"THE SECOND EPISTLE TO TIMOTHY" Strong In The Grace Of Christ (2:1) by Mark Copeland


Strong In The Grace Of Christ (2:1)


1. The danger of apostasy is very real, as evident from Paul's second
   epistle to Timothy...
   a. Those in Asia had forsaken Paul, including Phygellus and
      Hermogenes - 2Ti 1:15
   b. Some had strayed from the truth, in particular Hymenaeus and
      Philetus - 2Ti 2:16-18

2. The possibility of apostasy explains Paul's admonitions to Timothy...
   a. Such as those found in the first chapter - cf. 2Ti 1:13-14
   b. Such as that found at the beginning of the second chapter 
        - 2 Ti 2:1

3. To avoid apostasy ourselves, we too must "be strong in the grace that
   is in Christ Jesus"...
   a. But what grace is there in Christ?
   b. And how can we be strong in this grace?

[These are questions we shall answer in this study.  First, let's


      1. In Christ there is no condemnation for sin - Ro 8:1
      2. For we have forgiveness of sins, redemption through His blood
         - Ep 1:7
      -- We are therefore "justified" (declared "not guilty") by His
         grace through the redemption in Christ Jesus! - cf. Ro 3:24

      1. Jesus offers to free us from the dominion of sin - Jn 8:31-36
      2. He does this by giving us His Spirit 
          - Jn 7:37-39; cf. Ro 8:2, 12-13
      -- We are therefore "strengthened" by God through His Spirit inf
         the inner man - cf. Ep 3:16

      1. Jesus revealed that we cannot bear fruit apart from Him 
          - Jn 15:4-5
      2. By His grace we are enabled to be a functioning member of His
         body - Ro 12:6
      3. We can have an abundance for every good work - 2Co 9:8
      -- We are therefore "enabled" by God for service as stewards of
         His grace - cf. 1Pe 4:10-11

      1. Jesus has given us "good hope" by His grace - 2Th 2:16
      2. By His grace we become heirs of eternal life - Tit 3:7
      -- We are therefore "positioned" to be the recipients of even more
         grace to come! - cf. 1Pe 1:13; Ep 2:7

[This review certainly does not exhaust the benefits of His grace, but
hopefully will encourage us to heed Paul's admonition to be strong in
the grace of Christ.  Now for some thoughts on...]


      1. Initially, by obeying the gospel of Christ through:
         a. Faith and confession, through which comes righteousness and
            salvation - Ro 10:9-10
         b. Repentance and baptism, through which comes forgiveness of
            sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit - Ac 2:38
      2. Continually, as the promise of His abiding presence is
         contingent on:
         a. Keeping His Word - Jn 14:21,23
         b. Observing His commandments - Mt 28:20
         c. Avoiding lukewarmness of service - Re 3:15-19
      -- The grace of Christ comes to those who are "doers" of the Word,
         and not "hearers only" - cf. Jm 1:22-25

      1. Prayer is the conduit through which we receive wonderful
         blessings in Christ:
         a. Forgiveness of sins when we sin - Ac 8:22; 1Jn 1:9
         b. Strength from God by His Spirit in the inner man - Ep 3:16
         c. Peace that surpasses understanding and overcomes anxiety
            - Php 4:6-7
      2. Thus the many admonitions to be diligent in prayer, such as:
         a. "continue earnestly in prayer" - Col 4:2
         b. "pray without ceasing" - 1Th 5:17
         c. "be serious and watchful in your prayers" - 1Pe 4:7
      -- The grace of Christ comes to those who come boldly to the
         throne of grace - cf. He 4:14-16

      1. Fellowship with other Christians is very important:
         a. It was a mark of the early church - Ac 2:42
         b. Christians are to be interdependent on one another 
             - 1Co 12:12-14,17-22
      2. Thus the admonitions related to encouraging one another:
         a. Through daily exhortation, to avoid unbelief - He 3:12-14
         b. Through frequent assembling, to stir up love and good works
            - He 10:24-25
      -- The grace of Christ comes to those belonging to a body in which
         each part does its share - cf. Ep 4:15-16


1. Brethren, wonderful is the grace of Christ!  Yet Christians were
   a. Not to receive the grace of God in vain - 2Co 6:1-2
   b. To be careful lest anyone fall short of the grace of God - He 12:15

2. To ensure that we benefit from the riches of grace in Christ, then
   let us be strong in grace...
   a. Through obedience to His Word
   b. Through fervency of prayer
   c. Through interaction with brethren

Are you diligent in your efforts to be strong in the grace of Christ

Executable Outlines, Copyright © Mark A. Copeland, 2016

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Mary—Mother of God? by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Mary—Mother of God?

