or against it? Are they for parental responsibility in the home, parental choice, or against it? Are they for a strong military? Are they for First-Amendment rights? Are they for Second-Amendment rights? Look at the platform—that’s all you can do. We aren’t electing men to be elders of the church, we know there’s a totally different standard there. But when you come to politics, the Lord let us know, in Romans chapter 13, “I’m involved, and there is no authority that I do not ordain.” So what God is saying is, as a godly person, look at that platform and decide who you want to run your country. Because God has commanded us—He has commanded us—you go on and elect the fool if you want to, but every foolish law they pass, you’ve got to follow it.

Is this the reason you were…not retained…in your former party?

Oh absolutely. I don’t represent them anymore. They kicked me out because I don’t represent them. They said it very plainly. They had a Zoom call in the middle of a pandemic, with 24-hours’ notice that they were going to talk to me about throwing me out of the party, a 26-year veteran with a good record, with good rapport on both sides of the aisle—they decided they didn’t want me associated with their party anymore. That was their decision. It wasn’t based on I’m a wretched, no good person, or that I’ve done something that was crooked or slanderous, it was because they said, and I quote, I “don’t uphold the virtues of the Democratic Party anymore, i.e. abortion, and other social issues.” So therefore, I am running as an independent because of that.

Race in the Church

Getting away from political topics…

In some cities, there are both black and white congregations, and (in what experience I’ve had), it is often the case that the white congregations have no idea when the black congregations have an event (gospel meetings, singings, etc.), and vice-versa. I’m sure you would agree that this shouldn’t be the case. What can we, who all agree we are one body, do to bridge this racial divide that sometimes makes it feel like we have two different brotherhoods?

My answer is probably going to sound rather strange after the narrative you just gave—and I agree with you wholeheartedly on the things you said: I think we need to continue to do what we’re doing. In other words, we are opening up doors—maybe not as fast as some folks would want—but we are opening up our doors. When people visit us, they are welcome. When folks come to Coleman Avenue [church of Christ, in Memphis], whether they’re black, white, red, yellow, or polka-dot, they are welcomed with open arms and loved, and they are treated well, and they leave and say “I had the best time I’ve ever had.” You know, they may not come back for a while; they may just have been passing through, but we open our doors.

Where we were in America, we were separate; we closed our doors, we made it law, we made it legal, we had two separate societies because the law said so. When we changed the rules, the laws, the morays, open the doors, build the bridges, open our arms and say “You’re welcome,” then you just have to let what happens happen. We integrated the schools in Crockett County in 1968. It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. Now, just my family, just us, one black family, went to that integrated school for the first time in that entire county. After we went, the next year I think five or ten other black kids came. Then the next year maybe fifteen or twenty. When I go up there now, they have a whole new consolidated school—both of the segregated schools are no more. I think one of them may be an elementary school, and the other one may be an adult class school. But the fact of the matter is, once the doors were opened, people of right mind and faith welcomed each other, and the natural progression of integration happened.

The worst thing we did in America was force bussing. That was the worst thing we could have done. Instead of simply removing the laws, saying, “You can go to whatever school you want to go to, you can be educated wherever you want”—and guess what, people of like faith, of like desires, of like economic means, logistics—the schools would have been naturally integrated, and they would have been in a lot better shape than they were [by] throwing kids on busses, riding them out to the end of town, dumping them out, and making them lose all their culture, and all their background, and all their history.

So what do I think the church ought to do? People need to be Christians. They need to be Christians. If you send an invitation to one congregation, send it to all congregations [in your area]—black or white. Send them and let them know they’re welcome. If they didn’t come, you can say, “We sent you an invitation. We’re looking for you.” Invite preachers over. “Can your preacher come and preach for us so we can get to know you? I’ll go to your church so you can get to know me.” Just act like Christians. And if we did that, that would be something that hopefully our children won’t be talking about these same issues that we’ve been talking about for fifty years.

I know some who don’t like the black
preaching and worship style, and balk when anyone even comes close to it. On the other side, I know a black preacher who wanted his youth to visit a white congregation so they would understand that just because a congregation worships or sings differently doesn’t mean they aren’t Christians.

It goes both ways. I heard in the 1970s from many so-called “elite preachers” that there was a white theology and a black theology. There is a way white people sing, and there’s a way black people sing. There’s a way that black preachers preach and a way that white preachers preach—I heard all this from black people, from black preachers, from black churches, from black elders and deacons. “There’s just a difference, there’s a cultural difference, and we prefer this style.” That’s the way it is.

