"THE FIRST EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" The Christian And Money (6:6-10,17-19)


The Christian And Money (6:6-10,17-19)


1. The Bible says a great deal about money...
   a. It speaks about earning and spending, saving and giving
   b. It even tells about wasting our money

2. It puts to rest two commonly held misconceptions about money...
   a. That money provides ultimate security - Pr 23:4-5; Lk 12:15
   b. That God condemns the rich for being rich
      1) He certainly hates false gain, wrong motives for getting rich,
         and lack of compassionate generosity among the wealthy
      2) But some of the most godly people in the Bible were rich (Job,
         Abraham, Joseph, David, Solomon, Barnabas, Philemon, Lydia)

3. The Bible also teaches that both the rich and poor must fight similar
   battles, such as...
   a. Envy of others
   b. Greed for more

4. One passage in particular addresses several attitudes that often
   accompany money...
   a. It is found in 1Ti 6:6-10,17-19
   b. Which can be divided into three sections:  reminders, warnings and

[First, let's consider the...]


      1. As did some in Timothy's day - 1Ti 6:5
      2. As some do today (cf. "The Gospel Of Health And Wealth")
      3. Religion (godliness) is of value only when joined with
         contentment - 1Ti 6:6

      1. That which constitutes true wealth - 1Ti 6:6
         a. A consistent, authentic walk with God
         b. Combined with satisfaction and peace within (regardless of
      2. The key is contentment!
         a. A quality that is learned - cf. Php 4:11-12
         b. How is it learned?  By having:
            1) A proper perspective on life - 1Ti 6:7
               a) "You can't take with you"
               b) "What did he leave behind?"  "Everything."
               c) Ever see a hearse pulling a U-Haul trailer?
            2) An understanding of the true physical necessities of life
               - 1Ti 6:8
               a) Food and clothing
               b) Shelter is not a necessity, as millions exist without
                  it (e.g., in India)

[Thus the reminder to those not rich as to the key to true wealth:
godliness with contentment!  To those who want to get rich, Paul
provides a...]


      1. He is talking of those "who desire to be rich" - 1Ti 6:9
         a. Those who have a firm resolve, a strong determination
         b. One who is possessed with the thought of getting rich
      2. Such will "fall"
         a. Note the certainty:  those who desire to be rich fall 
            - cf. Pr 28:20
         b. Into what will one fall? - 1Ti 6:9
            1) Temptations!
            2) Snares!
            3) Many foolish and harmful lusts!

      1. Note carefully what Paul says - 1Ti 6:10
         a) It is the love of money, not money itself
         b) It is "a" root of all kinds of evil (ASV, NKJV), not "the"
            root of all evil
      2. Those who long for money (in greediness), will experience two
         a) They will stray from the faith - cf. Mt 6:24
         b) They will suffer many sorrows - cf. Pr 28:20

[Be careful, or you will find yourself in "the black hole of greed"!
This warning applies both to the poor (who want to get rich) and the
rich (who want to be richer).  And now, we find Paul giving...]


      1. That is, high-minded or conceited - 1Ti 6:17; cf. Jm 4:6
      2. Remember that what you have ultimately comes from God!

      1. Riches are "uncertain" (especially in our economy!) - 1Ti 6:17
      2. Riches are "insufficient" - cf. Lk 12:15-21 (the parable of the
         rich fool)

      1. Note the repeated emphasis - 1Ti 6:18
         a. "Do good, be rich in good works"
         b. "Ready to give, willing to share"
      2. Look beyond the "good life" - 1Ti 6:19
         a. Store up a good foundation for "the time to come"
         b. Lay hold on "eternal life"!


1. This does not exhaust the subject of money, but we have addressed
   several critical issues...
   a. For those struggling to make ends meet
      1) Guard against being envious of the wealthy
      2) Focus on learning contentment in life
   b. For those engaged in the pursuit of money
      1) It's only a matter of time before you will be ensnared and
      2) In the process, you will lose the very things you think money
         can provide (peace, happiness, love, satisfaction)
   c. For those blessed to be rich
      1) Put away any conceit
      2) Forget about finding ultimate security in riches
      3) Tap into that which is life eternal, by cultivating generosity

2. Speaking of riches, the greatest treasures are those found in Jesus
   a. "In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of
      sins, according to the riches of His grace." - Ep 1:7
   b. "In Whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge."
      - Col 2:3
   c. "And you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality
      and power - Col 2:10

3. Why not come to Jesus today in complete obedience to His will...
   a. Place your faith in Him who died for your sins
   b. Repent of your sins
   c. Confess your faith in the risen Christ, the Son of God
   d. Be baptized into Christ for the remission of your sins

Then you can begin to experience the "true riches" which Jesus offers to
all who will obey Him...!

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Is Satan Real? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Is Satan Real?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Is Satan Real?


