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Bible Bible study Uncategorized

TRY THE CONTEXT!

Neal Pollard

“Big dummy!” That can be a derogatory statement or the description of a large mannequin. Context makes all the difference! So it is with matters of infinitely greater significance. So much religious error exists because of a failure to consider the context of biblical passages.

Our friends in religion who believe that Jesus is a created being rather than one of the three everlasting personalities of the Godhead defend their view with passages such as Colossians 1:15, which says, “He is the firstborn of all creation.” A further study of the use of the word “firstborn” shows that it is used literally (Heb. 11:28) and figuratively (Heb. 12:23) in the New Testament. Context determines the difference. What is it in Colossians 1:15? The context says that Jesus made everything that was made (16-17). Did He make Himself? No, He cannot both be literally, physically born and be the One who created “all things.” Logically, Paul is speaking in a figurative sense, that in His human nature Jesus is “at the head of His class.” He is first in order, preeminent among men (18). As a human, He is above us and first among all of us.

Others of our friends teach salvation by faith only. They appeal to a couple of passages to assert this idea. One passage is Acts 16:31, where the Philippian jailer is told, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” This is given as proof positive that salvation comes at the point of faith. Another text cited, the “golden text of the Bible,” says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This statement is made as part of a conversation Jesus is having with Nicodemus.

In the case of the jailer, who saw the miraculous power of God in opening the jail doors and who asked what he must do to be saved, he is told to believe in Jesus. It is noteworthy to ask, “How much would the average Philippian jailer know about Jesus?” Thus, Luke adds the important detail that before we read of the man’s response, “They spoke the word of the Lord to him” (31). His response is found in verse 32, where he washes Paul and Silas’ wounds and is immediately baptized. This accords with the broader context of Acts, where believers are told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins (2:38; 22:16).

In the case of Nicodemus’ instruction, Jesus’ makes the statement of John 3:16 in a certain context, too, a context that included talk of water (3:5) and an illustration from the book of Numbers. That illustration is very noteworthy for showing that more than belief is necessary for salvation. It concerns the serpents God sent upon the murmuring and complaining Israelites. Numbers 21:9 says, “So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived.” How did salvation come, simply by believing in God’s plan or by believing AND looking? Likewise, the broader context of scripture shows faith and works joined together. Israel did not earn the saving of their lives by looking any more than we earn salvation from sin by believing and being baptized. Yet, God makes it as essential to obey today as He did during the wilderness wandering. Context bears this out.

Let us never be “scripture isolationists,” those who peel a verse away from its context or who rest our confidence in doctrines that have been thus constructed. God saw to it that we would have His word and will preserved. How wise of us to make sure we properly study it in context!

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Bible guidance instructing truth Uncategorized

Learning A Lesson From A Lantern

Gary Pollard III

For some reason, I’m a big fan of old fashioned lighting. I’m especially drawn to old kerosene lanterns because they’re simple and just cool. I went to light one of my lanterns (I might have a few of them…) and the flame wouldn’t stay alive for more than a few seconds. I thought, “Maybe the vent is covered in carbon and there isn’t enough oxygen for the flame.” So, I took it apart, cleaned it out, and put it back together. I was sure that it was the vent.

To my chagrin, the flame died within seconds even after the lantern was cleaned. Next, I trimmed the wick because it seemed too dark; perhaps having a fresh wick would allow the flame to stay alive. It wasn’t a stopped vent, so it had to be the wick. Sure enough, the flame died even with a fresh wick.

At this point I was stumped, so I gave up. The next day it occurred to me while putting gas in my car: the lantern was just out of kerosene! It was obvious to the extreme. I knew Chelsea would never let that one go. When I got home I put the kerosene into the lantern which, of course, was the solution to a simple problem that I overcomplicated.

This is a mundane example of a profound truth: we make mistakes as humans. Worse yet, some people put words in God’s mouth that He never used. “My God is a God of love– He wouldn’t condemn me just for this one little sin.” “God doesn’t care if we live the way we want.” Some use phrases like this with great confidence while overlooking an obvious truth: God has told us what He does and does not care about in His word. If we aren’t in the word listening to God and allowing Him to change us, our solutions will end in failure. There was only one solution to keep that flame going in my lantern. There is only one right way to follow God, and He’s told us how to do that! Life will be so much easier for the one who looks to God for answers before relying on his/her own wisdom.

