John T. Willis

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Holy Spirit

When I first became a member of the denomination called The Churches of Christ, a big issue was the Holy Spirit. Many preachers and author of written articles in pulp magazines argued that the ONLY way the Holy Spirit works is THROUGH the written word of God, that is the present Bible. These advocates based this on two texts:
  1. Ephesians 6:17: "Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."
  2. 1 Corinthians 13:8-13: "Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for TONGUES [referring back to 1 Corinthians 12:10 and expanded in 1 Corinthians 14], they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known. And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love."
  In those days in the 1950s and 1960s, exponents argued that God empowered Christians to speak in tongues through the Holy Spirit (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 14), but 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 CLEARLY teaches that after the deaths of the early apostles, speaking in tongues and other miracles cannot occur.

At the Highland Church of Christ, a faithful Christian woman who studied the Bible very carefully, taught the elders at Highland that this traditional view was far from the truth of the Bible. She cited numerous texts in the Bible that the Holy Spirit works in our lives  just as much as he did in the first century. Slowly, but surely, the whole church listened and learned and changed our position FOR THE GOOD. This was a VERY IMPORTANT truth. Unfortunately, many of the issues which we used to think were very important were insignificant, to say the least, as future blog will point out.

If ANYONE studies the Bible, it will become clear that the Holy Spirit not only exists, but is very alive and important in the lives of individuals and the church. The problem here is the very same one which we face about God the Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. For example, there are MANY TEXTS in the Bible [Hebrew Bible and New Testament] which declare that God sends rain on our land. Even Jesus declared this truth in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:45 [see also Amos 4:7-8; Psalm 104:13; Job 37:10-13; 38:25-30; and there are MANY OTHERS]. BUT even today many people do NOT REALLY BELIEVE that God "sends rain" on the earth. Instead, rain is a "natural phenomenon." All such arguments are based on the Enlightenment, not on biblical truth.

Here are ONLY a few texts about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Bible.

1. Romans 8:26-27: "Likewise the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God."

2. Galatians 5:16-18: "Live by the Spirit, I say, and do no gratify the desires of the flesh. For what the flesh desires is opposed to the Spirit, and what the Spirit desires is opposed to the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to the law." All of God's true people must LIVE by the Holy Spirit and BE LED BY the Holy Spirit.

3. Romans 15:13: "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." Our hope, joy, and peace comes from the power of the Holy Spirit.

4. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body."  The Holy Spirit dwells in our body as a worshipper dwells in a temple.

5. 2 Timothy 1:14: "Guard the good treasure entrusted to you, with the help of the Holy Spirit living in us." The Holy Spirit lives in us as he helps us to carry out God's purposes in life.

These texts are just a tip of the iceberg. I am so thankful that many people in Churches of Christ now realize that the Holy Spirit is vibrant and motivating and transforming all of us into the image of God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord. From time to time, we will be discussing the works of the Holy Spirit in future blogs.

Share your wishes and questions and experiences and failures and successes with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

No Human Being is Good--Psalms 14 and 53

Psalm 14 is essentially a doublet of Psalm 53. The only real differences are the superscriptions and slight differences between Psalm 14:5-6 and Psalm 53:5. The superscription of Psalm 14 is: "To the leader. Of David." The superscription of Psalm 53 is: "To the leader: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David." The meanings of "according to Mahalath" and "Maskil" are debated and uncertain. Psalms 14:7 and 53:6 assume that God's people are in Babylonian exile and seek God's deliverance. "Restore the fortunes" is an idiomatic term alluding to God bringing his people back to Judah to rebuild the temple, restore the law, and rebuild the wall. But there is little evidence of the historical setting of these psalms. Psalms 14 and 53 fall into three parts.

