Category Archives: Bible Authority

Seasonal Activities: Secular & Religious

Christ taught his disciples to share the Lord’s Supper on the first day of each week to remember his death for our sins (Matthew 26:26-29; Acts 20:7). He did not authorize a religious festival, ritual, or ceremony to commemorate his birth. “Christmas” as a religious holy day is the result of the doctrines and “commandments of men,” which Christ forbade (Matthew 15:8-9). Paul warned that those who “observe days, and months, and times, and years” are “in bondage” to human tradition and do not please the Lord (Galatians 4:8-11). True churches of Christ follow the Bible pattern of worship at all times of the year. They have no special service to celebrate the birthday of Jesus because no such ceremony is given in the Bible.

Not everything done during December and early January is religious. This season has evolved into a mixture of some religious practices and some secular practices. This season is centered upon a religious holy day for some people, but is only a secular holiday for true Christians. We can enjoy many activities which are social, civil, business, and family oriented without being involved in the false religious activities of the season. Jesus does not teach us to withdraw like a hermit from all cultural and social contact with our fellowman, but he does expect us to avoid participating in sin and false religion of every kind (John 17:15; Ephesians 5:11).

We can distinguish the secular holiday practices of this season from the religious holy day practices. There are so many harmless secular activities associated with this season today that even religious leaders talk about trying to “put Christ back into Christmas” and to “recover a Christ-centered Christmas” (Houston Chronicle, 10 Dec. 1988, p.2E). These leaders promote displaying religious symbols and scenes, conducting religious “masses” and special services, burning religious candles, presenting religious plays, sending religious cards, singing religious songs, and performing other religious observances – all centered on celebrating the birthday of Jesus. Jesus said such human traditions are vain substitutes for obeying the true commandments of God (Mark 7:6-9).

The secular holiday practices of this season are many and harmless: (1) special offers and sales at stores; (2) family gatherings; (3) the smells of special baking, desserts, spices, candles, etc.; (4) other diet delights such as fruits and nuts; (5) seasonal songs such as “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman”, etc: (6) giving gifts for family fun; (7) special vacations, trips, time off work; (8) greeting cards and expressions of goodwill (“Happy holidays,” “Happy New Year,” etc.) (9) curtailment or closing of business activities; (10) household, business, and school decorations – snowflakes, peppermint, greenery, craft objects, bells, etc. (Not manger scenes); (11) time for parties, visits, and get-togethers; (12) playing Santa Claus with children, without introducing the ancient tradition of so-called Saint Nicolas; (13) vacations from school, and from government and civic agencies; (14) holiday bonuses from employers; (15) taking pictures of children or family to give to relatives and friends; and other customs and practices.

Some things done at this time of the year, whether on a secular or a religious basis, ought never to be done. Celebrations and parties will include revelry with dancing, gambling, lascivious songs, and the drinking of wine, beer, and liquor – the ungodly works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). People often make debts they cannot pay in order to provide lavish parties or for extravagant trips, gifts, clothes, and decorations. “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Romans 12:17).

The Jehovah’s Witnesses sect objects, “If we reject seasonal religious practices, we must reject all social activities too.” No, to sing “Jingle Bells” does not honor a Roman Catholic holy day. If it does, then we should send our children to school though no one else will be there, reject all time off from work or special bonuses, eat no nuts or fruit, and have no family gatherings lest someone might think we are recognizing the Pope’s holy days.

The truth is that we must simply discern between good and evil – between false, unauthorized sinful religious observances, on the one hand, and activities on the other hand which are social and seasonal, customary and traditional, harmless and innocent.

By Ron Halbrook

Measuring the Temple

Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem was perhaps the most beautiful building in the world, which was fitting, as it was the resting place of the Glory of the LORD.  It stood as a monument for God’s people, but also as a beacon to the world.  Sadly, Israel lost its way, and as a result lost its land, its king, its temple and the Presence of God in the temple.

Ezekiel records the LORD leaving the temple prior to its destruction at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar: “Then the glory of the LORD went out from the threshold of the house, and stood over the cherubim.  And the cherubim lifted up their wings and mounted up from the earth before my eyes as they went out, with the wheels beside them.  And they stood at the entrance of the east gate of the house of the LORD, and the glory of the God of Israel was over them.” (Ezekiel 10:18-19).  Could there be anything more despairing than seeing the LORD’S presence leaving you?  It was because Israel had already left God.  They were paying the consequences.  But as always, God leaves hope.

