30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
December 26, 1999
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" here on WAVG radio 1450. I'm Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, thanking each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine yet another truth of God's word. This morning I want to give you a series of questions for you to ask your preacher concerning some various truths of God's Word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly look at these questions and ask your preacher to give you a Bible verse answer to each question. After all, if we cannot get a Bible verse answer for those things that we are doing religiously, then what good is our religion? Jesus said: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matt 7:21). I want to encourage you to have your Bible readily available so that you can examine the scriptures to make sure that what I am presenting is in fact God's will for you. Remember, the Bible clearly states that we must obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29). It is my hope that each one of you this morning will have the kind of heart that the Bereans did back in the first century. It was said of them that "These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). By looking at the Bible passages, you can see for yourself that what I am teaching this morning can in fact be backed up by book, chapter, and verse in the Bible. This is so vitally important as we strive to do only that which is authorized by God and not what some man may say about a given subject. Now I invite you to please have your Bible ready and let's study together another truth of God. Today, I want you to ask your preacher the following questions that we present this morning. Then, make sure that you receive a Bible answer in return.
Preachers have an important place to fill with respect to lost souls. God saw fit to use them in making his gospel known, which is the power of God to save men. Hence, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:21, "For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe." Thus, we are told that it was God's plan to save men by preaching. This plan may seem foolish; so it is called "the foolishness of preaching." But it is God's plan. Remember, however, that it is "the foolishness of preaching" that God chose, and not the preaching of foolishness. We might conclude that some have misunderstood God's plan and have used the preaching of foolishness instead of "the foolishness of preaching." But in order for God's plan to be carried out preaching must be done, and preaching is done by preachers. So, preachers have an important place to fill. In harmony with this idea Paul said in Romans 10:14, "How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" In view of such statements we should not minimize the work of the gospel preacher.
However, we must not lose sight of the fact that preachers are required to preach the gospel. Since the gospel is God's power to save men, the gospel must be preached by the preacher. If he preaches something else, he is going contrary to the will of God, and what he preaches will not result in the salvation of the hearers. In fact, God pronounces condemnation on the preacher who preaches that which is contrary to divine truth revealed through the apostles. In Galatians 1:8, we read this statement from the pen of the apostle Paul, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed." This places a great responsibility upon a preacher and condemns him if he preaches the theories and doctrines of men instead of the gospel of Christ as delivered by the apostles.
Preachers are looked upon as leaders of men; and that they should be. As preachers are spiritual leaders of men, they are expected to know more about the Bible than any other class of men. This is but a natural thing to expect, for preachers should study the Bible that they may be qualified to preach the gospel to others. When you have some question that troubles your soul, something about the Bible that you wish to know, you often turn to the preacher for help. And if it is something that is found in the Bible, he should be willing to give his assistance; or if it is not found in the Bible, he should be able to tell you so. This is the reason I have selected the title for this lesson -- QUESTIONS FOR YOUR PREACHER. I have some questions that I want to present to you that you may present them to your preacher to find just what the Bible says. These questions which I shall present are important questions; they are questions that you have often thought about; and your preacher should be willing to help you find an answer for them. Take your pencil and write them down as we go along. Are you ready? Here is the first.
1) Ask your preacher where you can find the name of your church in the Bible. I do not know the name of the church to which you belong, for I do not know who you are that are listening to me at this time. There are probably many churches that are represented among my listeners today. But you know what church you are a member of, if any, and you know the name of the church. So just go to your preacher and ask him to give you the book, chapter and verse in the Bible that mentions it. If it is there, he will certainly know where to find it; if it is not there, you, have a right to know it. So ask him to help you.
I read the language of Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:2 in which he addresses "the church of God which is at Corinth." And when he made his farewell address to the elders at Ephesus he said,"Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood" (Acts 20:28). In these two passages we have reference to "the church of God." Then Paul wrote Timothy, "but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Timothy 3:15). Here reference is made to the "church of the living God." When Paul wrote the church in Rome he said, "The churches of Christ salute you" (Romans 16:16). In the area from which Paul was writing there were a number of congregations, and they were sending their greetings to the church at Rome. Thus, Paul said, "The churches of Christ salute you." It is an evident fact, of course, if a number of congregations were called "churches of Christ," one of them would be a "church of Christ." Taking all these Scriptures together, we read of the church of God, the church of the living God, and the church of Christ. These were not different religious organizations but were simply different designations for the same body of people. But, is it possible to read anywhere in the Bible any mention of the name of the church to which you belong? This is an important matter, for the Bible is our guide book from earth to heaven, and we should not want to belong to something the Bible says absolutely nothing about. So, ask your preacher to help you find the name of your church in the Bible. He should not become offended if you ask this favor of him.
2) Ask your preacher where the bible says the church is not necessary to man's salvation. So many times the statement is made that the church does not save you. Of course, we know that the church is not the Savior, Jesus Christ is our Savior. But, the statement as used simply means the church is not necessary to your salvation; that you can be saved on the outside of it as well as in the church. Now, you have likely heard your preacher make that very statement many times; and as he is your teacher in spiritual things, he should be glad for you to want to know where to find any such statement in the Bible. Do you not look upon him as a Bible teacher? Certainly you do. Then, if there is any such statement in the Bible, he should know where it is; or if he does not, it should not take him but a little while to find it for you.