Several years ago, after teaching a Bible class on the book of Genesis, a longtime Christian indicated to me that he did not believe in the reality of Satan. This gentleman acknowledged the existence of good and evil, but he thought that “Satan” was simply a word used in Scripture to   describe   evil, rather than refer to an   actual   wicked being.
It is true that Satan is evil. (Have you ever noticed that you cannot spell “devil” without spelling “evil”?) He tempts, deceives, destroys, lies, murders, etc. But, he is not merely a word used by the Holy Spirit and His inspired penmen to symbolize evil; he is, as Jesus and Paul referred to him, “the evil    one” (Matthew 6:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:3, emp. added). He is not just wickedness; he is “the wicked    one” (1 John 3:12, emp. added). He does not merely represent dishonesty; “he is a liar and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Although Satan is not deity and in no way has the infinite, eternal attributes of God,    the devil is as real as God. That is, the same God-inspired book that describes the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, omni-benevolent, glorious Creator, also tells us about a real, fallen spiritual being called Satan. His name appears 14 times in the first two chapters of Job (perhaps the oldest book of the Bible). Scripture reveals that God confronted Satan in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-16). Jesus spoke to him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). And Michael the archangel contended with him about the body of Moses (Jude 9).
Satan is not a fairytale character on par with the Big Bad Wolf or Captain Hook. He is not a little red cartoon figure with horns and a pitchfork who gleefully sits on a throne in hell (see Butt, 2012). The sooner that Christians take seriously “the adversary” (Satan), “the accuser” (devil), who goes “to and fro on the earth…walking back and forth” (Job 1:7), “like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8), the better prepared we will be to withstand his schemes (Ephesians 6:11) and snares (2 Timothy 2:26). We should neither underestimate him nor overestimate him. He is not deity (and thus not all-powerful or all-knowing), but he is also not a figment of our imagination. Unlike God, he desires all men to be lost (cf. 1 Timothy 2:4). Thankfully, “God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).


Butt, Kyle (2012), “Satan is Not the Ruler of Hell,” /apPubPage.aspx?pub=1&issue=1026.

Is Satan "Lucifer"? by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Is Satan "Lucifer"?

by Bert Thompson, Ph.D.


Isaiah 14:12 mentions the name of "Lucifer." I’ve heard it said that this is Satan. Are Lucifer and Satan one and the same?
It is sad, but nevertheless true, that on occasion Bible students attribute to God’s Word facts and concepts that it neither teaches nor advocates. These ill-advised beliefs run the entire gamut—from harmless misinterpretations to potentially soul-threatening false doctrines.
Although there are numerous examples from both categories that could be listed, perhaps one of the most popular misconceptions among Bible believers is that Satan also is designated as “Lucifer” within the pages of the Bible. What is the origin of the name Lucifer, what is its meaning, and is it a synonym for “Satan”? Here are the facts.
The word “Lucifer” is used in the King James Version only once, in Isaiah 14:12: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” The Hebrew word translated “Lucifer” is   helel  (or heylel), from the root,   hâlâl, meaning “to shine” or “to bear light.” Keil and Delitzsch noted that “[i]t derives its name in other ancient languages also from its striking brilliancy, and is here called   ben-shachar  (son of the dawn)... (1982, 7:311). However, the    KJV    translators did not translate    helel  as Lucifer because of something inherent in the Hebrew term itself. Instead, they borrowed the name from Jerome’s translation of the Bible (A.D. 383-405) known as the   Latin Vulgate. Jerome, likely believing that the term was describing the planet Venus, employed the Latin term “Lucifer” (“light-bearing”) to designate “the morning star” (Venus). Only later did the suggestion originate that Isaiah 14:12ff. was speaking of the devil. Eventually, the name Lucifer came to be synonymous with Satan. But is Satan “Lucifer”?
No, he is not. The context into which verse 12 fits begins in verse 4 where God told Isaiah to “take up this parable against the    king of Babylon, and say, ‘How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased!’” In his commentary on Isaiah, Albert Barnes explained that God’s wrath was kindled against the king because the ruler “intended not to acknowledge any superior either in heaven or earth, but designed that himself and his laws should be regarded as supreme” (1950, 1:272). The chest-pounding boast of the impudent potentate was:
I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit upon the mount of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High (vss. 13-14).
As a result of his egotistical self-deification, the pagan monarch eventually would experience both the collapse of his kingdom and the loss of his life—an ignominious end that is described in vivid and powerful terms. “Sheol from beneath is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming,” the prophet proclaimed to the once-powerful king. And when the ruler finally descends into his eternal grave, captives of that hidden realm will taunt him by saying, “Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms?” (vs. 16). He is denominated as a “man” (vs. 16) who would die in disrepute and whose body would be buried, not in a king’s sarcophagus, but in pits reserved for the downtrodden masses (vss. 19-20). Worms would eat his body, and hedgehogs would trample his grave (vss. 11,23).
It was in this context that Isaiah referred to the king of Babylon as “the morning star” (“son of the morning”; “son of the dawn”) to depict the once-shining-but-now-dimmed, once-lofty-but-now-diminished, status of the (soon to be former) ruler. In his Bible Commentary, E.M. Zerr observed that such phrases were “...used figuratively in this verse to symbolize the dignity and splendor of the Babylonian monarch. His complete overthrow was likened to the falling of the morning star” (1954, 3:265). This kind of phraseology should not be surprising since “[i]n the O.T., the demise of corrupt national powers is frequently depicted under the imagery of falling heavenly luminaries (cf. Isa. 13:10; Ezek. 32:7), hence, quite appropriately in this context the Babylonian monarch is described as a fallen star [cf. ASV]” (Jackson, 1987, 23:15).
Nowhere within the context of Isaiah 14, however, is Satan depicted as Lucifer. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In his commentary on Isaiah, Burton Coffman wrote: “We are glad that our version (ASV) leaves the word Lucifer out of this rendition, because...Satan does not enter into this passage as a subject at all” (1990, p. 141). The Babylonian ruler was to die and be buried—fates neither of which Satan is destined to endure. The king was called “a man” whose body was to be eaten by worms, but Satan, as a spirit, has no physical body. The monarch lived in and abided over a “golden city” (vs. 4), but Satan is the monarch of a kingdom of spiritual darkness (cf. Ephesians 6:12). And so on.
The context presented in Isaiah 14:4-16 not only does not portray Satan as Lucifer, but actually militates against it. Keil and Delitzsch firmly proclaimed that “Lucifer,” as a synonym, “is a perfectly appropriate one for the king of Babel, on account of the early date of the Babylonian culture, which reached back as far as the grey twilight of primeval times, and also because of its predominate astrological character” (1982, p. 312). They then correctly concluded that “Lucifer, as a name given to the devil, was derived from this passage...without any warrant whatever, as relating to the apostasy and punishment of the angelic leaders” (pp. 312-313).