I. All Human Beings are Sinners. Psalms 14:1-4; 53:1-4.
    a. The psalmist begins by declaring "FOOLS say in their HEARTS, 'There is no God.'" In a context like this, the word "fool" does not mean "ignorant," but "spiritually separate from God." Such people feel self-sufficient. They think they need no help from others or from God. Consequently, they are corrupt--they feel they can think, say, or do anything they wish; hence, they do abominable deeds-- ungodly things which sensible, godly people would never consider; there is NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD. This is very pessimistic, but very realistic. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 14:1; 53:1.
    b. Yahweh is not on earth, but dwells above somewhere in heaven. He looks down from heaven on all human beings to see if there are ANY who are WISE, who SEEK AFTER GOD. The concept "wise" in this verse stands in bold contrast to "fools" in verse 1. This shows that to be wise does not mean to be intellectually smart, but to be subservient to God. James 3:13-18 emphasizes the nature of genuine wisdom, "the wisdom from above." 14:2; 53:2.
    c. Verse 3-4 are essentially a repetition of verse 1: ALL human beings have gone astray, they are ALL alike perverse; there is NO ONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE. Have they no knowledge [knowledge here is not IQ knowledge, but spiritual knowledge], all the evildoers who eat my God's people as they eat bread, and do not call upon Yahweh? [To call upon Yahweh is to pray to Yahweh and depend on him in all aspects of life]. All of us are in the very same boat. We are all sinners, and can never be saved without God's grace. See Ephesians 2:8-10. 14:3-4; 53:3-4.
   
II. Yahweh Protects those who turn to Him in Faith. Psalms 14:5-6; 53:5.
     a. Evildoers, those who are hard-hearted and refuse to come to Yahweh, will be in great terror, because God is with the company of the righteous. "Righteous" does not mean sinless, but humble and dependent on God. 14:5. This terror is great, in terror such as has not been. 53:5a-b.
     b. Evildoers would like to confound the plans of the poor, but Yahweh is their refuge or protection. God as our refuge is a common metaphor in the Psalms (see for example, Psalms 46:1; 62:7-8). 14:6. God will scatter the bones of the ungodly, they will be put to shame for God has rejected them. 53:5c-d.

III. The Psalmist prays that Yahweh will deliver His People from their Present Affliction. Psalms 14:7; 53:6.
      a. The psalmist cries out: "O that deliverance for Israel would come from Zion!" Israel must be delivered from some difficult situation. It seems most likely that this is the Babylonian exile, but this is uncertain. 14:7a; 53:6a.
      b. The psalmist proclaims that when Yahweh restores the fortunes of his people, Jacob will rejoice; Israel will be glad. The idiom "restore the fortunes" is the primary theme in Jeremiah 30-33 with reference to the return of faithful Judeans from Babylon to Jerusalem: Jeremiah 30:3, 18; 31:23; 32:44; 33:7, 11, 26. 14:7b-c; 53:6b-c.

Share YOUR concepts and transformations and nuances and joys and experiences with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Christians Going to War

In my early years in the Highland Church when I was in Abilene High School and Abilene Christian College, a big issue that people discussed frequently was whether a Christian should go to war. Different people argued strongly on both sides of this question. As I remember these discussions in religious papers and in sermons, the arguments ran something like this.

1. It would be a sin for Christians to enter into the armed services because:
    a. The Law of Moses says: "You shall not kill." Therefore, it is clear that killing a person in war is a violation of one of the ten commandments. Exodus 20:13.
    b. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:43-45. Therefore, it would be a violation of Jesus' teaching to kill an enemy in war.
   c. When the Jewish authorities arrested Jesus when Judas Iscariot identified him by kissing him on the cheek, Simon Peter drew his sword and cut off the right ear of the high priest's slave Malchus. Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back in your sheath. Am I not to drink the cup that the Father has given me?" (John 18:10-11). This "example" shows that the followers of Jesus must not enter into warlike situations.

