Is There a Need for Authority?

[This article was written by Matt Nevins.]

Authority is a term used to express the idea of having the right to practice something. The question: “What gives us the right?” is a question that can be asked in any area of life. In the realm of religion, this question ought to be asked far more frequently. Some may not see the need or the importance of having the right or authority. Everyone needs to understand the gravity of the matter. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8 Paul gives us the picture of Christ taking “vengeance” in “flaming fire” to those who do not obey His gospel. For this cause we need to test the things we do to verify all is done with the Lord’s authority (Colossians 3:17). Without having His authority, we can have no hope to be dressed in white robes in eternity.
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Great Plainness of Speech

2 Corinthians 3:12

Seeing then that we have such hope, we use great plainness of speech” (2 Corinthians 3:12, KJV).

Paul told the Corinthians that he deliberately made his words and his message clear and understandable in his work as a minister of the new covenant (2 Corinthians 3:6). The new covenant Paul referred to is the gospel. He used “great plainness” as he preached. Why use such plainness? It is because of the hope we have under the new covenant. Those who obey the gospel have the hope of heaven because of Christ’s atoning sacrifice. But why is “great plainness” necessary in preaching the gospel? Let us notice a few reasons.
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Just a Reminder

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

Reminders help us call to remembrance things that are important. At work we may leave notes to remind us to complete a task. We leave a reminder to make sure the task is completed and not forgotten. Therefore we should be able to see the usefulness to be reminded of spiritual tasks that need to be completed. The book of 2 Peter is a book of reminders for Christians (2 Pet. 1:12-15). The apostle reminds Christians of some things that need to be completed before the tasks are forgotten.

Make your election sure

Peter opens the book in verse 3 reminding the readers how God “has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness.” God has completed what is required of Him for salvation, and the challenge is extended to each individual to complete the task. 1 Peter 3:21 shows the necessity of baptism and how it is our answer to God for salvation. We can choose to be disobedient after our initial obedience. Therefore just because we were once obedient to the standard of doctrine given by Christ (Rom. 6:17) does not mean we are guaranteed the inheritance.

Peter reminded the brethren that if they do not continue to grow, and add to their faith, they have forgotten of their cleansing (2 Pet. 1:9). We further learn that it is better not to have known the truth than to depart from the doctrine we once obeyed (2 Pet. 2:21). Since it is possible to depart from the truth, we need to make our election sure (2 Pet. 1:10). Our souls depend on the choices we make. All other things will fail and are empty, but serving God and being righteous is enduring and fulfilling (Eccl. 12:13-14). With such an important task before us, let us take advantage of every reminder we have.

Give attention to the Gospel

It is evident that people in the first century are not any different from people in the twenty-first century. People of either generation like to hear what sounds good, and is presented smoothly. In 2 Peter, Peter warns of the presence of false teachers and their “cleverly devised myths” (2 Pet. 1:16-21). Peter calls to attention the manner in which the gospel was presented. The emphasis was always upon the gospel, not the speaker or the eloquence of the speech.

The “sure, prophetic word” was taught as having been from God, not the will of man (2 Pet. 1:19-21). Since the gospel of Christ is of God, therefore it is in our best interest to give our attention to it (2 Pet. 1: 19). The gospel is a source of light (2 Pet. 1:19), life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3), salvation (2 Pet. 1:4), and how to overcome temptation (2 Pet. 1:8-11). This is the gospel that was taught from credible witnesses (2 Pet. 1:16-18, Acts 1:8). Peter reminds us to pay attention to God’s word.

Remain faithful to the Lord

As the Christian gives attention to the gospel of Christ, it will become evident that there are some who do not abide in sound doctrine. This is no new thing. Just as Satan taught falsely concerning God’s word in Genesis 3, Peter reminds us that there are teachers who teach falsely concerning God’s word today (2 Pet. 2:1). Therefore the Christian needs to be reminded to be on guard because the false doctrine being taught can lead some away from the truth (2 Pet. 2:2). In the face of such opposition, our goal and task is to remain faithful.

