THE SCHEME OF REDEMPTION

    The entire Bible revolves around one, specific subject – man’s relationship with God. The entire Bible is about God’s special plan for redeeming His creation back to Himself, or what is also called, “The Scheme of Redemption.” The Scriptures are about the history of that plan of salvation (Acts 2:23; Ephesians 1:4). It is what makes every single person, place, and event inextricably linked together in an unmatched harmony carried throughout every page of God’s Holy Writ. The apostle Paul calls this overall theme of Scripture the “eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,” (Ephesians 3:11). In his other epistles, he sometimes calls it “the mystery,” (Rom. 16:25; Eph. 1:9; 3:3-9; Col. 1:26; 1 Tim. 3:16).
    Because of Paul’s education in the Scriptures and his upbringing among Jewish rabbis (Acts 22:3), he certainly understood all the connections and nuances of this singular, topical thread. This is clearly seen in his explanations of how all Scripture is related to Christianity. In Romans 5:14 and Colossians 2:17, Paul uses two special terms to describe the connecting points of the development and realization of the Scheme of Redemption. He calls them a “type” and also a “shadow of things to come.”
    Type is a word that means, “an impression, figure, example.” Shadow means, “something representing another, an image cast.” The concept of “shadow and reality,” or “type and anti-type,” are a Biblical method used to explain the links between something in the Old Testament to something in the New Testament, Christian age. Think of how shadows work; they look like the object and have the same form, but they are not the actual object. Thus, a hand print of a palm is the “type,” while the actual hand that produced the print is the “anti-type.” One is the object in reality while the other is just an image, or “shadow,” of the object. Understanding this concept is absolutely crucial for identifying the Scheme of Redemption throughout the Bible.
    Some examples of “type and anti-type” include things such as the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:21) being a “shadow of that which was to come,” (the type) which is Christ in reality (the anti-type). The lamb and its blood, which was sacrificed to save the Hebrews (Exodus 12:22-23), was a representation of what Christ did for humanity (John 1:29; Romans 5:8,9). Others include connections between the tabernacle to that of Christian worship, prayer, atonement, and the church. Still others include Israel representing the Christian church (1 Peter 2:9). In fact, if you sit down with your Bible and study it with the overall Scheme of Redemption in mind, then everything that the Bible contains begins to make more sense! The study of any topic such as grace, or the problem of sin, the covenants, atonement, the resurrection, or the person of Jesus will all take on a deeper, richer, and more meaningful understanding.
    To study, identify and then understand the Scheme of Redemption reveals the historical connections between Abraham and the Jewish nation to the Lord’s church today. It provides clarity to why God gave the Law of Moses and instituted a sacrificial system. This kind of study will clarify Messianic prophecy, the incarnation of Jesus, and his death, burial, and resurrection. To understand the Scheme of Redemption is to understand the true role of kingdom (the church) in the past, the present, and the future. It better prepares you for the second coming of Christ, the final judgment, and the eternal realm of heaven. If you really want to grow and mature spiritually, then read and study your Bible through the lens of the Scheme of Redemption. Your life will be greatly blessed! – TS.


IS GOD ONE OR THREE?