2. Christian people can enter into the armed services because:
    a. The commandment "You shall not kill" means to murder another person intentionally as a result of anger and retaliation on the part of the murderer. There are three clearly exceptions to this law:
        1. Accidentally or Unintentionally killing another person does not mean "You shall not kill." Deuteronomy 19:5 supplies one example: "Suppose someone goes into the forest with another to cut wood, and when one of them swings the ax to cut down a tree, the head slips from the handle and strikes the other person who then dies; the killer may flee to one of the cities of refuge and live."
        2. Capital punishment. Several laws specifically command those in authority to execute the guilty criminal. "Whoever strikes father or mother shall be put to death.
                            Whoever kidnaps a person, whether that person has been sold or is still held in
                                 possession, shall be put to death.
                            Whoever curses father or mother shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:15-17).
        3. War. God specifically commanded his chosen people Israel to utterly destroy the Canaanites when they entered into the promised land. Deuteronomy 7:1-5. God specifically commanded Saul to utterly destroy the Amalekites because they fought against the Israelites as they were moving from the Red Sea to Mount Sinai; when Saul did not obey God's command in this circumstance, God abolished Saul from being king over Israel and replaced David in this position (1 Samuel 15:1-23).
        4. Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17 state that all authorities come from God, and Christians must be in subjection to these authorities. Romans 13:3-5 are especially important on this subject:
             "For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the
               authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval; for it is God's servant
               for your good. But if you do what is wrong, you should be afraid, for the authority does not
               bear the sword in vain! It is the servant of God to execute wrath on the wrongdoer.
               Therefore one must be subject, not only because of wrath but also because of conscience."
       5. There are evil people on earth. If evil people break into a person's house and intend to kill a man's wife and children, is it best for that man to stand by and allow them to kill his family? Or is it best for that man to defend himself, his wife, and his children? In doing that, it may be necessary for that man to strike or kill the burglars or invaders. The same principle applies to war. If a nation attacks another nation, what should the attacked nation do? Should all the people just stand by and allow the enemy to kill them? Or should all the people defend the attacked nation?

The purpose of this blog is NOT to take a position, but to make a VERY IMPORTANT point. I have never heard a church to DIVIDE over the WAR ISSUE. Somehow we argue our points, and then continue to study and pray and work TOGETHER. But ironically we DIVIDE over many other questions. This does not make sense. At the very least, we need to be consistent. Through the centuries, the war issue has been important for some, and not for others. Human beings cannot agree on any issue. But Christians should love one another and love all people even when we disagree.

Share YOUR thoughts and shortcomings and insights and experiences and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

                          
   

Monday, July 14, 2014

Struggling with God's Apparent Absence--Psalm 13

Psalm 13 is very brief. It contains only six verses. The superscription says: "To the leader. A Psalm of David." This gives one no information about the situation under consideration. The psalmist of Psalm 13 is struggling with the apparent absence of God. Verses 2 and 4 indicate that the psalmist has enemies who look forward to the downfall of the psalmist. Psalm 13 naturally falls into three parts.

I. Difficulties in life seem to never end. Psalm 13:1-2.
   a. Psalm 13 begins with the emotional question "How long?" This occurs FOUR times in verses 1-2, which appears in every line except one. The cry "How long?" presupposes that the psalmist has been in the present situation for a VERY LONG TIME, not recent.
   b. The psalmist ponders to God: Will you forget me forever? Apparently, he has prayed to God often but apparently God has not responded. He assumes that God has "forgotten" him or "forsaken" him. This thought stands in bold contrast to Joshua 1:5, in which God promises: "I will not fail you or forsake you." 13:1a.
   c. Then the psalmist asks: How long will you "hide your face" from me? The expression: God hides his face usually mean that he turns away from people to leave people to their own fate. See Psalms 10:11; 22:24; 27:9. 13:1b.
   d. The psalmist declares that he bears pain in his soul and has sorrow in his heart all day long. His enemy is thriving and thus is exalted over the psalmist. 13:2.

II. The Psalmist turns to God in Prayer. Psalm 13:3-4.
     a. The psalmist now addresses God directly, "O Lord my God." He petitions Yahweh to ANSWER his prayer and give light to his eyes. If Yahweh does not respond, the psalmist feels that he will certainly die. 13:3.
     b. On top of this, the psalmist explains that in his present depressed condition, his enemy will assume, "I have prevailed" against the psalmist, and he will rejoice because the psalmist is shaken. 13:4.

III. The Psalmist resolves to trust in God. Psalm 13:5-6.
      a. The psalmist turns to God's "steadfast love." "Steadfast love" is a prevailing theme throughout the Psalter. The psalmist declares that he "trusted in" God's steadfast love. Therefore, the psalmist's heart will "rejoice" in Yahweh's salvation. He is certain that God will appear and deliver the psalmist from his present affliction. 13:5.
      b. The psalmist resolves to "sing" to Yahweh "because" Yahweh has dealt bountifully with the psalmist in the past. What God has done God can do. 13:6.

