Biblical Authority

Hebrews 7:14- For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

Authority is a concept many do not completely understand. In the case of jobs, most employees know that they can do nothing without their boss’s approval. When we have positions of authority we want our orders to be carried out exactly as we directed. However, when it comes to the Bible, many do not see the necessity of following it as directed. They pick and choose what God would want them to do and leave out the points they do not like. This is not how things should be. God is not some lenient, weak being who lets anything go. He has a way He wants things to be done and is not happy when they are not followed. Even if we understand this, the question comes of how to establish authority. In this article we will briefly cover them.

  1. Express command: This is the one everyone understands. When God commands that something be done, it is that and nothing else. The Bible is full of instances where God commanded that something be done. However, even then men still did not follow the command. The most famous example is Adam and Eve in the garden. God told them not to eat of the tree and they failed. We see that God did not just let them off the hook because they were deceived but instead He punished them. Then there is Nadab and Abihu. The Lord had told them a specific fire they were to use and when they used something different, they were killed. Lastly, look at the young prophet. He was told not to eat or drink until he returned home. However, he did it anyway, believing that God had changed His mind. Did God go easy on him for it? No, a lion met him on the way and killed him. God takes His command’s seriously, no matter how “minor” the command may be.
  2. Apostolic example: Many will say the only thing we can bind is express command. However, let’s think of this in a secular sense for a minute. When we do not know how to do something, or not sure how those in authority want it done, how do we learn? We need someone to show us. God does the same. We as imperfect humans can get many things confused, even commands. To counter this, God has shown us many examples of how we are to behave and how to worship. We see the first century Christians meet on Sunday, partake of the Lord’s Supper on that day and have many examples of how we should behave. This is just as good as command.
  3. Necessary inference: The final way to determine authority is by necessary inference or conclusion. God is not always specific with commands and even with the examples we are given. In these moments we have to think things through and reason what God has authorized. Some might see this and say there is no way to know exactly what God meant in some places but in each one of them God worded things in such a way we can only come to one conclusion. For example, we are told to meet. This means that we need a place to do so and a way to have it. We are told to sing. This authorizes books, a way to keep the tune and pitch pipes. These are just two examples but God has always made it easy for us.

These are the ways we determine authority. However, as is the case with all things Biblical, men do not always listen. Many believe that if God did not forbid something, then it is okay. As the passage above states, if God did not condone an act, we have no right to ourselves. God’s authority is what matters and nothing else.

Oh To Be A Teacher

James 3:1- Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

Becoming a teacher of God’s word is a wonderful ambition. God desires that all Christians know and understand His word so well that in every moment they are ready to teach. It is a good work with great rewards at the end. However, it is one that comes with some very serious responsibilities.

As James warns in the third chapter of his book, we will be judged with greater strictness. This is a two-fold warning. First off, the world will judge us more harshly. We will live in a fish bowl and all our actions will be nick-picked and monitored night and day. As people who proclaim God’s word, we are doubly expected to live it ourselves. If we fail in this regard, our opponents will quickly snatch this up and we will lose our influence and our ability to reach souls will be lost.

Second, I believe God Himself will expect more from us. While the standard by which we are judged does not change, the fact that we are taking other people’s souls into our hands. Teachers are responsible for how a person perceives and understands God. If we fail, especially when we do it knowingly, God will hold us responsible for the loss of that soul.

James 3 brings out these two warnings, but there is one more that every prospecting teacher needs to be aware of. As mentioned above we are in the spotlight much more often then other Christians. We are often the ones who make a vocal stand against sin and those who practice it. When the world sees this, they will retaliate, often in a harsh and harmful way. In these moments, we may be alone in a physical sense. Men will not always be by our side and we have to face the dangers of the world alone. If we cannot handle such a scenario, we have no business being a Christian, let alone a teacher of God’s word.

These are the top three warnings every man of God needs to take into consideration when thinking about teaching. We can be a great influence for the gospel or we can wind up hindering its work. If we cannot live the life of a Christian, we have no business being a teacher and if we are like the stony ground and buckle under persecution it is not the life for us. However, if despite this we still desire to be teachers then by all means go for it, the Lord needs you. As a final word of encouragement, remember that God will be with you, wherever you go!

The Sin of Partiality

Racism has been a popular topic in our media over the last few years. Whether or not you believe it is as big an issue as some claim makes no difference, but it is a part of a much bigger problem that has plagued mankind since time began. Partiality, or showing one type of person favor over another, cannot be a part of the Christian’s life. It takes many forms; racism, favor toward the rich, praising the athletic over the scholastic and so on and so forth but regardless it is still a sin. Those who are caught in it will often try to justify their actions, often using stereotypes or the actions of only one person to say that group deserves it. The Christian on the other hand should treat all types of people the same, with love and respect. This is not to say that we accept any sins that they commit but we do our best to see them as God sees them, as individuals that need to be saved and we must therefore want to. Let us look more deeply as to why partiality is such a bad thing.