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, generated a flurry of interest and discussion regarding the Christian religion. Since Mel declares himself to be a Catholic, the movie naturally elicited a consideration of the Catholic perspective on various aspects of the life of Christ on Earth. One unique feature of Catholicism is the role and status assigned to Mary. While many Catholics will “hedge” when in private conversation about the veneration given to Mary, the official pronouncements of the Catholic Church are forthright and unreserved in declaring her to be the “mother of God,” and in sanctioning the offering of worship to her, and assigning to her an intercessory role. Consider the following authoritative decrees of the Vatican II Council:
Mary was involved in the mysteries of Christ. As the most holy Mother of God she was, after her Son, exalted by divine grace above all angels and men. Hence the Church appropriately honors her with special reverence. Indeed, from most ancient times the Blessed Virgin has been venerated under the title of “God-bearer.” In all perils and needs, the faithful have fled prayerfully to her protection…. This most holy Synod…charges that practices and exercises of devotion toward her be treasured as recommended by the teaching authority of the Church in the course of centuries, and that those decrees issued in earlier times regarding the veneration of images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints, be religiously observed…. Let the entire body of the faithful pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men. Let them implore that she who aided the beginnings of the Church by her prayers may now, exalted as she is in heaven above all the saints and angels, intercede with her Son in the fellowship of all the saints (Abbott, 1966, pp. 94-96, emp. added).
Of course, rejecting the concept of abiding strictly by the Bible (sola scriptura), the Catholic Church has maintained for centuries that God’s Word is transmitted through (in addition to the Bible) the teaching authority of the Catholic Church, i.e., through the papacy and supporting church authorities. But for those who remain unconvinced of the right of post-apostolic men to speak by inspiration, the Bible continues to be the only rule of faith and practice—the sole receptacle for God’s Word since the close of the first century A.D.
The Bible is abundantly clear on the role of Mary in the divine scheme of things. The Bible nowhere indicates that Mary ascended into heaven. Nor does the Bible ever use the expression “mother of God.” The expression, in fact, carries with it misleading baggage. It leaves the impression that Mary somehow is being credited with originating Jesus or bringing Him into existence—ludicrous notions at best (cf. John 1:1; Colossians 1:16-17). A fair representation of Scripture would recognize the need to provide clarification by using different wording (e.g., Mary was the mother of Jesus in His incarnate form). In reality, Mary’s body merely served as a host. Matthew worded it this way: “[T]hat which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:20). Someone has gotten “way off track” by overemphasizing the role of Mary—thus giving rise to Mariolatry (the worship of Mary) among Catholics. Using the expression “mother of God” is, therefore, an example of decontextualization. The meaning of the phrase “the mother of my Lord” (Luke 1:43) has been greatly expanded, thereby causing the expression to convey more meaning than the Holy Spirit intended.
The Bible likewise does not give Mary any special status above others. It is acknowledged that she was selected to be the female through whom the Holy Spirit implanted the seed that brought forth the Lord (Luke 1:26-38). It is true that Mary’s relative, Elizabeth, referred to her as “blessed” (Luke 1:42). And it is true that Mary, herself, felt that “henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). But notice that nothing is attributed to Mary that is not attributed to many, many other followers of God in Bible history. Many people, in fact, have been “blessed.”
To “bless” in Bible jargon simply means to wish intended good, favor, and well-being upon the recipient (cf. Gray, 1939, 1:487). For example, consider how Melchizedek, king of Salem, extolled Abram: “Blessed be Abram of God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth; and blessed be God Most High, Who has delivered your enemies into your hand” (Genesis 14:19-20). Rebekah was similarly blessed: “And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: ‘Our sister, may you become the mother of thousands of ten thousands; and may your descendants possess the gates of those who hate them’ ” (Genesis 24:60; cf. vs. 31). Abimelech announced to Isaac: “You are now the blessed of the Lord” (Genesis 26:29). The entire nation of Israel was pronounced blessed: “You shall be blessed above all peoples; there shall not be a male or female barren among you or among your livestock” (Deuteronomy 7:14). Moses directed multiple assurances of blessedness toward the Israelites (Deuteronomy 28:1-8).
In fact, the Bible pronounces as “blessed” all people who follow Jesus: “Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12). Many people in Bible history were found in the “favor” of God (e.g., 1 Samuel 2:26; Proverbs 12:2). Nowhere does the Bible even hint at the notion of Mariolatry. When on the cross, Jesus said to John: “Behold your mother!” (John 19:27), He certainly was not calling for the veneration of Mary! He was merely assigning to John the responsibility of caring for His mother. Mary’s husband, Joseph, was undoubtedly deceased. If veneration of Mary is necessitated by this statement of Jesus, then the immediately preceding statement directed to Mary pertaining to John (“Woman, behold your son!”—John 19:26) would necessitate the veneration of John! Likewise, the notion of Mary’s “perpetual virginity” is a contradiction of Bible teaching, since she and her husband, Joseph, had several children after the birth of Jesus (Matthew 12:46; 13:55-56; Mark 6:3). The New Testament is completely silent on these doctrines (Mariolatry, assumption into heaven, perpetual virginity) that have evolved within Catholicism long after the first century.


Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
Gray, James M. (1939), “Bless,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, ed. James Orr (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans), 1974 reprint.

Mary, Catholicism, and the Bible by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Mary, Catholicism, and the Bible

