30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM
Clarksville church of Christ
August 20, 2000
Speaker: Richie Thetford
Good morning and welcome to another presentation of "What Is Truth?" I'm Richie Thetford, evangelist for the Clarksville church of Christ, located at 407 W. Hwy 131 in Clarksville. I want to thank each and every one you for taking the time to listen this morning as we examine another truth of God's word. It is my hope and prayer that those of you that are listening today will honestly examine your heart to ensure that you are in fact doing only those things that are pleasing to our almighty God. As we discuss the topic of the hour, "Division", 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). Also the apostle John warns us that we should "....not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 John 4:1). 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, pen and paper ready and let's study together another truth of God.
I want to call your attention to the letter of the apostle Paul to the church of Corinth. Please turn in your Bible to 1 Corinthians 4:1-8 and let's read this passage of scripture. "Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by a human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I know nothing against myself, yet I am not justified by this; but He who judges me is the Lord. Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one's praise will come from God. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us--and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you!"
Every student of the New Testament knows something of the grievous condition at Corinth, that prompted Paul to write the letter of First Corinthians, a portion of which we have just read. False teachers had sponsored divisions. The Church, the body of Christ, in that great city, was in danger of losing that unity, and oneness that must always characterize the people of God. No greater evil ever confronted Christianity than this, whether it be in Corinth of old or Philadelphia of today. It is God's will, Christ's prayer, and the apostles' doctrine and teaching, that all believers be united. Christ, the head of the body, which is the church, has provided the perfect pattern. We read in the second chapter of Acts that the church of Jerusalem continued steadfastly in the apostles doctrine, the fellowship, the breaking of bread, and in prayers. They, as the model church, were setting the example for time to come. They were of one accord, of one mind and had but one purpose--to be obedient to almighty God. The brethren to whom Paul writes had developed the troubled condition that he sets forth in the first chapter after this manner, "Now I say this, that each of you says, "I am of Paul," or "I am of Apollos," or "I am of Cephas," or "I am of Christ." Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, lest anyone should say that I had baptized in my own name." (1 Cor 1:12-15).
We find that the apostle Paul and Apollos were one. Paul and Apollos taught no such division, and had no part in it, Paul's statement is that they are not to wear the names of men in religion. Follow the logic, you were baptized in the name of Christ, therefore wear his name. He was crucified for you, therefore wear his name. It has always been wrong to wear the names of men in religion. Paul does not want the people here to wear his name. He gives the reason in clear terms, that he was not crucified for you and he did not baptized them into his name. They were baptized in Christ's name, therefore wear it. Let every one in this radio audience this morning consider the name that you wear. The disciples of old were called Christians. Agrippa answered Paul in Acts 26:28, "You almost persuade me to become a Christian." Peter writes to the children of God as recorded in 1 Peter 4:16, "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this matter." The church is the bride of Christ and therefore must wear His name.
Some men teach the literary doctrine of "a name, a name, there is nothing in a name," But the Apostle Peter taught just the opposite. In Acts 4:10-12 we find these words, "let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the 'stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.' Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
As a faithful minister of Christ, Paul starts at the root of the trouble and denies the right of any people to put the teaching of men or the names of men above that of God and Christ. There is a name that all may wear, the name Christian, and a church that all may be a part of, the church that man can read about in the New Testament. The apostle to the Gentiles had the courage and conviction to tell the Corinthian church that those conditions had to be corrected. When a man speaks the truth, he needs no apology, so in the text reading we find that statement in the third verse, "But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you." What strange language is this for the man who had spent much of his time, even years, in founding and teaching the church in Corinth. At first thought, it might seem that Paul has declared, in our way of saying things, I don't care what you think of me. How far this is from 'the real facts of the saying. Paul loved the members of the church at Corinth and was greatly concerned over their feeling for him. Listen to what he says in 2 Corinthians 2:4, "For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote to you, with many tears, not that you should be grieved, but that you might know the love which I have so abundantly for you." No, he is stating a far different principle. He is saying that you are not to judge me, I judge not my own self, why? He that judges me is the Lord. The faithful minister understands that the poorest sermon ever preached was the one designed to please all. We are not the judges of the truth of God, and men pleasers are not approved of God. Paul was determined that they know that their judgment in the matter of division did not make it right. God's truth has never depended on the judgment and wisdom of men. As a matter of fact, many times the commands of God seem unwise, even foolish to men. This does not lessen the responsibility of the loyal servant to obey them. We need to demand of the "clergy" today that they say with Paul of old, "It is a very small thing with me, that I be judged of you."
We are to know nothing but Christ. Some can remember the statements of the older preachers, and they will always ring -in our ears because they repeated them time and time again. In the beginning of almost every sermon before they took up the message proper, they would make these two declarations. "It will be my purpose to hide behind the cross, and to preach nothing except Christ and him crucified," and then, "I am here to please God, not men, if men are pleased, I shall rejoice but my principle concern is that every word I shall speak will be pleasing to my God." Now many great truths are embodied in these words. If preachers today have lost the power of their message, perhaps it is because they are failing to hide behind the cross. Regardless of how old the saying may be, it is a part of the truth of the Master. Paul said in Galatians 6:14,"God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." There is no room here for a show of scholarship, a demonstration of dramatic art, or a collection of flowery phrases. A place can not be found for stories of personal success or experiences. There is little use of the pronoun "I." The need today is for preachers who; with Jeremiah of old, have the word of the Lord in them like a burning fire. Who by their concern for the lost men and women in their audiences will forget the personal glory, and pour out the story of the cross, as though it were their last sermon on this earth. The message rings out from the pioneers of yesterday, when you preach hiding behind the cross.