    There are many things we simply do not know about God. Everything we do know comes directly from what He has chosen to reveal to us in His Holy Word. When Jesus came to earth, He brought to light a few more aspects of the nature of God, further helping us to know and understand Him. But even with that, man is still perplexed about the true nature of Yahweh. Perhaps, the most difficult concept to comprehend is that God is One being (Mark 12:29), while at the same time, He is three beings – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (1 John 5:7; John 10:30). That’s not easy to get our minds around! So, indeed, how are we supposed to understand this?
    Let’s start by by first considering what Genesis 1:26 says, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness.” The “us” and “our image” are suggestive of an intimate plurality of which God consists and is associated. It stands in perfect harmony with other Scripture, such as Matthew 3:16,17 where we see the three “persons” presented together at Jesus’ baptism. The Father is seen in the voice (v17), the Son had just risen from baptism, and the Spirit was “descending like a dove and alighting upon Jesus”. Another revealing teaching comes directly from Jesus when He stated, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30) Again, this harmonizes perfectly with John 1:1 which reveals that the Word (Jesus) was not only there with God at the creation, but that He IS God. These, along with other verses such as John 15:26; Acts 10:38; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Peter 1:2 which speak about the three persons separately while being one are what makes God unique, underscoring why there is no other God besides Him.
    Yet, over the centuries, man has conjured up various philosophies and theories in an effort to explain God’s nature. These have names such as Arianism and Modalism, with the most popular one being, Trinitarianism. This is where we get our word “trinity,” which was formed by joining together the words “three” (tri) and “unity.” The concept of the trinity is generally understood that God is three persons who share one essence. But sadly, this theory has added only more confusion to the religious world and still doesn’t completely explain the full nature of the Godhead.
    For example, such a doctrine has led to people blending the three together so much so that they no longer mark a difference between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. As a result, many people now pray to the trinity instead of addressing the Father as the One to whom we should pray, with Jesus as Mediator (John 15:16; 1 Tim 2:5). It has also led to the other extreme, where people overemphasize the individuality of the three. To some, the doctrine of the trinity creates a sharp distinction between the three persons of the Godhead – essentially creating a polytheism consisting of three separate gods which function completely apart from the others. As a result, some are teaching that one should only be baptized in the name of Jesus and not in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit, as is commanded in Matthew 28:18-19. Some also believe we should pray directly to Jesus, although He never taught His disciples to do so and even stated that, “in that day, you will ask me nothing,” (John 16:23-26).
    The bottom line is, we simply do not know everything there is to know about God and probably never will. What we do know is found in the Bible, so we should be careful how we describe Him. Scripture describes distinct and subtle nuances between the “one” and “three” characteristics of His nature. May we never deny the three distinct beings which make up God as seen throughout the Scriptures. Let us also never deny that the Lord our God is one and we are called to love and obey Him. He is our God and He is sovereign because there is no other.


IS ATTENDING WORSHIP NECESSARY?

    It is early Sunday morning. You haven’t slept all that well and you are still very tired from a long, hard week at work. It is also raining and cold outside. To be quite honest, you just don’t really feel like going to worship this morning. Maybe you think to yourself, “I believe in God. I pray every day. I don’t do anything bad or sinful. Do I really have to be at worship services all the time? Can’t I just go every now and then?” …. Have you ever felt this way? It’s not that uncommon. So, is our attendance absolutely necessary? In order to arrive at the answer, there are few other questions one should ask themselves first.
    Is pleasing God important to me? Jesus taught His disciples, “If you love me, keep my commandments,” (John 14:15). He also said that only those who fulfill the will of God will enter into heaven (Matthew 7:21). With that in mind, listen to what He told the woman at the well, “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him [emphasis added],” (John 4:23). It is God’s desire – it is His will – that you and I worship Him. Therefore, if we truly want to please God, then we must worship Him and we must do it in the way that He has prescribed to us in His word.
    Am I thankful for what God has done for me? Understanding the “Scheme of Redemption” – the sacrifice that God and Jesus made on our behalf (John 3:16) – should be more than enough to motivate us to worship God. When the disciples came face to face with the reality of Jesus’ power and deity in calming a storm and saving their lives, they worshiped Him! (Matthew 14:30-33) Are you thankful for God’s gift of salvation? Then, show that to Him by singing praises and worshiping Him in His church (1 Peter 2:9).
    Do I want the best for my family and myself? Edification, knowledge, and brotherly love are only really possible to develop in a corporate setting. They can’t be increased alone. Just being around fellow Christians can also have a major, positive impact on one’s life. With so many negative influences in the world, we certainly need positive reinforcement. The church provides that! (John 13:35; Galatians 6:2; 1 Thess. 5:11) It is an “organism” (more so than an organization); a body, a family, that cries and rejoices together – you won’t typically find that kind of support in a worldly setting (1 Corinthians 12:23-26). Worship is yet another way we build up each other (Colossians 3:16).
    Is the salvation of my soul important to me?  According to 2 Timothy 2:10, salvation is “in” Christ Jesus – that is, one must be in His body. This implies that one cannot be saved outside of the church. Just being a member is not all that is required of a disciple. There is no such thing as “isolation salvation” presented in the Scriptures. So, active involvement in the church, Christ’s body, is necessary. This is exactly what is seen in the many examples of the first Christians (Acts 2:44, 11:26, 14:27, 20:7; Romans 16:5, 16:16; 1 Cor. 14:23). Worship is connected to salvation.
    If you answered “No” to these questions then, stay at home in bed. God wants those who will worship Him in spirit and truth. In the meantime, ponder this: if you don’t like assembling with the saints to worship God, if you don’t look forward to lifting up His name in praise with the church at every opportunity available because of the thankfulness in your heart, … then what do you think you will be doing in heaven? Revelation 4-5 gives us a glimpse into heaven. The only thing revealed in that scene is a view of worship! Everyone there was worshiping God. So, if we truly want to be prepared for heaven, then let’s worship our God and “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching,” (Hebrews 10:25).


