Uniqueness – Not The Aim

Quoting the book sourced below.

Interpretation that aims at, or thrives on, uniqueness can usually be attributed to pride (an attempt to “outclever” the rest of the world), a false understanding of spirituality (wherein the Bible is full of deeply buried truths waiting to be mined by the spiritually sensitive person with special insight), or vested interests (the need to support a theological bias, especially in dealing with texts that seem to go against that bias). Unique interpretations are usually wrong. This is not to say that the correct understanding of a passage may not often seem unique to someone who hears it for the first time. But it is to say that uniqueness is not the aim of our task.

Fee, Gordon D.; Stuart, Douglas. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (p. 22). Zondervan Academic. Kindle Edition.

The Bible: Revelation From God

Who can tell us whether this awful and mysterious silence, in which the Infinite One has wrapped himself, portends mercy or wrath? Who can say to the troubled conscience whether He, whose laws in nature are inflexible and remorseless, will pardon sin? Who can answer the anxious inquiry whether the dying live on or whether they cease to be? Is there a future state? And if so, what is the nature of that untried condition of being? If there be immortal happiness, how can I attain it? If there be an everlasting woe, how can it be escaped? Let the reader close his Bible and ask himself seriously what he knows upon these momentous questions apart from its teachings. What solid foundation has he to rest upon in regard to matters which so absolutely transcend all earthly experience and are so entirely out of the reach of our unassisted faculties? A man of facile faith may perhaps delude himself into the belief of what he wishes to believe. He may thus take upon trust God’s unlimited mercy, his ready forgiveness of transgressors, and eternal happiness after death. But this is all a dream. He knows nothing, he can know nothing about it, except by direct revelation from heaven.

William Henry Green, The Pentateuch (New York: John Wiley, 1863), pp. 194, 195.

Quoted by – Ortlund Jr., Raymond C.. Isaiah (Preaching the Word) (p. 457). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

John’s Prologue, 1 Jno. 1:1-4

John’s Prologue (1 Jno. 1:1-4)

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life – the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us – that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. 1 Jno. 1:1-4

What if I said, “OK students, diagram the opening sentence of the first epistle of John. You’ve got five minutes.” First, do you think this is what John wanted his readers to do (assuming a form of this exercise was current back then)? Second, assuming John’s grammatical structure is difficult here, would a diagram exercise really help us?

Most commentaries begin their analysis by wrestling with the grammatical structure of this passage. In some cases their analysis is more complicated than the text. So here’s what helps me. I go into this knowing what John wrote in the gospel of John, and knowing what he wrote after verse 4. That’s the best help I’ve found in navigating his prologue here.

The result is my paraphrase: Jesus was a real flesh-and-blood person. Yet, He has a real existence beyond and before His earthly stay and is eternal. This truth was proclaimed by men who heard Him, saw Him and touched Him. As they gave their testimony and people responded, fellowship with God and the joy of that fellowship became real.

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A Valentine Story

Perhaps you’ve heard this story. I’ve not been able to unearth the source. It pushes some buttons that put husbands on alert. Consider this a Valentine story.

This is about a man who never showed much courtesy and honor to his wife. She always hoped – maybe he would open the door for her? He shrugged that off. He would often say something like: “What’s wrong with you? You have your own two hands. They are not broken!”

The man’s wife passed away before he did.

At her funeral, he stood by watching the funeral director, preacher and pallbearers leaving the building. They arrived at the hearse. Before the funeral director reached for the back door of the hearse …

The man spoke up as he ran to the hearse. He said, “Wait.” With a broken voice he said to those present – May God forgive me …. as he opened the door at the back of the hearse.

He sadly realized that the only time he had fulfilled her simple wish was at her funeral. Men – may we never let simple acts of kindness and honor escape our notice.

Spiritual Growth, Paused?

Spiritual Growth

Postponed, Paused?

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 

To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

– 2 Pet. 3:18

When we are under pressure – unusual circumstances, health crisis, family issues, economic stress – there may be some temptation to postpone spiritual growth, until things get better.

Our thinking may run rapidly through thoughts like this: Life is so hard right now; my concentration is broken; I’m exhausted. I’ll get back into spiritual growth when things calm down.

Here are some elements of this ill-conceived notion.

1. Understand, to not grow equals decline. There is no neutral position. This may sound strong but there is scriptural justification to say, the moment I stop growing I start dying. To go back to “milk” is “back,” backward (see Heb. 5:12-14). The whole notion is self-deceptive. It is neglected discipleship.

