30 Minute Radio Lesson - WAVG Radio 1450 AM

Clarksville church of Christ

November 12, 2000

Speaker: Richie Thetford

"Stumbling Stones"

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, "Stumbling Stones", 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 believe that there are thousands of honest men and women in the audience this morning who want to know more about the word of God. You realize that the highest duty of man is to his God, and therefore you are trying to determine what His will is and mold your action in accordance with His desire. Like Moses of old, you are saying, "Lord show me thy way, and I will find grace in your sight."However, you may be confused in regard to the teaching of the Bible, and have, to a degree, may have lost faith in all so-called Bible interpreters. If this is your situation, I cannot blame you. With the modern babble of tongues in our pulpits, and the contradictory preaching heard over the air, it is a difficult thing to be sure of anything in religion. I am sure also that within my own limits of mind and understanding, I, by my own wisdom, would be unable to unravel the tangled web. But my friends, there is hope. It ought to be a matter of great encouragement that there is a Book that needs no interpretation in the light of man's wisdom, for it has for its basis a much higher source and that is the mind of God. This caused the following to be written in Psalms 19: 7, "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul."


It may be that you are using the wrong method in seeking out the will of God. There are thousands of men and women who try by prayer to have the gospel made known to them that they may be saved. Without any intended offense to any man living or dead, let me say that God does not talk to men in prayer. There is not a single mention of such in the New Testament. The will of God comes through the word of God, written and sealed by the blood of Christ in the New Testament of the Savior. Listen to what Paul says in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." The word of God is presented by the preacher, and Paul declares in verse 14 that they cannot hear without a preacher. This is why the gospel is God's power unto salvation. Not only is this true, but God has already revealed to man all things that he needs to know to make him complete, and not only to make him complete, but also to furnish him to all good works. That is what is clearly stated in 2 Timothy 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 perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." Add to this the fact that all revelation is complete, and is in the past as far as the giving of it is concerned. Let us again let the Bible speak and listen to Peter's words in 2 Peter 1 3: "According as his divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that has called us to glory and virtue." Hence, we see that God will not direct the sinner to salvation as the result of prayer, for faith comes by hearing the word of God. The word of God is the will of God and is able to furnish and equip the child of God to every good work. The word of God has already been given, and Peter declares that by precious promises we are made partakers of the Divine Nature. This has to be true, for Christ told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would guide them into all truth (John 16:13), so nothing could be added. Nothing depends on future revelation from God to the sinner. The gospel is the power of God to all men!

We are brought then to this conclusion. God talks to us through His word and we talk to God through prayer. To show you that this is right we can turn to the Bible so that the Bible can show us how to pray and what to pray for. If prayer were a two-way conversation, that would have been foolish. Why have a Bible if this be the case? Why God could have waited until the next time that we prayed to Him to reveal these things. The very fact that he teaches man to pray and tells him what to pray for, is proof of the fact that he wanted to use his medium, his word, to teach man to use man's means, prayer. I know there are many good people who have heard this program and are hearing it this morning that have not been taught along this line, and that is why I am taking this opportunity to study with you concerning these things.


Thus we see that the misuse of prayer is a great stumbling stone to a complete and proper understanding of the will of the Lord. Now let us consider other stumbling stones in the path of a clear understanding of the Bible. One of the greatest difficulties in understanding the will of the Lord is a failure to accurately determine which covenant or testament we are living under today. This comes from a failure to rightly divide the word of truth. We are living today under the New Covenant of Jesus Christ. To completely understand this, let us compare it with the constitutions of our several states. There is hardly a state in the union that has not had more than one constitution. When a new constitution is ratified, the old one ceases to be in force. Now in just this same manner God has had three different and distinct covenants with man. They are all found in the Bible, and the Christian believes in the existence and usefulness of all of them in the time and the day that God had them in force. It would appear to the thinking man, however, that God could have only one covenant in force at one time, Just as a state can have but one constitution in force at a given time.

The three covenants of God simply stated, one by one, are these: First, the family covenant when the family was the unit and God spoke to the head of the family, the father. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob lived and died under this early covenant. The father was the priest and offered the sacrifices of his house upon the stone altars built in his wanderings. For 2500 years this covenant was in force with the children of men, and this method was used from blooming Eden to shaking Sinai.

The second covenant that God made with man was on Mount Sinai when the children of Israel were given the ten commandments. Here Israel camped for a whole year, and built the tabernacle. This covenant did not include the Gentile people of the world. No Gentile was bound by the Mosaic Law. The Gentile people of the world continued to meet around family altars until Christ came. The Law of Moses was given that Christ might come of the seed of David and of the tribe of Judah. The Hebrew people were separated from the Gentiles that this very thing might be accomplished, and, hence, Paul, a member of the Jewish race, states in Galatians 3:24-29 the following: "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." While this covenant was in effect God told Israel, through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 31:31-32, that the day was coming when he would make a new covenant. Listen to what the Bible says, "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD." Now Paul repeats this in Hebrews 8, and prefaces it with this statement found in Hebrews 8:6-7: "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second." But there may be some that might say that God did not change all of the covenant and that he just changed the ceremonial part. Well, let's let the prophet Zechariah speak concerning this. He utters his predictions for the time when the Lord was to make a new covenant in Zechariah 11:10-11. "And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD." Christ is the "staff even Beauty."Beauty is one of the prophetic names given to the Son of God. God says, "I will take Christ and I will with him break my covenant that I made with the people on that day," that is, the day of Sinai. Now turn in your Bible to Colossians 2:14 and read what the apostle Paul says concerning this: "having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." Christ had said that not one jot or tittle should pass from the Law until it should be fulfilled. When he died upon the cross he said, "It is finished." One of the miracles that accompanied the crucifixion was the renting of the vale of the temple to show that the Law of Moses was no longer in effect and that the middle wall of partition had been abolished, that Jew and Gentile might be one in his Body, which is the Church. We can see this very clearly by what is written in the book of Ephesians 2:15-16: "having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity."