Ezekiel sees another vision involving the temple.  He is transported to the temple and given a tour.  There he watches a “man whose appearance was like bronze” (40:4) measuring the temple.  Each and every part is explored, its measurements recorded.  Then an extraordinary thing happens: In the vision the Glory of the LORD returns to the temple.  And Ezekiel is given a strict charge.  “As for you, son of man, describe to the house of Israel the temple, that they may be ashamed of their iniquities; and they shall measure the plan.  And if they are ashamed of all that they have done, make known to them the design of the temple, its arrangement, its exits and its entrances, that is, its whole design; and make known to them as well all its statutes and its whole design and all its laws, and write it down in their sight, so that they may observe all its statutes and carry them out (Ezekiel 43:10-11).

Now why would a description of the temple and its detailed measurements cause Israel to “be ashamed of their iniquities”?  What does the placement of entrances and exits have to do with their relationship to God?  God is using the exact measurements of the temple as a metaphor for His Law, His pattern for them.  Ezekiel recorded, “they shall measure the plan.”  The temple is associated with statutes and laws.  Just as God had revealed precisely how to obey Him and have a relationship with Him.  God demonstrated this precision with three chapters (in our Bibles) of detailed measurements and descriptions of the temple.

The period of exile would end, and the temple would be rebuilt and rebuilt again.  But despite Ezekiel’s vision, there is no record that God’s Glory ever returned to the Jerusalem temple.  It was destroyed for good by the Romans in AD 70.  However, the New Testament records that a new temple was constructed, one that does indeed have the Presence of God.  Peter writes of Christians as “living stones…built up as a spiritual house.”  Paul tells us, “God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple” (1 Corinthians 3:17).  What temple was God to inhabit?  It was ultimately the temple of His people purchased by the blood of Christ.

God gave us a plan so we would know His expectations [i.e., His design for His new temple, the church, and His laws, Christ’s laws, which govern it].  Ezekiel was to record the exact measurements, show them to Israel and expect their repentance.  When we see the ideal, we know how far we have fallen short of it.  Paul writes, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin.  For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Romans 7:7).

As God’s holy temple we have the greatest of honors– to be the dwelling place of Presence of the LORD.  But with that honor comes the great responsibility of arranging that temple according to God’s exact plan.

— Alan Cornett, via Family Items, Athens, Alabama

Two Sources of Authority

“The baptism of John, where was it from? From heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:25).

The chief priests and elders questioned Jesus concerning the authority for His work, saying, “By what authority are You doing these things? and who gave You this authority?”  Jesus did not dispute the need for authority.  In fact, he asked them a question about authority concerning the baptism of John, promising to answer their question if they answered His question.

Jesus’ question tackled the foremost issue in any study of authority – its source.  Jesus identified two, and only two, sources of authority – heaven and men.  “Heaven” has reference to divine authority, that which is provided by God.  Such authority is found in God’s revelation to man.  God’s word to man today is the word of Christ in the New Testament (Hebrews 1:1-2; Ephesians 3:3-5; Jude 3; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 1;13).  When we do what God has revealed in the divine pattern of His word, we are acting by heaven’s authority!

On the other hand, man’s authority is just that, human authority – that which stands in contrast to divine authority.  This human authority can be manifested in several ways:

  • Preachers and scholars – following what men say.
  • Creeds of men – religious doctrines of men.
  • Majority opinion – what most people believe.
  • Personal opinion – what I think is right.
  • Emotions – what I feel is right.
  • Sincerity – what I really believe is true.
  • Results – the end justifies the means.

Each person must decide which authority he will ultimately and completely follow or submit to – man or God.  God’s word is truth (John 17:17).  If most folks choose to follow man, division and confusion will continue in our world.  Choose to follow Jesus and His divine authority.  He is the only true way.

— By Marc W. Gibson, The Central Voice, March, 2014

The Authority of Scripture

The importance of something is seen by how much emphasis it’s given.  God has emphasized the importance of His Word more than anything else He could have emphasized.  Consider Psalm 119; Colossians 3:16-17.

I.    WORD OF CHRIST

A.    The authority (name) of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48).
B.    The authority of His ambassadors (Acts 4:7, 10, 18-20).
1.    Both carry equal weight (Matt 17:5; Acts 3:22; John 16:13).

II.    BIBLE

A.    All Scripture (2 Tim 3:16-17).
B.    Books of Moses (Exo 4:12).
C.    Psalms (2 Sam 23:2).
D.    Prophets (2 Pet 1:21).