Gary serves as youth minister for the Hope church of Christ in Hope, Arkansas.

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accountability Judgment Judgment Day Second Coming Uncategorized

Some Things That Will Not Be At The Judgment

Neal Pollard

What will the throne of judgment look like? What will Christ, the Judge, look like? Will the Judgment be experienced through the sense of sight? What will be different there from this life? What will be changed?

The Bible speaks often about the moment of reckoning, when the righteous and wicked dead (John 5:28-29) and all living (Mat. 25:31-33) will stand before the King of kings to give account for the conduct of the body (2 Cor. 5:10). As we attempt to paint a mental picture of the Judgment Day, some things shouldn’t be envisioned because they won’t be there.

  • There will not be an unbeliever at the Judgment (Phil. 2:10-11). With an introduction only heaven could produce, John says Jesus will come with clouds, every eye shall see Him, and all nations of the earth will wail because of Him (Rev. 1:7). No person will be able to continue in unbelief. Faith will be permanently past tense. Evidence of God’s power and the power of His promises will be beyond the realm of the hopes for and in the arena of the finally seen (Heb. 11:1). Jokes scoffing the Divine will not slip off the sin-darkened hearts of the defiant. No skeptics, no agnostics, no doubters, and no infidels will be at the Judgment.
  • There will not be a material possession at the Judgment (2 Pet. 3:10). The inhabitants of this planet seem to be more engrossed with things daily. The Lord calls things “corruptible” (1 Pet. 1:18) and inferior treasure (Mat. 6:19). People seek material things to provide them a life of joy, peace, and comfort. We will give an account for our stewardship of material things. We will answer “yes” or “no” when asked if we robbed God (Mal. 3:8). But no person will bring his possessions or amassed wealth into the venerable court of justice.
  • There will not be a mistrial at the Judgment (Acts 17:31). Each of us will appear before the Judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 14:10). We will each “stand trial” (2 Cor. 5:10). Christ, the “true” (John 8:16), universal (Acts 10:42), righteous (Acts 17:31), God-ordained (Rom. 2:16) and ready (1 Pet. 4:5) judge will sit to hear the case of every mentally accountable person to have lived. Jesus will judge without bias (Eph. 6:9) by relying on heaven’s unabridged record of the individual’s life (Rev. 20:12). He will judge according to the perfect law of liberty (Jas. 1:25). No one will be able to legitimately cry “foul.” When the law book is closed and the last judgment is handed down, no one will be able to find a loophole or mistake in the proceedings that will allow them to go free or be retried. There will not be any miscues or oversights.
  • There will be no secrets at the Judgment (Rom. 2:16). God now knows every man’s secret sins (Psa. 90:8) and He shall bring such things to the Judgment (Ecc. 12:14). God sees every secret place (Jer. 23:23). He reveals the deepest, darkest secrets (Dan. 2:22). At the Judgment, such things will judged (Rom. 2:16). “…All things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Heb. 4:13b).
  • There will be no baptistery at the Judgment. Most people will go into eternity not having been washed, sanctified and justified (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11). As Christ divides the sheep from the goats, it will matter whether a person has fully obeyed the gospel (cf. 1 Pet. 3:21; Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:12; Acts 2:38; Gal. 3:27; Acts 22:16; Mark 16:16). Perhaps people will cry out for another person to baptize them. The angst of many who bargained for a later date to be baptized will be realized when they stand before Christ without His blood covering their sins.
  • There will be no invitation song at the Judgment. When the trumpet sounds, no sermon will be preached to convince the lost to obey the gospel. There’ll be no pleading with the lukewarm and unfaithful Christians. No song leader will stand before that numberless crowd to appeal to the lost and erring. Legions of hearts will be melted by the power of God. Fearful realization will fill those unready to meet Christ. Perhaps many will cry out for another chance, but the last opportunity will have passed.

