VIEWPOINTS

SEEING SOULS

SEEING SOULS
by Troy Spradlin
   I believe most Christians understand what evangelism is. We wouldn’t be Christians if someone hadn’t evangelized us. I also believe most Christians understand that evangelism is a duty commanded by our Lord Jesus that must be executed by each of His disciples (Matthew 28:19,20). We understand that it is communicating the Gospel message, that Good News about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). We understand that it is about saving one from the condemnation of sin, to the glory of eternal life (Matthew 25:46; Romans 6:23). However, do we all truly understand that the Gospel is for every single person? Do we honestly want to see everyone saved? I’m sure your answer is, “Yes!” at this moment, especially if you are genuinely concerned about evangelizing the lost.
   Nevertheless, even the most dedicated evangelist can lose sight of the objective, if they aren’t careful. Think about this, when someone on the road cuts you off, rather abruptly and rudely in traffic, do you suddenly think to yourself, “I need to evangelize that poor soul!” Or, do you get upset and focus on their worldly actions, instead of their spiritual needs? Most of us will get upset. What about your next-door neighbors? How many times have you waved, smiled, or even greeted them over the years, but have never invited them to church? Aren’t you concerned about their soul just as much as any other? How about the girl at the checkout counter you see every other day? The boy who changes your oil at the garage? The mailman? Your hairdresser? Your waitress? Your _______ … this list is almost endless. Are we truly concerned about all those people’s souls? If so, then why aren’t we talking to them about Jesus?
   The trouble with fulfilling the Great Commission is this, although it is a Christian’s duty, many often feel it is only that, a duty and nothing more. We don’t seem to sense the urgency to rescue those around us. We don’t genuinely see their souls in danger. Most often, it’s because we are not be thinking about their souls! Brethren, we need to train ourselves to always see souls! Paul wrote that “There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil,” (Romans 2:9) Every soul. This implies that we must warn people about that danger! Paul goes on to say, “but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.” (Romans 2:10-11). Everyone means every single soul. It doesn’t matter what their socio-economic status is, what their religious background is, or what their political affiliation is, there is no picking and choosing, no bias is to be considered. We must simply see everyone’s soul as one that is in need of being saved!
   I need to improve this area of my life. I’m going to start focusing more on seeing souls everywhere. I’m going to make an effort to start a religious conversation with everyone I meet, somehow, someway. That’s what Jesus expects of me and I’m running out of time. How about you? Will you start seeing souls? – TS


WHY ARE SOME VERSES MISSING?

WHY ARE SOME VERSES MISSING?
By Troy Spradlin
Pick up your Bible and turn to Acts 8:37. Is it missing? In most modern Bible versions, it is not there. Sometimes, depending on the version you have, even the verse number is skipped over. Now look at Matthew 17:21, 18:11; and Mark 7:16. Were they missing, also? There are many others we could list here which are like these, often having a footnote that reads, “The oldest manuscripts do not contain this verse.” Or, perhaps, “the earliest and better manuscripts exclude this verse.” Hopefully, your Bible has these footnotes (some don’t)! Have you ever wondered, “Why?” Why do some versions of the Bible leave out some verses while others do not? While the full answer is rather long and complicated, let’s see if we can answer that question in a more simplified manner.
 
The first thing we need to acknowledge is that there exists, essentially, two major collections of ancient Greek manuscripts from which all scholars have used to translate every version of the Bible. The first collection (also called “text-types,” “text witnesses,” or “text families”), was discovered primarily around Antioch of Syria, while another body of manuscripts was discovered hundreds of years later around Alexandria in Egypt. A manuscript, from the Latin words manu (hand) and scriptum (written), is any ancient book, codex, scroll, or fragment, that contains written portions of the Bible on it. There are more than 5,700 Greek manuscripts that have been discovered and cataloged, each being a copy of its original exemplar. No originals have ever been found.
 