Now let us consider the last part of the familiar saying, "And know nothing save Christ and him crucified." Paul sounded that great cry nearly two thousand years ago in 1 Corinthians 2:2, and it needs to be read over and over. There would never be a theory preached in the pulpits of the churches of America if this old rule were observed. There would never be a division over the idea of some preacher who wants to write it into the faith delivered to the saints. Little sermonettes would not be the order of the day, while the masses are starving for spiritual bread. The story of the cross on Pentecost, which converted men to Christ in the first century, will convict and convince men of sin today if we will give it the opportunity.
When these older preachers stated that they wanted to please God, they were restating the principle of Paul. He looked down the avenue of time to tell Timothy, his son in the gospel, as recorded in 2 Tim. 4:3, "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers." The tendency for soft and still softer preaching is sweeping over the land like the tides of the sea. Let us in answer sound again from the walls of spiritual Jerusalem the trumpet of truth, and say with Paul, "It is a small thing with me that I be judged of you."
Consider now briefly, the second principle that the writer suggests to this divided and troubled church. If it would correct the seditions there, it would undoubtedly help solve the divided state of religion now. We find it in verse six, "These things brethren I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes, that you might learn in us, not to think of men above that which is written." If all spiritually minded people could master this lesson, how great the influence of the church would be. No man is to be followed above or beyond a "thus sayeth the Lord." Men are free to declare the whole gospel under this rule but are forbidden to add to or to take from the things that are written. Peter stated this truth in I Peter 4:11, "If any man speak let him speak as the oracles of God." John added this statement in 2 John 9 "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son." If all men had been content to abide in the doctrine of Christ there would never have been division among believers. There would never have been a name of man or system to replace the name that is above every name. There could be only that unity and oneness for which we sigh.
The things that are written are complete, and constitute the fullness, not only of God's revelation, but God's will to man. The Bible revealed God exactly as he desired to make Himself and His Son known to man. When the last writer set aside the pen of revelation and inspiration, we are strictly warned against any addition or subtraction to the Bible. Here is the scripture, Revelation 22:18, 19, "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book."
It has been feebly pointed out by some that this statement applies only to the Book of Revelation, but certainly it can be said, not only of one, but every book in the Bible. God was both willing and able to write a complete revelation, and this is exactly what He did. Paul wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim. 3:16-17, "All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." This leaves nothing out. Nothing that depends on future revelation. The revised version reads, "That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely to every good work." If the scripture, the Bible, is able to equip or furnish us to every good work, why seek an additional revelation. Obey that which is revealed. Those who claim further revelation from God do so, not only against the teaching of Paul, but the Apostle Peter as well. Hear what Peter has to say on the fullness of the scripture. In 2 Peter 1:2-3, "Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue." Full, adequate, complete is the Bible, and the knowledge of Christ found in the New Testament is able, if obeyed, to give unto us all things that pertain to life (what to do to be saved), and godliness, (how to live that we may ever be in favor with him).
So friends, who makes us differ? Paul presses this question on the church of Corinth, found in verse seven, "Who makes you to differ from another?" The answer has already been discussed. Certainly not the man who abides in the teaching of Christ. Not the faithful servant who teaches within the bounds of the things that are written. Not the faithful preacher that Paul declares he and Apollos to be. No man could differ from another religiously if he would take the Bible and the Bible alone for his only creed and rule of practice. None would wear the names of men now anymore than the Corinthian church would have, if their teachers had been true to the word of God. God would not endorse the party names of Paul, Cephas and Apollos. If all would be true to the Bible, respect its silence as well as its commands, the church would be exalted, the world persuaded to believe in the Saviour of men, who prayed for his disciples to be one, and the cause of Christ would fill the earth. We are not made to differ one from another by God's authority. His will is that the unity of the spirit be preserved in the bonds of peace.
Jesus prayed for unity notice now if you will the prayer of Jesus that is found in the gospel of John, chapter 17, verses 20-26; "I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one: I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me. And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them." Obviously if Jesus prayed for unity, that means that unity can be accomplished if we want it to be so. However, in order to have unity, all individuals must be willing to look at the words of God (the Bible), and then be determined to be unified with God and each other in those things which are stated within the Bible.
And now let me impress upon you this truth. You must believe the facts of the gospel with the heart, and obey all the commands of the Lord, in order to be saved from sin. Sometimes men stress the importance of believing the gospel but not the importance of obeying it. A failure to believe will bring condemnation, and a failure to obey will bring damnation. Christ said in Mark 16:16, "He that believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believes not shall be damned." Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9, "and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power."
The facts of the. gospel are these: That Christ died, was buried, and rose again the third day. Paul declares this to be the gospel in the first five verses of the 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians. Many men believe this, yet have never taken a single step to obey it. We of course are not required to do all that Christ did. This would mean a literal death, burial, and resurrection; we obey the form or pattern of it. Paul writes in Romans 6: 17, "But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered." Now notice what this form of doctrine does for the sinner, "Being then made free from sin you became the servants of righteousness." But of course the all important question now is what is the pattern or form of the gospel? Simply this, we in a spiritual way, do what Christ did in a literal way. We die to sin, are buried and raised. Please turn now in your Bible to the first eleven verses of the Sixth chapter of Romans and you have the answer. Here is says, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Won't you be determined this morning to do only what Christ has authorized? When we strive to put into practice only those things that God has given us to do, then we will not be guilty of creating division within our beloved Lord's church. In religion, May we all be determined to obey God and not man (Acts 5:29).
This is Richie 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?"