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

One unique feature of Catholicism is the role and status assigned to Mary. The official pronouncements of the Catholic Church are forthright and unreserved in declaring her to be the “mother of God,” and in sanctioning the offering of worship to her and assigning to her an intercessory role (see Miller, 2004). Catholics insist that Mary is deserving of respect that surpasses other fleshly mothers, in the same way that a person has greater respect for his or her own fleshly mother. But the New Testament does not make this analogy. While a person’s own fleshly mother certainly deserves more respect than that given to other mothers, Mary is not the fleshly mother of humanity (cf. Genesis 3:20). She is not deserving of any more respect than any other mother. A child views his own mother as the mother—because she bore him. But Mary did not give birth to anyone living today. She is no more the mother than any other mother.
The Catholic Church confuses Mary’s physical motherhood (which is taught in Scripture—earning for her the surpassing respect of her physical children, including Jesus’ respect for her) with an alleged spiritual motherhood—about which the Bible says nothing. Indeed, to embrace the Catholic view of Mary would require one to repudiate Jesus’ own view of His fleshly mother. This view is accentuated in two separate incidents that occurred while Jesus was on Earth.
On one occasion when Jesus was imparting spiritual teaching to a crowd, Mary arrived with her other children and sought to speak to Him:
While He was still talking to the multitudes, behold, His mother and brothers stood outside, seeking to speak with Him. Then one said to Him, “Look, Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, seeking to speak with You.” But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers? And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother” (Matthew 12:46-50, emp. added).
Observe that while Jesus was not being disrespectful to His physical mother, he was contradicting the very aspect of Mary’s status that is advocated by Catholic dogma. Jesus clarified that while His fleshly mother certainly was deserving of respect (cf. Luke 2:51; Ephesians 6:1-3), nevertheless, Mary was secondary to His higher, spiritual concerns. Those who were attending to the assimilation of the spiritual principles that Jesus was imparting were held up by Him as transcending the physical/blood ties associated with mere human relatives.
Mark’s account of this incident (3:31-35) is preceded by Jesus’ family (identified in vss. 31-32 as his mother and brothers) questioning His sanity (3:20-21). The Catholic translation (NAB) renders the verses: “He came home. Again (the) crowd gathered, making it impossible for them even to eat. When his relatives heard of this they set out to seize him, for they said, ‘He is out of his mind.’ ” The critical notes that accompany the text of the Catholic Bible make the following comment on these verses: “There were those even among the relatives of Jesus who disbelieved and regarded Jesus as out of his mind (21). Against this background, Jesus is informed of the arrival of his mother and brothers [and sisters] (32)” (1987, p. 1121, italics in orig., emp. added).
The other incident in the life of Jesus that illustrates His true assessment of His physical mother occurred as He responded to His critics. Some accused Him of casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub, while others tested Him by challenging Him to produce a sign from heaven. Knowing their thoughts, Jesus gave His usual masterful rebuttal. “And it happened, as He spoke these things, that 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). This unnamed woman in the crowd likely did not intend to accentuate the person of Mary, but simply was expressing her wish that she could have produced such a fine son herself, thereby fulfilling the prophecy of Luke 1:48.
Nevertheless, her statement expresses the viewpoint of the Catholic Church in its veneration of Mary. If this attitude and emphasis were proper, one would have expected Jesus to give a response that confirmed, bolstered, and sanctioned her declaration. One would have expected that Jesus would have said something to the effect that—
Yes, you are right. The one who bore Me and nursed Me is the “most holy Mother of God” who will be “honored with special reverence” by the Church throughout the centuries, “venerated under the title of ‘God-bearer,’ ” and the faithful will “pour forth persevering prayer to the Mother of God and Mother of men,” venerate “images of Christ, the Blessed Virgin, and the saints.”
Why would one expect Jesus to have made comments along these lines? Because the portions of this imaginary response that are in quotes are taken directly from the official pronouncements of the Catholic Church at Vatican II (Abbott, 1966, pp. 94-96).
Did Jesus give a response to the woman that in any way resembled these sentiments? Absolutely not! To the contrary, He declared: “More than that, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28). Instead of “more than that,” the NAB renders it “rather” (cf. ASV, NIV, RSV)—further underscoring the contrast He was making. The NASB makes the Greek even more vivid: “On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” As University of Cambridge Greek professor C.F.D. Moule noted, menoun in Luke 11:28 functions as “an introduction to a new statement correcting or modifying a foregoing statement” (1977, p. 163, emp. added). Nicoll was inclined to agree: “Correction probably was uppermost in Christ’s thoughts. Under the appearance of approval the woman was taught that she was mistaken in thinking that merely to be the mother of an illustrious son constituted felicity” (n.d., 1:550, emp. added). Dana and Mantey also agree: “In Lk. 11:28...the expression contains both contrast and emphasis, with the significance of in factrather” (1927, p. 261, italics in orig., emp. added). In essence, Jesus was contradicting the woman and pointing her to the correct focus and object of commendation: not the physical mother of Jesus, but those who obey God’s Word.