  1. It is not how God feels: If there is one thing that makes God the perfect judge is that He has no since of partiality. When it came to punishment in the Old Testament, even those close to Him did not escape His wrath. Look at Moses when he smote the rock instead of speaking to it (Numbers 20:8-12). Despite his being able to speak with God face to face, this did not allow him exemption from punishment. David was the same way. He was known as a man after God’s heart but after his sin with Bathsheba he too was punished. God does not allow sin at all. Then we look at passages like Colossians 3:11. In the kingdom of God, our race and our wealth does not distinguish us in God’s sight. We all can achieve heaven and will face the same judgment.
  2. It will hinder us in our work for Christ: Imagine back to the time before any of us were Christians. Now think if no one taught you the gospel because of your background. Just because you were white, grew up a Catholic or maybe grew up poor, no one thought you worthy for the kingdom of God. Even if they did teach it would only be because God told them to. Would you be very receptive of the gospel then?
  3. It makes us sinners: In James 2, the writer goes into great detail about this sin. He says that even if we keep everything else but stumble in this point, we violate the law. Granted, he makes a blanket statement and covers all sin but this would definitely fit as well.
  4. It causes us to feel no love: Many people who feel partial toward others still view themselves as loving. Let us think about this for just a moment. We are told to love our neighbors as ourselves and this includes all men. What does love entail? It means we look past the outward appearance, past the background to who the person actually is. Even if that person is a horrible individual we are still to love them (Luke 6:35). Love also means doing what is best for them, even if it personally costs us and they are ungrateful. After hearing this description, how does this fit with partiality? The truth is, it does not. We cannot be loving and partial at the same time.

Partiality is a awful thing. We must remember that God made every single person who walks on this earth, the bad and the good. Let us also not forget that Jesus died for every one of them, bad and good. If everyone is worth Jesus’s death in the eyes of God, then they should be worth our love and attention as well.

Follow the Word

James 1:22-
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.

Belief is a necessary aspect of being a Christian. We must have faith that Jesus came to this earth, was God in the flesh, lived the life of man, died for our sins and rose again to live forever more. Without this it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). All throughout the world there are those who believe all of these facts. Most of them even go so far as to say they love Jesus. However, for the majority of them this is where it stops. They here His words, believe that they are from Him but do nothing to change their lives. It takes much more than that.

If we truly love Him we will do as He says (John 14:15). As James puts it in the second chapter of his book, faith if it does not have works is dead. If we do nothing to change our lives and mold it according to His words we will stay in our sins. Obedience is expected of everyone and especially of those who say they are God’s followers. However, even after reading passages like James 2 and John 14 many in the world will ignore commandments that God has given. Yet, they still believe themselves to be saved.

Jesus says in Matthew 7:21-23 that not everyone who believes themselves to be saved will be. Those mentioned here are those who did many works in His name but yet still did no make it. How can this be? The simple truth is that they in reality did not do as God directed. Submitting to His authority is vital if heaven is to be our home. In 2 Thessalonians 1:8 we are told that those who do not obey Christ will be punished for their actions, even those who believe themselves to be in the right.

Well, how can we know what we are suppose to do? It is simple really. We must “look in to the perfect law of liberty” and put into practice what we find there. It really is that simple. However, so many today read and hear the word but see no need to change any aspect of themselves. Let none of us fall into this trap and do whatever we can to serve the God of heaven as He would direct us.

The Reason for Giving

2 Corinthians 9:7

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

Money is a useful thing. Without it we would have a harder time surviving in this world. We would have to hunt for our food and drink, build our own shelters and all of the pleasures we enjoy in this life would be gone. Needless to say we enjoy our money. However, how many of us realize it is a gift from God? In 1 Timothy 6:17, Paul tells Timothy that God gives us all things to enjoy. This would include our money. So many people in the world, Christians included, view everything in their possession to be theirs. They worked for it and earned it so therefore it belongs to them. We forget that God created literally everything and since that is true then all things belong to Him. What we have was given to us by God to look after and use for a specific purpose. We are nothing but stewards and what we have we need to use as God, the true owner, directs.

This is no truer than with money. There are so many ways that we can misuse wealth and our pursuit of it can cause us to lose sight of the true goal. God, in all His wisdom knew we would struggle with the temptations money brings and gave us guide lines in how to use it. One of the first uses that comes to mind is of course giving to the poor and many Christians emphasize this use. However, one that we often over look and are reluctant to do is giving back to the Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 16 as well as 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul deals with this topic. God has prospered us so we can survive in this world and the church has its own needs that have to be met somehow. We as the members of the church should be willing to give of ourselves so that the work we have dedicated ourselves to can prosper. However, many just see giving as something we do on Sunday and do not know the reasons why we give. In this article we will address a few of the reasons why we do.