WHY PREACH?

    Preaching is an important part of our worship, but it is not the most important part, nor is it the central focus. That distinction goes the Lord’s Supper. People have differing opinions as to what true preaching is. Some think that preaching is just a motivational speech and some think that it simply serves to rebuke people. While it can include some of those elements, that is not the purpose of preaching according to the Bible. Such misconceptions show why it is important to study the subject in order to better understand the place and purpose of preaching in worship.
    Why is there preaching in a worship service? The answer is, “because of examples and commandments in the Scriptures.” For example, what did Jesus command His disciples to do in Mark 16:15? What mandate was given to Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2-4? What did Paul do for the brethren in 1 Corinthians 15:1? There are also many examples of preaching recorded in the New Testament; see Acts 2:14-36, 3:12-26, 4:5-12, 7:2-53, 8:5, 10:28-47, 16:32, 17:22-31; and 20:7. Because of these commands and examples, there is usually someone who will get up and preach as part of our worship service. As a result, thousands of sermons are preached every first day of the week throughout the entire world. But, a sermon must have a purpose.
The Bible us teaches us that the purpose of preaching is:
1. To reveal and explain the scriptures (Acts 7:1-53, 8:35; Nehemiah 8:8)
2. To present Christ as our only hope (2 Corinthians 4:5; Acts 8:35).
3. To promote Christian growth (Acts 2:42).
4. To inform man as to how to receive salvation (Acts 2:37, 38; 1 Cor 15:1-4).
Through this avenue, both believers and unbelievers can get to know Jesus and learn more about God’s will.
    Who is the person that preaches? Is it someone with a special gift? Must one have a special license or specific credentials in order to preach? Although many of our religious friends like to make the preacher part of some special office like “clergy,” or as “reverend,” “priest,” or “pastor,” those are not how Scripture uses those words nor how it describes the preacher (the word clergy is not even found in the Bible). In reality, the preacher is really nothing more than any Christian who shares the Word of God with others. There is no verse that indicates one must have a special license or other credentials to preach. All Christians are to preach in some form or another.
    However, just because everyone should/can preach doesn’t mean just anyone should step into a pulpit. This is because a preacher should have an exemplary life. His actions outside the pulpit are often more persuasive than any words he may speak. He must also be one who knows how to “rightly divide the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15). Therefore, preaching should never be discounted, nor contain only one’s opinions. Peter makes it abundantly clear that preaching is serious business (1 Peter 4:11)! It has been said, “A preacher should hide behind the cross when preaching!” That would certainly keep one’s ego and opinions in check and the true purpose of preaching out front!
    How are we to preach? One of the kingdom’s greatest preachers, Paul, explains, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:2) From this, we can deduce that (1) we must preach from the Bible; (2) we must be prepared to preach at any given moment and in any circumstance; (3) we must persuade others by reasoning with the Scriptures; (4) we must point out our shortcomings when compared to the Word; (5) we must build up and edify others; and (6) we must do it all with method that exhibits much love and patience. Lastly, we should be reminded that preaching is God’s chosen method for talking directly to us – through His Word (Hebrews 1:1,2; Romans 10:14-17; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).