2. It is vigorous spiritual growth that brings God’s strength into our lives. To put a pause on spiritual growth not only reduces your capacity to cope with difficulty. It amounts to turning away from the ultimate source of strength that gets us through whatever is or is perceived to be our present difficulty.

3. Read 2 Peter 1:3-15, then ask yourself: What part of this can I suspend or pause? Is there anything in this passage that you can safely neglect, offering your stress as the excuse? Can you postpone self-control for a while, thinking you will resume that discipline when things calm down?

4. To pause spiritual growth is just irresponsible, since the command is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Peter wrote that in our text. He was under pressure and he was writing to Christians who were undergoing a tough time of it: “tested by fire,” (1 Pet. 1:7).  Growth is not only honoring the Lord and essential to our survival, it is duty assigned to God’s people. Not something reserved for “normal days.”

Do these things and the God of peace will be with you. Phil. 4:9

                      THE PREACHER’S ROLE IN UNITY IN THE LOCAL CHURCH

by Russ Bowman

From the book

BEHIND THE PREACHER’S DOOR

These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:…one who sows discord among brethren” (Prov.6:19)

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus gathered His apostles together to share a crucial, intimate observance of the Jewish Passover.  This must have been an evening full of nervous anticipation, both for the Lord and His apostles, though for different reasons.  Jesus had entered Jerusalem five days earlier with a public reception befitting the anticipated Messiah.  He had displayed His power and wisdom in the miracles He performed and in His victorious confrontations with the Jewish religious leaders (Mt.21-23).  He had uttered parables and offered prophetic insight into future judgments (Mt.24-25), and in so doing,  fanned the flames of Messianic fervor throughout the city, and particularly among His own disciples.  Those eleven faithful men knew that something was going to happen, and it must have been an exciting, but confusing week.  Jesus had repeatedly predicted His death, reminding them even during this very week that He would “be delivered up to be crucified” on the Passover (Mt.26:2).  Yet they still seemed shocked when it happened.  Were they expecting some divine intercession?  Did they anticipate that Jesus would change His mind and overpower His enemies?  Would they witness the angelic host intervene?  Or would they themselves be empowered to rise up against the opposition and deliver their Lord?  We are simply not told what they anticipated, though it stands to reason that they were looking for some kind of Messianic drama.

Jesus, on the other hand, must have been concerned for these men.  He has convinced them of His Messiahship.  They had been given evidence even of His divinity.  He had taught them and led them and corrected them and prepared them.  And now He was about to leave them.  He knew what would happen at His death.  He knew they would forsake Him (Mt.26:31f), knew Peter would deny Him (Mt.26:34), and knew that they would ultimately stand fast and do the work for which He had prepared them.  Yet the next three days would be crushing for them, and Jesus is clearly concerned about them as He gathers them together for the Passover meal.  What an example, that the Lord would be so mindful of His followers when faced with the terror and agony of His own death! 

God does not record all of the events and conversations that took place during this meal.  John, however, offers the most detailed account of the evening (Jn.13-17).  Jesus washed their feet and illustrated the kind of humble servitude that He desires among His people (13:3-20).  He told them that one of them would betray Him, and even went to far as to identify Judas to Simon Peter (13:21-26).  It must have pained the Lord to see the reaction of the other apostles, as their curiosity degenerated into an argument among themselves about which one would be the greatest in the kingdom (Lk.22:20-30).  And as Judas left to complete his treachery, Jesus tried to prepare them for the things that they were about to see.  John 14-17 chronicles Christ’s final words to His apostles before His death.  Their faith was to be tested, inspired, and finally promoted.  But on this night, He was concerned – “Let not your heart be troubled…” (Jn.14:1).  So Jesus spoke of His leaving, His preparations, His sending of the Spirit, His expectation of their fruitfulness, and His assurance of their success.  And He completed the instruction with a prayer in Jn.17 – a prayer which culminates in His plea to God that these men, along with all who would believe on Him through their work, “be one, as You Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us…” (Jn.17:20-23).  Their unity would be indispensable when faced with the world’s hatred and opposition (v.11-19), and that same oneness would stand forever as an invincible testimony to the divine nature and authority of Jesus of Nazareth (v.21-24).  The task placed before the apostles was overwhelming.  They were fishermen and religious scholars; political rebels and Roman minions; guileless men and sons of thunder; prone to impetuosity and given to ambitious contentions.  Yet they were to be one, and thus the example for all of those who would embrace their testimony.  And so they were.

