Does Persecution Cause the Church to Grow?

Persecution

Following the death of Stephen, a time of persecution began against the church in Jerusalem. The result of this was that the disciples were scattered and the gospel was preached and received in other places.

Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Some devout men buried Stephen, and made loud lamentation over him. But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house, and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison. Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word” (Acts 8:1-4).

The early church faced much persecution. It also experienced a lot of growth. We do not experience the same degree of persecution today (at least not in this country). We also do not see the same rate of growth (generally speaking).

Because of this, some have wondered if we might see more growth if we experienced persecution. If persecution and growth seem to go together, does that mean a lack of persecution will result in a lack of growth? It is a good topic to consider. So let us examine the question: Does persecution cause the church to grow?Continue Reading

Faith Working through Love

Galatians 5:6

In his letter to the churches of Galatia, Paul addressed the problem of Jewish Christians wanting to return to or retain parts of the Law of Moses. If one attempted to do this and be “justified by law,” he would have “fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

There are not many Christians today who are trying to go back to the Law of Moses as there were in the first century (at least not as overtly as the early Jewish Christians were). Yet this was the first major controversy among the early disciples. Much of the focus in this controversy had to do with circumcision. Circumcision was the sign of God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:10-12) and was a commandment under the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:2-3); however, it was not required for Christians under the law of Christ (Acts 15:1-11; Galatians 2:3-5). So in Paul’s letter to the Galatians, he explained that there was something more important than whether or not one was circumcised.

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).

What mattered for these brethren was “faith working through love.” Let us briefly break down what Paul meant by this.Continue Reading

A Year of Jubilee

Year of Jubilee

The start of a new year is seen by many as a time to restart – enact changes, make resolutions, set goals, and so on. Obviously, these things can be done any time of the year; but the start of a calendar year makes a natural break that can be used to spur us on to start anew in some way.

In the Law of Moses, there were instructions about a time to “restart” or begin again. It was the year of jubilee that occurred every fifty years.

You are also to count off seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years, so that you have the time of the seven sabbaths of years, namely, forty-nine years. You shall then sound a ram’s horn abroad on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the day of atonement you shall sound a horn all through your land.

You shall thus consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim a release through the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you, and each of you shall return to his own property, and each of you shall return to his family. You shall have the fiftieth year as a jubilee; you shall not sow, nor reap its aftergrowth, nor gather in from its untrimmed vines. For it is a jubilee; it shall be holy to you. You shall eat its crops out of the field” (Leviticus 25:8-12).

As we begin a new year, there are several lessons that are good for us to learn from this year of jubilee.Continue Reading

Top 5 Articles on Plain Bible Teaching in 2019

Top 5 Articles of 2019

It’s that time of year again – time to take a moment and look back and see what happened throughout 2019. On Plain Bible Teaching, that means looking back and seeing what were the most-read articles on the site for this year. I’m always interested to see what makes the list. What I thought were the “best” articles are not always the ones that you, the reader, found most interesting or helpful. So here are the “top 5” posts based on the number of page views.Continue Reading

The Church as a Self-Edifying Body

Legos

When we read through the New Testament, we find the church being described in several different ways. In the passage below, the church is depicted as a self-edifying body.

And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.

As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:11-16).

In these verses, Paul indicated that when the church functions according to God’s design, it causes itself to grow and be built up. What does this mean? How did God design the church to do this? How are we to act in order to help accomplish this?

Let us consider these questions as we learn how the church is a self-edifying body.Continue Reading

Where Do Sermon Ideas Come From?

Man studying the Bible

There are times when the most challenging part of preaching is deciding what to preach. Just as writers sometimes suffer from “writer’s block” and have difficulty creating content, preachers can also suffer from what we could call “preacher’s block.”

One who preaches full-time in a local congregation may preach up to 100 sermons in a year. That means writing two sermons every week. Often he will also have to decide what to preach each time. One who preaches less frequently can still experience the same challenge because he often has full-time secular work and other responsibilities in addition to the sermons he prepares from time to time.

It is a great privilege and blessing to have opportunities to preach the word before an audience. Yet it can also be frustrating when it seems difficult to decide what passage or topic to discuss before the congregation. It is not that the Bible contains a shortage of important messages, but it is sometimes hard to decide what would be best to preach during a particular sermon. So where can we find sermon ideas when we are having difficulty deciding what to preach?Continue Reading

Walter Scott: “A Church That Is All Mouth”

Walter Scott: "A Church That Is All Mouth"

George Darsie (1846-1904) from Frankfort, Kentucky wrote a sermon entitled, To Every Man His Work, which was published in a book edited by J. A. Lord – On the Lord’s Day: A Manual for the Regular Observances of the New Testament Ordinances. In the sermon, Darsie illustrated the importance of Christians fulfilling various roles in the work of the church by telling of a visit by Walter Scott (1796-1861) to the Brush Run Church.

“Walter Scott, an associate of Alexander Campbell in the early days of our religious movement, one time went from his home in Pittsburg over to Washington County to visit and spend a Sunday with Campbell at the Brush Run Church. He found the church service quite lengthy, as every male member of the church was called on for a religious address. After long hours had passed and all had spoken, Scott was asked to make the closing address. He did so. But whether he was hungry for his dinner or worn out by the length of the service, his remarks, though quite pointed, were rather testy.

“‘Brethren,’ he said, ‘my Bible tells me that the church is like a human body, of which one member is a foot, another a hand, another an eye, and still another a mouth. That, in fact, it has, or should have, as great variety in its membership as the human body has. But I regret to see that you have reversed all this. You have here a church with but a single member. You have, in fact, a church that is all mouth!’” (On the Lord’s Day, p. 95)

Continue Reading