Share YOUR concerns and situations and failures and successes and ideas with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Like every other person on earth, I have a background. I was born on 21 November 1933 at the Hendrick Hospital in Abilene, Texas. At that time, my parents were school teachers at Abilene High School. My father taught math, and my mother taught music. In all, I had three siblings: a younger brother, Dickson; a younger brother, Ernest Albert; and a sister, who died at birth. Unfortunately, I do not know her name. When I was about eight years of age, all of us came down with a very serious epidemic of some sort, and Ernest Albert died when he was about three years of age.

My early memories are that we went to church sporadically, usually at the Presbyterian Church. This is because my grandfather was a Presbyter at the Presbyterian Church in Mansfield, Texas. We usually attended the Central Presbyterian Church in Abilene. I remember that the Pastor was E. B. Surface. I thought of him very highly. My parents sometimes sang in the Presbyterian choir in Abilene. Both of them were good singers. My father attended ACC [Abilene Christian College] from 1924 to 1928, when he graduated. In those years, he was in a quartet, which they called themselves the Four W Quartet, because their names were: Ernest Witt, Ernest Walls, Albert Walls, and Cullen Willis. They would travel all over West Texas singing at churches and encouraging young people to come to ACC.

When I was eight years old, the Second World War broke out on 7 December, 1941 at the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Immediately, all of us were very fearful. We had to use rations because the food was very skimpy. Each community would share our resources. In a year or so later, my father was drafted as a civilian teacher in the US Air Force in Stamford, Texas. We lived there a year or so. We were surrounded by military people. I do not remember much about those days, but I know that all of us were focused on the terrible war situation.

When we returned to Abilene, in about 1946, the Central Presbyterian Church held a two week youth rally. On the last day, Dr. Surface approached me and said, Don't you think that you need to be baptized. Obviously, I was 13 years of age. Unfortunately, I had never heard of baptism. So I went to my parents. My parents went to Dr. Surface and asked him HOW he wanted me to be baptized. He said he can do this by sprinkling, pouring, or immersion; any of those is acceptable. For some unknown reason, my parents were not satisfied with that answer. The next several months, we church hopped all over Abilene. We attended Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian. At one point, we went to the Highland Church of Christ. After quite a bit of study, prayer, and reflection, we decided to be baptized by immersion at Highland in late 1947.

In 1947-1951 I was in High School at Abilene High School. At that time, there was no Cooper High School. During those years, I attended numerous youth activities and events. Jay and Jo Bass played an important role in our development. One of my teachers at Highland was Ray McGlothlin. Others made a great impact on us.

In 1951, I entered ACC. At first, I thought I would be a math teacher. Math was easy for me. But one of my professors, J. D. Thomas, told me that if I could learn math, I could learn Greek. So, as a Freshman, I got interested in Greek. This led me to major in Greek when I graduated in 1955. I was beginning to realize that Hebrew is also very important for Bible studies, so I studied Hebrew, and I got my graduate degree in 1956 in Old Testament=Hebrew Bible. I realized that I came in the back door. I learned the Bible by becoming interested in Greek and Hebrew.

In 1956, I had the opportunity to become a teacher for the very first time at David Lipscomb College in Nashville, Tennessee. I met and married Evelyn Forrest on 27 January 1956. Between January 1957 and 1960 we had three boys and one girl.

I will continue much more about these matters, but in this blog, I want to emphasize briefly only one point about the church in those early days in Abilene.

The emphasis at that time is that The Church of Christ is THE ONLY CHURCH acceptable to God. All the preachers made TWO main points: each divided into FIVE specific thoughts.