Barnes, Albert (1950 edition), Barnes’ Notes on the Old and New Testaments—Isaiah(Grand Rapids, MI: Baker).
Coffman, James Burton (1990), The Major Prophets—Isaiah (Abilene, TX: ACU Press).
Jackson, Wayne (1987), “Your Question & My Answer,” Christian Courier, 23:15, August.
Keil, C.F. and Franz Delitzsch, (1982 edition), Commentary on the Old Testament—Isaiah(Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Zerr, E.M. (1954), Bible Commentary (Bowling Green, KY: Guardian of Truth Publications).

Is Private Interpretation Possible? by Eric Lyons, M.Min.


Is Private Interpretation Possible?

by Eric Lyons, M.Min.

Does the phrase “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20) mean that we can’t understand the Bible for ourselves?
A casual reading of 2 Peter 1:20—with little concern for the context in which the passage is found—might very well lead one to understand the verse in such a manner. However, a closer examination of this passage reveals that it has no reference at all to those who    read   the Scriptures, but refers instead to those who   wrote  the Scriptures. By studying the context of the passage, one learns that the passage is discussing how the Scriptures came into existence, not how they are to be “interpreted.”
Continuing the thought from verse 20 to verse 21, we read: “Knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation,   for  prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (emp. added). That little word “for” in verse 21 connects the two thoughts. The English word “for” derives from the Greek conjunction garStrong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary (1994) indicates that this word is a “primary particle” that assigns “a reason” and is used in argument for “explanation” or “intensification.” The reason that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” is    because    “prophecy never came by the will of man, but   holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (emp. added). The word “for” connects the two thoughts. Peter is saying that the prophets did not invent what they wrote; rather, they were guided by the Holy Spirit (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). No doubt this is why the NIVreads: “No prophecy of Scripture came about    by the prophet’s own interpretation” (2 Peter 1:20, emp. added)—not the reader’s interpretation.
Furthermore, according to Mounce’s Analytical Greek Lexicon of the New Testament (1993), the Greek word   epilusis    (translated “interpretation” in 2 Peter 1:20) means primarily “a loosing” or “liberation.” The stem of    epilusis is   luo, and means literally “to loosen, unbind, unfasten” (p. 305). Therefore, “no prophecy of Scripture” ever was released, loosed, or given out by the prophets’ own inventions. They did not put their own “interpretation” on God’s message; instead, the Holy Spirit guided them. Thus, this passage has no reference to present-day interpreters of the text, but rather to those who wrote it—i.e., the prophets or apostles (cf. Ephesians 3:5).