PRINCIPLES OF OUR GIVING

    Could you live in this world without money? Possibly, but it would certainly be difficult! It seems we need money for almost everything — for food, shelter, clothing and lots of other things. We need money just to be able to function in our society. It can be a good thing, but it can also be bad sometimes, causing anxiety, stress, or other problems. The Bible talks a lot about money, too, in both good and bad ways. It even talks about money as a part of our worship, in the form of our offering. In order to understand the principles of giving, let’s look at the Scriptures for application to our lives. Here are four points to consider:
    GIVE BECAUSE YOU ARE A STEWARD. Jesus considered all things to be the property of God and pointed out that we are simply stewards (meaning administrators, managers) for God. In Matthew 25:14-30, how did Jesus reward the two men who used their talents well? According to Matthew 16:24-27, Luke 6:38 and 16:10-13, what is required to be a faithful servant?
    The discipline of stewardship was also taught by the apostles. Peter wrote, “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10). Look also at what is said in 1 Corinthians 4:1-2; Acts 4:32; or in Ephesians 4:28 about a disciple’s stewardship. The point is, we must be good managers with the blessings God has given us! This requires a lot of discipline and faith! We must handle our money well in order to please God.
    GIVE AS YOU HAVE PROSPERED. This principle is found in 1 Corinthians 16:1-2. Everyone’s offering will be different according to what he/she has received. If God provided abundantly for you, then you must give abundantly. We must all give diligently and generously! Notice also that our ability to give is not limited to just money, but also includes our skills and talents that we have, according to 2 Corinthians 8:5. What did those Christians first give to the Lord?
    Does this mean tithing? Are we supposed to give 10%? Nowhere in the New Testament do we find a commandment to give a tenth of our income. That was something that the Jews had to do in the Old Testament. Even then, it had a specific purpose: to provide sustenance for the priests. Since we no longer live under a Levite priesthood today, then the tithing commandment does not apply to the church. But, just because we are no longer under the old law (Col. 2:14; Rom. 6:14; Eph. 2:15) does not mean that we have no mandates on how to give. Nor does it mean we can give much less than the Hebrews did.
    GIVE WITH JOY. The Bible says we should give “not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” (2 Cor 9:7). It’s a problem many have – we will give, but we don’t really like to give up our money. We must be careful with this attitude! It’s called covetousness, or greed. Covetousness is not only wanting someone else’s things, but can also be an excessive desire for one’s own things. The fact is, we will all have to give an account for our sins. Greed is a sin … and how many sins does it take (un-repented of) to prevent making it into heaven? Only one! So, a miser is just as far from Christ as any other sinner. In fact, according to 2 Corinthians 8:9, a miser has an attitude that is contrary to that of Christ.
    If one gives, but thinks in their heart, “I prefer to keep this,” then their offering is in vain, since it is not done with joy and generosity. Read and learn from the story Jesus taught in Luke 12:13-21 about greed and the rich fool. Consider also what Christ teaches in Matthew 6:19-24,33. Where does joy come from? It comes from giving. Where does greed come from? It comes from selfishness. We must give from our hearts with joy if we want to be pleasing in God’s eyes!
    GIVE PROPORTIONATELY. No one should be overly burdened with their offering to the church while another person refuses to give (2 Cor 8:13-15). Is it necessary that each member contributes financially to the church, in some amount and/or manner. No one can give more than the Lord deserves and no one who gives generously has ever been forgotten by God. The Lord knows what we have offered and has promised to provide for us if we’re faithful to Him (Matthew 10:29-31).
    Remember the widow of Mark 12:41-44? The Bible says that the poor widow “put in everything she had, all her livelihood.” Why? Because of faith! The lesson is simple, Jesus judges your offering by what is left over, not by what you put in the plate. Our offering is an act of worship, which is yet another way of expressing our faith, hope, and trust in Him. Giving is something personal between an individual and God that can also serve as a “proof” of your faith and love (2 Cor 8:24). God bless! – TS


