1/21/19

"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS" The Significance Of Christ's Priesthood (7:11-19) by Mark Copeland


"THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS"

The Significance Of Christ's Priesthood (7:11-19)

INTRODUCTION

1. A major theme in "The Epistle To The Hebrews" is the priesthood of Jesus Christ...
   a. His humanity prepared Him to be "a merciful and faithful High Priest" - He 2:17
   b. He is the "High Priest of our confession" - He 3:1
   c. He is "a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens" - He 4:14
   d. He is a sympathetic High Priest, for He "was in all points 
      tempted as we are, yet without sin" - He 4:15
   e. His calling as High Priest came from God Himself - He 5:5-6

2. His is a unique priesthood, however...
   a. It is NOT according to the "Levitical priesthood"
      1) He is a not priest in the order of Aaron
      2) A priesthood that began with the giving of the Law through 
         Moses at Mt. Sinai
   b. His priesthood is "according to the order of Melchizedek" - He 5:9-10
      1) Melchizedek was a priest "of God Most High" who met Abram - Gen 14:14-20
      2) And God swore that the Messiah would be a priest like Melchizedek - Ps 110:4

3. In our previous study, we saw Melchizedek was superior in that...
   a. He received tithes from Abraham - He 7:4-6a
   b. He blessed Abraham - He 7:6b-7
   c. Even Levi, in the loins of his ancestor Abraham, paid tithes to Melchizedek - He 7:9-10
   -- All of this proving that the priesthood of Christ, which is after
      the order of Melchizedek, is superior to the Levitical priesthood

4. That Jesus would come to serve as a priest after the order the
   Melchizedek is not without significance and major implications...
   a. Regarding the efficacy of the Levitical priesthood
   b. Regarding the law of Moses itself!

[Some of the significance and implications of Christ's priesthood is 
described in He 7:11-19.  As we consider "The Significance Of Christ's
Priesthood", we note first that ...]

I. THE LEVITICAL PRIESTHOOD WAS LACKING (11)

   A. IT DID NOT BRING "PERFECTION"...
      1. Otherwise there would not have been another priest to arise like Melchizedek
      2. That one was foretold (Ps 110:4) and has come proves the 
         order of Aaron was lacking

   B. THE MEANING OF "PERFECTION"...
      1. Perfection means "completeness" and in this context it speaks
         of making men acceptable to God (Believers' Study Bible)
      2. The Old Law with its priesthood could never fully reconcile 
         man back to God
         a. Animal sacrifices could not make one "perfect" - He 10:1
         b. They could not cleanse the sinner's conscience - He 10:2-3;cf. 9:9
         c. They could not take away sin - He 10:4; cf. 10:11

[Jesus coming as a priest after the order of Melchizedek implies that
the Levitical priesthood, while having served the purpose for which it
was intended (to foreshadow the sacrifice of Christ), was not able to
provide man what he really needs.  

The priesthood of Christ also signifies...]

II. THE LAW HAS BEEN ANNULLED (12-18)

   A. A CHANGE IN THE PRIESTHOOD SIGNIFIES A CHANGE IN THE LAW...
      1. Jesus came from the tribe of Judah, not Levi - He 7:13-14;cf. Mt 1:1-2
      2. Moses had not authorized anyone from Judah to serve as priest;
         indeed, God specifically forbid anyone other than a descendant
         of Aaron - cf. Num 16:40
      3. For Christ to serve as priest, then, a change must have occurred - He 7:14
      4. Especially for one who serves "according to the power of an endless life" - He 7:15-17
         a. The Levitical priests were "mortal men", whose service ended at death
         b. But Jesus is a priest "forever", His priesthood is therefore unchangeable - He 7:24

   B. WITH THE CHANGE IN PRIESTHOOD, THE LAW IS NOW ANNULLED...
      1. "Annulled" means "to declare as void, to invalidate, to abrogate" (Lightfoot)
      2. The "former commandment" (as the Law is called) has therefore
         been set aside - He 7:18-19a
         a. Because it was weak and unprofitable
         b. In the sense of making us "perfect" (acceptable to God) - cf. He 10:1
      3. That the Law has been done away should not surprise us...
         a. God foretold this would happen - cf. He 8:7-13
         b. Jesus implied that the Law would be done away once it was 
            fulfilled - Mt 5:17-18
            1) One "jot" or "tittle" would not pass from the law until it was fulfilled
            2) If the priesthood has changed, then it must have been fulfilled and done away!
         c. Paul described how Jesus abolished it in His death on the cross
            1) To the Ephesians - Ep 2:14-16
            2) To the Colossians - Col 2:14-16

[This significance of Christ's priesthood has powerful implications. 
With the Law annulled, it is folly to seek justification by the Law 
(cf. Ga 5:4); it also explains why we should not go to the Old Law to
find our authority for the work, worship, and organization of the 
church!

Finally, there is that significance of Christ's priesthood which should
be most precious to us...]