1. To become a Christian, one must obey these FIVE RULES of OBEDIENCE. All preachers used the following Bible verses to support this view.
    a. HEAR the gospel. Romans 10:14.
    b. BELIEVE the gospel. Romans 10:9, 14.
    c. REPENT of all former sins. Acts 2:38; 3:19.
    d. CONFESS. [Here it was not clear whether this meant: Confess of all a person's former sins-- James 5:16; Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord--Romans 10:9].
    e. BE BAPTIZED [which meant ONLY IMMERSION] so that one's sins might be washed away. Acts 2:38; 8:36-39; 22:16.
Everyone focused on these terms without knowing anything at all about their meaning. For example, "hearing" and "believing" were essentially ignored as if everyone know what these entailed.

2. When one becomes a Christian, one must follow FIVE ACTS OF WORSHIP. All of these were clearly external acts which anyone could perform.
     a. Pray.
     b. Partake of the Lord's Supper. All the people must share in unleavened bread and grape juice, not wine.
     c. Sing. This had to be vocal only, not instrumental.
     d. Receive a sermon from an acceptable preacher.
     e. Give in the weekly contribution.
Occasionally, a preacher would give a sermon on godly living, but there was a very strong emphasis AGAINST the so-called "Social Gospel." There was clear distinction between religious activities and helping people outside religious activities. So, many churches loudly publicly OPPOSED having orphanages, the Salvation Army to help the homeless and needy people, and any "institution" to help in a social sense.

We knew almost nothing about the Bible except chapters and verses, usually totally out of context. We were taught to get a red pen and mark passages in the Bible starting with Romans 10:14, then move to Mark 16:16, etc. In those days, someone created the Jules Miller Video Series. This was divided into five segments, and we were told to go to non Church of Christ people to try to persuade them to follow this series to become a Christian. This series was essentially as described above.

We will continue this from blog to blog.

Share YOUR background and experiences and changes and reversals and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Sunday, July 06, 2014

The Pervasive Sins of Lying and Flattery--Psalm 12

The Superscription of Psalm 12 reads: "To the leader: according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David." This superscription gives no clear information about the background. In fact, all the superscriptions of the Psalter are probably later additions. Any student or reader of the Bible should focus on the text of each psalm.

Psalm 12 contains only eight verses. The psalmist is very perturbed because the great majority of people on earth [his word is "humankind"--verses 1, 8] are ungodly, utter lies, use flattering lips, and make great boasts. He confidently declares that Yahweh will protect and guard the minority, the righteous. Psalm 12 naturally falls into four parts, each containing two verses.

I. The Psalmist prays for Yahweh for Help. Psalm 12:1-2.
    a. This entire psalm begins with the plea: "Help, O Lord." All God's people are helpless. They desperately need God's help. We are all dependent people. The psalmist is fully aware of this situation. 12:1a.
    b. In desperation, the psalmist announces "there is no longer ANYONE who is GODLY." The faithful have disappeared from humankind. In one sense this is certainly true. Paul said: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). But this psalmist is using hyperbolic language to emphasize how strong ungodly prevail on earth. Verse 7 makes it very clear that the psalmist DOES assume there are godly people ["us"] whom Yahweh protects and guards. 12:1b-c.
    c. The psalmist correctly observes that the majority of humankind "utter LIES to EACH OTHER," and speak with "flattering lips and a double heart." We all wear masks, and try to hide who we really are. It is striking that the name for all God's people is JACOB, which means "Supplanter, Deceiver, One who Takes by the Heel, Obtaining things which actually belong to others." See Genesis 25:26; Hoses 12:3, 7; Jeremiah 9:2-9. 12:2.

II. The Psalmist utters an Imprecation against those who lie and flatter. Psalm 12:3-4.
     a. Instead of taking things into his own hands, the psalmist turns to Yahweh, and asks Yahweh to cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts. 12:3.
     b. Flatterers and boasters declare: With OUR tongues we will prevail; OUR lips are OUR OWN-- who is OUR master. 12:4.

III. Yahweh replies to Flatterers, Liars, and Boasters. Psalm 12:5-6.
       a. The psalmist quotes the reply of Yahweh: "I will rise up" because the poor are despoiled and the needy groan, and "I will place them in the safety for which they belong." 12:5.
       b. The psalmist comments: Yahweh's promises are pure, silver refined in the furnace seven times. 12:6.