  1. We give so the work of God may continue: As has already been stated, the church while on earth has a work that needs doing. As with everything else here, it requires money to do it. Without money we could not provide study material as easily, be able to fund preaching trips and it would be harder to find a place to meet. Also, let us not forget that preachers need to make a living somehow and their funds come also from the church treasury (1 Corinthians 9:1-14). Without funds being offered, it would at the very least be harder for the church to function the way it should.
  2. We give so needy saints may be cared for: Many want to see the church’s treasury as a means to help all the needy regardless if they are Christians or not. While this is indeed a good work that many Christians, the author included, could improve on, it is not a proper use of the Lord’s treasury. The church is not here to provide for the physical needs of the world but the spiritual. However, this does not mean that the church’s funds do not help those in need but those individuals are Christians. In every example we see in scripture (Acts 4:32-37; 6:1-7; 1 Corinthians 16:1-4; 2 Corinthians 8, 9; 1 Timothy 5:3-16) the money was sent to needy saints and in the passage in 1 Timothy 5, we see some qualifications to receive the money. The Lord’s money is not to be handed out to whoever comes and asks for it.
  3. We give to show our devotion: God loves a cheerful giver and what better person to give our money to than Him. As God gives us all things, He also wants us to give to Him. If we hoard our money and only give a bare minimum back to God, what does that show about ourselves. It reveals that we love our money more than we love God. When we really think about it, we are stealing from God, keeping back from Him what He truly deserves. It is true that God does not give us an exact amount to give but we need to examine ourselves and see if what we are giving is truly the best we can do.

Giving is indeed a commandment from God. He expects it from us and we as Christians should not only be willing to but want to. We said earlier that God does not give a particular amount we need to give but if we hold back when we could give more, what is our motivation in doing so? This does not mean that we have to give half our paycheck every week and in fact we do need to be careful that our motivation to give much is not to be seen by men, but we still need to ask ourselves if we could be giving more. Whatever the case, let us never be reluctant to give anything to God, great or small.

Keep Your Priorities Straight

Luke 12:20- But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’

We all like riches. It would not be a stretch I think to say that some love them. People all over the world seek to attain wealth for a number of reasons. The two that first come to mind are the possessions we can build up and security for our future. Did you notice something about these two perks? They are selfish. Most who attain wealth, even if they did not start out that way, wind up becoming very self centered. Not only that, but we forget one very important thing, our need for God.

Riches, though not wrong in and of themselves, can be a dangerous possession for the Christian. Jesus said in Mark 10:25 that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter heaven”. Why is that? It is because riches can lead us to do terrible things. In 1 Timothy 6:10, Paul warns Timothy that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.” If a person loves money, he will do whatever he can to get it. Look at Achan in Joshua 7. Due to his love of money he stole what rightly belonged to God, causing all Israel to suffer as a result. It led to his own death as well as his family’s. Let us also not forget Judas. He desired money so much he not only stole from the money bag (John 12:6), but he betrayed Jesus for just 30 pieces of silver. At the realization of the latter, it led him to kill himself. Money can lead us down a dark path we never wanted to go down in the first place.

As mentioned above, riches also cause us to forget God. Nebuchadnezzar is the first that comes to my mind here. In Daniel 4:28-33, the king of Babylon bragged about how he had achieved his great empire, insinuating that he had need no help in doing it. He had forgotten God. Of course God punished him for it and Nebuchadnezzar learned his place. We must remember that what we have is a gift from God (Ecclesiastes 2:4).

Many who are rich also reject God. Going back to Mark 10, the rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking eternal life. From his youth he had kept the law and was eager to know what else was needed. However, when Jesus told him to sell what he had and give to the poor he went away sorrowful. As far as we know, he never came back to the Lord but clung to his possessions. Many are that way today. Though they could be great help to the cause of Christ, the fear of either losing their possessions or the reluctance to stop their sinful practices to attain wealth keeps them back. Remember, God is more important than riches.

It is not just God that our money takes us from but also our friends. If we focus so much on work that we don’t have time for others, we lose all the friends who mean anything (Ecclesiastes 4:7, 8). Even if we have friends, the majority of them are “fair weather” friends. As long as we have money, they stay with us but once things get hard, they turn their backs on us. A true friend who loves us is more valuable than all the riches this world has to offer.

One final shortcoming of riches is their temporary nature. None of us are guaranteed to have our money and possessions the next day. Money shows no loyalty and goes from one person to the next and there are those that forcefully take it from us. We need to remember the eternal nature of God and that He is always near us. He never forsakes us even in our darkest hours and even delivers us from them. Why put our faith and give our love to something that feels nothing and cares for nothing when there is someone much more powerful that gives us everything, including wealth, and actually cares for us?