Unity among God’s children is a challenging goal.  In His epistles to first century Christians, God appeals for oneness over and over and over again.  And such a resounding repetition should not surprise us, for unity in Christ is a curious achievement.  After all, we who come to the Lord bring with us almost innumerable differences.  Male and female.  Black and white.  Rich and poor.  Influence and anonymity.  Diverse religious backgrounds; distinct national loyalties; various social, educational, political, ideological perspectives.  And moral histories that range from pristine to perverted.  While Americans tend to view our nation as the world’s melting pot, the truth is that God’s church long ago secured that distinction.  And yet, in Christ, those things that once divided us are to no longer prevail.  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal.3:28).  We must recognize that Jesus, in His prayer for unity on the night of His betrayal, was not looking merely at the ambitious arguments of His apostles, but at the overwhelming potential for division among the untold numbers of disciples who would follow.  Disciples like us.

If we are to appreciate the role of a preacher in the maintaining of unity within a local church, we ought first to appreciate the role of every disciple in such.  Preachers are, after all, not exempted from the admonitions and commands of God that involve unity.  And all too often, it is an ugly unity that permeates local churches.  Personalities clash.  Trespasses are  forgiven but not forgotten.  Prejudices arise.  Feelings are “sleeve worn” and often injured.  Personal failings are exposed.  Patience wears thin.  And yet people “stay together for the sake of unity”.  A begrudging togetherness is not unity.  God does not call His people to harmony – “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of different parts.”  He calls us to oneness.  The question is, “How do we achieve oneness?”

Unity is, first of all, a function of individual devotion to Christ.  Paul pleaded with the Corinthian church that “you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor.1:10).  The context of that admonition suggests that the Corinthian brethren were being polarized due to divided individual loyalties (v.11-13).  It’s not difficult to see how a church might be torn apart when  people offer their allegiance to various teachers.  Paul’s solution to the problem was that they remember that “of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus” (I Cor.1:30) and that they belonged to God (I Cor.3:9f).  When we are concerned first and foremost – or perhaps more appropriately singularly and solely – with pleasing God, then and only then will unity be possible among disciples.  After all, such was the basis of the unity between Christ and the Father.  In the prayer of Jn.17:20f, Jesus asks that His followers be one, “as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You.”  And that singular mind that united Jesus with His Father was His consistent determination to do the will of the Father (Jn.4:34; 5:30; 6:38f; 7:16,28f; 8:28f; 9:4).  If my goal is to please God, and your goal is to please God, then unity among us is all but guaranteed.  But if our loyalties are found anywhere else, division is unavoidable.

In Gal.3:26f, Paul reminded those divided brethren that they had all “put on Christ” and that such mutual devotion had changed them.  They were no longer different.  They were all one, because they were all now like Christ.  The same argument is offered as the basis of a variety of “one another” instructions in Col.3:9-16.  We have “put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (v.10), and every earthly distinction has been dissolved in our mutual acknowledgment of Jesus as Lord (v.11).  Again, if I have “put on Christ” and you have “put on Christ”, then unity is insured.

Secondly, unity is a function of personal devotion to Christ’s Word.  Jesus consistently equated discipleship with adherence to His teaching.  “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (Jn.14:15).  “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed” (Jn.8:31).  “But why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Lk.6:46).  It is often the case in the present general religious environment that people “serve Christ” according to personal preference.  Many choose a church based upon the programs, worship, or doctrines that they prefer, rather than upon the basis of God’s revelation.  In such circumstances, unity occurs only when your preferences are the same as my preferences.  And Christ is dethroned as Lord in favor of ourselves.  In Eph.4:4f, the “one body…Spirit…hope…Lord…faith…baptism…God” are all foundations of unity which have been designated and revealed by God in His Word.  They are not subject to whim and opinion.  These elements of our service are clearly described for us in the New Testament, and our allegiance to that revelation supplies a basis for our unity.  Paul’s appeal to the Corinthians that they “speak the same thing…be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (I Cor.1:10) demands a common standard which we can adopt as the basis of our speaking, our mind, and our judgment.  If I am following the Word, and you are following the Word, oneness must result.  True unity is impossible in the absence of such.  When we begin to focus on anything else – our own opinions, preferences, desires, traditions, etc. –  unity will flounder.