III.    SCRIPTURES

A.    Jesus explained (Luke 24:27).
B.    Jesus quoted (Luke 17:26-32; Matt 12:39-40).

IV.    WORD OF GOD

A.    Divergent views:
1.    Incomplete, irrelevant, slightly profitable.
B.    Accurate view:
1.    Complete and final (2 Pet 1:3; 1 Cor 2:11-13; Jude 3).
2.    One and only (Eph 4:5).

Jesus made promises relating to His word in the Bible: Teach them, and I will be with you (cf. Matt 28:20).  Abide in them, and I will answer you (cf. John 15:7). Keep them, for they will judge you (cf. John 12:48).

God’s Amazing Bible

How much do we take for granted?  We take for granted freedom in this country, and the blood spilled to make that possible.  We also take for granted the accessible nature of the Bible and our freedom to read it, believe it and practice it.  Go to other countries and you will realize just how much we take for granted.  But, our freedom gives us opportunity to learn the most amazing evidences for God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ being the Son of the Living God.  There are many amazing things about the Bible, but one feature sets it high above all other religious books.  We have the prophetic word, and we have that prophetic word made more sure and certain.

Consider the element of prophecy in the Bible, unmatched by any other religious book.  Consider the Old Testament as the part that Jewish writers wrote hundreds of years before Jesus Christ was born.  Then consider how many prophecies they wrote that described Him in amazing detail.  Consider the odds of one man fulfilling just eight of those prophecies, to say nothing of the dozens and dozens of Old Testament prophecies, types, and shadows of this Messiah and His kingdom fulfilled in Jesus Christ.  Consider the following article: The Mathematical Odds of Jesus Fulfilling Prophecy.

“The following probabilities are taken from Peter Stoner in Science Speaks (Moody Press, 1963) to show that coincidence is ruled out by the science of probability.  Stoner says that by using the modern science of probability in reference to eight prophecies, ‘we find that the chance that any man might have lived down to the present time and fulfilled all eight prophecies is 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000.’

To help us comprehend this staggering probability, Stoner illustrates it by supposing that we cover the state of Texas with silver dollars two feet deep.  ‘Now mark one of these silver dollars and stir the whole mass thoroughly, all over the state.  Blindfold a man and tell him that he can travel as far as he wishes, but he must pick up one silver dollar and say that this is the right one.  What chance would he have of getting the right one?  Just the same chance that the prophets would have had of writing these eight prophecies and having them all come true in any one man” (Evidence that Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell).  Now consider the fact that there are not just eight Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus Christ, but roughly 353.  It should be quite evident that Jesus did not fulfill the prophecies by accident.”

The Bible is an amazing Book.   It not only prophesied great details about a Messiah who was coming, but it also gave amazing types and shadows of him hundreds of years before the Messiah arrived in Jesus of Nazareth and fulfilled every detail.  The writers of the New Testament were amazed by this factor, as one of the reasons they were convicted enough to live and die for the spread of this message.  They saw what we all need to see.

The New Testament shows how Jesus fulfilled those prophecies, types, and shadows in every way.  Those writers suffered and died to let us see what they saw, and understand what they understood (Eph.3:3-5).   It would be a shame if we let it sit on the table and collect dust as the rich man and his brothers had done for so long (Luke 16:19ff).  Let the rich man’s anguish over that neglect, and his regret and fear that his brothers would repeat the same mistake, be an alarm to make us afraid to take God’s word for granted any more.

We have the prophetic word made more sure (2 Pet.1:16-21).  When you study and start grasping these marvelous things, light comes on in the mind, heart, and life,  growing brighter and brighter until it is like the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.  You realize that you hold in your hands the most important information in the world.  Nothing in the security vaults of our nations’ top-secret chambers holds any information more important than the treasures of wisdom and knowledge available to us in the Bible.  When it dawns on you, Glory fills the soul.  We are enlightened and illuminated (Heb.6:4).  Why does that happen?  Because it becomes very clear that the will of man and human wisdom did not produce the prophetic word.  Truly, holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

This book of prophesy contains the power of God to save the soul from death, enlighten the mind, and guide the soul to eternal life.  Oh, what a subject that is itself!

“Therefore, putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness, in humility receive the word implanted, which is able to save your souls” (Jas 1:12).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Rom 1:16).

If you have lost sight of how marvelous and amazing the Bible is, spend some time within its pages, and let that Star rise again in your heart.  The Psalmist said: “Open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from your law”(Psalm 119:18).

Have you seen that glorious light?  Don’t let your chances get by you.  Neglect other things, but don’t neglect this.  It is too amazing to neglect for needless and useless things that make useless lives.

Study this book, your life here and after death depends on it. — Terry W. Benton