The second point to recognize is that all New Testament translations produced from the Reformation Period until recently were made from the Antioch text family, which is also commonly referred to as the “Textus Receptus” (Latin for “Received Text”), or the Byzantine text family. This collection makes up about 95% of all the manuscripts ever discovered. The King James Version (KJV), ASV, and NKJV were all translated from the Antioch/Byzantine collection. In 1880, however, the Alexandrian manuscript collection began taking prominence among scholars and translators. Since the manuscripts in the Alexandria text group are older (circa 100 to 200 AD), than the Antioch text group (circa 300 to 1200 AD), it is commonly believed to be more superior, because “it is closer in time to the originals.” Today, all modern versions of the Bible are exclusively translated from the Alexandrian text. These include the NIV, ESV, ISV, RSV, CEV, ERV, NLT* and many more. If you have one of these, the verses missing in your Bible are not there because the Alexandrian manuscript collection does not contain those verses. That is why they are left out. Earlier Bibles translated from, or with, the Antioch collection do include those verses. (The NASB uses brackets, insead of footnotes, to identify the questionable vers).
 
However, an older text doesn’t necessarily mean it is more correct, or superior! Considering that all the original letters and first copies originated in and around the region of Antioch and then later would have been carried to Alexandria, means that location of discovery should have a bearing on a manuscript’s veracity. None of the Bible’s inspired writers were based in Egypt! There are thousands more copies in the Antioch group than in the Alexandrian because the majority of the early churches were founded in the region of Antioch. The fact is, no one knows exactly which one is perfectly correct. It is a mistake and grossly irresponsible for translators to think they should rely solely on one manuscript family, while excluding the other. If a verse exists in a verified manuscript (and all those missing verses have many manuscripts to support them) then, the translators should just include it in every version! Something to think about!
 
*(If you do an Internet search of these letters, followed by the word “Bible,” it will explain which version it is.)


THE MARKS OF JESUS

THE MARKS OF JESUS
by Troy Spradlin
    Perhaps, you have heard the word “stigma” used in various phrases, such as, “Alcoholism carries a certain social stigmawith it.” Or, “There is no longer the same stigmaattached to being divorced.” We use the word to mean that there is a negative mark, or a sense of disgrace and shame to be associated with the object to which we are referring. But, did you know that the word is also used in a positive sense? The word “stigma” is actually a Greek word found in the New Testament. Depending on the translation you use, it is sometimes translated as “scars, marks, brand, or brand-mark.” Paul used this word to describe a certain characteristic about himself, “for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus,” (Galatians 6:17 – NKJV). Or, consider this rendering of the verse, “because I carry the scars of Jesus on my own body,” (ISV). What, exactly, is Paul saying here?
   In the context of the verse, Paul is denouncing those false teachers that were claiming one must first become a Jew in order to become a Christian. Their reasoning was this, since Jesus was a Jew, who was circumcised under the law, and that Christianity came to the Jews first through the Jews, then everyone who desires to be a Christian must first become a Jew. It was a big issue for those legalistic Judaizers of Paul’s time. But, their true motives were not pure. Paul is writing to help Christians understand that what really matters is not what we outwardly do in keeping the law, such as those religious ceremonies, but what God does within us – making us a new creation (Acts 2:47; Romans 6:1-6). Those bodily marks, or scars do not make you a Christian. What makes you a child of God is what happens within your heart.
   Most all of us have scars of some type on our bodies. We get them from accidents, surgeries, and even purposefully. We also get emotional scars when we experience heartache, trauma, or something similar. Scars serve as a reminder of a specific event within our personal history. Paul certainly had his share of bruises, injuries, and scars from all of his experiences and encounters (2 Corinthians 1:23-28). Jesus, Himself, bears the scars of His crucifixion in His hands, feet, and side (John 20:24-28). However, the “marks (scars) of the Lord Jesus” that Paul is referring to were not those scars similar to Jesus’ wounds, or even his own. Instead, these were marks that identified Paul as a follower of Jesus. In Paul’s time, slaves were branded upon their skin with the name of their master. The brand was a mark that showed ownership. In this passage, Paul is saying that the scars he received from the things he had suffered for Christ is a brand that identifies Jesus as his owner. Paul’s scars told a story, a story of an obedient servant. They were his stigma. In this case, it was more of a badge of honor, than a disgrace or shame.
   What about you? Do you bear the marks, the scars, of our Lord in your life? Do you have the stigma of being an obedient servant to Jesus Christ? I pray you do! TS