Is Mary the Mother of God? by Moisés Pinedo


Is Mary the Mother of God?

by   Moisés Pinedo

Catholics have recited the “Hail Mary” prayer for many years. It includes the words, “Holy Mary,   Mother of God.” These words represent one of the most treasured doctrines of Catholicism. In A.D. 431, the Council of Ephesus proclaimed Mary “to be the mother of God because God the Word took flesh and became man and from his very conception united to himself the temple he took from her” (“Formula of Union...” n.d.). One of the arguments used extensively to support this doctrine is presented as follows: (1) Mary was the mother of Jesus; (2) Jesus is God; (3) therefore, Mary is the “Mother of God.”  This syllogism may seem logical, but the conclusion is superficial. Consider the following.
First, although the Bible documents that Mary became the mother of Jesus and clearly teaches that Jesus is God, it never states, or even implies, that Mary was (or is) the “Mother of God.” For a theological syllogism to explain correctly the relationship between Mary and God, it must be based on biblical truth. We can propose correctly that (1) Jesus is God (Hebrews 1:8); (2) God became flesh (John 1:1,14); (3) therefore, Mary is the mother of Jesus according to the flesh (Romans 9:5), i.e., Jesus’ physical body.
Second, we should keep in mind that Deity is not constituted by a literal family—with fathers, mothers, sons, and daughters—like some of the gods of Greek and Roman mythology. Although we refer to the first and second Persons of the Godhead as the Father and the Son, these titles do not denote a literal familial bond, but emphasize Their united and divine nature. To refer to Mary as the “Mother of God” is to misunderstand the nature of Deity and misapply Scripture.
Third, consider the consequences which develop from such an inappropriate use of the syllogism aforementioned. Since the Bible records that Mary conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:18), Catholics conclude that it is correct to refer to Mary as “the daughter of God the Father, Mother of Jesus Christ, and true spouse of the Holy Spirit” (Peffley, n.d., p. 3). If the Holy Spirit is Mary’s “husband” (and, therefore, Jesus’ “father”), and Jesus is God, would not the Holy Spirit be the “father” of God? This is not only a completely erroneous application of Scripture, but also blasphemous theology. Now let us consider some additional evidence from the Bible that further explains Mary’s relationship to God.


Speaking to the Son, the Father declared, “Your throne, O   God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8, emp. added). In God’s revelation to the apostle John, the resurrected Christ said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,   the Beginning and the End,...who is and who was and who is to come” (Revelation 1:8, emp. added). The Son did not have a beginning; He is the Beginning. “He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Paul pointed out, “He is   before   all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:17, emp. added).
The Son’s existence did not begin with His conception in Mary’s womb. He was alive in eternity (cf. Micah 5:2), and, at the right time in history, He became flesh (John 1:1,14). Paul put it this way: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). On the other hand, Mary came into a time-bound world long after the creation of the Universe. She, like all human beings, was not eternal. She was not divine, not “from everlasting to everlasting” (Micah 5:2). She could not have provided an eternal nature to her Son. He is Deity. He is the “eternally blessed God” (Romans 9:5).
Consider how Jesus explained His divine nature. When addressing the Pharisees, He asked them: “‘What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord’.... If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his Son?’” (Matthew 22:42-45, emp. added). The Pharisees failed to answer the question correctly because they were thinking about the physical nature of the Messiah. While Christ was a physical descendant of David (cf. Luke 1:32; Matthew 1:1), according to His divine nature He did not have a physical father, since He Himself is before all (John 8:58). In the same way that David could not be the father of the divine Messiah since he called Him “Lord,” Mary cannot be the “Mother of God” since she calls Him “Lord” in Luke 1:38,46-47. The truth is, as Paul explains, “according to   the flesh, Christ came” through the patriarchs, David, and, yes, Mary, but according to   His deity, He is the “eternally blessed God” who is over all (Romans 9:5, emp. added).


There is not a single verse in the Bible that describes Mary as the “Mother of God.”  In fact, none of the inspired writers of either the Old or New Testament gave even a hint that she should be regarded as such. This idea is based purely on human tradition. Mary considered herself as a “maidservant  of the Lord” (Luke 1:38, emp. added) and considered God as her “Savior” (Luke 1:47). Sadly, many have distorted this concept.
When speaking about the blessing of being chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah, Mary declared: “For He [God] has regarded the    lowly state  of His maidservant” (Luke 1:48, emp. added). Certainly the words “lowly state” would be inappropriate to refer to Mary if she is the “Mother of God.” W.E. Vine has noted that the Greek word for “lowly state” is   tapeinosis, which denotes “abasement, humiliation, or low estate” (1966, 3:23). Mary was conscious of the humble state of her    human   condition.
Additionally, the New Testament makes it very clear Who became flesh. It was    God    Who took on the form of a man (John 1:14) and was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4). The woman did not become “divine” in order to conceive the Son of God. The Bible mentions Mary as the mother of Jesus, but never as the “Mother of God” (cf. Mark 3:31; Luke 8:19; Acts 1:14; et al.).