III. THERE IS NOW A BETTER HOPE (19)

   A. THROUGH WHICH WE CAN DRAW NEAR TO GOD...
      1. As seen earlier, the Levitical priesthood did not offer "perfection"
         a. Its sacrifices could not make one "perfect" regarding:
            1) Consciousness of sins, for sacrifices were "year by year" - He 10:1-3
            2) Actual forgiveness of sins, for "it is not possible 
               that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins"- He 10:4
         b. Thus the Law, because of its "weakness and 
            unprofitableness", "made nothing perfect" - He 7:18-19
      2. But now we have in Christ "a better hope"
         a. Here we find the keyword of this epistle:  "better"
            1) First used in comparing Jesus to angels - He 1:4
            2) Used later in contrasting the new covenant and its 
               promises with the old covenant - He 7:22; 8:6
         b. Our hope in drawing near to God is now "better" than before!

   B. CHRIST'S SUPERIOR PRIESTHOOD IS THE BASIS OF THAT HOPE...
      1. Because Jesus is "a priest forever according to the order of 
         Melchizedek", our hope for drawing near to God is much better:
         a. As we've seen, Melchizedek is superior to Abraham and Levi
         b. Therefore his priesthood is superior to the Levitical priesthood
         -- Making Jesus' own priesthood superior
      2. More evidence of superiority will be considered shortly (cf. 
         He 7:24-28), but for now note again how the greatness of 
         Jesus' priesthood should strengthen our hope in drawing near to God:
         a. Our High Priest has "passed through the heavens" - He 4:14
         b. Our High Priest can "sympathize with our weaknesses" - He 4:15
         c. Our High Priest makes it possible to "come boldly to the
            throne of grace" and "obtain mercy and find grace to help
            in time of need" - He 4:16
      -- Can we see how His service as our High Priest provides "a
         better hope, through which we draw near to God"?

CONCLUSION

1. More is yet to come regarding Christ's Priesthood, but perhaps we 
   can appreciate how...
   a. The Levitical priesthood does not provide what man really needs
      (access to God)
   b. There has been a change in the Law; indeed, it has been replaced
      with a new covenant
   c. In Jesus, our hope in drawing near to God is much better than ever before!

2. In view of such things...
   a. Why would the Hebrew Christians ever want to leave Jesus and 
      return to the Law?
   b. Why would people today seek to use the Law to justify religious 
      practices, as many do when they turn to the Old Testament to 
      establish authority for such things as a separate priesthood 
      (clergy), burning of incense, or even instrumental music?

Jesus is the only way to God (cf. Jn 14:6).  Are you willing to come 
to the Father through Him?  Let us be sure to serve God through Him 
only! - cf. Ga 5:4-6

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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“The Internet Is Where Religion Goes To Die” by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1708

“The Internet Is Where Religion Goes To Die”

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

On September 29, 2011, I debated Blair Scott, the Director of Communications for American Atheists, Inc. During the debate, he made several comments regarding religion in general and Christianity specifically. One of the more memorable statements he made was: “The Internet is where religion goes to die.” I remember sitting on stage thinking that this statement was completely without merit, and the statistics from the Apologetics Press site alone show just how false it is.

So far, in 2011, the Lord has used the Apologetics Press Web site to disseminate an average of 662,900 electronic pages of information every month. That means that if things continue like this for the rest of the year, the site will receive 7.95 million hits this year alone. That is an average of about 21,853 pages a day, 910 pages an hour, 15 pages per minute, or about one page clicked every four seconds. While it may be true that some “religions” go to die on the Internet, New Testament Christianity is not one of them. In fact, the Word of God is living and powerful (Hebrews 4:12), and it never returns to the Lord void (Isaiah 55:11).

We would encourage all of our readers to have a part in spreading God’s Word via the Internet. If your church or business has a Web site, link it to the A.P. site. That will boost our ratings on Web search engines, and will provide your visitors with an opportunity to access scripturally sound, relevant materials. Tell your friends on Facebook about the site. Send them links to specific articles that you think might interest them. The Web and our site (along with many other solid brotherhood sites) are a great way to fulfill the great commission of going into all the world and teaching the Gospel. In truth, the Internet is one place where New Testament Christianity goes to thrive.

“If There is a God, Let Him Strike Me Dead Right Now!” by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=5610

“If There is a God, Let Him Strike Me Dead Right Now!”

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Most of us have heard the age-old story about the unbelieving professor. He stands in front of his class and demands that there is no God. “If there is a God,” he challenges, “then let Him strike me dead right here and now.” He pauses for dramatic effect and waits 30 seconds. When nothing happens, he proclaims his atheistic position as the victor and gloats, “Just as I suspected, I’m still alive. There is no God.” Supposedly, just because God does not do exactly as he demands at that particular instant, then that proves there is no God. But let’s critically assess this emotional appeal (because it certainly is not a logical argument) and see how we could rationally respond to it.

Is it true that someone who has the power to do something should always do it when called upon to do it? For instance, suppose a criminal robs a bank and murders several people. A policeman arrives on the scene pointing his pistol at the criminal. The criminal drops his gun and begins to taunt the cop. “You gonna shoot me with that gun? I bet you don’t even have any bullets loaded. You are probably a terrible shot anyway. If you do have a loaded gun, and you think you could hit me, go ahead. Pull the trigger. Shoot me, if you are a cop.” If the policeman has a loaded gun and is a good shot, should he shoot the criminal, just to prove that he can? Of course not. There could be some very good reasons why the policeman, when taunted to show his power, refuses to respond.