There will be a righteous Judge who will give a fair trial to every individual. All will give an account. An eternal sentence will be handed down based upon one’s life and acceptance or rejection of Christ’s sacrifice. There will be no parole, stay of execution, or pardon for the lost. We all will need abundant grace to be able to stand at His right hand side, but Scripture tells us how that is extended. We must prepare for that in this life (Heb. 9:27). OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Categories
daily living indifference repentance

HOW TO MAKE GOD SICK

Neal Pollard

When speaking of God’s attributions and actions, the Bible often resorts to a literary device called anthropomorphism (where human characteristics or behaviors are attributed to God—“the hand of God,” “the eyes of the Lord,” etc.).  But, there is one personification that’s absolutely terrifying.  Jesus utilizes it in describing the spiritual condition of Laodicea. He says, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Rev. 3:15-16). Some translations, knowing “vomit” is felt to be too strong and graphic to the sensitivities of some readers, have gone the more antiseptic route by translating it “spit.”  But the Greeks had a word for the phrase “spit out” (you find that word translated in John 9:6, Mark 7:33, and Mark 8:23).

It has been said that what makes God sick often is what makes our culture tick. When you look at the Laodiceans, they were guilty of the following:

  • Indifferent to mission (Rev. 3:15-16).
  • Incorrect in self-analysis (Rev. 3:17).
  • Insensitive to need (Rev. 3:17).
  • Impenitent (Rev. 3:19).

Certainly, the world is blind to God’s purpose for their lives, is numb to its true spiritual condition, and is deaf to the biblical plea to repent and depend on God and His will. But these words are directed to Christians as a warning to us.  Our mission is to engage in the work He has us on earth to do, which is not to accumulate wealth, indulge in fleshly pleasures, and pursue the honor and praise of this world. Our need for God’s strength and help every step of the way must drive us to depend on Him and repent of a lack of zeal for and involvement in the work He has called us to do as Christians.

When we get so wrapped up in this world that we ignore His mission, when we get so conditioned to rely on our assets and attributes that we ignore His power, and when we get so hard-hearted that we ignore His grace and forgiveness, we make God sick.  No matter how you look at that, the very thought is just chilling! He loves us, pleads with us, and wants to reward us (Rev. 3:19-22). But that requires us to live differently from those ancient Laodiceans. We must let Scripture properly diagnose our spiritual condition or it will make God sick.

Categories
Holy Spirit revelation

Attributing Work To The Holy Spirit

Neal Pollard

Inquiring minds want to know.  How does God work through providence? How does He answer our prayers to strengthen, help, lead, and endow us with wisdom? We are without doubt that God is active, interested, and involved in our lives today. Deism denies this, saying that a Creator set things in motion and then permanently stepped out of the picture on planet earth. Theism affirms His present involvement and interest in the affairs of men today. The dogmatic at either extreme purport to speak for God, absolutely affirming or denying what He does or does not do. There is an area in which we cannot say how God operates or whether it is the Father, Son, or Spirit who is at work simply because it has not been revealed and we are not in a position to observe what is transpiring in the heavenly realm. Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deut. 29:29).  Moses told Israel that some things aren’t revealed to us, but he also said some things are revealed. We are obligated to observe what is revealed.  We are on dangerous ground when we affirm what Scripture does not reveal.

Scripture does not reveal that the Spirit is involved in our decision-making in a direct way apart from the Word. It does not indicate that He is stirring inside our hearts, influencing us to think, speak, or act in a given way for a given purpose or moment.  He does not give us our words in the miraculous way He did for the apostles, who had no need to prepare or study for a given moment (cf. Matt. 10:19-20).  When we boldly assert such things, we stand without the foundation of revealed truth beneath us and, at best, stand upon dangerous conjecture.

The Spirit’s work in written revelation informs my heart and mind, and it (Scripture) awakens me to appreciate and depend upon the power of God through that word and its promises.  The Bible says we are strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man (Eph. 3:16).  We do not know the full implication of that promise, though we are thrilled by it. What a leap it is to go from acknowledging the Spirit strengthens us to claiming He gives us thoughts, ideas, or direct guidance in addition to His Word.  If we say, “The Spirit led me to take this job” or “The Spirit told me to speak to that person” or “The Spirit told me I’m saved,” we speak from ignorance (i.e., lack of knowledge or information). Kathy once studied with a woman and showed her the multitude of passages proving the essentiality of baptism, but she replied, “But the Spirit told me I’m saved.” We know that it was her own will and desire in her heart that she attributed to God. That is the danger of such reckless assertions. We easily confuse what we desire and prefer with “the will of God” or even “the Spirit’s work.” God repeatedly warns that our hearts can deceive us, that we can credit God for what, in reality, is our will (Prov. 14:12; 16:25; Jer. 10:23).