I have often read the statement of Paul in Ephesians 5:23, which says, "For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church, and he is the savior of the body." If you will read the verses that follow in this chapter, you will readily see that the term "body" refers to the church. So, Christ is the Savior of the church. This statement could not be true if he saves men out of the church and before they enter the church. In that case He would be the Savior of men out of the church; but, not the Savior of the church. Yet, Paul says he is the Savior of the church. If the Lord saves one man out of the church, he evidently saves all who are saved out of the church. Hence, every person that enters into the church is saved before he enters. Then how could Jesus be "the Savior of the church"? It just wouldn't be possible. So, the statement shows us that the Lord saves those who are in the church, not those who are not in the church. And, while the church is not the Savior, it is the entity in which the Savior saves men. We, therefore, read in Acts 2:47, "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved." Every saved person made up the church in Jerusalem. There was not a saved person in all that city that had not been added to the church. And what was true of the city of Jerusalem, has, throughout the ages, been true of every other place. The Lord has added to the church everywhere such as should be saved. But in spite of all these statements, you will hear preachers constantly say that you can be saved out of the church. If you have heard your preacher say this, please ask him to tell you where it is found in the Bible.
3). Ask your preacher where the Bible says one church is as good as another. Perhaps no statement has been made by religious people more often than this. On every hand, from the pulpit and in the pew, you will hear the statement: "One church is as good as another; so it makes no difference which one you belong to." Maybe you have said this over and over; and you have heard your preacher preach it all of your life. Then it must be something that both you and he are interested in, and you should want to know just where the Bible makes the statement. I am not asking too much when I ask you to ask your preacher about it, am I? Surely, your preacher can find what he preaches in the Bible. Why not ask him? I expect my brethren to ask me to give book, chapter and verse for what I preach and teach. And I assure you that they feel free to expect as much.
In Ephesians 4:4, I find recorded this statement, "There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." This passage plainly says, "There is one body." Who out there in radio land would deny that the Bible says this? Yet, in the face of it we have hundreds of conflicting religious bodies in the world. One body cannot mean two hundred bodies. But, what does Paul mean by the one body? In Ephesians 1:22,23, he said, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body." Note this,"The church, which is his body." So, the body is the church. But, Paul says there is "one body."Furthermore, when Jesus promised to build the church, he said, "Upon this rock I will build my church" (Matthew 16:18). He did not say, "Upon this rock I will build my churches." He mentioned only one -- "my church," not churches. If the Lord built but one, and he certainly did, for that is all he promised to build, then somebody else must have built all the others. Are we ready to say that any church that man built is as good as the one the Lord built? This is what we will have to say if we contend that one church is as good as another.
In Colossians 1:18, Paul declares: "He is the head of the body, the church." Please, look at this passage in your Bible -- Colossians 1:18 -- and see just what it says. I do not want you to take my word for it, but surely it would be all right for you to read it yourself and take just what it says. Now, what does it say?" Does it say, "He is the head of the bodies, the churches?" It just doesn't read that way in your Bible, does it? There is the same number of churches that there is bodies. And there is the same number of bodies there is heads. How many heads? He is THE HEAD. That means just one head, doesn't it? And He is the head of the body, the church. So, according to the apostle Paul, there is one head, one body, one church. So, if your preacher has been telling you that one church is as good as another, just ask him for the scripture that says so. And, while finding that for you, you might ask him how many churches are mentioned in the New Testament anyway.
4) Ask your preacher where the Bible says that all denominations are branches of the same vine. You have heard this statement made many times, no doubt, when denominationalism is being discussed. It is rather obvious that the religious world is woefully divided, with conflicting doctrines and practices of every kind. Not only do denominations differ in name; they differ in teaching and practice. Their doctrines are in many places in direct conflict with one another. In no sense is there unity and harmony but there is disagreement and division. We sometimes ask if God is pleased with a condition like that, and we are often told that it is perfectly all right, for all denominations are just branches of the same vine. Now if you have heard your preacher say this, please ask him where the Bible says so.
I have read the statement made by Jesus in John 15:1-6 that is often relied on to sustain this idea, but it does not say anything that even remotely resembles that. In this passage Jesus is talking to his disciples. He is not talking to denominations, but to his disciples. And to his disciples Jesus said in verse 5, "I am the vine, you are the branches." If He were speaking of denominations, would He not have said, "I am the vine and THEY are the branches"? But He did not say, "They are the branches." He said, "You are the branches." A number of disciples made a number of branches. Christ was (and is) the vine; the disciples were (and are) the branches; and each disciple in Christ was a branch in the vine. It took just one disciple to make a branch, for Jesus said in verse 6: "If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch." This repudiates the idea that Jesus referred to denominations as branches, for in that case it would take a great group of men to make a branch, but Jesus said one man makes a branch. So, this is not the passage that must be found. If your preacher refers you to this passage, call his attention to the fact that one man is a branch, and that he must find some other passage. This one will not work, for it does not even begin to say that all denominations are branches of the same vine.