Departing from God to go back to a life of sin is horrible. When God’s people choose to depart, Peter notes that it would have been better if they had never known the truth in the first place (2 Pet. 2:21). To show the sad and disgusting nature of falling away, Peter compares it to a pig who has been washed going back into the mud, and a dog going back to its vomit (2 Pet. 2:22). Being obedient to the gospel allows sinners to be freed from sin (Rom. 6). Because of that decision to serve God, we do not need to continue in sin (Rom. 6:1). To go back into sin is to become entangled in the snare that had originally trapped us (2 Pet. 2:19). It is foolishness to leave what is right to go after what is wrong!

A means of motivation is the reminder of the punishment that awaits the wicked. Peter gives examples showing that God has punished evil in the past and will do so on the final day. The examples Peter chooses to list includes: angels that were cast into hell, the ancient world in the days of Noah and the flood, and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (2 Pet. 2:4-10). This serves as proof that God is able to punish the wicked. Today we see people who will blatantly deny the existence of God, blaspheme His name, twist His words, and desire to justify lives of sin. People who would do such things will share in the same punishment, an eternity in hell (2 Pet. 2:10-14). The unfaithful will be punished, therefore remember to remain faithful.

Continue to wait

Judgment is coming soon, but no one knows when, it will come like a thief in the night (2 Pet. 3:10). For this reason Peter is compelled to remind brethren to make sure that each saint is living holy and spotless before the Lord (2 Pet. 3:11, 14). Although we cannot be sure when judgment will come, we can be sure that it will occur (2 Pet. 3:9). Time will end when God deems it as the proper time.

Time has an effect on us, but time has no effect on God. Peter makes the observation that “one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” to the Lord (2 Pet. 3:8). God remains constant and His nature does not change with time (Heb. 13:8). Since we are subject to the effects of time, we need to become more diligent and patient with each passing moment. James makes the comment on the brevity of our lives by comparing mortal life to that of a vapor (Jms. 4:14). We are here for a season, or a certain amount of time, and then we die.

It is evident that some brethren became discouraged in waiting for the Lord’s return. The Christians were anticipating the return of Christ to be taken to the eternal abode in heaven (1 Thess. 5:2-6). Some were teaching that the resurrection already occurred which resulted in some being led away by the deception (2 Tim. 2:17-18). This causes the need for a reminder of the truth. Peter admonished and exhorted the brethren to remain patient and not become discouraged (2 Pet. 3:12). God promised in the Old Testament of a Savior who would die for the transgressions of the world (Isa. 53) and kept the promise, which was fulfilled in Christ (Eph. 3:11). God has always kept His promises; therefore He will be faithful and keep this promise in His own time (2 Pet. 3:8-10).

While some may say He will not since He has not yet done so, do not realize the nature of God’s patience. His desire is for all to come to repentance and be obedient to His will (Mt. 11:28-30, 2 Pet. 3:9). Therefore how do we want to be found when God’s promise of judgment is fulfilled? If we want to be found spotless, then we need to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). As we continue to grow we’ll be reminded of these tasks we need to complete. The task is set before us; it is now our choice of whether we will complete the task of living godly. We have the tools, and we have the reminders, will you be successful?

A Nation Condemned: A Survey of the Book of Obadiah

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

It is important to consider from time to time the things found in the Old Testament. In Romans 15:4 Paul said, “For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” We can find hope and encouragement by looking at the examples in the Old Testament so we will not fall to the same temptations as those in times past (1 Cor. 10:6). By studying the book of Obadiah, we will be able to evaluate the attitude and treatment of others God desires.