We do need to study the personality, the work, and the Deity of the Holy Spirit more. It is obvious, hearing and reading after even some brothers and sisters in Christ, that we have neglected studying about Him. Let us handle each other without suspicion, in a spirit of love and kindness and without attacking people and personalities. Let us also always be careful not to “exceed what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), never adding to or taking away from what is revealed (Rev. 22:18-19). Yet, let us be grateful that our great God is interested and involved in our lives, being content to affirm only what Scripture reveals.

Categories
Bible study knowledge

KNOWING GOD THROUGH THE BIBLE

Neal Pollard

The tendency to try and make subjective experience as more meaningful and valuable than objective truth is age old. We would rather feel something than learn or obey something. Yet, notice how thoroughly the Bible shows that adequate knowledge of God relies upon studying and knowing the Bible.

• GENESIS (24:12-14)–God’s KINDNESS is knowable.
• EXODUS (14:4-18)–God’s MATCHLESS HONOR is knowable.
• LEVITICUS (23:43)–God’s PROTECTING NATURE is knowable.
• NUMBERS (16:28)–God’s SPOKESMEN are knowable.
• DEUTERONOMY (4:35)–God’s PREEMINENCE is knowable.
• JOSHUA (23:13)–God’s CONDITIONS are knowable.
• JUDGES (6:37)–God’s INTERVENTION is knowable.
• RUTH (2:12)–God’s REWARD is knowable.
• 1 SAMUEL (17:46-47)–God’s MEANS OF SALVATION is knowable.
• 2 SAMUEL (7:18-29)–God’s PROMISES are knowable.
• 1 KINGS (20:28)–God’s SUPREMACY is knowable.
• 2 KINGS (19:19)–God’s UNIVERSAL AUTHORITY is knowable.
• 1 CHRONICLES (28:9)–God’s DIVINE QUALITIES are knowable.
• 2 CHRONICLES (25:16)–God’s DISAPPROVAL is knowable.
• EZRA (7:25)–God’s LAWS are knowable.
• NEHEMIAH (9:14)–God’s REVELATION is knowable.
• ESTHER (4:14 + rest of book)–God’s USE OF PROVIDENCE is knowable (even if we don’t know what is or isn’t providence).
• JOB (19:25)–God’s REDEMPTIVE WORK is knowable.
• PSALMS (100:3)–God’s CREATIVE POWER is knowable.
• PROVERBS (24:12)–God’s LIMITLESS ABILITY is knowable.
• ECCLESIASTES (3:14)–God’s PERFECTION is knowable.
• SONG OF SOLOMON–God’s DEVOTION TO MARRIAGE is knowable.
• ISAIAH (60:16)–God’s SALVATION & REDEMPTION are knowable.
• JEREMIAH (16:21)–God’s NAME & MIGHT are knowable.
• LAMENTATIONS–God’s STANDARD FOR PUNISHMENT is knowable.
• EZEKIEL (5:13)–God’s ZEALOUS WORD is knowable.
• DANIEL (11:32)–God’s STRENGTHENING is knowable.
• HOSEA (13:4)–God’s WORSHIP REQUIREMENTS are knowable.
• JOEL (2:27)–God’s PRESENCE is knowable.
• AMOS (3:2)–God’s HATRED OF INIQUITY is knowable.
• OBADIAH–God’s FEELINGS TOWARD PRIDE are knowable.
• JONAH (4:2)–God’s GRACIOUSNESS is knowable.
• MICAH (6:5)–God’s RIGHTEOUSNESS is knowable.
• NAHUM (1)–God’s PROTECTIVE CARE is knowable.
• HABAKKUK (2:14)–God’s GLORY is knowable.
• ZEPHANIAH (2:3)–God’s DESIRE TO BE SOUGHT is knowable.
• HAGGAI–God’s MISSION is knowable.
• ZECHARIAH (2:9-13)-God’s PLAN OF SALVATION is knowable.
• MALACHI (2:4-5)–God’s COVENANT is knowable.
• MATTHEW (22:16)–God’s TEACHINGS are knowable.
• MARK (1:24)–God’s HOLINESS is knowable.
• LUKE (11:13)–God’s BENEVOLENCE is knowable.
• JOHN (17:3)–God’s UNIQUENESS is knowable.
• ACTS (2:36-47)–God’s REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION are knowable.
• ROMANS (8:28)–God’s ASSURANCE TO THOSE WHO LOVE HIM is knowable.
• 1 CORINTHIANS (2:12)–God’s SPIRITUAL BLESSING OF REVELATION is knowable.
• 2 CORINTHIANS (8:9)–God’s GRACE is knowable.
• GALATIANS (3:7)–God’s HEIRS are knowable.
• EPHESIANS (1:17-19)–God’s BESTOWED WISDOM & HOPE are knowable.
• PHILIPPIANS (3:8-11)–God’s SON is knowable.
• COLOSSIANS (4:1)–God’s MASTERFUL ROLE is knowable.
• 1 THESSALONIANS (1:4)–God’s MEANS OF ELECTION is knowable.
• 2 THESSALONIANS (3:7)–God’s GOOD EXAMPLES are knowable.
• 1 TIMOTHY (3:15)–God’s CODE OF CONDUCT IN THE HIS HOUSEHOLD is knowable.
• 2 TIMOTHY (3:15-17)–God’s HOLY SCRIPTURES are knowable.
• TITUS (1:9-16)–God’s SOUND DOCTRINE is knowable.
• PHILEMON–God’s FREEDOM FROM SIN & CALL FOR SERVICE IN CHRIST is knowable.
• HEBREWS (8:11-13)–God’s SUPERIOR SALVATION is knowable.
• JAMES (2:20)–God’s DEMAND FOR ACTIVE FAITH is knowable.
• 1 PETER (1:18-19)–God’s INCORRUPTIBLE MEANS OF SALVATION is knowable.
• 2 PETER (3:17)–God’s FOREWARNINGS are knowable.
• 1 JOHN (4:2)–God’s SPIRIT is knowable.
• 2 JOHN 1–God’s TRUTH is knowable.
• 3 JOHN 12–God’s INSPIRED WRITERS’ TRUTHFUL RECORD is knowable.
• JUDE (4-23)–God’s ENEMIES are knowable.
• REVELATION (2:10,17)–God’s REWARD is knowable.