Now think about our professor. He demands that God kill him on the spot to “prove” that God exists. He is taunting God just as the criminal did the policeman. Could there be legitimate reasons as to why God does not strike him dead? Certainly. Maybe the professor is going to convert to Christianity in several years and be a strong force for good in the world. Maybe the professor is going to teach one of his students something about medical science that leads that student to find a cure for cancer, and that student ends up being a Christian who gives God the glory for the discovery. Maybe the professor is going to have a child that rebels against his father’s atheism, becomes a Christian and does mission work for many years. Since God is the only being Who knows all the possible ramifications of every thought and action, only He would be in a position to know how to respond in such a situation.

Throughout the course of human history God has worked His will through miraculous and through what we would call natural means (often called providence). In many eras of history He has used both at the same time; but in some instances and epochs, He has worked primarily through providence with very little or no recognizable miraculous activity. It is important to understand this truth, since it is often affirmed that if God has worked miracles in the past to aid His people, then He “should” be doing the same today. For instance, agnostic professor Bart Ehrman demands, “If he [God] could do miracles for his people throughout the Bible, where is he today when your son is killed in a car accident, or your husband gets multiple sclerosis, or civil war is unleashed in Iraq, or the Iranians decide to pursue their nuclear ambitions?”1 This idea is well-illustrated on Marshall Brain’s Web site whywontgodhealamputees.com. According to Brain, the fact that God does not miraculously regrow limbs proves that He is imaginary. He says, “Nothing happens when we pray for amputated limbs. God never regenerates lost limbs through prayer…. Does God answer prayers? If so, then how do we explain this disconnection between God and amputees?”2

Notice that Brain, Ehrman, and the atheistic professor insist that if God is capable of miracles (or striking a person dead), then we should see those things happening today. But why must that be the case? Could it be that an all-knowing God has very good reasons why He is not at work in the same miraculous ways He worked in the past? In addition, the same Bible that tells us about God’s miracles also lays out a very strong case for God working through providential means. To demand that God must operate in the way that we insist He operate is more than slightly presumptuous, especially in light of the fact that He has given us ample information about other ways He works.

Ehrman and other unbelievers challenge Christians to produce modern miracles as evidence that God intervenes in the world today. They do so, however, refusing to recognize two important truths. First, even during the ages of human history when God performed miracles, He did not intervene to stop all suffering. People still got sick, had accidents, broke bones, suffered emotionally, and died. It is as if the skeptic insists that the Bible paints a picture of a God who swooped in miraculously to stop all suffering. Such was never the case. Miracles were isolated events designed to confirm the validity of the message of certain divine messengers.3 The Bible has never presented them as a wholesale answer to the problem of pain and suffering. Second, to insist that God must use miracles today just because He has the power to do so discounts the pervasive biblical theme of providence. Throughout history, one of God’s primary modes of operation has been to providentially work through natural laws. To deny that this is the case is to turn a deaf ear to a massive amount of biblical testimony.

ENDNOTES

1 Bart Erhman (2008), God’s Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question—Why We Suffer (New York: HarperOne), p. 274.
2 Marshall Brain (2014), “Why Won’t God Heal Amputees?” http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/.
3 Dave Miller (2003), “Modern-Day Miracles, Tongue-Speaking, and Holy Spirit Baptism: A Refutation,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=264&topic=293.

“Couldn’t There Have Been Exceptions to the Laws of Science?” by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=3713


“Couldn’t There Have Been Exceptions to the Laws of Science?”

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


Some people have realized the implications of the laws of science concerning the matter of origins. Simply put, the laws of science contradict the evolutionary model (cf. Thompson, 2002; Miller, 2007). So, the question is asked by both sincere and unrelinquishing people, “Could there not have been exceptions at some time in the past to the laws of science?”

The McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Termsdefines a scientific law as, “a regularity which applies to all members of a broad class of phenomena” (2003, p. 1182, emp. added). In other words, as long as the scientist takes care to make sure that the law applies to the scenario in question, the law will always hold true. According to its definition, a scientific law has no known exceptions, or else it would not be a law in the first place. A “theory,” on the other hand, is merely an “attempt to explain” phenomena by deduction from other known principles (McGraw-Hill..., p. 2129). A theory may not be true, but a law, by definition, is always true. Since there are no known exceptions to scientific laws, would it not be unscientific for evolutionists to assert, without any scientific evidence, that there have been exceptions to the laws of science in the past?

Consider the Laws of Thermodynamics. A perpetual-motion machine is a device which attempts to violate either the First or Second Law of Thermodynamics (Cengel and Boles, 2002, p. 263). Numerous attempts have been made over the years to design such a machine—all to no avail. Such a machine would certainly be worth a large sum of money. However, a prominent Thermodynamics textbook used in mechanical engineering schools says concerning such attempts, “The proposers of perpetual-motion machines generally have innovative minds, but they usually lack formal engineering training” (Cengel and Boles, p. 265). Why would the writers make such a statement? The answer is that the Laws of Thermodynamics, which are taught in-depth in mechanical engineering curriculums, prohibit the design of such a machine. According to the textbook writers, to spend time and energy on such a pursuit categorizes the pursuer as unknowledgeable about such scientific truths. The Laws of Thermodynamics have been substantiated to the point that in 1918 the U.S. Patent Office declared that they would no longer accept patent applications for alleged perpetual-motion machines (Cengel and Boles, p. 265). Concerning patent application rejections, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website says, “a rejection on the ground of lack of utility includes the more specific grounds of inoperativeness, involving perpetual motion” (2008, emp. added).