Catholics worship Mary, claiming that she has “divine maternity” (“Dogmatic Constitution...,” 1964, 8.3). But if Mary is to be worshipped as the “Mother of God,” we should expect to find a biblical command to do so, or a biblical example of approved action. However, such commands and examples are nowhere to be found. From the first moment Mary appears in the biblical record, there is no indication of her being the object of worship of any kind. When God’s angel announced to Mary that she would give birth to the Messiah, the heavenly messenger did not worship her (Luke 1:26-38). The shepherds, who came to the stable, praised   God—not Mary—for what they had witnessed (Luke 2:16-20). Later, the wise men came to a house and “saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped    Him” (Matthew 2:11, emp. added)—not Mary. Simeon and Anna, who had waited their entire lives for the Messiah, recognized Jesus as the One sent by God. They did not offer any special acknowledgement or praise to Mary (Luke 2:21-38). Additionally, Jesus’ disciples never gave Mary any preeminence during their gatherings, much less worshipped her as the “Mother of God” (cf. Acts 1:14-26).
When Mary asked for Jesus’ help at the wedding in Cana, He said, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me?” (John 2:4, emp. added). He used the word “woman” not in a derogatory way but as an expression of respect and affection (cf. Matthew 15:28; John 19:26; 20:15; Lyons, 2004). He may have used “woman” instead of “mother” to emphasize that “in his calling Jesus knows no mother or earthly relative, [but] he is their Lord and Savior as well as of all men” (Lenski, 1961, p. 189).
Jesus made it clear that Mary had no preeminence among His followers or before God. On one occasion, “He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, ‘Here are    My mother  and My brothers!’” (Matthew 12:49, emp. added). Jesus wanted His disciples to understand that anyone who believed in Him and obeyed the will of the Father would be blessed as part of His family. But He did not say that any member of that family was worthy of worship or adoration.
Another incident in Jesus’ ministry is worth mentioning. While Jesus was teaching the multitudes, “a certain woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to Him, ‘Blessed is the womb that bore You, and the breasts which nursed You!’” (Luke 11:27). Jesus responded, “More than that,   blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (11:28, emp. added). Again, Jesus made it clear that there was nothing about Mary that elevated her above anyone else who heard the Word of God and obeyed it. Jesus Himself taught us not to consider His mother as the “Mother of God,” a person to be worshipped.
The title “Mother of God” is unbiblical, as are other titles given to Mary, such as “Mother of the Church,” “Mother of Mercy, Life, Gentleness, and Hope,” “Door to Heaven,” etc. Worship directed toward her (or any other mere human being), rather than to Almighty God, not only denigrates appreciation and respect for Deity, but also leads further into apostasy.


“Dogmatic Constitution on the Church” (1964), Second Vatican Council [On-line], URL:http://www.vatican.va/ archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_ council/documents/vatii_const_19641121_ lumen-gentium_en.html.
“Formula of Union Between Cyrill and John of Antioch” (no date), The Council of Ephesus[On-line], URL: http://www.ewtn.com/library/COUNCILS/EPHESUS.HTM.
Lenski, R.C.H. (1961), The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg).
Lyons, Eric (2004), “How Rude!?,” [On-line], URL:http://apologeticspress.org/articles/593.
Peffley, Francis J. (no date), “Mary and the Mission of the Holy Spirit,” [On-line], URL:http://www.legionofmary.org/files/marymission.pdf.
Vine, W.E. (1966), An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell).

The Autonomy of the Local Church by Trevor Bowen


The Autonomy of the Local Church


One of the most influential and far-reaching characteristics of the local church is its organizational structure.  Central to the Bible teaching on this organization is question of church rule.  The Bible answer is that the local church should be autonomous.  There is to be no earthly organization, oversight, or treasury beyond the autonomous local church.  However, before we study such an issue, we must first recognize that there is indeed a pattern for the church that God expects us to follow, and we must also understand some basic concepts about the church

What Is Meant by "Autonomy" ?

The term "autonomy of the local church" refers to a method of determining the rule of church activities.  It is but one answer to the question of how local congregations should be governed.  Studying this issue will address questions of having a central board, convention, or any other body, to determine the beliefs and practices of a local church.  This article sets the foundation for answering other questions about the organization of the church, which includes cooperation among churches and the use of outside institutions.
A church is said to be "autonomous" if it is self-ruling, which is the literal meaning of the word.  This means that it does not answer to another church or organization for any of its decision.  Obviously, the church is not entirely autonomous because it answers to Jesus Christ who is its head (Ephesians 1:20-23).  So, the refined questions that we must study is, "What does the Bible teach about the earthly rule over a local church?"  "Does it include and allow denominational boards, conventions, etc.?"

The Heart of the Matter

Fundamental to this study is the proper understanding of New Testament examples in establishing authority.  Since most of the Bible commentary on church rule and organization are the examples of New Testament churches operating under the approval of God, it is imperative that we determine the authority that is inherent in these examples.   This article will adopt the conclusion that was reached in the writings on "Examples and the Pattern", which is that all examples are binding until sufficient reason is found for dismissal.
As we study the Bible to determine the nature of the church's organization, we will find the following reoccurring theme that is at the heart of this matter:  Organization of the church begins and ends with the local church, and it should be entirely autonomous of all other organizations, including other local churches.