Thirdly, unity is a function of personal disposition.  Oneness demands a common Lord and a common standard.  But ultimately oneness demands a common selfless dedication toward the Lord, the standard, and others who are similarly inclined.  People may well claim some allegiance to Christ and His Word, but that allegiance is evidenced only in a total submission to both.  The “personal devotion” previously noted is demanded by Christ in Mt.16:24 – “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”  And the path that Jesus would have us follow calls us to unity with others who are following Him.  Given our common Lord and standard, one would think such unity would be natural, yet ultimately it is our attitude toward other disciples that makes unity achievable.  In almost every epistle, Paul admonishes, encourages, instructs, and implores his brethren that they be unified.  He reminds the Romans that we will stand in judgment before God, not before other Christians (Rom.14-15).  He scolded the Corinthians for their divided loyalties (I Cor.1-3), warned them about the divisive egoism of their own liberty (I Cor.8-10), and encouraged them to edify one another as a part of one body (I Cor.12-14).  He told the Galatians  to “through love serve one another” rather than suffering the destruction of their own contentions (Gal.5:13-15f).  The Ephesian letter revolves around our common adoption in the family of God, where the union of Jew and Gentile stands as testimony of God’s wisdom (Eph.1-3).  Concluding that thought, Paul begs them to walk “with lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph.4:2-3).  He directed the Colossians toward “one another” obligations which grow out of “new man” allegiances (Co.3:1-16f).  And his directives to the Philippians are perhaps the most instructive for those devoted to unity.  “…fulfill my joy by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.  Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.  Let this mind be in you which also was in Christ Jesus…He humbled Himself…” (Phil.2:1-8).  A group of disciples who serve Christ in devotion to His Word with selfless, humble, and sacrificial minds will consistently be unified.  His will will be their will.  His goals will be their goals.  His character will be their character.  His attitude will be their attitude. They cannot but be one.   However disunity and division are inevitable when self intervenes.  Division always – always – begins with “I”.  When my opinions, wants, preferences, feelings, ambitions, jealousies, prejudices, ego or any other selfish concerns begin to drive my “service”, then I will dissolve any possible unity with other Christians.

No one is exempted from these principles.  Yet, disciples sometimes forget who we are, and Who we serve.  Unity is all too often sacrificed when we are faced with circumstances that try the practical expressions of our faith.  Occasionally, perhaps, a Christian will completely lose his/her confidence in God due to some life crisis.  But more frequently we simply forget that faith in Christ demands patience or self-control, poverty of spirit or meekness, forgiveness or self-sacrifice, mercy or kindness.  Some problem arises that affects us personally – a moral failure, a doctrinal issue, a wrongdoing – and we  retain our conviction that God is and that He rewards His people and that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that we can be forgiven.  But we forget what those truths demand of us.  We fail to be godly.  And we fail of oneness.

I suspect that every individual disciple and every local congregation has some experience with such a circumstance.  Who knows how many local churches exist in this country alone, as a result of disciples who failed at unity in times of difficulty.  Rather than conform to humble godliness, we are prone to “go worship elsewhere”, even if “elsewhere” doesn’t yet exist.  Unity is tough.  It demands that we face one another, swallow our pride, admit our mistakes, listen to others, forgive and receive forgiveness, deny ourselves, focus on others.  Honestly, its often easier on us just to go and “start a new work.”  Easier, but not right.  How can we be one when Christians in one congregation will not recognize or worship with Christians in another?  Do we really believe that such disunity will exist in heaven?

Those who serve God’s people in positions of leadership bear a great responsibility when it comes to unity.  Because leadership – whether in some designated capacity (overseers, deacons, teachers, preachers), or whether in some “unofficial” role (a man/woman of repute, talent, experience, age, etc.) – exerts influence.  Peter called for elders to be “examples to the flock” (I Pet.5:3).  Paul demanded of Timothy that he be “an example to the believers” (I Tim.4:12).  Older men and older women are reminded of the import of their character and example in Tit.2:1-5.  Those  who lead must be ever aware of the impact of their activities, attitudes, reactions, and judgments.  Yet, unfortunately, division often reigns because those who lead God’s people, lead them away from each other.  And whether or not it should be so, it is the voices of preachers that often rise above the fray, and herald the dissension. 

