Pointless Baggage

Pointless Baggage

Tuesday’s Column: Dale Mail

Daleheadshot

Dale Pollard

On Paul’s third missionary journey he would write to a congregation in Rome. Today this letter is viewed as sone of the most theologically deep books in our New Testament. Some think that there are portions of Scripture that are best left alone, or that only a preacher or Bible teacher can decipher the “code.” When we do some digging into the original audience that Paul was writing to, we see something interesting. He was delivering these deep theological concepts to a church that seemed to be largely lacking in spiritual knowledge. In fact, some of the members of this 1st-century church believed that God was glorified through their sins! Clearly they had some growing to do. Paul didn’t say they needed to stick with simple Christian concepts or the basics; he still tries to teach them the difficult and more complicated aspects of Christianity.

This is a call for us to challenge ourselves in our daily studies. The Bible was meant to be understood, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t take some effort on our part. The book of Romans is a rewarding book to study. In fact, it’s difficult to find another book that can give the Christian more joy and confidence in their salvation. In Romans 8:1, Paul writes, “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” At first glance this may just be a verse that many skim past because of how familiar we are with it. When we study the application of such a simple verse, in context, the benefits are incredible.

There’s no need to agonize over our relationship with Christ, if we’re in Christ. Paul simplifies our salvation by telling us that if we have obeyed the gospel and we’re striving to follow Jesus, we don’t have to live in fear of our standing before God. In fact, this phrase, “in Christ,” appears 172 times in the New Testament, but it’s a phrase that is largely misunderstood. Some Christians believe that through the course of their week they bounce from “saved” to “lost” on a daily basis. The idea of being “in” Christ is really describing a spiritual union— much like marriage! You don’t wake up everyday and ask your spouse,  “Are we still married?” and then worry throughout the day that despite your spouse’s confirmation, you’re just not convinced that you’re really married to them. If we haven’t done anything to separate that union with Christ, we can live confidently knowing we are saved.

What a wonderful feeling. The book of Romans is one that helps us to let of any pointless baggage and live a life of peace and joy. 

Mission Possible

Mission Possible

Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross

Neal Pollard

Writing to a church filled with multiple ethnic groups, Paul has a broad goal in mind in writing the Roman epistle.  Having dedicated himself to “world-wide” evangelism, as Acts and his letters show, his heart was on more than winning Jews in one small part of the world.

In Romans ten, Paul is reaching the crescendo of the doctrinal argument he makes in Romans 1:15-17 about salvation through faith in Christ.  In the middle of the chapter, he states some principles that are worthy of our attention.  Consider briefly Romans 10:5-17.

Here, we have the message expressed (5-10).  It is the message Paul has been stressing throughout the letter, a message of “righteousness based on faith” (6).  It is a word of faith (8), one emphasizing what the scriptures say (Paul quotes Deut. 30:12, 14, 21, Psa. 19:4, Isa. 28:16, 52:7, 53:1, 65:1-2, and Joel 2:32 just from Rom. 10:6-21), and a message meant to touch the heart (8) and lead one to eternal salvation (9-10).  Thankfully, the same word that tells us to “make disciples” tells us to do that through the divine message of scripture.

We also have the men envisioned (11-13).  Twice, Paul says that “whoever” (11,13) calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.  The Lord’s riches are for “all who call on Him” (12).  He makes no distinction between Jew and Greek (12).  That underscores the biblical idea that God wants all men everywhere to be saved (cf. 1 Tim. 2:4).  

We have the means executed (14-16).  Paul exalts preaching and preachers.  This is honorable work requiring honorable people.  They are an indispensable part of God’s soul-winning plan (14).  They are divinely sent (15).  They are positively described (15b). They dispense good news (16).  As Paul writes Corinth, preaching is God’s medium for saving men’s souls (1 Cor. 1:18).

Finally, we have the mission embodied (17).  The word of Christ must be heard, and faith results by hearing that word.  People do not teach themselves.  Societies are not won accidentally or incidentally.  There must be deliberate, often sacrificial, activity—preaching, planting seed, and perseverant persistence—to fulfill that mission.

We have mission work to do right here.  We have it to do daily at our jobs and in our more immediate communities and neighborhoods.  Whether you are going across the street or around the world, fulfill your mission! 

On The Other Side Of Security

On The Other Side Of Security

Neal Pollard

Gary Hampton tells the story of his first missionary trip, which he made in the 1980s—shortly after the “Jonestown Tragedy” and during a time of great national instability.  He recalls soldiers lining both sides of the runway, armed to the teeth, and having his bags checked thoroughly by those whose friendliness was not exactly established.  He says that there was nothing like being able to greet the local brethren on the other side of security, singing gospel songs with them en route to the town where they campaigned together.  I have felt similar relief in coming into places that were strange, unfamiliar, and potentially menacing in different parts of the world.

Do you wonder what it was like for the apostle Paul, who had just survived a horrific shipwreck only to be bitten by a deadly snake on the island where he was stranded.  Now, he had been on an Alexandrian ship once again bound for Rome, stopping at various cities along the way.  At one of them, Puteoli, Paul, Luke, and the rest of his fellow travelers “found brethren, and were invited to stay with them seven days. And so we went toward Rome. And from there, when the brethren heard about us, they came from as far as Appii Forum and Three Inns. When Paul saw them, he thanked God and took courage” (Acts 28:14-15).  Notice how the local Christians, however far from Paul’s hometown, made Paul feel—thankful and encouraged.

There is something special and unique about the church, by God’s divine design.  Even brothers and sisters you meet in other countries, who speak different languages, and whose background and culture are different from your own, can have that effect on you.  Worshipping with God’s people in different parts of the country so often has the same effect. I’ve heard stories (so have you) from families and individuals who remarked about how unfriendly the local church they visited was.  I’ve had a few experiences where I didn’t feel the warmth I thought was proper, but that’s not nearly the norm.  However, I don’t wait for the brethren to come to me.  I’m anxious to see them!  They are my family, even if we’ve never met.

As you count your blessings today, won’t you thank God for the transcendent blessing that is the spiritual family!  The church was God’s eternal purpose (Eph. 3:9-11).  How wonderful that it bolsters us in the brief period of time we exist between birth and eternity!