Biblical Basis for Autonomy

When we read through the pages of the Bible in search of passages about the church and its relation to other organizations, we find no instance of the church answering to any other congregation or organization.  There is no reference to any kind of committees, boards, or conventions - not one.  Moreover, these type of organizations and structures become specifically excluded by the distinct organizational structure that we find in the Bible:
"The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:  Shepherd the flock of God which is among you, serving as overseers, not by compulsion but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock"  I Peter 5:1-3
"So when they had appointed elders in every church, and prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord in whom they had believed."  Acts 14:23
Although easy to overlook, these first two passages necessarily imply a specific structure and from which we can confidently draw definite conclusions.  First, we can observe that elders, who "see over" the local church (symbolized here as the flock), were distributed or appointed per congregation.  They were not appointed over a city, district, or diocea - but in every church.  Consequently, each church is equal to the other.  Moreover, these elders, or overseers, were instructed to tend"the flock of God which is among you".  Therefore, not only was each church on an equal basis with the others, but elders were to only tend over those whom they had been appointed (Acts 20:28), which was a single local church (Acts 14:23).  From this we can conclude that elders could not then, and cannot today rule over the affairs of other churches, because elders should be appointed in "every church" where possible, and each set of elders is to oversee the affairs of those that are "among" them. 
Any boards, conventions, or even outside elders to which a congregation submits, either willingly or otherwise, is a violation of these teachings.  Such additions place the congregational rule under someone or something beside the elders "among" them, and it will violate the autonomy that is to be enjoyed by "every church."   Since each congregation should be under the oversight and rule of its own elders, then each church must consequently, be absolutely independent of any other church or organizations.

The Local Church Treasury

The idea of church autonomy and congregational independence can be observed in practice from passages about the church treasury.  A congregation's oversight and control would have to extend at least as far as their oversight and control over their own treasury.  But before we continue with this line of reason, let us first examine a verse about the control of personal contributions that are donated to the local church:
"But Peter said, 'Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself? While it remained, was it not your own? And after it was sold, was it not in your own control? Why have you conceived this thing in your heart? You have not lied to men but to God.' " Acts 5:3-4
From this passage we learn that each person's contribution is their own and under their own control until it is contributed to the church fund.  However, a necessary implication from this verse is that once it is given, then this is no longer the case.  The gift comes under the control of the church.  When each member of a church makes their contribution, then he or she surrenders their control to the unified will and direction of the church who assumes control of the donated funds.
Similarly, if the church were to contribute to some kind of central collecting agency, church, or institution, the funds would also be under the local church's control until given to the institution.  At that point the institution would exert control and oversight and the local church's oversight and rule would end.  But, when we read through the scriptures, what do we actually find?
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, so you must do also:  On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come. And when I come, whomever you approve by your letters I will send to bear your gift to Jerusalem.  But if it is fitting that I go also, they will go with me."  I Corinthians 16:1-4
Although the apostle Paul had the authority to order the Corinthian church to take up a collection, he did not exert control over their contribution.  Please notice two of the phrases from this passage: "whomever you approve by your letters"and "to bear your gift to Jerusalem".  At no point did Paul overtake ownership or control of the Corinthians funds.  The Corinthians had complete control over the choice of messengers to carry "their gift" to Jerusalem.  At no point did it become absorbed into a greater collective whole, nor did the Corinthians give up control or oversight of their contribution.  Even the great apostle Paul did not violate their autonomy, but he specifically recognized their authority in determining their own messenger to carry their gift to its destination.
Since the Corinthian church had complete control of their funds through their own messenger all the way to its destination, then their rule extended at least that far.  Each church had and has the authority, right, and organizational capacity to form their own contribution and have it delivered by the hands of their own selected messenger.  The example of this organizational pattern and the absolute silence for authorizing any other type of church oversight excludes all other forms of church rule and oversight - conventions, boards, central church, etc.

The "Convention" of Acts 15 ?