The premiere passage of Scripture that is offered to sustain the view that Mary was assigned a special role in the practice of the Christian religion is the statement that Jesus made from the cross:
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus therefore saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing by, He said to His mother, “Woman, behold your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold your mother!” And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home (John 19:25-27, emp. added).
The fact that Jesus was referring strictly to the physical care for his earthly mother after His death—and not to an alleged spiritual role that Mary was to fill in Christ’s religion—is evident from the context. Jesus spoke the directive to John—not to everyone else present on that occasion, let alone to everyone since. Jesus simply was turning the care of His fleshly mother over to John, since her husband was already deceased and her other children were likely still unbelievers (Mark 3:21; John 7:5). The very verse that refers to this oral utterance of Jesus regarding care of His fleshly mother contains proof of its intended meaning: “And from that hour that disciple took her to his own home” (John 19:27).
Consider the following three observations: First, Jesus did not entrust the care of His mother to Peter! But if Peter were the first pope, Jesus surely would have linked Mary to Peter in order to establish her official spiritual status for all time. Second, Jesus did not arrange to have Mary circulated to the homes of all of the disciples, but only to John’s home. Jesus knew that the “disciple whom Jesus loved” would see to it that she received adequate care in His absence. Third, John took her to “his own home,” i.e., he was attending to her physical needs! He did not take her to any “Holy Shrine of the Blessed Virgin,” or to any other location that would have confirmed a unique role. Indeed, absolutely nothing in this verse leads the objective reader to think that Jesus was assigning a significance or role to Mary that the Catholic Church has since assigned her—“the Mother of us all”!
Interestingly, if when Jesus said to John, “Behold your mother!,” He intended to call for the veneration of Mary, then the immediately preceding statement directed to Mary pertaining to John, “Woman, behold your son!” (John 19:26), would necessitate the veneration of John by both Mary and everyone since!
The fact of the matter is that the Bible makes no provision for worship, adoration, or veneration to be directed to Mary. The Bible forbids offering praise to any human being. All praise, worship, and adoration belongs to God alone (Matthew 4:10; Acts 10:25-26; 14:14-15; Revelation 19:10; 22:9). To extend veneration to other humans ought to be as horrifying to us as it was to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:14-15). Indeed, when Herod accepted such veneration, he was struck dead by God and eaten with worms (Acts 12:23).


Abbott, Walter, ed. (1966), The Documents of Vatican II (New York, NY: America Press).
Dana, H.E. and Julius Mantey (1927), A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament (Toronto, Canada: Macmillan).
Miller, Dave (2004), “Mary—Mother of God?” [On-line], URL: http://apologeticspress.org/articles/2234.
Moule, C.F.D. (1977 reprint), An Idiom-Book of New Testament Greek (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, second edition).
Nicoll, W. Robertson (no date), The Expositor’s Greek Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
New American Bible (1986), (Nashville, TN: Catholic Bible Press).

Martin Luther Speaks on “Faith Only” and Baptism by Kyle Butt, M.Div.


Martin Luther Speaks on “Faith Only” and Baptism

by Kyle Butt, M.Div.

One popular belief in many protestant denominations is the idea that God supplies salvation to each and every person based solely on the faith of that person, apart from any action taken by that individual. This idea, often called sola fide, says, that a person is saved by faith alone. Any number of quotations demonstrating this doctrine can be cited. In a debate with Thomas Warren in 1953, L.S. Ballard affirmed the position that “the alien sinner is saved the very moment he/she believes that Jesus Christ is the son of God” (Warren and Ballard, 1953). This particular belief is commonly worded like this: “People are saved through Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone.”
According to the modern-day advocates of “faith alone” salvation, water baptism cannot be a requisite to salvation, because it is something “more than” faith. While space limitations prevent a thorough investigation of the biblical doctrine of baptism (see Lyons, 2003), it is interesting to note how far the “faith alone” doctrine has drifted from its original form.
The idea of being saved by faith alone is often attributed to Martin Luther. Indeed, he and the other reformers challenged the Catholic Church that sold indulgences and offered a “works-based” type of salvation. Martin Luther often taught that salvation was based on faith alone, and not received based upon a person’s meritorious works. Martin Luther did not, however, take faith alone to mean that mere mental assent to Christ’s deity was sufficient to obtain salvation. In fact, Luther’s idea of faith alone does not conform to the modern-day idea that baptism cannot be required for salvation.
While it is understood that the opinions of men are in no way authoritative when it comes to God’s plan for salvation, it is nonetheless interesting to note that Martin Luther believed wholeheartedly in the necessity of baptism as a requisite for salvation. In his Large Catechism, Luther wrote:
[I] affirm that Baptism is no human trifle, but that it was established by God Himself. Moreover, He earnestly and solemnly commanded that we must be baptized or we shall not be saved. No one is to think that it is an optional matter like putting on a red coat. It is of greatest importance that we hold Baptism in high esteem as something splendid and glorious. The reason why we are striving and battling so strenuously for this view of Baptism is that the world nowadays is full of sects that loudly proclaim that Baptism is merely an external form and that external forms are useless.... Although Baptism is indeed performed by human hands, yet it is truly God’s own action (1978, pp. 98-99).
From Luther’s comments about baptism, it is obvious that he viewed water baptism as essential for salvation. Many of the protestant denominations that attribute their ideas about “faith only” to Martin Luther have not been taught that Luther’s concept of faith alone was not in opposition to works of God (like baptism and repentance), but in opposition to meritorious works by which a person believes that he or she “earns” salvation.
What, then, would Martin Luther say to those today who teach that “faith alone” excludes baptism? Listen to his words pertaining to this teaching:
But our know-it-alls, the new spirit people, claim that faith alone saves and that human works and outward forms contribute nothing to this. We answer: It is of course true that nothing in us does it except faith, as we shall hear later. But these blind leaders of the blind refuse to see that faith must have something in which it believes, that is, something it clings to, something on which to plant its feet and into which to sink its roots. Thus faith clings to the water and believes Baptism to be something in which there is pure salvation and life, not through the water, as I have emphasized often enough, but because God’s name is joined to it.... If follows from this that whoever rejects Baptism rejects God’s word, faith, and the Christ who directs us to Baptism and binds us to it (1978, pp. 101-102).
Martin Luther was a man. He made many mistakes and believed things about the Bible that were not true. It should be noted, however, that the “faith only” doctrine attributed so often to him has been misrepresented on a grand scale. Martin Luther’s words are unambiguous and clear. His “faith only” doctrine did not exclude baptism as necessary for salvation. Could it be the case that those who loudly tout the “faith only” mantra have not thoroughly investigated the works of the man to whom the doctrine is so often attributed?
The Bible does teach that those who are being saved are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). It does not, however, teach that a person is saved “by faith alone” without any further acts of obedience. Even Martin Luther recognized that water baptism is not a meritorious work that earns a person salvation. On the other hand, it is an obedient act required by God in order for people to obtain salvation.
Luther, Martin (1978), Luther’s Large Catechism, (Saint Louis, MO: Concordia).
Lyons, Eric (2003), “The Bible’s Teaching on Baptism: Contradictory or Complimentary,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/617.
Warren, Thomas B. and L.S. Ballard (1953), The Warren-Ballard Debate, (Moore, OK: National Christian Press).