HISTORICALLY UNPRECEDENTED

HISTORICALLY UNPRECEDENTED
by Troy Spradlin
 
   Depending on which news outlet you tune into, there has been no shortage of positive and negative opinions espoused regarding the recent peace summit between President Trump and North Korea’s, Kim Jong Un. Whatever your stance may be, there has been one thing that all the news sources did agree upon, it was an historically unprecedented event. No one can argue that President Trump was able to do something that no other president before him was able to accomplish, whether it was a Republican or a Democrat. He managed to get a one-on-one meeting with the ruthless and reckless dictator of North Korea to at least sit down and discuss measures of peace. That is what makes the event truly historical and unprecedented. The outcome of the event could go on to save thousands, perhaps millions of lives, by avoiding a war.
   
   All of this reminded me about another historically unprecedented event that took place some 2000 years ago, with which the recent peace summit pales in comparison. Allow me to explain why. For thousands upon thousands of years before the major event I am referring to occurred, man had witnessed his fellow human being reach the end of their days and pass from this life, never to be seen or heard from again. Once a man died, that was it, there was no continuation of conversation, no more personal interaction, nor evidence of presence. He ceased to exist upon this earth. While painful and even dreadful at times, it was simply a fact of life. Until, “the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” (Galatians 4:4). His Son came to this earth and became a human being, (John 1:14). He lived and breathed in the same manner that all humans do. Yet, He had a very specific purpose and different ending.
 
   Jesus stated, “I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me,” (John 6:38). He went on to say, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly,” (John 10:10). But the most shocking and significant statement He made was this, “The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day,” (Luke 9:22). This is exactly what happened. Jesus was arrested, falsely accused and tried, then crucified to death upon a cruel cross. They took His lifeless body off of that cross and placed it in a tomb, just like they would for any man who had ever perished from such a fate. That typically, would be the end of the story. But then, an historically unprecedented event took place, Jesus arose from the dead!
 
   “He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once,” (1 Corinthians 15:5,6). No man had ever done that! No man will ever do that again! That’s what makes it unprecedented and historical. This is also why we call it the Gospel, which means “Good News!” The good news is, “by which also you are saved,” (1 Corinthians 15:2) This historically unprecedented event has gone on to save millions of lives and will continue to do so until the Lord comes again!


MISUNDERSTANDINGS

Misunderstanings
by Troy Spradlin

  People are often afraid of what they do not know or understand. They also frequently misunderstand that with which they are not familiar. This becomes especially apparent when listening to denominational preachers, or perusing some of their websites, which attempt to denounce the church of Christ. It usually doesn’t take long to identify blatant errors in their arguments and gross misrepresentations in their “facts.” They simply misunderstand what the church of Christ is about, where it came from, and what it practices. Personally, I find it rather humorous and ironic that a supposed “Bible scholar” of a denomination would ever attempt to fault a church that so openly states it bases everything it stands for on book, chapter, and verse of the Bible. One would think that those supposed scholars would have an appreciation for such a Biblical approach. Yet, they don’t understand what they don’t know.
   Paul dealt with this same issue during his time, also. He contended with those who desired “to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm,” (1 Timothy 1:7). He encouraged the faithful to, “no longer walk as the rest of the Gentiles walk, in the futility of their mind, having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart,” (Ephesians 4:17-18). We can see from these passages, this isn’t a new problem!
  For example, one such website, “Church of Christ Exposed!” stated that our headquarters was based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The web page also cited, Mead’s Denominational Handbook, which claims that the Church of Christ began in 1832 (also known then as the Christian Church and Disciples of Christ). However, both claims are based on faulty premises. No church of Christ, that practices New Testament Christianity, claims to have an earthly headquarters, nor having begun in 1832. The fact is this, we are simply trying to follow the example of the first century Christians as described in the Bible, nothing more, nothing less. We are not a new church, we are a continuation and replica of the original church. The church of Christ, as seen in the New Testament, is composed of the saved, gathered into autonomous congregations that make up the “body of Christ,” with Jesus as the head (Colossians 2:18). The Bible teaches there is no headquarters, nor a supreme leader upon this earth. That’s what we practice! The church Jesus established 2000 years ago is called the “church of Christ” (Romans 16:16). We did not begin in 1832, we began around AD33.
   What’s not to understand? If you have all the blueprints and details for a house that was constructed some 2000 years ago, could you not build that same exact house, to the same exact specifications and size as the original house – anywhere, at anytime in history? Why, YES, you certainly could. That is what we strive to do within the church of Christ. Furthermore, if Ephesians 4:4 is correct in that “there is one body and one faith,” then the multitude of denominational churches, with all their different traditions and doctrines, cannot possibly be the right church. We shouldn’t be surprised they don’t understand. Jesus said, “The gate is narrow and difficult is the way that leads to life and there are few who find it,” (Matthew 7:13,14).