Recorded in the fifteenth chapter of the book of Acts, a meeting, or convention of sorts, was held to determine a doctrinal matter.  Some believe this to be a pattern for holding conventions today to also determine doctrines and creeds.  However, there are many aspects of this "convention" that make it entirely unlike any conventions that are held today to vote upon creeds.  Let's first examine the background of this meeting:
"And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved. Therefore, when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and dispute with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem, to the apostles and elders, about this question." 
"So, being sent on their way by the church, they passed through Phoenicia and Samaria, describing the conversion of the Gentiles; and they caused great joy to all the brethren.  And when they had come to Jerusalem, they were received by the church and the apostles and the elders; and they reported all things that God had done with them.
"But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."
"Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter."  Acts 15:1-6
The issue of disagreement was whether the Gentile Christians should be circumcised and keep the other customs of the Old Testament.  In regards to our question, we can learn at least two things from this passage:  First and foremost, those attending this meeting were not representatives of many congregations who had come together to vote upon a creed or confession of belief, but it was made up the apostles, elders of the Jerusalem church, and Paul and Barnabas who had gone to learn why this false doctrine was coming out Jerusalem (vs. 4, 6).  Secondly, the reason for this meeting was not to poll the church population and vote upon a creed or confession of belief, but it was to express God's will and teaching for the matter.  The apostles were representatives of God who had come to express God's wishes.  This was the nature of their office.  The elders also had great need to be there, since it was their congregation that was at the heart of the trouble.  Most if not all of these men were inspired which made it completely different from conventions today.  Therefore, without having to progress further, we have already learned that this meeting is beyond application to us because of both its constituents and its mission. 
If you continue to read the chapter, you will read of Peter's account of God's miraculous recognition of the Gentiles ability to be saved, and the numerous accounts of Paul and Barnabas working many miracles through them among the Gentiles, and finally of James' recognition of the prophecies which had foretold of the salvation of Gentiles.  Based upon these miraculous, inspired, and scriptural arguments, the apostles and elders decided a letter should be circulated to stop the spread and influence of the false doctrine.  From this letter and its circulation, we learn three more things that substantiate the previous statements and further separate it from the conventions of today that oversee church activities and beliefs:
"They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings.
"Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, "You must be circumcised and keep the law" -- to whom we gave no such commandment -- it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,"  ...
"We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth.  For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things:"  ...
"So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter.  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement.
"Now Judas and Silas, themselves being prophets also, exhorted and strengthened the brethren with many words." Acts 15:22-32
First, substantiating the earlier point, the authority of this "convention" was the apostles and prophets who represented God.  Uninspired congregational representatives voting upon a creed or course of action are in no way parallel to this meeting that was guided by inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Second, as mentioned earlier, the elders needed to be there since it was from their church that these false teachers went out spreading their doctrine.  Apparently, the false teachers used the Jerusalem church as some kind of reference or support, since the letter specifically clarifies that the false teachers had taught such without endorsement (15:24).  Thirdly, we again notice that it was the Holy Spirit who had inspired and endorsed the decision of this meeting.  This is evidenced by the following phrase from verse 28, "For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit" , and it is further supported by the prophets who traveled with the letter for first-hand miraculous endorsement of its teaching (Acts 15:32).
Therefore, modern conventions are entirely different from this "convention" of Acts 15.  It was different in its constituents - it was made up of inspired apostles and prophets who represented God and not congregations.  Second, it was different in its mission - they came together to determine God's will and not to establish a creed.  Consequently, Acts 15 is an example that should be dismissed and must not be considered as an authoritative example because of its limited application and the impossibility of its universal application. (There are no apostles or prophets alive today.)


The self-rule of each local congregation is one of the most important Bible teachings.  The acceptance or rejection of this Bible doctrine will influence all other decisions that a congregation makes because rejection of this doctrine turns over decisions of a local congregation to the will of a higher, earthly body.  This removes the congregations ability to pattern their local church after God's will and instead subjects it to the will of man. 
The examples of New Testament churches are clear:  Each congregation was equivalent in rule and was to have elders, who were to oversee the affairs of their local church.  Moreover, each set of elders was limited to the oversight of the "flock among them".  The Bible offers no other method of church oversight beyond that of the local church and its elders.  Therefore, any form of governing body beside the authorized and approved autonomous local church constitutes an "adding to" God's Word and is wrong by God's condemnation of any form of "adding to" or "taking away" from God's Word. (Please see Doing All Things According to the Pattern for scriptures on this point.)
Based upon this study, we will continue our study and examine how New Testament churches cooperated while maintaining their authority and God's approval.