Marriage Defined by Dave Miller, Ph.D.


Marriage Defined

by Dave Miller, Ph.D.

As legislators are fighting over the legitimacy of same-sex marriages, activist judges are claiming constitutional sanction in their redefining of marriage, and the rank and file citizens of these United States are embroiled in a polarizing culture war, it is nevertheless unthinkable that the President of these United States has announced his approval of homosexuality. If God exists and the Bible is His revealed Word, then America is facing imminent peril. The evaporation of Christian principles from American civilization will lead to the extinction of civility, freedom, and morality.
In the midst of such depressing circumstances, the spiritually minded may find refreshment in the words of bygone U.S. Supreme Courts. For example, in the 1885 case of Murphy v. Ramsey that addressed the legitimacy of polygamy, the high court declared:
For certainly no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth, fit to take rank as one of the coordinate States of the Union, than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family, as consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one womanin the holy estate of matrimony; the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement (1885, emp. added).
Observe that the high Court insisted that the stability of a nation and its proper progress rely on the home composed of one man for one woman for life—the precise declaration of God Himself (Genesis 2:24). For most of American history, courts have had no trouble recognizing and reaffirming the idea of the family and the historic definition of marriage. Such thinking was in complete agreement with and based upon the Bible (Genesis 2:24).
In another U.S. Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. United States, after conceding the constitutional right to freedom of religion, the high court nevertheless repudiated polygamy as a punishable offense against society and reaffirmed the foundational importance of monogamy: “Marriage, while from its very nature a sacred obligation, is nevertheless, in most civilized nations, a civil contract, and usually regulated by law. Upon it society may be said to be built” (1879, emp. added). Those legal sentiments reflected the views of the vast majority of Americans for the first 180+ years of American history. Departure from that social norm—one man and one woman—results in the destabilization of society.
No wonder in 1848, the Supreme Court of South Carolina articulated the sentiment of the Founders and early Americans regarding what will happen if Christian morality is abandoned:
What constitutes the standard of good morals? Is it not Christianity? There certainly is none other. Say that cannot be appealed to and...what would be good morals? The day of moral virtue in which we live would, in an instant, if that standard were abolished, lapse into the dark and murky night of pagan immorality (City Council of Charleston..., emp. added).
Practitioners of unscriptural divorce, homosexuality, and other sinister behaviors are slowly but surely eroding and dissolving the moral foundations of American civilization—what the Court called “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization.” Will America awaken from this spiritual stupor? Will Christians rise up and react in time? The time has come for those who still retain their moral sensibilities to recognize that we are in a full-scale, unmistakable war—a culture war—a spiritual war of seismic proportions against the governmental authorities and cultural forces that now are openly hostile toward God, Christ, and the Bible. May we take heart and commit ourselves to this critical struggle, as we consider the words of God through Paul:
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand (Ephesians 6:10-13, emp. added).


City Council of Charleston v. Benjamin (1848), 2 Strob. L. 508 (S.C. 1848).
Murphy v. Ramsey (1885), 114 U.S. 15; 5 S. Ct. 747; 29 L. Ed. 47; 1885 U.S. LEXIS 1732.
Reynolds v. United States (1879), 98 U.S. 145; 25 L. Ed. 244; 1878 U.S. LEXIS 1374; 8 Otto 145.

The Dilemmas of Teaching by Trevor Bowen


The Dilemmas of Teaching


Teaching is simple in principle. The teacher must study and master a topic sufficiently to communicate the important points to others. However, like many other issues of life, the plan may be simple, but the execution of it is anything but simple. Although some good can be accomplished immediately by even a novice, there is always room to grow and improve in one's mastery of the material and presentation of it. Many "tips" and "best practices" for teaching are learned the hard way: A teacher does his or her best. He or she learns from his or her mistakes and then wanders in the opposite direction, until he or she makes other mistakes and realizes that he has gone "too far" the other direction. After repeatedly banging and crashing one's ship against the rising cliffs of the straits of teaching, one can steadily learn how to navigate his or skiff between these dilemmas. The key is to be self-aware and seek the honest feedback of genuine friends and enemies. You can learn from almost anybody. Do not fear failure or mistakes. Fear mediocrity and cowardice. Learn to truly love others and serve them by teaching them the truth.