MAY WE USE INSTRUMENTS IN WORSHIP?

MAY WE USE INSTRUMENTS IN WORSHIP?

by Troy Spradlin

   Most people are surprised by the lack of a band, or musical instruments, when they come to visit the church of Christ. By some, we are known as “that church that doesn’t use the piano.” For others, we are known as the church that sings a’cappellahymns in worship. In almost every case, it becomes a controversial subject. But, why? Why should it be that way? If we truly love God and we call ourselves Christians, shouldn’t we worship Him in the same manner as those first Christians did in the Bible? There, we find our first century brethren singing in every case. Not one single instrument is ever mentioned in worship.

   “But what about the Old T estament? There were instruments used in the temple!” might be the reply. Indeed, there were, but these were not what God had ordained. They were introduced into worship by man, a man named David, to be precise (Read 2 Chronicles 7:6; 29:25-27). We are under the New Testament now. Our worship is different than temple worship and, again, no instruments are mentioned.

   Here’s a thought. If God doesn’t reside in temples made with hands, nor is He worshiped with men’s hands (Acts 17:24,25) then, why would God want to listen to something man created (like an instrument) instead of what He, God, has created – that being man’s voice? Consider that point when someone says, “But I liketo hear musical instrumentsin worship.” It’s not about what we may want, but it is about what God wants. – TS


2018 SUMMER SERIES

   We are really excited about our upcoming Summer Series, which starts next month! We have several new speakers lined up, as well as some familiar ones, to come speak to us on a topic that we believe is extremely relevant to the church today, “Standing in the Gap.” We think it will greatly benefit the church.
   The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and stand in the gap before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one” (22:30). He was saying that God could see there was a serious deficiency in the morality of His people; a fracture had developed between Him and His people. A solid wall was needed between that which was holy and that which was profane, but it was ruptured. God was looking for a man that would stand within that gap, to close the breach by faithfully teaching, reproving, admonishing, and instructing the people in His statutes and commandments. If He could find such a man, He wouldn’t destroy the people. But sadly, He was unable to find a single one! Oh, how we pray He may never look upon us in that way!
   Remember, Jesus warned the seven churches of Asia that this danger existed (Revelation 2,3). The apostles warned that the church could drift from the truth (2 Timothy 4:3). That is why we, personally, must be prepared to be the one who will stand in that gap, our families must be ready to stand in that gap, and our church leaders need to be ready to stand in that gap. We hope you will make plans to join us this summer as we study this important topic. We pray you will be spiritually enriched by the lessons. Above all, we pray that God will be glorified in the process!
 


IT’S A GREAT BIG WORLD OUT THERE!