As Christians, we must keep our priorities in the proper place. Yes, money has its uses and it is not wrong to have it but in comparison to God and even the love of other people, money means nothing. It is temporary and fleeting. Let us all strive to put God first and give Him thanks for the blessings we do have.

An Unshakable Hope

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

There is only one thing that can get us through the difficult times. Something that people all throughout time have clung to and that kept them going. It is something that brings only happiness if it is met. Of course I mean hope. When we are torn down and emotionally beaten, hope can renew in us the will to go on. It reminds us that things can get better. With hope, we persevere through the hard times and do what we can to make our situations the way we want them.

For the Christian, this is doubly true. While here on this earth, the Christian suffers things of the flesh as well as the mind. During our whole sojourn we are surrounded by those who want to see us succumb to despair and fall from our faith. It is a bleak existence we live. However, hope is what gets us through it. In fact, while hope is something that all men everywhere feel, the Christian’s hope has certain qualities about it that make it so much better.

First off, we serve a God of hope (Romans 15:13). He does not leave his people on this earth to suffer needlessly but provides the hope to strengthen them. He makes promises that are so wondrous that it makes suffering worthwhile. Our treasures will not be destroyed (Matthew 6:20), we have been freed from sin (Romans 8:2), salvation is a free gift to all (Ephesians 2:8) and we could go on with the things God has promised. This is what Paul strove for and what allowed him to be joyous despite his sufferings.

This hope is not a false hope either. God has always kept His promises all throughout time. All three of the promises given to Abraham came to pass, the Israelites conquered the land, David became king and so on and so forth. If He was willing to keep these physical promises, how much more so would He keep the spiritual ones.

However, in order for the hope to be fulfilled, we must trust in what God has said. We cannot live a life that does not follow God’s commandments or is afraid to stand up for what is right. If that is our attitude, all of these things we hope for will not be ours. Remember Matthew 7:21-23. Not every person who believes themselves to be Christians will obtain heaven but only those who do the will of the Father. We must allow this hope to fuel us and keep us on the straight and narrow path, doing as God would have us to do.

The Unstoppable Man

Romans 8:31-
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

Fear is the worst emotion for a Christian to have. Because of fear, we either do those things we should not or fail to do what we must. A fearful man becomes angry, a fearful man kills needlessly, a fearful man runs from responsibility and is a reproach upon himself. However, many will overlook the sin of cowardice. We justify it within ourselves and often “coddle” others who struggle with it. What the Christian forgets in these instances is what God truly thinks of the coward. In Revelation 21:8, what is the very first sin mentioned in the list? It is cowardice. God has no use for a coward in His kingdom. Those who shirk from duty and hide from the world instead of standing for what is right will be cast into hell with the liars, murderers and sexually immoral.

This does not mean that fear does not have its proper place. There are things we should fear, such as sin and the spiritual harm of others. In fact, it is perfectly natural to have the fear of facing death, even if it is for God. However, it is when we allow that fear to control us that we fail to do what we must is when it becomes sinful. We must take courage and face whatever we fear with complete confidence in God. However, we do not do this without any assurance. God has given us many reasons to take courage and do the work He has called us to do.

  1. God is for us: If we stay true to God and fully submit ourselves to Him, He will stand with us. Our introductory passage in Romans reminds us that if God is for us, nothing can stand against us. The greatest proof of that is found in the book of Joshua. As the children of Israel conquered the land, they faced many people mightier than they. However, we see that they defeated everyone that they faced. The only time they lost was because they had sinned and God had left them. We can have this same confidence today. God is truly all powerful and the devices of man and Satan can do nothing to permanently harm the child of God.
  2. They can only kill the body: Jesus addressed this very thing during His ministry. In Matthew 10:28, he tells us to not fear the one who can kill the body but not the soul. What we must take from this is that even if death is our earthly reward for serving Christ, our soul will be taken care of. The Christians of the 1st century realized this. Stephan when he was stoned with his dying breath asked God to forgive his murderers (Acts 7:60). Paul at the end of his life faced death courageously (2 Timothy 4:6-8). A Christian has nothing to fear from death.
  3. The reward is great: In Matthew 5, Jesus again encourages His listeners by promising a reward to those who suffer. Again in 2 Timothy 4, Paul was looking to the reward that comes after death. Peter and James each made remarks in this regard as well (1 Peter 4:12-19; James 1:12). The Bible permeates with the promise of a reward for the faithful. However, the only way to achieve it is to live a life faithful to Him and to leave the physical world. We must remember that the reward is not physical but spiritual and worth more than anything this world has to offer.

So we see that the Christian has nothing to fear. For these three reasons alone we should stand firm in our faith. With God on our side we can do anything, as long as it is in accordance with His will. We are truly unstoppable and nothing but our own fear and selfishness can change that. Let all Christians who read this gain the strength and courage to do as God would have them to.