As far as science can tell, its laws have never been violated. They are without exception. From a scientific perspective, the evolutionary model falls short of being able to account for the origin of the Universe. Indeed, it contradicts the known laws of science that govern the Universe. The creation model, on the other hand, is in perfect harmony with the laws of science.

REFERENCES

“706.03(a) Rejections Under 35 U.S.C. 101[R-5]-700 Examination of Applications” (2008), Manual of Patent Examining Procedure, United States Patent and Trademark Office, [On-line], URL:http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/0700_706_03_a.htm.

Cengel, Yunus A. and Michael A. Boles (2002), Thermodynamics: An Engineering Approach (New York: McGraw-Hill), fourth edition.

McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific and Technical Terms (2003), pub. M.D. Licker (New York: McGraw-Hill), sixth edition.

Miller, Jeff (2007), “God and the Laws of Thermodynamics: A Mechanical Engineer’s Perspective,” Reason & Revelation, 27[4]:25-31, April, http://apologeticspress.org/articles/3293.

Thompson, Bert (2002), The Scientific Case for Creation (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

“Abiogenesis is Irrelevant to Evolution” by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.

http://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=12&article=1631


“Abiogenesis is Irrelevant to Evolution”

by Jeff Miller, Ph.D.


The Law of Biogenesis tells us that in nature, life comes only from life of its kind (Miller, 2012). Therefore, abiogenesis (i.e., life arising from non-living materials) is impossible, according to the scientific evidence. How then can atheistic theories like Darwinian evolution be considered acceptable? There is a growing trend among evolutionists today to attempt to sidestep the problem of abiogenesis by contending that evolution has nothing to do with the origin of life, but rather is a theory which starts with life already in existence and explains the origin of all species from that original life form. However, this approach is merely wishful thinking—an effort to avoid the logical import of the Law of Biogenesis.

Historically, evolutionists have recognized that abiogenesis is a fundamental assumption inherent in evolutionary theory, and intuitively must be so. In 1960, British evolutionary physiologist, G.A. Kerkut, listed abiogenesis as the first assumption in a list of non-provable assumptions upon which evolution is founded. “The first assumption is that non-living things gave rise to living material, i.e., spontaneous generation occurred” (Kerkut, 1960, p. 6). Evolutionary theory is an attempt to explain the origin of species through natural means—without supernatural Creation. Logically, unless you concede the existence of God and subscribe to theistic evolution in order to explain the origin of life (a position that has been shown to be unsustainable, cf. Thompson, 2000), abiogenesis must have originally occurred in order to commence the process of Darwinian evolution. Abiogenesis is required by evolution as the starting point.

Further, atheistic evolutionary geologist, Robert Hazen, who received his doctoral degree from Harvard, admitted that he assumes abiogenesis occurred. In his lecture series, Origins of Life, he says, “In this lecture series I make a basic assumption that life emerged by some kind of natural process. I propose that life arose by a sequence of events that are completely consistent with natural laws of chemistry and physics” (2005, emp. added). Again, evolution is an attempt to explain life through natural means, and abiogenesis must go hand-in-hand with such a theory. Hazen further stated that in his assumption of abiogenesis, he is “like most other scientists” (2005). It makes perfect sense for atheistic evolutionists to admit their belief in abiogenesis. Without abiogenesis in place, there is no starting point for atheistic evolution to occur. However, many evolutionists do not want to admit such a belief too loudly, since such a belief has absolutely no scientific evidence to support it. It is a blind faith—a religious dogma.
It is also true that atheists themselves use the term “evolution” as a generalized catchall word encompassing all materialistic origin models, including those dealing with the origin of the cosmos, not just the origin of species. A simple Google search of the keywords, “cosmic evolution,” illustrates that contention. Consider, for example, the title of Harvard University astrophysicist Eric Chaisson’s Web site: “Cosmic Evolution: From Big Bang to Humankind” (2012). Consider also the comments of NASA chief historian, Steven Dick: “Cosmic evolution begins…with the formation of stars and planetary systems, proceeds…to primitive and complex life, and culminates with intelligence, technology and astronomers…contemplating the universe…. This story of the life of the universe, and our place in it, is known as cosmic evolution” (2005). If atheism were true, in this mythical story of how the Universe evolved from nothing to everything, abiogenesis must have occurred somewhere along the way. Thus, abiogenesis is a fundamental, implied phenomenon of evolutionary theory. Creationists are merely using atheistic evolutionists’ terms in the same way they use them.