IV. Finally, Yahweh returns to Prayer to Yahweh to protect the righteous. Psalm 12:7-8.
      a. The psalmist says to Yahweh: YOU will protect us and guard us from this sinful generation. 12:7.
      b. This is a very important assurance because the wicked prowl on every side as vileness is exalted among humankind. 12:8.

Share YOUR background and experiences with others and reversals and fears and thoughts with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Established the Standard for Godly Life

The Churches of Christ, like all churches, struggle with establishing the standard for godly living. In my own lifetime, at least EIGHT different standards for godly living. There is no way to go into detail about any of these standards. Here I will simply briefly sketch the different view. [BUT, keep in mind, there are probably several additional standards which I may not realize or forget].

1. Philosophy. Philosophy is essentially HUMAN REASON. All human beings have the capacity of thinking and reasoning. Thus, throughout history, very intelligent people have developed an impressive type of human philosophy. One can think of Plato, Socrates, Plotinus, Aristotle, Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, Thomas Hume, Descartes, Wilder, and many others. Some allude to the Bible from time to time, but they do not think of the Bible as the standard.

2. Reader Response. In recent times, numerous scholars have adopted the stance that every human being has his or her own background and personal beliefs. So, all of us human beings think SUBJECTIVELY. We deceive ourselves when we think that we can use various approaches to approach the Bible objectively. If people REALLY adopt this view, any human being can adopt any view on planet earth and think, say, or do whatever he or she wishes.

3. Tradition. Many churches use the Bible, but TRADITION plays a predominant role in reaching a final decision. Churches of Christ HEAVILY follow their own TRADITIONS while declaring that they are studying and following the Bible. In future blogs, I will emphasize many views which we follow along this line rather than following the Bible.

4. Unearthing Earlier Sources. In the 19th century, many scholars invented the view that BEHIND the present Bible are various sources, and we must go BELOW the present form of the Bible to discover the original earlier sources. Julius Wellhausen championed this view in the late 19th century, and for example, declared that behind the Pentateuch were four earlier sources: J [for
J[Y]ahweh, E [for Elohim], D [for Deuteronomy], and P [for Priestly]. In doing this, he essentially rewrote the Bible.

5. Certain unprepared individuals have advanced the view that we must REWRITE the Bible in Chronological Order. This unfounded assumption is that WE must follow a chronological order of the Bible rather than a theological or spiritual emphasis as the Bible now stands.

6. A huge emphasis in my very early days in the church was that the church was established on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus Christ in 33 A. D. found in Acts 2, and therefore, the ONLY authority for the church is Acts 2 through Revelation. Everything before Acts 2 does not apply to godly living. Those who took this view did not realize that the four gospels were written long after the establishment of the church as related in Acts 2.

7. The huge majority of Church of Christ people and churches assume that the ONLY authority for the church is the New Testament and certainly not the Old Testament=the Hebrew Bible. But anyone who takes this position diametrically opposes the view of Jesus himself in Matthew 5:17-20 and Paul in 2 Timothy 3:14-17, as well as numerous New Testament texts. Due to this bias, most people in the Churches of Christ know little or nothing about the Old Testament, and many openly oppose the idea of seriously studying and following the Old Testament. This is essentially the view of Marcion in the second century A. D.

8. The true and appropriate view is that THE WHOLE BIBLE, OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS, are the proper authority for beliefs and practices and godly living. In doing this, everyone must realize that many texts in the Bible are cultural, occasional, and situational. First, one must study and understand the biblical message in THAT situation, and ONLY THEN attempt to determine whether this applies to ALL situations in ALL nations in ALL churches for ALL time. As we continue through the numerous blogs yet to appear, we will deal with very specific issues. For a brief introduction, here are a couple of examples.
     a. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, God our Father commanded his people to offer animal and cereal offerings to worship Yahweh and receive Yahweh's forgiveness. See Leviticus 1-7; Psalm 51, especially verses 18-19. But after Jesus Christ died on the cross and entered into heaven before the throne of his heavenly Father, God decreed that God's people no longer need to offer animal sacrifices, because Jesus Christ is now the appropriate sacrifice. See 1 Corinthians 5:6-8; Hebrews 7.
     b. Jesus Christ specifically commanded his disciples to wash one another's feet to follow HIS example. John 13:1-20, especially verses 14-15. Churches of Christ do not OBEY this command. Very rarely, a small group of Church of Christ people may wash the feet of a specific person or a few people. Why do we disobey this command? WE have made the decision that this practice is "cultural," "occasional," "situational." In doing this, we are following the very same line of thought as other denominations to following different practices found in the Bible.
    Thus, it is crystal clear that our beliefs and practices are just as subjective as any other church or religious group. We need to accept this reality, and totally rethink our view of the authority of the Bible.