5) Ask your preacher where the Bible says that inspired men ever invited alien sinners to the altar to pray for salvation. This practice has been followed by many in the religious world. Perhaps it is practiced in the church where you worship. If so, then I do not know of a better one to tell to ask your preach for this information than you. You are well acquainted with him; you have been in his audience many times; you have heard him preach over and over the things he believes. So just go to him and ask of him for book, chapter and verse where any inspired man ever told alien sinners to come to the altar for prayer that they might be saved. Surely he could not object to a thing like this. So, do not hesitate to ask him.
I have read in the Bible of an alien sinner engaged in prayer, when a heaven-sent man came to him to tell him what to do. A case of this kind is found in Acts 22. Saul, who had been an enemy of the early church, became convinced of the error of his way. He asked the Lord what he would have him to do. Jesus told him to go to Damascus and there he would be told what he must do. So, he went to the city and waited for that information. Ananias was sent to tell him what to do. When he came into the presence of Saul, the sinner, he found him engaged in prayer. But, you will note, he did not tell him to keep praying. No, he told this praying man, "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). To "arise," means, "to get up." There is something else that you MUST do. Ananias told Saul to get up from his praying and do something else -- to be baptized and wash away his sins. This could not be the passage your preacher could point you to, for the man of God there followed the very reverse of the course of many preachers today.
I also remember reading in the second chapter of Acts about a great multitude of sinners being condemned by the preaching of the apostle Peter. In Acts 2:37, they asked him and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" Would not this have been a very good time for Peter to tell them "to pray through to salvation; but according to my Bible, that is not what was said. My Bible says that Peter answered, "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). So, instead of these alien sinners being told to come to the altar of prayer, they were told to "repent and be baptized for the remission of sins." Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). None of these statements resemble the religious practices of men who invite sinners to the altar to pray for salvation. So, I was wondering if your preacher knows where inspired men ever followed a course like that? Perhaps you can ask your preacher. Just ask him to give you a passage in the Bible that contains the practice. And then if it is not too much trouble for you, I would be glad for you to send the information to me. If it is taught and practiced in the New Testament of Christ Jesus, I would like to teach and practice it.
6) Ask your preacher where the Bible says anything about "getting religion." As far back as I can remember I have heard people talk about getting religion; I have read reports of numbers of people who "got religion." I have heard preachers talk about it. And I do not doubt that some of you have heard similar statements. If you have heard your preacher talk of "getting religion," why not ask him to tell you where you can find anything about it in the Bible.
Yes, the word religion occurs in the Bible, but it is not mentioned too many times. The word does not occur in the Old Testament, and it is found only five time in the King James translation of the New Testament. But in all these passages it is evident that religion is something that men DO, and not something that they GET. Paul referred to his early religion as his manner of life. Listen to him, "My manner of life from my youth, which was at the first among my own nation at Jerusalem, know all the Jews: which knew me from the beginning, if they would testify, that after the straightest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee" (Acts 26:4,5). His religion at that time was not something he received in answer to prayer -- but it was his manner of life: it referred to what he did. In Galatians 1:13, 14, he said, "For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers." The religion mentioned here was his conversation, or his conduct, his manner of life, instead of something he received in some way. James says in James 1:26, 27, "If any man among you seems to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted form the world." Two kinds of religions are here mentioned -- vain religion and pure religion. But even the vain religion refers to something the man does -- bridles not his tongue but deceived his own heart. Also the pure and undefiled religion is not something one gets, but something he does, for James says it is "to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction."This refers to deeds we do. Also, to "keep himself unspotted from the world." Surely this refers to the manner of living. But, James says that is religion. Where, then, can we read anything about "getting religion"? As much as I have heard it talked about, I confess to you today that I do not know where to find anything about it in the Bible. If your preacher knows, surely he will tell you, and you can pass that information along to me.
Before I close this morning I wish to make something clear. It is not my intention to defame or belittle anyone by the comments which I make. I do not wish to question the honesty or sincerity of anyone of you in this listening audience. But, my friends, we are dealing with a very serious matter. Your eternal destiny depends upon how you handle the Word of God. So does mine. We both shall stand before the judgment bar of heaven one day. I, and you, will then be judged as to how we have handled the Word of Life. These questions are extremely important. They focus in on some of the religious differences which we see about us every day. I encourage you to take these seriously. Or, do you care? I believe that you do, or you would not be listening to me at this time. And I must conclude that you have an honest heart, until you show me differently. Jesus in Luke 8:15, when teaching the lesson on the sower, said, "And that in the good ground, these are such as in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, hold it fast, and bring forth fruit with patience." May we all have good and honest hearts. Hearts that are receptive to the truth of God's Word. I do not ask of you to accept something because I say it. But, I beg of you to accept what God's Word says about every matter.
This is Richard Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ thanking each of you for listening to this morning's broadcast and invite you to listen again next Sunday morning at 8:30 A.M. for another presentation of "What Is Truth?"