The truth is, one cannot logically commence a study of Life Science or Biology—studies which are intimately linked with the theory of evolution by the bulk of the scientific community today—without first studying the origin of that life which allegedly evolved from a single-celled organism into the various forms of life on Earth today. Biology and Life Science textbooks today, with almost unanimity, include a discussion of biogenesis, abiogenesis (ironically, discussing the work of Pasteur, Spallanzani, and Redi, who disproved the theory of abiogenesis), and extensive discussions of evolutionary theory. The evolutionists themselves inevitably couple Biology and Life Science with evolution, as though they are one and the same. But a study of life—biology—must have a starting point. So, evolutionists themselves link the problem of abiogenesis to evolution. If the evolutionary community wishes to separate the study of biology from evolution—a position I would strongly recommend—then the evolutionist might be able to put his head in the sand and ignore the abiogenesis problem, but not while the evolutionist couples evolution so intimately with biology.
The reality is that abiogenesis stands alongside evolutionary theory as a fundamental plank of atheism and will remain there. The two are intimately linked and stand or fall together. It is time for the naturalist to forthrightly admit that his religious belief in evolution is based on a blind acceptance of an unscientific pheonomenon.

REFERENCES

Chaisson, Eric (2012), “Cosmic Evolution: From Big Bang to Humankind,” Harvard College Observatory, https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~ejchaisson/cosmic_evolution/docs/splash.html.
Dick, Steven J. (2005), “Why We Explore: Our Place in the Universe,” NASA, http://www.nasa.gov/exploration/whyweexplore/Why_We_13.html
Hazen, Robert (2005), Origins of Life, audio-taped lecture (Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company).
Kerkut, George A. (1960), The Implications of Evolution (London: Pergamon).
Miller, Jeff (2012), “The Law of Biogenesis,” Reason & Revelation, 32[1]:2-11, January, http://www.apologeticspress.org/apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1018&article=1722.
Thompson, Bert (2000), Creation Compromises (Montgomery, AL: Apologetics Press).

Knowledge That Gives Understanding! by EE Healy

http://www.eehealy.com/commentary/page13.shtml


Knowledge That Gives Understanding!


As I reach out into the community about me, I have opportunity to bring the good news message to different people. One reaction I have received from time to time is that of someone having never read the Bible; some people don't even own a Bible. Their concept of Christianity or its principles is based only upon what someone has said or taught them from childhood.

There is good news in the Gospel. It is not just the words in the Bible, but it is what those words are saying and what they represent. The Gospel is the Living Word of God as declared in the person of Jesus Christ. He is our example for living a life with hope. The Gospel is living the word of God in our lives as instructed by the Holy Spirit through the apostles. When I respond to the Gospel I am making Christ the master of my life. As Paul said so many times in his letters, he viewed himself as being a bond-servant to Jesus Christ.

God's words are very important, but just having knowledge of the Bible will not change a life to be Christ-like. I must understand the life of and in those words, then live it in my own life.

The Bible is God speaking to me that I might come to know Him, the only True and Living God. Yes, God's Word has life in it because it deals with the good news of true life in Christ Jesus.

God's words are very important for me to know, to understand and most of all to live. In God's word is revealed the meaning and purpose of life. It is very important that I know and understand what God reveals to me and how He wants me to live according to His word.

We should not just pass on the ideas of Christianity to others. We should encourage personal study, understanding, and most of all personal living of God's word in our lives.

2 Tim 2:14-16 Keep reminding them of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. (NIV)
 

"I'm Already a Christian!" by Trevor Bowen

http://insearchoftruth.org/articles/already_christian.html

"I'm Already a Christian!"

"But, I am already a Christian!" "Why should I study the Bible with you?" Although sometimes couched in defensive language, maybe uttered in disbelief, wonder, and even resentment, these words highlight a barrier to study among Christians, who may be members of differing denominations.
We may ask, "How important is unity to you as a Christian?" "How important should it be?" "Why should we even try to resolve these differences?" In short, the motivation for study between Christians of differing denominational backgrounds is two-fold: Unity and Salvation. Before we begin to examine these answers in some detail, let us consider the concept that generates these question.

"One Denomination is as Good as Another"

Christians occasionally become upset during Bible studies and discussions with other Christians from differing backgrounds. Why? Is it because we think we already know everything? I doubt it. Are we skeptical of the possibility of learning from another Christian? Probably not. Generally, people are freely open minded, as long as they feel they are under no obligation to accept what is being discussed. However, as soon as someone suggests that these differences matter, people often become unglued. Why? Many believe that "one denomination is as good as another"; therefore, any difference in judgment arising out of our differing denominational backgrounds is of no consequence to such a worldview. Consequently, if we adopt this belief, we have relegated denominations and all their variegated colors to the realm of opinion, or preference.
When it comes to opinions, one person's opinion is generally as good as another, especially in matters where no human is an authority. Those who press their opinions are often judged to be arrogant and oppressive. Therefore, it is no surprise that people who believe denominations to reside in the matter of opinion and preference, should be frustrated by those who believe that it is not a matter of personal taste.
In this article, we want to next examine the questions: Is the basis of choosing a church limited to a matter of our personal opinion? Who said that one denomination is as good as another? This may be a popular view and sentiment, but can this be supported by the Bible? What does the Bible say about denominations in general?

Unity

What is a "Denomination"?