THE IMPORTANCE OF PRAYER

    So, how is your prayer life these days? Do you pray as often as you should? Prayer is – and should be – an essential part of a Christian’s life. Our Savior, Jesus, was a man of prayer (Matthew 14:23, 26:36-44; Mark 1:35; John 17:2-24). This implies that we must ask ourselves, “If prayer was so important to our Lord, why should it be less important to me?” We should infer that every disciple of His ought to learn how to pray correctly and pray often. In fact, Jesus’ apostles asked Him to teach them how to pray (Luke 11:1). I find it interesting that they never asked him to teach them how to do anything else, like preach or sing.
    WHAT IS PRAYER? The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia describes prayer as, “a supplication; making a plea or request; to speak to a superior; to approach God.” We could say it is the desire of the heart that expresses itself to God, (Romans 10:1; 1 Timothy 2:1). The Bible uses the term prayer in its various Hebrew and Greek forms about 350 times. It’s an important word and more important action!
    Prayer is also a great PRIVILEGE for the Christian! Read 1 Peter 5:7 and Philippians 4:6,7. It is something very POWERFUL according to James 5:16-18; Hebrews 4:16; and Revelation 8:3-5. The enormous amount of power and privilege lies in the fact that prayer is a way for us to speak directly to God Himself, the Creator of the universe! He created everything, including us, yet, how marvelous is it that our Almighty God desires to hear from His own creation? Can you imagine having a direct line to the office of the President of the USA where you could use it to call him at any time, ask anything from him, and he would always be there, listening. This would be an incredible privilege and something truly powerful! Well, Christians has something even more powerful than that, we have prayer.
    EXAMPLES AND COMMANDMENTS. Matthew 6:5-15 provides us with a divine model for prayer. It is the form that Jesus taught His disciples and we can still use it today! In other verses, such as 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 7:25 and Colossians 3:17, we also learn that we must pray through our Savior, Jesus. We must pray in His name according to John 14:13,14. This means praying according to the authority of the Lord. This is significant because according to the Hebrews, one’s name represented everything a person was (Acts 4: 7-10). Jesus truly is the highest authority.
    PURPOSE OF PRAYER. Prayer serves many purposes. It is a means to worship God. It is a way to glorify and praise our God. It is an avenue to thank God for what He has done for us. It is the manner in which we ask for forgiveness. It is also our given method for expressing help for others. Prayer is a spiritual discipline, which one should strive to develop, maintain, and improve on a regular and daily basis. Prayer is practically the “lifeblood” of a Christian’s spirituality.
    HOW OFTEN SHOULD WE PRAY? According to Acts 20:36-38, we should pray at the time of separation. James 5:13-18 teaches to pray when one is sick. James 1:5 says to pray when we lack wisdom (when we make decisions). We must pray that other’s faith increases (1 Thessalonians 3:10) and to be continually giving thanks to God (Colossians 4:2). In 1 Thessalonians 5:17 we must pray without ceasing” which means that we must seek every available opportunity to pray.
 
SOME PRACTICAL TIPS FOR YOUR PRAYERS:
  • Pick specific times and places for praying each day (plan for multiple times). If possible, select a place where there is sufficient privacy and no distractions.
  • Pray when first waking up. Pray before eating a meal. Pray in times of need, or temptation, or when you think of the many ways God has blessed you. Pray before making important decisions. Pray before, during, and after studying the Bible. Pray before going to sleep at night. Pray much and pray often!
  • Make a prayer list to help you remember those who need prayers (or take the one in the bulletin home with you!).
  • When you do pray in public, pray with sincerity of heart and without the intention to impress others.
  • Pray with fervor! (Colossians 4:12) and persevere in prayer! (Matthew 26:44, 2 Corinthians 12:7,8)
Prayer is such a powerful and wonderful privilege that every Christian should be constantly practicing in their spiritual walk. I pray this has helped and encouraged you to seek out God more often in prayer. Remember, He wants to hear from you!


SINGING OR INSTRUMENTS IN WORSHIP?