Navigating the Straits

These following dilemmas represent lessons that I have learned the "hard way". A few lessons were gleaned by observing others likewise practice and learn to teach. The following dilemmas are presented in pairs, where every pair represents a single dilemma, consisting of two extremes. Although many of these dilemmas appear to represent two extreme approaches, they may be actually two extreme manifestations of the same problem - lack of preparation, for example. Therefore, trying to "balance" the two extremes is often not the solution. Although the following list of dilemmas may apply to all teachers, they were penned while reflecting on the need for excellent Bible teachers.
  1. Do not under-study — Nothing is more obvious than a teacher, who is inadequately prepared. Make sure you fully understand each of the terms you are using, so you can use them properly. Inconsistent or inaccurate usage of terms is a quick giveaway that you do not know your stuff. Make sure each point connects to the point preceding and proceeding it. Developing a logical progression of thought requires time to sift through various facts and points to establish a preferred flow, where each point builds on the preceding points. Do not underestimate this task.
  2. Do not over-study — On just about any given subject, there is more information to learn, understand, and enjoy than can be communicated in the allotted time. One can easily waste his preparation time by getting bogged down in minor details or questions. Or, one can spend so much time studying, that he loses sight of the big picture. Make sure you maintain a "big picture" framework, so that you always judge and communicate which points are most critical, requiring everyone's limited, immediate attention.

  3. Master your content before you master your presentation — The message is the most critical component of your teaching. Modern presentations, especially those involving complicated charts, PowerPoint presentations, hand-outs, lesson sheets , etc., require a tremendous amount of additional preparation time. Although one can use these modern tools as a modern day "drawing board" for drafting, brainstorming, and illustrating, one should not focus too much on the polish of the presentation. You do not want your lesson to suffer, because you had technical problems with your computer or some computer tool! Furthermore, gimmicks, interesting tricks, and novel presentations - although temporarily memorable - typically do not produce lasting memories of the desired message. Charts should be used to visualize difficult concepts or maintain critical truths in your audience's focus. They should not be used to "wow" or impress your audience. Don't waste too much time on the aid to teaching. Focus on the real teaching: diligently researching, mastering, and then conveying truths for the purpose of persuading people to accept and act upon those truths. Clip-art is rarely as important as one might think. ... If your charts contain so much material that you can almost read them, do not be surprised, if you find yourself doing just that. Furthermore, do not be surprised, if you find that your audience tunes you out and reads your charts for themselves.
  4. Do not forget that you must present what you have studied — Eventually, all study must result in a presentation, if one is a teacher. We must not revel in the research to the point that we forget we must communicate what we have learned in a finite, typically brief, time frame. Please study diligently. Master your material. But, also reserve time to determine the essential and most meaningful facts, truths, lessons, and applications that you wish to teach. One must "pace" his presentation, deliberately choosing beforehand which points to cover and how much time to allot to their presentation. Furthermore, reserve time to articulate those points in private, at least once, before public presentation. Most people, especially me, do not have the brain power to do this in "real-time", while they are teaching. Failure to practice the presentation will generally result in one not covering the material that he really wanted to cover. Too many times during presentations, I have struggled to word a point as powerfully as I wanted. The point's punch was lost in my poor wording. Not wanting to disservice the message, I frequently tried to reword the statement. This results in repeated but varied phrasings of the same point, which appeared as rambling, which even further minimized the point's effectiveness. Planned pacing and advanced articulation go hand-in-hand, and they frequently make the difference between good and great presentations.

  5. State the obvious — Diligent teachers spend many long hours preparing to deliver a condensed summary of the most salient lessons gleaned from their study. As they repeatedly encounter certain points, what was once enlightening to them becomes obvious. Differences in age, experience, background, and education can all create a similar gap effect. You never know what your audience knows or does not know. Be sure to simply and clearly state the obvious, just in case.
  6. Do not belabor the obvious — It is important to ascertain some approximate, average level of understanding of your audience. If you underestimate your audience, then you will spend too much time on what is obvious to them. This may be undesirably interpreted as arrogance or patronizing. Or, it just may be plain boring. Do not lose your audience in agonizing tedium by belaboring the obvious.

  7. Do not ask your students to teach your class — Comments and questions are a great way to involve the class and "share the knowledge". Frequently, there is more knowledge in the "pews" than there is behind the "pulpit". It is in a teacher's own best interest and the interest of the class to tap into that invaluable wisdom and experience. However, rarely will a class prepare like the teacher, nor should you expect them to do so. You have accepted that extra responsibility. So, do not ask them to answer all the hard questions, leaving it to your students to "bail you out". Be prepared with an answer yourself! Furthermore, do not focus on the simple facts while skipping over the controversial, deep, or profound parts of a topic or a text, forcing the more knowledgeable students to "teach your class from the pew" with a 5-10 minute "comment". Touch on such subjects or explain why you are not. Do not force your class to deal with the difficult material, because you avoided it, without giving them the benefit of the lectern!
  8. Do not ignore or interrupt comments — If you have asked your class or audience for comments, do not insult them by interrupting them. Comments should be sought, because you value their content - not because you are trying to fulfill some teaching checklist, and not because you are just trying to keep the class "involved" or awake. If you truly value class participation, and if you truly value the class's comments, then let them finish, and do your best to integrate the content with a follow-up comment. Even a simple acknowledgment is better than nothing.