The word "denomination" is a generic word, which can be applied to any group that has been classified and distinguished from other groups. Therefore, all the constituents of any given denomination have at least one common feature, which distinguishes them from members of other groups. For example, we sometimes use this word in relationship to money. In fact, cash can be grouped into "denominations" of bills, such as $5, $10, and $20. Unfortunately, Christians can also be grouped into denominations. Depending on the context, this religious application is quickly becoming accepted as the primary connotation for the word.
To name the denomination is to point out its distinction. By definition, if it can be named, then it can be categorized; therefore, it is separable on some level from the other groups. Consequently the word "denomination" is synonymous with division. Therefore, the very existence of Christian denominations manifests the lack of unity, which exists among those who would call themselves after Jesus Christ.

The Need For Unity

Sadly, many Christians have come to accept the current denominational structure. In doing so, we accept a tragic weakening of the church's influence upon the world. Jesus spoke of the tremendous need for unity in His prayer:
"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." (John 17:20-21)
How important do you consider it to spread the gospel and reach the spiritually lost and dying of this world? It was of paramount significance to Jesus, because that was the single most salient reason He came into this world ("to seek and to save that which was lost" - Luke 19:1-1015:1-32). However, when Christians exhibit a divided body, it indicates to the world that either Jesus is incapable of unifying people, or His people do not care that much about what He taught. Both are discouraging to the unbeliever, providing them great opportunity to blaspheme and to excuse their wickedness (II Peter 2:1-2; (II Samuel 12:9-14). Why should the alien sinner try to pick up the Bible, read it, and hope to understand it; if Christians already familiar with the Bible, cannot understand it alike? What hope does the outsider have of even beginning to understand it?
Is this good reasoning? No. Does it excuse them? No. But, do you really want to be the excuse that someone uses for not becoming a Christian?
Then He said to the disciples, "It is impossible that no offenses should come, but woe to him through whom they do come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones." (Luke 17:1-2)
Would you not rather be a positive influence for convincing people of Jesus’ true identity? Jesus said that unity is one of the most powerful, persuasive tools at our disposable. If He prayed for such a unity out of His love for the lost, is that not reason enough for His disciples to seek unity?
If Jesus’ prayer and mission for reaching the lost is essential to us, let us leave our denominational backgrounds and seek a united church, built upon the only foundation that is capable of supporting such a goal - Jesus and His Word (II Timothy 3:16-17). How can we cling to denominations that are ultimately more interested in securing their own unique identity at the expense of reaching the lost?

Salvation

In addition to capitalizing on unity's potential success in evangelism, we must also consider the benefit to our own soul, if not that of our fellow Christian. How do we know that our choice to join a particular denomination will not have eternal consequences? Joining the "church of your choice" may be a favored expression among men, but can we find that recommendation written in Scripture? What feelings has God expressed regarding this denominational division?

The Command to Avoid Division

Although extending our evangelistic influence is a powerful positive motivation, God provides additional motivation by directly commanding us not to divide.
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe's household, that there are contentions among you. 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 Corinthians 1:10-13)
Do you know any denominations that are guilty of this very sin, even today? Do you know any churches that are named after men? How about a doctrine? Is it any better if a church sports the name of a peculiar teaching? Obviously not. What name should all churches and disciples of Jesus wear?
Admittedly, some will attack Paul's pleading as a sign of weakness ("Now I plead with you, brethren ..."); however, please note that the pleading is performed in accordance with the "name of our Lord Jesus Christ". This is not Paul's personal preference or opinion; rather, this statement reflects the will of our Lord, delivered by His authority. How will the Lord receive people who reject His will?
" 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!'" (Matthew 7:21-23)
The Lord has clearly warned those who disobey His will by causing divisions. Furthermore, we should not take comfort in the fact that we did not originate the division associated with a particular denomination. If we adhere to a denomination, then we are lending our support and approving its continued existence. (Please recall that condoning sin produces guilt equivalent to committing the condoned sin - Romans 1:32). Moreover, we are discouraging those who are trying to follow the Lord’s will regarding unity. Furthermore, we are following the divisive teachings and influence, which will have the following consequences:
And He spoke a parable to them: "Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher." (Luke 6:39-40)
Notice that both the divisive false teacher and his followers will "fall into the ditch". Does this refer to their error or the consequences of their error? Jesus observed that they were already blind, so falling into the ditch must refer to some consequence of their error. Also, please notice that there is no hope for the disciple to obtain a higher reward than that of his teacher. Therefore, if we follow a false teacher, who will be condemned for his divisive ways, then we cannot hope to obtain salvation, since our teacher will himself be lost (Titus 3:10-11). Consequently, if we follow denominations lead by divisive men and built on divisive doctrines not taught in the Bible, how can we expect to receive a reward better than those who started such denominations? If we desire to break this chain, then we must go back to the source. We must truly follow the Teacher, who obtained a higher reward (Psalm 119:97-102John 6:45-48Matthew 19:16-17Hebrews 1:1-4).
Even if you consider yourself to be firmly grounded in the Lord’s will, judging contrary believers to be ignorant or divisive, would you not consider studying for your erring brother's sake? If you were in his position, would you want someone to show you the truth? If you fail to study with him, the damage he may ignorantly cause both to himself and others will go unchecked, and you will bear partial responsibility, because you might could have stopped it (James 5:19-20James 2:17Matthew 25:31-46Ezekiel 3:17-21I John 3:14-18).