    The subject of incorporating musical instruments into worship is a topic that has been debated and contended by religious minded people for more than 1,500 years! Yet, people today are still just as confused as to what is, or isn’t, allowed in worship. I frequently find this as a top subject to have to work through during evangelistic Bible studies and religious conversations I have with precious souls searching for truth. Why is it so hard to understand? What is the truth in this matter?
    The best way to approach this subject is by first establishing a mutually-agreed-upon authority. Since, we’re all talking about worship to God, wouldn’t it make sense that God’s word should be the deciding, authoritative factor? Indeed, it should! Without it, then it’s really just one person’s opinion over another. This is often revealed in the words people use. For example, when someone says, “I just like the way it sounds,” or, “I prefer to go to a church with a band,” we should recognize that those comments are nothing more than personal, subjective preferences – not Biblically based, Scripturally supported conclusions. There’s a difference!
    This is probably the main reason why people cannot agree on the topic. It is because they mix personal preference with “Thus saith the Lord.” However, those two approaches are completely incompatible! Do you see why one has to establish where the final authority is found, then submit to that? It boils down to asking yourself, “What is more important: my will, or God’s will?” (cf. Deut. 5:29; John 14:15)
So, if we can agree to submit to the Bible, then does it tell us what we are supposed to be doing during worship? The answer is, “Yes and no.” Let’s be brutally honest! Yes, there are several verses that make some specific statements about music, but there is no verse that says, “Thou shall not use musical instruments in worship.” However, before jumping to any conclusions, understand that there is also no verse that says, “Musical instruments are permitted in worship.” So, then how do we decide? There are two points of discernment to consider that can help us draw a sound conclusion: (1) discerning the difference between the Old and New Testaments; and (2) discerning what is God’s will.
    Considering the first point, people often like to appeal to passages where instruments were used in the Temple in Jerusalem (the place of worship) such as Psalms 98, 144, and 149. However, if we are going to use these Old Testament verses as our authority for musical instruments, then this implies we must keep the entire Old Testament law, not just one aspect of that law (James 2:10). Accordingly, we would also need to offer animal sacrifices, have special clothing for priests (which are only Levites – how do we identify who is a Levite?) and use incense, as the Law of Moses commanded. In addition, ALL worshipers must play an instrument, because only priests were allowed in the temple. Doesn’t that seem absurd for today’s worship? So, not only can we not appeal to the Old Testament to justify musical instruments in worship, but we are no longer under that Old Law, nor can we consider it as obligatory in worship under the Christian dispensation (Rom. 7:1-14; Col. 2:14; Hebrews 7:22, 8:6).
    Now, concerning God’s will and the argument of no prohibitive verses for instruments; we could also just easily say that the Bible does not specifically prohibit the use of cake or milk in the Lord’s Supper. Yet, how do we know that we should not change those elements? Because we have commands and examples to teach us otherwise. Here’s the point, if God tells us what He wants, then He doesn’t need to list everything He doesn’t want. What the Bible does say and demonstrate is “singing” (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; 1 Corinthians 14:15). In fact, there is not one single example of musical instruments being used in Christian worship in the entire New Testament. Every reference points only to one form of music – singing. (The references in Revelation 14:2 and 15:2 are figurative language of heavenly visions – not commands or examples for church worship). Also, according to several historians, apostolic, and church father’s writings, there is no example of musical instruments being used in worship during Christianity’s early years. The first indication of musical instruments being added to worship happened around the 7th century! The fact is, incorporating musical instruments in worship is a more modern development – not part of the original pattern of worship within the church.
    Therefore, if we are truly concerned about worshiping God according to His will, then it makes perfect sense to follow the examples and commandments for worship that are found only in His Holy Word. This means submitting to His authority. It is not a matter of personal preference, nor a question of ambiguity, nor some development in the name of progress. It is also incorrect to say, “It’s not a salvation issue,” because it actually is directly related to one’s salvation (cf. Acts 2:41-47; Matt 7:21). Let’s make wise choices when it comes to worshiping our God!


THE LORD’S MEMORIAL SUPPER

    Jesus mandated His disciples to remember one, very specific event. It is found in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, “when He had given thanks, He broke it [bread] and said, ‘Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’’ “ [Emphasis added – TS] The words, “do this” are an imperative verb form, that is, an authoritative command, which means we are obligated to obey His instruction. Of all the things Jesus did during His ministry, He only asked His disciples to remember His word (John 15:20) and this special, memorial feast. So, what is the communion and its purpose? And, when should we partake of it? If we read Matthew 26:26-29 and Luke 22:19-20, along with 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, we can identify three distinct elements as part of the supper: the bread, the cup, and prayer. Let’s look closer at each of these.
    The BREAD is not just any bread; it is something special. It is not magical, nor unusual. It is simply the same type of bread used during the Jewish Passover meal, which was an unleavened, flat bread (Exodus 12:15-39). Jesus took it and used it as an instructive symbol for His body, which was crucified upon the cross. When we eat the unleavened bread, we are to remember what He did for us. The symbolism is further seen in John 6:51, which records Jesus describing himself as “the bread of heaven.” In that discourse, Jesus reminded the Hebrews about the time God provided a bread-like substance from the heavens while they were wandering in the wilderness (John 6:49). Just as that manna (bread) descended from heaven, Jesus had descended from heaven.  
    The CUP was also part of the traditional Passover dinner of the Hebrews, with wine being served on four different occasions during the meal. When Christ offered the fourth cup, He used it to speak of his blood that would be shed during the crucifixion. The symbolism is better understood in light of Leviticus 17:11 which says that “the life of the flesh is in blood.” Why remember the blood? Because blood gives us all the elements necessary for life and just as blood gives life to the body, Jesus’ sacrifice gives life to the sinner. When we drink from the cup, it is, again, to remind us of what He did for us.
    What was inside the cup Jesus used? He called it “the fruit of the vine” (Luke 22:18). There are many fruits, but very few grow on a vine. The most common vine-grown fruit in that part of the world back then were grapes. The juice, or wine, of grapes was a very common drink at that time. According to several historians and scholars, the wines produced in that era were often watered down (for preservation purposes and to produce a greater quantity) and were also weaker in alcoholic content than our modern, genetically engineered versions. Thus, we drink grape juice during the communion.
    PRAYER is the third element of the memorial supper. Matthew 26:26 says Jesus “blessed” the bread and cup while Luke 22:19 says He “gave thanks.” As we participate in the supper, all three components of the memorial should be present, just as Jesus did it and instructed us. The purpose for doing all this is explained further by the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:20-29. He states that it is not only to remind us of the great sacrifice Jesus made, but it is also a mutual communion (a joint fellowship, 1 Corinthians 10:16) between the members of the body of Christ, as well as, a time of self-analysis and re-dedication to the Lord. We are to eliminate every outside thought as we focus solely on remembering His great love and sacrifice for us. This is why we pray, individually, after partaking of each element. In doing so, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.”
    Finally, let’s look at when we are to participate in what is called the “Lord’s Supper.” While the Passover was an annual event for the Jews, according to the mandate in the Old Testament (Exodus 12:14), the first Christians participated in the Lord’s Supper after His ascension, on the day when the church began (Acts 2:42). According to Acts 20:7, we again find the disciples participating in it on the first day of the week. Therefore, since they did it in that way, then we simply follow this divinely approved example. Today, on every first day of the week, Christians all around the world participate in this memorial of the death of our Savior. Not once a year, or a quarter, but every Sunday so our focus and dedication to Him remains constant.