  9. Avoid absolute statements — Verifying the accuracy of absolute statements inherently demands a mastery of all of Scripture. Such breadth and depth of knowledge on subtle truths is rare and requires an enormous amount of iterative postulation and testing. Too often, the young in faith proclaim absolute statements (using words like, "always", "never", "every", etc.) without having the complete knowledge to support it. In general, if one has not done the homework to support any statement with full confidence, then one should never make those statements. Furthermore, outside the obvious and generally understood truths, great care and caution should be exercised before delivering absolute statements on any subject.
  10. Look for concrete points — Vague teaching is confusing and pointless. Although multiple possibilities can be admitted for any controversial position, the role of the teacher is to master the truth on the subject and deliver it. If that cannot be determined, then you have no business teaching on the subject. This is not "Fox News - We report. You decide." Although a teacher must not cover up his uncertainty, he must also strive for personal certainty and teach the truth. Students are best helped with the truth - not possible truths. Do your best to boil abstractions and possibilities to concrete statements of summary and application.

  11. Make it obvious that you care — If a teacher condemns too much, points the finger too much, shouts too much, dismisses too much - or isolates himself too much - he will lose credibility, because the listeners will feel like he does not care. Eventually, they will cease to take you seriously or even listen. Wherever possible, all application should clearly and definitively include the speaker. If the speaker is beyond the application, then arrogance will be perceived and attributed. After listening to some speakers, I truly believe they sincerely love me and want me to do better, because they care for my soul. Other speakers, I think they enjoy the ease, safety, and aloofness of the high moral ground. You want to be the sympathetic speaker who knows he is asking something very hard of all of us - not just your audience.
  12. Do not soften persuasion's punch — Although a speaker does not want to unnecessarily offend, he also does not want to avoid offense. Persuasion by its very nature involves change, which demands the recognition of one's current error or danger. If a teacher works too hard to soften the barb, it may be perceived as indecisive, uncertainty, or unimportance. Or, even worse - after much elaboration, it may not even be perceived! Speech seasoned with grace and salt is more pleasant, but it must contain the powerful words to save, if one listens (Colossians 4:5-6Romans 1:16)!

  13. Provide something for everybody — An audience typically consists of many different people from many different backgrounds with varying levels of knowledge and experience. Although extremely difficult, each sermon should have a "take away" for everybody, regardless of their knowledge, experience or background. Lesson after lesson should not cater to one class or another. Specific topics can and should be focused as needed or on occasion, but if one regularly teaches the "whole gospel", then everyone will benefit (Acts 20:2026-27).
  14. Provide something for somebody — Teaching requires taking abstract principles, examples, and reasoning to make application for your audience. If one makes general application, then he has only minimally performed his duty. Applications need to be specific. They should not just apply to everybody. They should apply to "somebody" - you, me, etc. Help your audience make application to themselves by making several specific applications. One will not have time to cover every possible application, but the general application should be made, specific applications should provided be as examples, and the examples should vary from lesson to lesson, so one group is not repeatedly hammered, while another is overlooked.

  15. Keep it age-appropriate — Too often, adult, college-age, and high-school classes are taught as if the students were middle school age. Games, style, applications, and attitude of the class should be age appropriate, meaning you should serve challenging material that will help the students grow. Silly exercises have no place in classes of experienced adults. Don't waste their time, reminding them of things they learned when they were 12. Moreover, too often, teachers underestimate the older students. Children will surprise you with what they already know and with what they can learn, if you will just be patient with them.
  16. Keep it age-appropriate — Teachers who are accustomed to working with adults and older children must adapt to younger children. Vocabulary, application, explanation and focus must be relevant to the age. Do not overestimate student's willingness and ability to absorb copious amounts of complex material that is not obviously relevant to them. The key to navigating this strait is spending time with your students outside of class, so you can better understand the challenges facing them, their reasoning capacity, and their current understanding. If you do not know your audience, you will have great difficulty adapting your message's presentation to best fit their abilities, interest level, and needs.

  17. Do not believe you are aware of all the dilemmas a teacher may face.
  18. Do not believe that you have mastered all the teacher's dilemmas of which you are even aware. Humility, humility, humility. The proud cannot learn. They can only be broken and harnessed.


Teaching is a difficult practice that can take years to master (James 3:1-5). Experience should improve our judgment, but it will only do so, if we are honest in our evaluation of ourselves, and if we seek the truthful feedback of Scripture and true friends (Proverbs 27:17). Even aged, seasoned teachers have "good days and bad days". And, even they are still learning. Therefore, be patient with yourself as you grow, which will include various attempts, failures, and triumphs.
All good teachers develop relationships, where possible with the students. As the students grow, the teacher enjoys the satisfaction of love fulfilled:
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. (III John 1:4)
In so doing, we catch some small glimpse into the joy that God takes in our growth:
But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. (I John 2:5-6)
The Lord came to "seek and save the lost" (Luke 19:10). He was the consummate Teacher (Ecclesiastes 12:9-11). All good teachers derive their wisdom from Him, as they are taught by Him through His Word (Psalm 119:97-105). If you are not already, you too can become a teacher in the same way. Master God’s Word. Obey it (Matthew 7:3-5). And, teach it to others, so they can do the same:
And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. (II Timothy 2:2)
If you are not already a teacher, will you take up that valuable work today?
For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14)
How much time has the Lord blessed to you? Are you digesting "solid food"? If not, what changes will you make to develop to maturity? Will you then be a teacher, if you are not already? As you teach, do not forget these dilemmas you must face; otherwise, you will have to learn them the "hard way" too. Trust me: Your students would prefer you learn from the mistakes of others.
Have you experienced or observed other dilemmas that teachers may face? Feel free to contact me and send them to me.
 Trevor Bowen