IT’S A GREAT BIG WORLD OUT THERE!
By Troy Spradlin
   It’s graduation time! Congratulations to all of our High School and College graduates! You have earned the reward of having accomplished a great achievement in life and we pray that God gives you much success in your future. It’s a great big world out there and the possibilities are infinite. As you think about your future, may I suggest that you do it with prayer and Bible study? I think anyone who has previously been in your shoes would agree with that advice. You see, the “world may be your oyster” and you may be capable of doing anything your heart desires, … but that doesn’t always mean that you should. Just because you can, or are able do something does not mean that it is the right thing to do. Read Psalm 1 and perhaps, ponder the psalmist words in Psalm 119. Keep this in your heart: it is always right to do right, it is always wrong to do wrong. It is never right to do what is wrong, and it is never wrong to do what is right.
   If you are graduating from High School and going to college, just recognize that while college life may be exciting, it can also be very threatening to your spirituality. Your teachers, fellow classmates, or other associates may attack your faith – in many different ways. The principle of 1 Corinthians 15:33 will still be just as true there as it was while you were in High School. Your parents won’t be there to make sure you go to church, so you must do it on your own. Your new church family won’t know you very well at first, so it may feel rather awkward or uncomfortable at times. When any of those things happen, pray and study! Ask God to give you resolve and strength to keep your commitment to Him. Read Psalm 27 and Joshua 1:9. You will be answering for yourself, but you’re never alone, if you let God in.
   If you are graduating college and about to enter the secular job world, you need to recognize that while a new job may be exciting, it can also be very threatening to your spirituality. Your boss, coworkers, or your business associates may attack your faith – directly or indirectly. The principle of 1 Corinthians 15:33 will be just as true now as it was while you were in college, because no one outside the church truly has your best interest in mind. But, Jesus always will! Remember that the world’s definition of “success” is not the same as God’s definition. God wants you to be successful and prosper in your vocation, He just doesn’t want you to forget Him when that prosperity comes – as man has often done in the past (Deuteronomy 8:14,19). As you make the transition into your career, study and pray! Read passages like 1 Timothy 4:12; James 1:12; Psalms 20 and 46. You’ve become your own person, but you’re never alone, if you allow God in.
   You have graduated! You now have the opportunity to make a difference in this great big world. Will you use that opportunity to bring glory to God, or will you use it to bring shame upon His name? Will others be able to see Jesus in you, or will they just see another worldly person? We want you to know that we’re saying all these things here simply because we love you dearly and we pray that you flourish in every opportunity life gives you. Above all, we pray that you remain faithful until death, so you may receive that crown of life (Revelation 2:10). Pray and study, then pray and study some more! God bless! – TS


WHAT IS IN A NAME?

What is in a Name?
By Troy Spradlin
  The headline for an article* I stumbled across read, “What’s in a name? Churches trade old names for new, younger members.” That piqued my interest, so I kept reading, “The sign that says Trinity Baptist Church in Maplewood was taken down last month and replaced with ‘LifePoint.’ Maple Grove Evangelical Free Church just converted to ‘The Grove,’ advertising ‘Same Church, New Name.’ First Lutheran Church in White Bear Lake is now ‘Community of Grace.’ If Easter is the season of rebirth, it’s a fertile period for Minnesota churches. Rebranding, long a strategy in the world of business, is taking off in congregations hoping to attract new members, update their images, and shed any negative perceptions of their denominations.” Hmmm, I thought to myself. What’s in a name? Well, a bride usually takes on the last name of the man she marries. If a bride’s new name develops a “negative perception” would it be alright to change it to some other man’s last name? After all, what’s in a name? But, that certainly wouldn’t be accepted! Now, isn’t the church called “the bride of Christ”? See Revelation 21:9 for the answer. If it is His bride, then it should certainly wear His name. Perhaps, there is something in a name.
  The article went on to say that “religious leaders hoping to attract young adults and families recognize that many don’t have a clue about the difference between a Lutheran and a Baptist — but they do want community and a spiritual home.” Hmmm, again. Didn’t Jesus say, “Come unto ME?” [emphasis added] See Matthew 11:28,19:14 and John 5:40. Shouldn’t seekers be looking for Jesus in a church? Or, are they looking for the church to be a social club? This is why I believe that teaching people about the true, Biblical, and unique nature of the church is paramount and fundamental to understanding Christianity. A follower of Jesus needs to understand that His purpose for coming to earth was, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He also said, “I will build MY [emphasis added] church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). Therefore, Jesus’ disciples, who are gathered together, are known as the “body of Christ, which is the church” (Col 1:18). In many verses throughout the New Testament, we see specific designations for the church, such as: “the churches of Christ” (Romans 16:16); or the “church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). Every designation for the church, found in the Bible, gives honor to Jesus or God, not some doctrine, a man’s name, or a catchy phrase. The name of the church was revealed in the first century when the Bible was written.
  But, the article also stateed, “Religious leaders stress that abandoning a long-held name needs to be part of a larger growth strategy.” They also pointed to a recent survey by Grey Matter Research, that “found churches with denominational names were almost three times more likely to be viewed as old fashioned and rigid. Creating a fresh name, he said, is part of removing perceived barriers.” How very sad! Because, it was Jesus who said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). This implies that no one has the right, or the authority, to change the name of the church to anything other that what is found in the Bible!
*Article Source – http://www.startribune.com/what-s-in-a-name-churches-trade-old-names-for-new-younger-members/419529003/?src=Apple+News