TRUE WORSHIP OF THE CHURCH

    Every Sunday, especially during the holidays, great masses of people will pass through the doors of a building with a sign out front that says, ”church,” on it. They go to participate in a service of worship, or some type of religious ritual. Sadly, with just a quick glance, one can quickly discern that vast differences exist between the various religious services offered. Quite a few have even replaced Sunday as the day of Christian worship with a Saturday evening service. So, does it really matter how one worships? Is there a specific way? Are there instructions as to what, when, and how Christians are to worship? These are all important questions for which any true disciple of Christ should seek answers. If we believe the Bible is the authority for all things religious, then let’s open it up to see what it says.
    If we search for the word “worship,” we will discover there are certain kinds of worship in the New Testament. For example, Matthew 15:9 mentions “vain” worship. Acts 17:23 mentions worship to an unknown god. Colossians 2:23 talks about self-imposed worship, Mark 15:19, 20 demonstrates a mocking worship, and John 4:24 talks about worship that is in “spirit and truth.” But, what does “worship” mean? Our English word, worship comes from the Greek word, proskunéo, which means “to kiss the hand of (towards) one, a sign of reverence; kneeling, or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or to make supplication.” (Thayer)
    With this understanding, it should be clear from the above verses that there is a right way to worship and there is also a wrong way. The fact is, everyone worships something, or someone. We see this throughout the history of man and even in our society today. Man is a creature of worship. He will either worship a deity, or he will worship money, sports, fame, or anything that can become an idol. But, the Bible teaches that God is the creator of all of mankind, therefore, all mankind should worship Him and only Him. John 4:23 says, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.” The fact is, God wants His creation to worship Him! So, what does it mean to worship in “spirit and in truth”? In simple terms, worshiping in “spirit” refers to the ATTITUDE one must have in worship, while in “truth,” means the manner, or the DOCTRINE by which we enact our worship. Let’s look at both of these a little closer.
    Worshiping in the right “spirit,” or the right attitude, has to do with the heart, the whole heart. For example, what does Colossians 3:16 say we should have in our hearts? What does Ephesians 5:19, say we are to do with our hearts? Matthew 15:8 also demonstrates how important the heart is in worship. What all of this implies is, it is possible to be at worship physically, but to not be there mentally. If we are not paying attention to what we saying or doing, then we are not involving our hearts in worship. Or, if our attitude is bad, rebellious, or unbelieving, then it is equal to vain worship.
    Worshiping God “in truth” means we are to follow the patterns and commands for worship as found in the New Testament. This is what is known as “doctrine.” It is a word that means “teaching.” It doesn’t take much digging to learn that the the inspired writers of the Bible taught specific commandments that we must obey and described examples that we can use to follow. According to those instructions and writings, there are five components, or actions of worship. They are:
  • Participation in the Lord’s Supper, (1 Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 20:7)
  • Singing songs of praise, (2 Colossians 3:16; Ephesians 5:19)
  • Prayer, (Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 2:1,8)
  • An offering, (1 Corinthians 16:1;2; Corinthians 9:7)
  • Preaching the Word, (Acts 20:7; 2 Timothy 4:2; Colossians 1:28)
    Therefore, the answer to the question, “Are there instructions for worship?” is, “Yes, there are instructions!” We must follow the examples and commandments God gave in His Word. Changing any part, or characteristic, of worship results in the corruption of God’s plan for worship and the destruction of the identity of the church. In the next few, upcoming articles, we will discuss each of these five points of worship, individually and in detail. – God bless! TS