Preachers, due to the nature of their work, possess the capacity for great good, and for great evil.  Their job is to proclaim the gospel (II Tim2:2; 4:1f), and such proclamation lends itself to the possibility of great influence.  As teachers of the Word, preachers are often consulted for their knowledge, or confided in because of their experience.  They become objects of affection as those who lead people to the gospel, and the variety of personalities and abilities and styles that distinguish them sometime result in preferences and even allegiances.  Is that not what Paul describes in Corinth in I Cor.1:10f?  It is not particularly difficult to see how the “pastor system” in modern denominationalism arose, for people at times pedestalize their ministers, and ministers at times accept and even promote such.  So much influence can be a heady temptation toward self-importance.  And all that is necessary for problems to arise is a simple objection, criticism, or even disagreement.  Suddenly, the preacher’s ego becomes threatened and the process of self-defense, self-promotion, and the systematic decimation of the “enemy” begins.  Sermons begin to revolve around the issue at hand.  Private conversations are salted with innuendo and suggestion.  People are encouraged to side with one man and against another.  “The Issue” becomes a litmus test of allegiance, and the true work of preaching the gospel, building up the body of Christ, and seeking the lost is somewhere misplaced in the congregational civil war.

Shame on us, when we would divide the body of Christ over personal pride.

Those of us who preach need to be reminded of our place, much as Jesus reminded James and John when they wanted to destroy a Samaritan village – “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of” (Lk.9:55).  It would naive to ignore the potential influence that we exert as preachers and teachers.  But it is egregious when we forget who we are.  Our work is to save souls – to promote Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.  We must maintain at all times an honest and singular devotion to that goal.  We are not promoting self, no matter how impressed we may be with our own opinions, preferences or judgments.  In fact, when we become impressed with such things, we have failed of the very discipleship that we proclaim.  Preachers are amenable to the demands of the beatitudes (Mt.5:3-12).  We are disciples who must manifest humility, service, self-sacrifice (Mt.20:25-28).   We are obligated to “add to your faith” virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love” (II Pet.1:5f).   We are exempted from no demands regarding discipleship, and are in fact instructed to be examples “in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim.4:12).  Our aim is to serve God’s people, and to do so God’s people must come before self, no matter the attack, the criticism, the problem.  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus…” (Phil.2:5f) ought to be hand-written and sitting on the desk of every man who stands before others to proclaim the good news of salvation.  And at the end of the day, no matter how many sermons we’ve preached, no matter how many souls have been saved, no matter how much good has been done – “when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do” (Lk.17:10).  Paul reminded us that the power is in God’s Word (Rom.1:16; I Cor.3:5f), not in ourselves.

Do such admonitions to humble service demand compromise and concession?  No.  And yes.  As heralds of God’s Word, we cannot fail to defend such against attack, perversion, misrepresentation, or abuse.  While elders are assigned that role in local churches (Tit.1:9), so are evangelists (Tit.1:10-13; I Tim.1:3f; 4:1f; 6:11f; II Tim.4:1f).  We must be willing to engage in conflict – “casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God” (II Cor.10:5).  And if the declaration of truth results in division, so be it.  The Lord promised such (Mt.10:34f).  But we must also remember that spiritual warfare is no call to personal dominion.  Our attitude must ever be humble, merciful, caring, godly.  The “servant of the Lord” in I Tim.2:24 is the evangelist in his work.  And where issues revolve around opinion, preference, personality, or discrepancies in maturity, preachers ought to be first to concede our own liberty, for such is the demand of mature leadership and godly influence (I Cor.8:13; 9:19-23; 10:29-33).  If division is to take place, let it be because of truth, not because of our disposition.

James warns us all concerning the particular challenges that are borne by those who teach.  He cautions those whose ambitions drive them to such public service, “knowing that we will receive a stricter judgment” (Jas.3:1).  The warnings about the tongue are offered to teachers who use theirs so frequently.  But it is the spirit of “envy and self-seeking” (v.14) that James is decrying.  It is a sad reality that people sometimes disguise personal ambition behind the facade of gospel proclamation.  That simple warning ought to prompt those who preach to ask themselves continually, “Who am I pleasing?”

Unity within a local congregation is a challenge.  So many distinctions must be subdued so that Christ is what permeates each individual, and thus the collectivity.  Oneness is possible, and powerful when accomplished (Jn.17:21f).  And though Jesus prayed for such, He is not offering so much a wish, as a command.  If we are to be united to Him, we have no choice but to pursue unity with one another.  Single-minded devotion to Christ and to His Word by every disciple will produce such.   But such devotion begins with the attitude and aim of each individual – “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph.4:2-3).  And that includes preachers.

Calling on the name of the Lord

Calling on the Name of the Lord

by Bill Hall

THE EXPRESSION, “Calling on the name of the Lord,” is found three times in the New Testament (Acts 2:21; 22:16; Romans 10:13). It is an expression of trust and reliance. In obedience to the gospel, one is not calling upon water to save him; nor is he calling upon his own meritorious works; rather, he is “calling upon the name of the Lord.” He is placing his trust in the only true source of salvation: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Misunderstandings Corrected

One does not call upon the name of the Lord through mere belief. In fact, belief is a prerequisite to calling upon His name: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14).