THE BROTHERHOOD POLICE

The Brotherhood Police
by Troy Spradlin
    Jesus frequently had to deal with several divergent, religious sects, which had emerged within Judaism before His arrival. The groups had specific names, such as Pharisees, Sadducees, Herodians, Essenes, and Zealots. Most of them had their own interpretation of the Scriptures and how it affected them, especially politically. None of them exhibited the true heart of righteousness that God desires within man, according to Jesus (Matthew 15:7-9; Luke 11:37-54). Some of the groups also played the role of religious “police” among the Jewish community (Matthew 21:23-27), operating under the authority of the Sanhedrine (John 11:47). At times, this “policing” characteristic was enacted in conjunction with the formal, temple guard (Matthew 27:65; Acts 4:1), and sometimes, apart from them. These religious police were often found to be complete hypocrites (Matthew 23:4). In the end, it would be those “police,” the members of those religious sects, that ultimately, were instrumental in killing the Son of God.
    Regrettably, there are brethren in the church today that like to function as a type of “Brotherhood Police.” While there exist various groups within the Lord’s church who may interpret the Scriptures differently than others, the “Brotherhood Police” take things a step further. Their basic modus operandi is to scour out any blatant transgressors of tradition or perpetrators of feigned piety from among the brotherhood. These are those individuals (sometimes whole congregations), that take it upon themselves to deeply scrutinize otherwise autonomous congregations and individuals, outside of their own congregation. They often surmise whether or not a congregation or individual is worthy of extended fellowship, should be marked as a false teacher, and/or is apostatizing from the faith in some fashion, or another. Then, they also take it upon themselves to publicize their findings in different brotherhood media, like periodicals and blogs, or by spreading rumors around.
   One time, I sat down with one of our brethren, who frequently displayed this policeman characteristic, and simply requested they explain one thing to me, “What is the purpose of the church?” Their response was revealing. “To debate thy cause! To protect the Truth!” was the answer. My distressed response was, “No, brother. That is only one aspectof the work of the church, but it is not her purpose. Her purpose on this earth is to seek and save the lost,” (Luke 19:10; Matthew 28:19-20).
   It is truly disheartening to read about spiritually inclined men acting the way they did in the first century. It is just as disheartening to see spiritually inclined men acting that way today. Well would we do to remember the parable of Jesus, “First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:5). Let us never draw lines of fellowship in places where God hasn’t drawn any Himself. Remember also, one of the things God hates is, “One who sows discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19). While we should certainly mark false teachers and practice church discipline, we simply don’t have the Biblical authority (or, “jurisdiction”) to go outside of the boundaries of our own, autonomous congregation in order to “police” the actions of others. Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the peace  officers.” He said, “Blessed are the peace makers. For they shall be named sons of God,” (Matthew 5:9).  – TS