As we open our Bibles to study the text in Obadiah, it is evident that this book is very short. I feel that there are those who will not take the time to study this book with much thought because of its concision. This is the wrong attitude to have towards God’s word. In the first verse of Obadiah we find the phrase “Thus says the Lord God.” We need to remember that this book is God’s inspired word just as much as any other book in the Bible. Therefore we need to look at the things revealed by God to have a better understanding of His will and His mind (1 Cor. 2:10-13). God has spoken, therefore we need to listen and make application!

Obadiah is the account of a vision that Obadiah had (vs. 1) concerning the nation of Edom. Remember that the people of Edom are the descendents of Esau (Gen. 36:6-8). In the first two verses of the book of Obadiah, we read how judgment had already been passed upon Edom. God said Edom would be made small among the nations, to the point where there would be no survivors (Obadiah 18). God shows His power, authority, and Majesty in the realm of mankind. Nebuchadnezzar learned this when he was humbled by God due to his pride in Daniel 4. Nebuchadnezzar, who wrote the declaration of Daniel 4, is warned and informed that God rules in the “realm of mankind” (Dan. 4:1, 25). God will pass judgment and give the power to whomever He desires. Edom was found wanting on God’s balance and was therefore punished by God.

Reasons for Destruction

Pride. One of the reasons for the destruction of Edom was the pride the nation bore. It is interesting to note that the land in which the Edomites dwelt contributed to their prideful attitude. Obadiah makes mention of this in Obadiah vs. 3-4:

“The arrogance of your heart has deceived you, You who live in the clefts of the rock, In the loftiness of your dwelling place, Who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the earth?’ Though you build high like the eagle, Though you set your nest among the stars, From there I will bring you down,” declares the Lord.

As Christians today, we need to constantly remember that every good thing is from God (James 1:17). We live in a country that is richly blessed. This is evident by our homes, our clothes, our libraries, and even our accustomed meals! Let us remember the example of the Edomites and how they allowed their surroundings to affect their attitudes.

The Edomites had allowed their pride to deceive them to the point where they thought that they were invincible (Obadiah 3). When a person acquires a pride like this, that person needs to watch out before he/she is destroyed! The Preacher said in Proverbs 16:18, “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before stumbling.” Those who have pride and believes that they are more than what they truly are will be punished (Prov. 16:5). The type of people that God desires is the meek and humble. God will draw near to those who have a humble spirit, but will reject those who are proud (James 4:6-10; 1 Pet. 5:5-7). God has the power to humble those “who walk in pride” (Dan. 4:37). It is better to be exalted by the Lord than to be exalted by self and be abased by God!

Edom’s Treatment to Israel. The treatment that one extends to another is viewed by God. We find in Matthew 5:44, Jesus instructed the disciples to love their enemies and pray for those that may persecute them. The individual ought to show kindness and love toward others. John encouraged the brethren to love one another just as God has loved us (1 John 4:11). God also sees the actions that a nation bestows upon other nations.

Obadiah records for us some of the things that the nation of Edom did to Israel. In verse 10 it is noted that Edom had shown violence toward Israel. Amos also notes this violence shown by Edom in Amos 1:11. God speaking through Amos said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘For three transgressions of Edom and for four I will not revoke its punishment, Because he pursued his brother with the sword, While he stifled his compassion; His anger also tore continually, And he maintained his fury forever.” Such actions ought not to have occurred against the nation of Israel. Because Edom acted against the Lord’s people, God would punish the nation.

Obadiah also records for us that Edom acted as the other nations when they cast lots for Jerusalem and carried off the wealth of Israel. Edom, who was considered as brethren of Israel (Amos 1:11), did not help defend Israel but aided their enemies to be victorious. Joel mentions God would judge all of the nations that bartered with the children of Israel (Joel 3:3). God said He would judge those nations and Edom was to be one of them!