Trevor Bowen

Every Day Offers us a Second Chance by Ben Fronczek


Every Day Offers us a Second Chance

Every Day Offers us a Second Chance
Now that the year is coming to an end, many of us have a tendency to think back over the past 12 months and reflect on the good times and the bad, our successes and failures, our personal times of growth, and unfortunately our  shortcomings or times of personal failure. And as we do this we may even experience an array of feeling and emotions; from a feeling of thanksgiving, and satisfaction, to feelings of disappointment in our self knowing that we probably could and should have done better. And today I want to address these feelings of personal disappointment in our self.
If we are honest with our self, even the best of us realize that somewhere along the line, we fail now and then in our relationship to God. And I don’t know about you but this bothers me more than anything else. And it’s probably not the best way to start a New Year, all down and depressed.
If we are honest and have a humble spirit you may even have a list of personal failures and you may be very disappointed in yourself knowing that you should have done better as a Christian. There seem to be so many ways for us to mess up. (List some examples) Read Ephesians 4:17-5:5
Its one thing to think back over the year and second guess things that you did at you job, in your business, whether you should have bought something or not, whether you should have spoke up about something or not. There may be a hundred other thing we did, or decisions we made over the past year that we now question, but nothing pulls at the heart string of a Christian like knowing that he or she failed our Lord in some way.
I am not sure where some of us got the image of God being an old angry man with a long beard ready to zap us from out of existence for each error we make, but it did not come from the Bible.
If anything the Bible lets us know that our God is one who will forgive those who are humble and repent. He took a murderer by the name of Moses, and turned him into a great national and spiritual leader. He took an adulterer and murderer like David, and used him to write many of the Psalms to strengthen and encourage the people of God. He took a woman who had been married and divorced five times and was now living with a sixth man and turned her into the first evangelist to go into Samaria. He took a guy who was determined to eradicate and destroy His church and turned him into one of the greatest evangelists and church builders of all time.
He even took some of us, and turned our whole life around compared to what we once were. Our God is a God who will forgive humble ones who know that they have messed up and asked for His forgiveness and favor.
Today I would like to read a story from the Old Testament that shows just how forgiving and merciful our God can be if we truly repent.
Read: 2 Chronicles 33:1-11 “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had demolished; he also erected altars to the Baals and made Asherah poles. He bowed down to all the starry hosts and worshiped them. He built altars in the temple of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “My Name will remain in Jerusalem forever.” In both courts of the temple of the Lord, he built altars to all the starry hosts. He sacrificed his children in the fire in the Valley of Ben Hinnom, practiced divination and witchcraft, sought omens, and consulted mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.
He took the image he had made and put it in God’s temple, of which God had said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this temple and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, I will put my Name forever. I will not again make the feet of the Israelites leave the land I assigned to your ancestors, if only they will be careful to do everything I commanded them concerning all the laws, decrees and regulations given through Moses.” But Manasseh led Judah and the people of Jerusalem astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.”
Here in our reading, we read about King Manasseh, who had the opportunity to be a great king and have the greatest impact because he was the longest reigning king. He ruled for 55 years. His father had been a king who loved the Lord and did a lot in leading the nation back to serving God.
But as soon as Manasseh got the opportunity, he undid everything his father had spiritually tried to do for the nation. Manasseh spent most of his 55 years doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. He worshiped idols, tried talking to dead people through witches and sorcerers, he sacrificed his sons as human offerings to idols, he put to death innocent people who challenged what he was doing.
The account of Manasseh in 2 Kings tells us he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood. Tradition tells us he had the prophet Isaiah sawn in half.
Manasseh was full of pride. He did not have to answer to anyone. He did not apologize to anyone for anything he did. He could care less about God. But one day, God decided enough was enough. God sent the King of Assyria to invade Jerusalem. Manasseh was captured, and they put a hook in his nose and chains on his hands and feet and led him away as though he was some wild animal.
This former king was thrown into some Assyrian prison. All the riches and power of which he had boasted now meant absolutely nothing. None of the many idols he had made and created could do much to help him. His situation was hopeless, and he was helpless. Talk about someone who messed up.
It was probably in the dark of the prison, where Manasseh remembered, that the God of Israel, was a second chance God. And now look at what happens in this story;
Read 33:12-17  12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God.
14 Afterward he rebuilt the outer wall of the City of David, west of the Gihon spring in the valley, as far as the entrance of the Fish Gate and encircling the hill of Ophel; he also made it much higher. He stationed military commanders in all the fortified cities in Judah.
15 He got rid of the foreign gods and removed the image from the temple of the Lord, as well as all the altars he had built on the temple hill and in Jerusalem; and he threw them out of the city. 16 Then he restored the altar of the Lord and sacrificed fellowship offerings and thank offerings on it, and told Judah to serve the Lord, the God of Israel. 17 The people, however, continued to sacrifice at the high places, but only to the Lord their God.”
This murderous, lying, abuser of people, finally humbled himself  before our God and then prayed.
There are a lot of people who do not understand how big the heart of God is. Maybe even some of us actually believe it’s possible, if we have done something so bad, God may not love or forgive us.
The encouraging news I have for you and me today is that when this evil man humbled himself before God, God was willing to forgive him and had a new plan for his Life, and likewise even though you may have messed up some this year, if you have the right heart God will forgive you put His plan to work in your life this up and coming year.
Manasseh, whose life was a complete moral and spiritual disaster, got a second chance from a loving God who gives 2nd chancesAnd then he spent the rest of his life trying to lead his people back to God.
There’s not a soul here who can go back into the past and change what was said or what was done, but all of us have the opportunity in God to make a positive difference in what takes place from here on out. So what if you’ve blown it for the past year, or two, or even for the past twenty years, or past 40 years. You don’t have to end up a failure in God’s eyes or even your own.
I know its hard to live a perfectly sinless life. Even the strongest believer has weaknesses and occasionally fails. Sin is a reality we must all face.
It seems that no amount of faith or love for Jesus can make us immune to failure or guarantee that we will not sin. The apostle Paul understood and said it this way in Romans 7:21-25  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me. For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord!”
The only hope that we have is because of grace and mercy Jesus our Lord is willing to show us.  He will give even the worst failures a 2nd chance., but we have to have the right attitude. John wrote in 1 John. 1:9 “If we confess our sins He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Isn’t that what you want?  I therefore encourage you to take life one day at a time. And when your feel tempted, seek God’s help. And if you do fail, learn from those people of old, like David, and Manasseh, Samson, Paul and so many others. Humble yourself before our Lord, leave the past in the past, trust in our awesome God, and He will lift you up.
Partly based on a sermon by Rick Gillespie- Mobley
For more lessons click on the following link: http://granvillenychurchofchrist.org/?page_id=566