This does not begin to exhaust the list of things which the Bible tells us we can know! God has not left us to grope in the dark. Neither has He left it up to us to decide to live however we want to live.

Categories
Current Events eternity Heaven

Heaven Really IS For Real

Neal Pollard
While so many in religion and even the media latch onto sensational tales of traveling to the “other side” and coming back with stories about heaven (they do not ordinarily wind up going the other direction), these individuals often claim (necessarily without proof) to have seen or heard things from God, Christ, and other heavenly inhabitants. Sadly, much of what they claim to have experienced is at odds with or even contradicts what God communicated to us through His Word. Despite the high-drama and mystical tales, these undoubtedly sincere folks are right about something incredibly important. Heaven IS for real!

The Bible describes it (Rev. 21-22). Jesus is preparing it (John 14:1-4). The Father lives there (Mat. 5:16; etc.). Those who travel the “narrow road” (Mat. 7:13-14) and are faithful unto death (Rev. 2:10) are going to be allowed to dwell there forever (cf. Ps. 23:6; Mat. 25:46; 1 Th. 4:13ff). The Bible communicates that it is a place reserved for those who believe and obey the will of God (2 Th. 1:5ff). It is not for those who refuse to submit to His authority (Gal. 5:19-21; etc.).

Heaven is described as a place where treasure is (Luke 18:22). It is described as a place where our citizenship can be (Phi. 3:20). It is a place where our hope can be laid up (Col. 1:5). It is a place where our name can be reserved (Heb. 12:23). It is a place where we can have an inheritance (1 Pe. 1:4). It is a place described as that which will be new (Rev. 21:1).

I suppose it is human nature for us to want to have blanks filled in and details more fully supplied. That’s why claims of going to heaven and back have long captivated people. Perhaps it strikes the chords of our hearts and imagination more than words, howbeit Divine words, on a page. Yet, those words produce living hope to those who are staking everything on the truth of those words (1 Pe. 1:3). They are neither fairy tales nor wisps of wishes. God has given us enough to know, as we measure the claims alongside His providence and answered prayers, that His Word can be trusted. We don’t have the full picture yet, but we know it will be more glorious and joyous than we are able to understand in this body confined by time. Thank God that Heaven really is for real!