God warned the Edomites not to: rejoice and gloat because of the punishment that was to be executed upon Judah, to enter the gates of God’s people to loot Judah’s wealth, or to cut down the fugitives and enslave the survivors in Obadiah verses 12-14. Judgment was coming upon Edom and the nation would reap what it had sown (Obadiah 15-18). The destruction of Edom would be so thorough that it would be as if the nation had never existed! We can turn on the televisions and see how much trouble is going on between many of the Middle Eastern nations, but you will never hear of any problems with the Edomites because there is no one left of Esau’s lineage. God said that Edom would be destroyed and it was so!

Applications for Us

There are applications Christians today can make. Christians need to remember to associate with the humble and to be humble as well (Romans 12:16; James 4:10). When we have this mind set of being humble, we will put others’ needs before our own. This mind set will aid us to do the things that God would have us to do. One day we will reap what we have sown, therefore let us do good to others (Gal. 6:7-10). These are lessons that we can find in the book of Obadiah. Let us take these things, which God has spoken and preserved for us, and make application to ourselves that we may grow to be stronger and more mature Christians in the Lord’s body!

There will be a day where each person will give an account of the things that he/she has done in this life (Romans 14:12). Edom did evil in the sight of the Lord and was punished; let their example warn us of the severity of God. There are individuals that will say that God loves us too much to send us to hell. Did God preserve Edom, the ancient world, the angels that sinned, Sodom and Gomorrah, or anyone else that disobeyed God? The answer is no! We can read of passages like 2 Peter 2:4-10 and see how God will bring judgment upon the unrighteous. God said that judgment is coming! Will we obey the words of God, or reject Him?

Baptism: A Basic Necessity

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

In life there are basic necessities in order to maintain life. Humans need food, water, clothing, and shelter-these are basic necessities. It is recognized that these are needs that are to be fulfilled, yet when it comes to spiritual necessities, people would rather be starving, thirsty, naked, and homeless rather than being obedient to God and be spiritually established. The text teaches that baptism is essential, thus being necessary, for the salvation of our souls. However, man will twist this simple truth to their own destruction and will lead many into error. What does the text teach concerning the necessity of baptism?

For the purpose of this study, we will not consider all the things man has said in the past. Rather, we will appeal directly to the text and make applications based upon the text, not upon any preconceptions or biases. In Acts 2:36 the apostles were speaking boldly teaching “this Jesus whom you have crucified, God has made him both Lord and Christ.” The pure reaction that is shown in the context is a reaction of a convicted group of people of their sin and they realize the truth. Therefore the question was raised, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37) What was the answer given to this group of people? The text continues in verse 38, of Acts 2, with Peter plainly stating, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The answer given is repent and be baptized. Note this was not presented as an option, with other avenues, but presented as necessary.

This is not the only place where baptism is spoken of as being required. Mark 16:16 is a plain statement: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe shall be condemned.” Who is the one that will be condemned? The text teaches the one that does not believe. Therefore, who is the one that will be saved according to the text? He who believes and is baptized is the one that will be saved. Our question is: Is baptism necessary for salvation? Here the text says yes. If this passage does not teach that baptism is necessary, then how should one need to change it to make Mark 16:16 say that baptism is necessary?

These passages show that baptism is necessary for salvation, but other things happen as well as a result of the salvation one obtains through baptism. We find that people are added to the Lord’s Church (Acts 2:47), one is put into Christ (Gal. 3:27), one becomes a child of God (Gal. 3:26), one is crucified, buried, and raised to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:1-4), spiritually circumcised (Col. 2:8-15), one is washed (1 Pet. 3:21, Acts 22:16), as well as one calls on the name of the Lord (Acts 22:16). These are all things that happen as a result of baptism being practiced. Since God is not a liar, and the Bible is the word of God, therefore this must be the truth of the matter. If baptism is not practiced then one can’t be a part of the Church, or be a child of God as a result of being in Christ, or remove the old man to start anew, or to be washed, or even call on the name of the Lord. Is there another way for these things to occur without baptism? The text does not show or teach there is another outlet.