The Love of Truth

Most people, especially those who have been studying the Bible for a considerable time, will esteem themselves to be right until proved otherwise. It is somewhat natural to build confidence in one's understanding compared to another's understanding. However, how can we be sure that we are right, especially if we do not test our beliefs?
As iron sharpens iron, So a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. (Proverbs 27:17)
Each study with a friend, even a disagreeable friend, provides opportunity to test and prove our own understanding. It sharpens our grasp of beliefs that our disputant supports, and it enlightens our understanding regarding points of disagreement. If we only study with people who already agree with our own understanding, how can we hope that someone will reveal our error to us, since they share our prejudices? In some measure, our accepting invitations to study the Bible with those who disagree with us is a measure of our love for truth, since we are willing and open to subject our own beliefs to inspection and debate. Such exercises are fruitful in defending against the prejudiced convictions condemned in the following passage:
The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. (II Thessalonians 2:9-12)

Conclusion

Studying the Bible with a fellow Christian of differing beliefs can be challenging, even unsettling. Such studies always run the risk of bumping us out of our individual comfort zone; however, they are necessary as a means to achieving unity in the Lord’s body. How can we resolve our differences, if we do not discuss them? Since unity is critical to reaching a lost and dying world, then all Christians should be interested and focused on obtaining unity, even if it means questioning and examining long held and cherished beliefs. Furthermore, we should be personally interested in such discussions, because any part we play in supporting divisive denominations will open us up to the danger of eternal judgment. We will all need grace on that Last Day, but why would we knowingly and willingly make ourselves vulnerable to that eternal judgment, which attitude is condemned in and of itself (Romans 14:23)? Even if we are sure of our eternal fate, why would we not try to reach our erring brother, who himself may be lost and may overthrow the faith of others? Finally, if we are still reluctant to give a reason for our beliefs (I Peter 3:15), then we should examine ourselves and ask the question, "Why?" If we are persuaded that we understand the Bible correctly, then we have nothing to fear. If we are persuaded that we love the truth above all else, then we have nothing to fear. If in spite of these reasons, we somehow manage to avoid defending our peculiar faith, we should fear the eternal judgment of the unvoiced motivation that is lurking within the shadows of our hearts.
 Trevor Bowen

The Resurrection of Jesus – What does it Prove?

http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?p=1441


The Resurrection of Jesus – What does it Prove?