Christ taught almost every day of his life that he was the one to be heard and not Moses. The following is a part of his sermon on the Mount, recorded in Matthew 5:21-22: "You have heard that it was said to those of old, 'You shall not murder,' and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, 'Raca!' shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be in danger of hell fire."

To summarize all statements of the nature as found in this chapter, here is what we find:

Moses said, Thou shalt not commit adultery, But Christ said, Thou shalt not lust. Moses said, Thou shalt not kill, But Christ said, Thou shalt not be angry. Moses said, Divorce will be granted for any cause, But Christ said, For fornication only. Moses said, Swear and pay, But Christ said, Swear not at all. Moses said, Retaliate, But Christ said, Retaliate not. Moses said, Love thy neighbor and hate your enemy, But Christ said, Love your enemy.

Friends, would it be possible for anything to be any clearer than this? When Moses and Elijah appeared with Christ on the Mount of Transfiguration recorded in the 17th chapter of Matthew, God said, "This is my beloved Son, hear him." That settled for all time the authority of Christ. The New Testament is his covenant, sealed with his blood.

For the benefit of those that still believe in and practice the keeping of the Sabbath day, consider Christ's attitude on the Sabbath, the seventh day. He healed on the Sabbath, gathered corn on the sabbath, taught on the sabbath, and summed it all up in these words found in Mark 2:11, "And he said unto them, the sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath."

The old covenants were nailed to the cross, and we are now children of the new covenant. Yet there will continue to be preachers who will continue to preach week after week on the radio and from the pulpit that will quote from the covenants that are no longer in force as though they were God's will to and for man today.


But, finally, let us deal with one other stumbling block that many times stands between men and a clear understanding of the scriptures: A stumbling stone is the idea that the sinner is passive in conversion. By this I mean the man-made theory that places emphasis on God's part in the salvation of the human soul and minimizes man's responsibilities in it. Modern preachers teach that there is little for the sinner to do but to take the right attitude and the rest will be done for him. Hence, they tell you to fall down beside your radio and let Jesus into your heart and he will do all the rest. Friends, such teaching, however sincere, just simply is not true. No such doctrine is taught in the New Testament, and no example of such conversion can be found between the covers of the Bible. The Bible teaches that God worked out our salvation thru Christ; and that we have to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. The Bible teaches that God has a part in saving man and that man has a part in saving himself. Every passage of scripture, every example of conversion in The Acts of the Apostles, and every element of sound reasoning show without question that this is true. Let's take a moment and let the Bible talk to us concerning these things: Hebrews 7:19: "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did: by which we draw nigh unto God." Jesus said"Come unto me" in Matthew 11, and, "Take up your cross and follow me," in Matthew 16:24. These lessons are clear. We draw near to God; we come to Christ; we take up our cross and follow him.

Every promise in the New Testament has a stated condition or conditions necessary to receive it. Salvation is no exception. There are conditions that the sinner must meet and comply with if he is to be saved, and there is no salvation promised without obedience to these conditions. We are to obey the gospel. Paul writes in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8: "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."

The sinner has to do more than just hear the Gospel. He has to hear, believe, and then obey. Peter said on the Day of Pentecost, recorded in Acts 2:38, that obedience consisted of repenting and being baptized for the remission of sins. Here is the exact wording:"Then Peter said unto them, 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." Jesus confirmed this when he gave the great commission under which Peter delivered this sermon. "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, he that believers and is baptized shall be saved." Now, friends, does this sound as though the sinner is passive in conversion, that he has nothing to do? Jesus said every creature must believe and be baptized to be saved. Prayer cannot and will not save the sinner short of his believing and being baptized. That is why Ananias told Paul to tarry no longer but to arise and be baptized, calling on the name of the Lord.

But, now, one final stumbling stone: In what manner must a sinner be baptized? I have answered questions from some that have asked, Do you think that all baptism is immersion? Think about this question! Is all baptism immersion? That would imply that a part is immersion and another part is sprinkling and pouring. Where would we find any division of baptism into parts? I am just as much at a loss to know where we could divide baptism into parts as I am to know where we could divide the blood of Christ into parts. To face the facts, there is no such division. Paul declares in Ephesians 4 that just as there is one Lord and one God, there is one baptism.

Study the following, and take God at his word:

Much water: John 8:23: "And John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there; and they came, and were baptized"

Going Down Into the Water: Acts 8:38: "And he commanded the chariot to stand still and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him."

The Likeness of a Birth: John 3:5: "Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."

The Likeness of a Resurrection: Colossians 2:12: "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead."

The Likeness of a Burial: Romans 6:4: "Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life."

A Coming Up Out of the Water: Acts 8: 39: "And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing."

Friends, we need to ensure that we read the Bible, determined to act upon what is written therein. Let us not be the victim of stumbling stones placed in front of us by others no matter how sincere they may be. We will have to give account for all of our deeds whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10). Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23:"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. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!" May we all be determined to do the will of the Lord so as to be able to live with Jesus in eternity. Remember, He "became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him" (Heb 5:9).

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?"