If you want to be cleansed and be free again to serve God, how are you going to do so? The Bible teaches that baptism is the means for this transformation and rebirth (Jno. 3:5, Tit. 3:5). Why would one want to deny a simple and basic command and neglect a necessity for our spiritual lives?

Am I Responsible?

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

Growing up at home and going to school through the years, I have been taught that I am to be responsible for the things that I say and do. I have learned this lesson both in the environment of the home as well as in the school setting. What strikes me odd now is that several claim that we are not responsible for our sins! We can’t have it both ways. Either we are, or we are not responsible for our actions, whether actions of good works or of sin. The Bible teaches that I will give an account of all that I do (Rom 14:12), including both good and bad things.

In the Old Testament, we find that the person that sins is responsible for his own actions. Consider Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul that sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.” It is quite plainly said that the soul that sins shall die. Am I responsible for my actions? YES! We also find that the father isn’t responsible for the sin of the son, not the son responsible for the sin of the father. Am I responsible for my actions? YES! God has always held each person responsible for his/her own actions. God’s word has not changed concerning this even into the New Testament.

All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God. This statement was made by Paul, an inspired apostle, in Rom. 3:23. This verse says that all have sinned. Each individual has sinned on his/her own will. Each person is responsible for his/her actions. As a result of each person sinning, all fall short of the glory of God. We become unworthy to dwell in the presence of God when we sin. We sever the relationship between us and God each time we sin. Any doctrine that teaches otherwise is absolutely false!

We also read each person will appear before the judgment seat of Christ (2 Cor. 5:10). What will we be doing before Christ? We will be giving an account of all that we have done (Rom. 14:12). Would there be a point of being before a judgment seat if we are not responsible for our sins? NO! Our deeds will determine whether we will obtain eternal life with the righteous, or eternal punishment with the wicked (Mt. 25:46). I must realize this and live according to what God has said!

Each man sins when he is drawn away and enticed by his own desires which conceives sin and brings forth death when it is fully grown (Jms. 1:14-15). Our sin puts us in darkness, separated from God (Eph. 5:7-8, 1 Jno. 1:5-10). Therefore, we are in need of reconciliation to restore and mend the relationship between us and God. We can receive this reconciliation through Christ Jesus (Rom. 5:9-11). We must realize that salvation is a gift that we do not deserve and there is nothing we can do to make ourselves worthy. The offering of salvation to man is God’s demonstration of His grace (Eph. 2:4-5, Tit. 3:4-7). We are saved by His grace and mercy, though not because of an act that we have done to make us worthy, it is based upon God’s loving kindness.

I must realize that I am responsible for my actions and you are responsible for your actions! Remember that it is the soul that sins is the soul that will die (Ez. 18:20). I am not responsible for the actions of my parents, or for anyone else-only my own. Let us then live pleasing to God so that we may be able to receive the inheritance that is promised.

They Must Be Silenced

[Article written by Matt Nevins. Originally published in his email newsletter “The Lamp.”]

Unity is precious in the sight of the Lord. John 17, commonly referred to as the Lord’s prayer, reflects the things that Christ desired for His disciples. John 17:21 states, “…that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me.” The idea being presented is the desire for the Lord’s body to be united as one. This would be one of the defining attributes of the Lord’s special people. Paul penned in 1 Corinthians 1:10 for the Corinthian brethren to be of the same mind and judgment. The unity was to be preserved in the Lord’s body in the face of brethren wanting divisions. In order to maintain the unity of the body of Christ, there are times when it is absolutely necessary to silence those who teach error concerning the gospel of Christ. They must be silenced because false doctrine spreads as cancer in the human body!

There are brethren that will not defend the truth against error until there is a large problem in the local congregation. I do see the wisdom in not constantly hammering an error that is not a problem at the immediate present, but can we not give warnings? Paul warned brethren concerning problems before the problems arose. This could prevent the issue from becoming a large problem for the congregation. Paul warned brethren concerning bad company (1 Cor. 15:33), evildoers (Phil. 3:2), those who might teach another gospel (Gal. 1:9), the possibility of apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1). Paul gave other warnings as well for the purpose of edifying the brethren. Being prepared for what is out in the world will help aid the Christian to wage a good warfare and maintain the unity of the body.