The Resurrection of Jesus What does it prove?
Have you ever been proved wrong? Maybe you really, really believed in something and then all of a sudden unequivocal evidence comes out that what you believed is completely and totally wrong. When we realize that we have been wrong and maybe even promoting a lie or an error we are embarrassed and feel like a fool. Think about if, you were one of those scientists or teachers of old who was convinced  that the world was flat and if you sailed your boat out too far, you would fall off the end of the earth. Or that the earth is the center of the universe. I can’t help but think if I was one of those guys teaching that would feel pretty silly today.
Maybe you were taught or told something and you believed it true but later found out that it wasn’t ; it doesn’t make you feel very good does it.  But the opposite is also just as true; when you hear about something, and believed something to be true, and then evidence is revealed that you were right in your beliefs even though others thought you were crazy for believing this, that. or the other thing. When your beliefs are confirmed, it makes you feel pretty good.
In the 1990’s a man by the name of Marshall Applewhite headed up a religious group which would come to be know as Heaven’s Gate?  In their religion, they combined Christian doctrine (particularly the ideas of salvation and apocalypse) with the concept of evolutionary advancement and elements of science fiction, particularly travel to other worlds and dimensions.  After claiming that a space craft was trailing the comet Hale-Bopp, Applewhite convinced 38 followers to commit mass suicide so that their souls could board the supposed craft. He believed that after their deaths, the UFO would take their souls to another “level of existence above human”, which Applewhite described as being both physical and spiritual.  Thirty-eight Heaven’s Gate members, including the group leader Applewhite, were found dead in a rented mansion in the upscale San Diego-area community.
I am convinced that there are people who think we as Christians are just as misled as those who followed Mr. Applewhite.  That the stories in the Bible are fiction, mere legends, and not much more than fairytales, especially when it comes to the story of Jesus and His resurrection.
And as I read about the story I cannot help but wonder about the critics that the early Christians had to deal with back then; men like Saul of Tarsus. In reality the Easter story, the story of the resurrection of Jesus is one of the most fascinating, and most important events of all time, especially for those who call themselves the disciples of Christ. But for the skeptic you have to admit it may sound like something pretty far out there.
Now if for some reason Saul did not know about Jesus prior to the Stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. I can just imagine his conversations with those early Christians that he was arresting.
“You believe that this Jesus was born of a virgin and that his father was not a man, but rather God Himself?  RIGHT.  And you are trying to tell me that this guy, who was arrested and then beaten and whipped by Roman soldiers, who was so weak that He could not carry His own wooden cross, this man who was nailed to that cross and was crucified and died there, …this man who the soldiers plunged a spear into to make sure he was dead bringing forth His blood mixed water, …this man who what buried and sealed in a tomb… you are saying He came back to life and is the prophesied Messiah?  RIGHT!  Lock this one up with the guy who said the world is round like a ball.  Then Saul met Jesus on his way to Damascus, and boy did he feel like a fool
Jesus is a historical figure that came claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior, the One whom the scriptures prophesied about.
– He told people that He was the way, the truth and the life and no one could make it to Heaven or to the Father unless they went through Him.
– He taught them about the Kingdom of God, and how He would be at His Heavenly Father right hand in glory, He told them about church and the new covenant and how one day how all people would be gathered before Him and He would separate the people of the earth just like a farmer separates sheep from the goats. And those who were the righteous would be ushered into heaven and those who were evil would be cast into hell. He told them so much more.
But then He killed before their very eyes. He is pronounced dead. His limp body is pulled down from the cross and put in a tomb, and that tomb was sealed and guarded. And then His disciples just gather together and Mourn. He was dead and I’m sure they were overcome with grief and emotions and clung together for strength. They probably could not believe what had just happened. He was so alive and they killed Him for no good reason.
But I’m sure the teachers, and the priests and Pharisees were all feeling a sense of satisfaction that they finally got rid of Him. I’m sure Satan and his demon even felt that they won a victory.
And His disciple…what were they going to do now that He was dead? Would they ever be able to show their face again in public without people laughing and making fun of them? Would they become the laughing stock of Judea? It had to be a difficult and confusing few days for them.
But then Mary comes  from the tomb screaming that someone must have took his body. The tomb was empty. And you know the rest of the story. Praise God Jesus had risen!   There is no evidence that they ever expecting Jesus to rise from the dead, but He did!
We also read that Jesus not only appeared to these men, but many, many others more than 500 over the following weeks.  Read 1 Corinthians 15:3-8
What effect did these sightings have on those early disciples? After seeing His bloody and lifeless body, after losing all hope and wondering if they had been following a quack, I believe a new level of life and commitment overpower them at the sight their risen Lord.
I mean He was dead, REALLY DEAD, but then He rose and HE WAS ALIVE!    At the sight of Him they could now be assured of some realities:
#1. I’m sure the very sight of Him alive proved without a shadow of doubt that He was who He said HE was; that He was the Son of God, the one that scripture said that the Holy Father would not abandon to the Grave. He really was the Savior, the Messiah, the one the scriptures talked about who would come into the world and save them. (Ps 16:9-10 & Isa 53:10-12)
#2. They must have also realized that their commitment to Him, the years that they spent following Him around and doing His will was not a big waste of time. He was who He said He was. If He stayed dead how could they believe any of His promises? He did what He said He was going to do even though they did not understand what He was talking about. Like when He talked about the temple being destroyed and then being raised again in three days – He was talking about Himself.  And when He talked about being like Jonah who was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, He said that He would be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.
If those things were true everything else he said had to be true all well: Everything about the Kingdom of God, and reality of Heaven and hell, and if the promise that God so loved the world that He was willing to give His one and only Son so that whoever believed could inherit eternal life. (Jn 3:16)    
3rd. They must have realized that all those hopes and dreams that they had because of Him were not in vain. After seeing Him alive it didn’t matter what anyone said. It didn’t matter how much anyone laughed at them. It didn’t even matter what others would do to them, because their hope was in God the Son.  Even if someone threatened or even killed them they knew that their eternal being would be safe in His hands.
4th  Maybe seeing Jesus there before their eyes alive helped some of them come to the realization that death is not the end, but rather a new beginning, a stepping stone into a life that’s far better and amazing even though we may not fully understand it now.  Somehow Jesus was able to appear in a room before them even though the doors were locked,  yet they could touch and feel Him. He was able to eat. He also was able to change His appearance, and ascend into the clouds. Maybe they realized that in our present form we are more limited than we realize, that a more glorious state is yet to come.
And Finally, #5. I’m sure their love and commitment, and hope in Him intensified like no other time in their life. Seeing Him alive probably  encourage them, motivate them, and embolden them to start a work that has continued on to present day. To preach the Good New and carry on the message that our God Loves us and is offering us a most precious gift; a gift purchased with the life and blood of His one and only Son Jesus. And that gift consists of blotting out every sin, every misdeed we ever committed, and then His willingness to adopt us as one of His own children, with the promise of sharing His heavenly kingdom with us for all time.
How can we be sure that this promise is not just another spaceship in the tail of a comet? Because Jesus proved that it is all true, because He was 100 percent dead and He was raised to life, just like the prophets and Holy Scriptures said it would happen, and just as He Himself foretold.
Conclusion: I don’t know where your heart is today. Maybe you are here because you just feel like you should be.  I’ll tell you why I am here; because of the fact that Jesus rose from the dead and it was witnessed by over 500 people. It is undeniable proof that scripture is true, that there is a Heavenly being that we can call Father God who was willing to step out of the dimension or reality we call heaven and do something to save our hide. He wants us to know that we are more than flesh and bones, there is part of us that is meant to live in His abode. And so I think He deserves all the honor and glory and thanks I can give Him until that day comes. And so I like to gather together and encourage others to do the same.
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