THE WORK OF THE CHURCH GLORIFIES GOD!

    The Bible reveals that man’s purpose on earth is to glorify God (Ecclesiastes 12:13; Revelation 4:11). But what does that mean exactly? In what way are we to glorify Him? Does the Bible answer that question? Indeed, it does! In fact, the Bible teaches we must produce fruit in order to bring glory to God (John 15:8), which implies we must actively do something. It implies that we Christians, those of the church, must work! Look at the example of the first Christians in Acts 2:42-47. It says, “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. … and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.” This passage implies there are three different types of work of the church.
They are:
  • Evangelism – inferred from, “the doctrine” and adding to the church, (verses 42,47);
  • Edification – inferred from, “fellowship, and prayers” (verses 42,46); and
  • Benevolence – inferred from dividing the possessions (verses 42,44,45).

    This illustrates that we can divide every work, or each ministry, into these three categories: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. There is additional Biblical support for each of these categories. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Evangelism

    Jesus left His disciples with a very specific mission, known as “The Great Commission,” (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15,16; Luke 24:47). This makes it also our responsibility, both individually and collectively as the church, to seek and save the lost – just as He had done. This is simply understood as ordinary men telling other ordinary men about the extraordinary good news of an extraordinary man. What an important responsibility!

Edification

    This is a word that comes from Greek, meaning, “the act of building; promotion of spiritual growth,” (Thayer). When we participate in fellowship activities and encourage each another, we are “building” something. This kind of action carries the idea of reciprocity. Read Romans 14:19 and 1 Thess. 5:11:3. Notice that the key idea is something “mutual,” or doing something for someone who does something for us at the same time. We strengthen our faith while helping each other.
    Living for others is the great secret of happiness! Many live in doubt and anxiety because they only think of themselves, instead of thinking of others. Selfishness does not edify anyone. Romans 14:7-8 says we belong to the Lord, while both 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 talk about us being part of “the body” of Christ. Therefore, the church is a spiritual family that unites all those who have been baptized in Christ. It is the place God designed where we can build each other up!

Benevolence

    This refers to “covering, or providing for the physical needs of others.” Benevolence only requires a need and an opportunity (Galatians 6:10). The word “benevolence” is not found in the New Testament, but, we can find the idea, or concept of it in its pages. A related word (from the original language) is found in 1 Corinthians 7:3, where it relates to marriage. The principle is also seen in Ephesians 6:7,8 as an attitude that we should have toward others. In Acts 2:42, the word “communion” means “fellowship, or fraternity.” which certainly implies benevolence between each other, (Thayer).
    Passages such as Galatians 6:9,10; James 1:27; Matthew 7:12; Matthew 25:32-40; and Philippians 2:4 all imply the concept of benevolence. Essentially, the primary focus is on others, not on ourselves. The church and every individual Christian should feel a responsibility toward those in need. Benevolence is an action in which God is glorified. Benevolence can even help us stay pure and avoid temptation, if we keep ourselves so busy seeking out the benefit of others, we will not have time to fall into sin!
 
    So, how do we glorify God? We glorify Him through these actions: evangelism, edification, and benevolence. All three are equally important! By doing these things, we produce the fruit that the Lord has commanded of us. In so doing, we become pleasing to Him. These are all easy to talk about, but not quite so easy to do. Yet, we must do them! If we want to hear the words, “Enter in thou good and faithful servant,” (Matthew 25:21), then every decision we make regarding church work must be based on these works. Every work or ministry can be attributed to these three categories. Therefore, as that old song says, “To the work! to the work! We are servants of God!” – God bless! TS