I am impressed when reading passages such as Galatians 2:5 where Paul and other faithful preachers did not yield or submit to those who were teaching error. When error is present, don’t leave it unattended, but extinguish the flame of error! When a flame goes unattended, the whole structure can burst into flame and be destroyed. We need to be watchful and ever prayerful as instructed by Paul in Ephesians 6. Are we going to be asleep at our post at this time in the war against the evil hosts?

In Titus 1, the Holy Spirit was compelled to have this passage preserved for us to consider and make applications. In this text, Paul tells Titus that there are those who are deceivers and empty talkers who will teach what they ought not. Note that Paul says in verse 11 that those who were teaching error were to be silenced! Paul identified the group (the insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party) and also noted some of the things that were being circulated or taught (Jewish myths, commands of people who turn away from the truth) in verse 14. Paul identifies the party, the problem, and gives the cure for the problem in verse 11. They must be silenced!

Also note in Titus 1 that Titus is not the only party responsible for the rebuking of those who teach error. This is also a responsibility for the elders of each congregation (Titus 1:9). This goes to show the importance of teaching and defending the truth when multiple individuals are given the responsibility directly from the Scriptures! We find that Paul emphasizes the thought of being sound (Titus 1:9, 13, 2:1,8) whether in speech or doctrine. Anything less than sound is unacceptable in the Lord’s sight! For unity to be maintained, we need to all be of the same mind and strive to be sound, steadfast, immovable, a vigilant soldier.

Sadly, there are brethren that will plainly say that we cannot be that bold and protest against error like the apostles and the preachers of the first century because they were filled with the Holy Spirit and we are not. This line of logic is not valid. We have the direct command (Titus 2:15), approved apostolic examples (Acts 9:19-22, Acts 17, Gal. 2:11), and the necessary inference from Matthew 28:20 where Jesus instructed His apostles to teach the disciples to observe all that He had commanded the apostles. Would this not include rebuking false teachers as Jesus did from time to time (Mt. 15:1-9, Mt. 23)? As Christians, our goal is to be as much like Christ as we possibly can (1 Pet. 2:21). Paul said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). Beloved brethren, will we follow the pattern?

Though brethren say that men today cannot be bold like those in the first century, we find the first century brethren were able to have the mind of Christ. The first century displayed this mind in their teaching and comparing spiritual things in spiritual terms (1 Cor. 2:16, 13). By studying the Scriptures we can also have the mind of Christ. If we can have the mind of Christ, can we therefore be spiritually minded? Absolutely! In fact, we find in Romans 8 that we must be spiritually minded because carnality is death (Rom. 8:6)! The men who were rebuking error were spiritually minded men, and we can have the same mindset since we too can have the same mind as they. Brothers and sisters, we can have the mind of Christ.

The Scriptures are inspired of God to fully equip the man of God for every good work. The brethren in the first century did not have the recorded Scriptures of the New Testament as we do today. The first century Christians were only able to prophesy in part (1 Cor. 13), but we have the Scriptures in its complete and perfect form. If we are capable to establish authority and follow the pattern in areas such as the plan of salvation, the acts of worship, and the work of the Church, then why can’t we use the same intelligence to learn how to preach according to the example and the pattern we find in the Scriptures?

We are not to be as children tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine, but a people that is united in Christ. To do so means we must sanctify the Lord, being ready to answer any question concerning the hope that is found in Christ. We noticed at the beginning of this study, Jesus wanted His people to be united in all things as the Godhead is united (John 17:21). When we are the strong Christians that Christ desires, we will be united together by the gospel of Christ to do the work that is set before us.