The problem is it’s been styled as just one-sided. That the church is not integrated because white people don’t want black people to come into their churches. Well, that’s equally the other side. So, the churches have not been integrated because both sides have become comfortable with their culture, with their way of doing things, their way of singing, their way of preaching. But at the end of the day, all of us have got to preach Christ and Him crucified. All of us have got to let brotherly love continue. All of us have got to be forbearing, longsuffering, and love our brethren. You can’t get around it. You can’t build walls where the Lord built bridges, and still claim to be Christ-like and Christian. So all of us, black white, red, yellow, polka-dot, pin-striped, whoever we are, we’ve got to do an introspective examination of ourselves, and ask: Am I being what the Lord wants me to be, for the betterment and the strength of the Kingdom? Because right now, the church of Christ is shrinking. We’re the last man standing. Everybody else already sold out. They sold out to the abortionists, they’ve already sold out to women in positions that are against the Scriptures [elders, preachers, etc.], they’ve already sold out to the destruction of marriage, the removal of parental responsibility. The majority of these churches have already sold out. The church of Christ is the last man standing—and if we don’t stand together, then they’re going to pick us apart and tear us down. The one thing the apostles preached over and over and over before they were all martyred and died, with the exception of John (but John preached it too), was unity. “Let there be no division among you.” And when there is division among us, we set ourselves up for the devil to destroy us.

We have had a “Round Robin” gospel meeting, with a different congregation hosting each evening, both white and black congregations.

That’s the way it ought to be. I do more gospel meetings at what we have deemed as “White congregations”—I’ve gone places that were known as the hotbeds of segregation, and prejudice, and hatred, maybe 30, 40, 50, 60 years ago, and found the absolute friendliest, most loving, kind people—and many times, I’m the only black face in the room! Why? Because of that community. I’ve gone to places where there are no black people there. If not, there’s only a handful of them. Am I supposed to say, “You know what? You don’t have any black folk in here, I’m not going to come and preach”? No sir, I go and preach the gospel, and have had some of the best experiences that I’ve ever had. Many times [it is in] farm country, and little rural churches, little up-in-the-woods churches. Folks love on you, love the gospel—cook, man, like nothing you’ve ever seen. You know, good vegetables, cornbread, and I leave there feeling refreshed. At a certain point, you don’t see black and white, all you see is Christians—that’s all you see. And that’s the way it ought to be.

You spoke about one of the main reasons America is in the shape it is in being that they’ve forgotten their history. Do you think that the church does its members a disservice by not teaching about the history of the church, especially in this country?

Oh, absolutely, absolutely. I think we need to know more about the history of the church, and we need to know more about the history of the country, because if you just go back 300 years, you find religious oppression. You still find folks able to go to church as they see fit, even with denominationalism becoming so prevalent, folks still had a religious choice. And that originated here in America. I think it is important for folks to know about their country, and to know how many things were first in America. They also need to understand the history of the church, the sacrifices that were made, the men and women who gave their life, Jesus who gave His life for us on the cross—that this thing [the church] didn’t just happen. It was planned in the mind of God. The scheme of redemption was fulfilled and perfected by our Lord’s suffering, by our God’s love, by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration—and we need to embrace it. God provides, we possess. And a lot of us are not necessarily possessing the wonderful blessing that God provided.

Systemic Racism

Do you believe there is systemic racism in America? If so, what are some examples, and how can it be changed?

We created race. In other words, when you go to the Bible, race had to do with various cultures and land, you know, you talk about the Philistines, and the Ethiopians, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, and the Danites, and the Levites—and none of those signified color, none of them did. We created color prejudice. Color prejudice is only about 500-700 years old at the best.

“Systemic racism” has been used to say that there’s a problem that can’t be solved, a breach that can’t be bridged, a break that can’t be fixed—I don’t believe that for one second. When I went to Alamo High School in 1968, there had never been a black kid in that school. Never, ever. I was the absolute first, me and my brothers and sisters. At the end of my 3 years (10th-12th grade), the principal of that school, who had never educated a black child in a formal fashion at his school, he came to me and he shook my hand. His name was Mr. Strange. And another young man named Conley said the same thing to me. He said, “Everything that I have ever thought or believed about colored children,” (that’s the term that was used at that time), “you have changed it in two years.” In essence, regardless of what that man may have thought about black children before I got there, my daddy said, “You give respect, you’ll get respect.” He said, “You carry yourself like a man.” I’ll tell you exactly what he said, he said, “You don’t scratch your head when it ain’t itching, you don’t grin when it ain’t funny, you just be a man. If you act like a man, folks will treat you like a man.” And that’s exactly what happened.

So what if folks stop scratching their head, and grinning, and lying, and using excuses like “systemic racism”?—Yes, there is racism, but it is racism whenever there are folks who choose to pre-judge a person rather than getting to know them, regardless of what color they are. If we stop doing that, we’ll end this racism, and we’ll start judging each other by the content of character, and not the color of skin.


[1] Stepin Fetchit was the first black actor to earn $1Million, and was a star during his heyday, but his career slowed dramatically when many black Americans began to view his persona as echoing negative stereotypes. –Editor.