Share YOUR beliefs and ideas and rejections and denials and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis

Yahweh Loves Righteous Deeds--Psalm 11

There is no information about the background of Psalm 11. The superscription says simply: "To the leader. Of David." The Hebrew more properly means "For to To David." We know nothing about whether the superscriptions in the Psalter are original or later additions. It is safest to deal with the text of each psalm.

Psalm 11 is very short: it contains only seven verses. The term which stands out through this psalm is "righteous" or "upright," which occurs six times in seven verses (verses 2, 3, 5, 7 [3 times]), which probably indicates this is the intended theme. Psalm 11 naturally falls into two parts.

I. The Hostile Negative Attitude of the Psalmist's Enemies. Psalm 11:1-3.
    a. The psalmist begins with his determination: "In the Lord I take refuge." [NRSV]. Here the Hebrew verb is hasah, which means "trust," thus "In the Lord I put my trust." When faced when serious problems of any type, it is tempting to seek help from others, from counselors, from "common sense," etc. But the best course is to seek help from God. 11:1a.
    b. Immediate the psalmist turns to his enemies. "You" in the question, "How can YOU say to me" is PLURAL, not singular. Hence, the psalmist is confronted with several opponents, who are bring charging against him and trying to tear down his trust and confidence in God. His opponents encourage the psalmist to "Flee like a bird to the mountains." They are diligently trying to distance themselves from the psalmist. Their proof is: "the wicked are like archers, who shoot in the dark at "the upright in heart." Apparently, these opponents assume they are among the "righteous," and want to pit themselves against the wicked. In reality, they themselves are the wicked, the opponents of the psalmist and of God. 11:1b-2.
   c. The wicked continue to reason that if the foundations are destroyed, the righteous can do nothing. Actually this is a bluff to try to discourage the psalmist. The next several verses show that the psalmist will not pay attention to these threats. 11:3.

II. The Psalmist turns to Yahweh for Protection and Guidance. Psalm 11:4-7.
     a. The psalmist declares that Yahweh is in "his holy temple," that is, in "heaven," as the synonymous parallelism shows. Yahweh is the heavenly king sitting on his heavenly throne. From heaven above, Yahweh "beholds" and "examines" humankind. It would be a mistake to identify Yahweh's "eyes" and "gaze" as literal eyes like the eyes of human beings. This is clearly figurative language. Of course, Yahweh sees and knows all things. He is the great precise searcher of hearts. But he is not human like we are. See Psalm 139:1-6. 11:4.
     b. From his heavenly throne, Yahweh "tests" the righteous and the wicked. As he makes his decisions, he HATES THE LOVER OF VIOLENCE. Many people reject the biblical testimony that our God HATES human beings who persist in opposing Yahweh and hurting innocent people. Go to a concordance and see all the references in the Bible which testify that Yahweh HATES certain types of people. See for example Proverbs 6:16-19. There are many others. Note the strong contrast between the statement "Yahweh hates the lover of violence" in verse 5 and "Yahweh loves righteous deeds" in verse 7. 11:5.
    c. Since Yahweh HATES the lover of violence, in his own good time Yahweh will rain coals of fire and sulfur and a scorching wind on the wicked. Many people reject the biblical testimony that Yahweh will punish the wicked eternally. 11:6.
    d. By nature, Yahweh is righteous. From his heart of hearts, Yahweh LOVES RIGHTEOUS DEEDS. The upright will stand before Yahweh accepted and embraced in his heavenly court. 11:7.

Share YOUR experiences and understandings and aspirations and shortcomings and fears with others. Let me hear from YOU.

John Willis