One does not call upon the name of the Lord by citing the “sinner’s prayer.” The “sinner’s prayer” originated with men rather than with God. One does call upon the name of the Lord through action: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of the Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

One calls upon the name of the Lord when he “trusts and obeys.” After proclaiming, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Peter told inquiring sinners, “Repent, and be baptized … for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:21, 38). Since salvation results from calling on the name of the Lord and also from repenting and being baptized, an obvious link exists between the two. This link is further confirmed in Acts 22:16: “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” It should be observed that these were words spoken by Ananias to a praying Saul of Tarsus. Saul was not to call upon the name of the Lord through continued praying, but through arising and being baptized.

Trust is the key element. One may be baptized, trusting the merit of his works for salvation. Such a person is not calling on the name of the Lord. Another is baptized, looking to Jesus for salvation, placing his trust in the promise of God and efficacy of Christ’s blood. This is the person who truly obeys the gospel and, in so doing, calls upon the name of the Lord.

One’s calling upon the name of the Lord, however, is not not completed at the point of baptism. One continues to call upon His name through living as a Christian. Ananias said of Saul’s intent in going to Damascus: “And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name” (Acts 9:14). Christians can be described, then, as those who call on the Lord’s name. This implies ongoing action. The whole of one’s life as a Christian is to be built on trust. As one lives a godly life, worships, prays, works, and seeks to do God’s will, he must do so, not trusting the merit of his own righteousness, but placing his trust in the Lord. In so living, he is calling, not on himself, but on the name of the Lord.

The Promise Is To All

The word “whosoever” must not be overlooked. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved,” Paul wrote to the Romans (Romans 10:13). Paul’s primary purpose in quoting this passage was to show that salvation was for both Jew and Gentile and that the word “whosoever” in the prophecy implied the necessity of preaching to both Jew and Gentile. No one is excluded. The promise is for all: for people of all nations, for rich and for poor, for educated and uneducated, for moral and immoral (if they will repent of their immorality), for the mighty and the lowly. Thank God! All can call upon the name of the Lord. All can be saved.

Source: [1] Hall, B. (1988). Calling on the Name of the Lord. In E. Harrell (Ed.), Christianity Magazine: January 1988, Volume 5, Number 1 (E. Harrell, Ed.) (14). Jacksonville, FL: Christianity Magazine.

What Eloquence Needs

In a recent Bible class discussion, we came to Luke’s statement about Apollos of Alexandria. “He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures,” (Acts 18:24, ESV).

Eloquence is to be commended. It is knowing how to communicate; having the learning and skill to deliver your message in such a manner, it is easy for your audience to listen, to follow along and understand how the message relates to their lives. This is what we might have learned in speech or communication classes in college. Though we may not specifically define eloquence, I think we know it when we hear it. Preachers and teachers should give attention to delivery skills. Elements of good public speaking like structure, good illustrations, pace, clear objective, etc. should never be dismissed or slighted. But there was something else about Apollos.

He was competent in the Scriptures. It is very likely that other public speakers in Corinth and Ephesus had equal or greater skill that Apollos – better vocal resonance, vocabulary, passion, format, etc. Whatever comparisons might have been observed and exchanged, Apollos had something more important than eloquence, learning or public speaking ability. He had the right message, the only message that answered the needs of his auditors.

So let’s see the value of eloquence while acknowledging that what’s primary is the content, the message. Preachers and teachers are well advised to hone their delivery skills. But what is being delivered? It must be God’s message!

Mouth & Keyboard

Prov. 10:11 – “The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life.” Would it change the sense of the verse to translate it, “the keyboard of the righteous is a fountain of life?”

My belief is, everything the Bible says about the good use of the tongue  needs to be equally applied to the keyboard; to social media and email.

Years ago – before computer technology, cell phones – and before wired telephones – if you had some morsel of gossip, flattering or perverse speech – there was some pause – before you could get that out to people.

There was a time lag that was a blessing. You had time to think about what you would report. Today there is no time lag. You can have a thought, and report or share that thought, while you are forming the thought. The speed of internet and cell phone communication enhances the temptation. So, everything the Bible says about good attitude, maturity and communication needs to be applied to the keyboard, social media, email and texting. Remember this …

 “For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned,” (Matt. 12:36).