James (Part 5) Listen More, Speak Less, and Stay Cool by Ben Fronczek


James (part 5) Listen More, Speak Less, and Stay Cool

James (Part 5) Listen More, Speak Less, and Stay Cool
I have really enjoyed preparing lessons from the Epistle of James because for me it talks about practical aspects of how to live everyday as a Christian.     And the message from James which we will look at today is probably one of the best known passages that James penned; not only by Christians but also by non-Christians as well. Why is it so well know and probably memorized by so many; because it contains simple truths that everyone can understand and appreciate.
Now what verse am I referring to? James 1:19-20 which says, 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
If you have been following this series of lessons that I have been doing here from the epistle of James; I have been trying to look at the letter from the perspective of James being the stepbrother of Jesus and someone who grew up in the same household as Jesus. Jesus was the older brother and so James probably wrote from a different perspective than other in scripture.
So as we look at and consider this text, I cannot help but wonder if growing up with Jesus led him to this conclusion; that, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”
I would like to think that time spent with Jesus led him to this conclusion.
As we discussed before, Jesus and James were part of a sizable family. We know that Jesus had at least four stepbrothers and a number of stepsisters. And if it was like any other family, especially with that many siblings in tight quarters, it probably got pretty hectic and loud at times. Boys will be boys and girls will be girls and so I can’t help but imagine that there were times where there were clashes that happen like in every family from time to time. “Mommy James took my dolly.” “No I didn’t, Jude did.” “Yea Jude, wait till I tell Simon and Joseph that you were playing with our sisters dolly.” “Don’t you dare, I was just looking at how it was made! “  “Give me my dolly, give me my dolly now. Mommy, tell Jude to give me my dolly.”
And then as the years passed by, and all those hormones began to flow, that household probably like so many of our households it had its share of sibling fights and arguments.
But in all that, where was Jesus? Did Jesus argue with His siblings? Probably. Can one argue without sinning? Of course. Some call it a discussion or debate. Sin shows it head when certain attitudes show their head. Arguments become sinful when they go beyond debating and cynical, self centered agendas show their head. Is getting angry a sin? Again it depends on why we are angry, and then what we do once we are angry.
Later we read how Jesus got angry at the Temple and even made a whip and turned tables over, driving out the moneychangers and those selling animals; but He never crossed the line into sinful behavior. He argued and debated with the Pharisees and teaches of the Law. There were times when He even condemned them, yet through it all He did not sin; and again it had everything to do with why He was doing it, and His heart condition.
When we see someone hurting the innocent, or others perverting truth or doing evil it’s not ungodly to get upset and angry about those things.      James has much to say about wrong attitudes that lead to fights. In chapter 4 he writes; “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”  
So back to our verse in chapter 1 where James writes “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.” Here James instructs how we should live our life in relation to others. He makes 3 suggestions here in this text…  (Notice the order… their order is important)
#1. Be quick to listen. I think most argument are the result of someone not listening, or paying attention to what’s going on or what someone says. Too many of us have selective hearing, or we hear what we want to hear and ignore the rest and so we don’t get the whole story. This causes arguments.
How well do you listen? How many times have you heard, “But that’s not what I said.”?
Or how many times do you catch yourself saying, “I don’t remember you saying that.”?
Dale Carnegie who wrote  How to Win Friends and Influence People, said that you can make more friends in two weeks by becoming a good listener than you can in two years trying to get other people interested in you.
I would like to believe that Jesus was a good listener and He did not jump to conclusions or get angry simply because He didn’t take the time to listen. And I believe He’s still listening today.
There are businesses who actually train their employees, Techniques to Improve Listening to others more carefully as they speak. Why, because most of us don’t listen very well when others speak and sometimes it’s critical that really listen carefully.
Now James is telling us that this is important, #1 in preventing arguments.
#2 Then he tells us to be “slow to speak.”                                                                         
Boy doesn’t this get us into trouble. We just can’t wait to put in our two cents and give our opinion. We are so anxious to share our wisdom that some of us interrupting others as they speak. We are not only bad at listening, we don’t even want to give the other person a chance to speak or complete a sentence. And sometimes what we say does more harm than good.
A guy came to his pastor and said, “Reverend, I only have one talent.”
The pastor asked, “What’s your talent?   
The man said, “I have the gift of criticism.”    The preacher was wise and replied, “The Bible says that the guy who had only one talent went out and buried it. Maybe that’s what you ought to do with yours.”
Can you imagine Jesus interrupting or butting in as others shared their thoughts and feelings? I can’t, He loved them too much to do that.
Love? Yes love. Can you think of a greater expression of love than taking the time to listen to a person, and really hear what they have to say, not interrupting them but patiently waiting to share your opinion when they are done, or maybe not even saying anything all?
Do you remember what Paul wrote concerning love in 1 Corinthians 13, he wrote, Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Sometimes the kindest, most loving thing we can do is let another speak, and let them unload, paying attention to them and just keeping quiet.                        I like what Solomon wrote in  Proverbs 10:19 When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
The third thing that James tells us in our text is:
#3, That we should be  ”Slow to become angry, (Why? Because…)20man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”
Do people feel like they are walking on egg shells around you because your fuse is so short they never know when you are going to blow up? James is telling us that if you are like, you have a problem and it’s not something that God wants to see in you… especially as a Christian.
You not only put those around you on guard, you also rob yourself of the and peace tranquility you should have because you are always getting angry.
If anyone should have been angry all the time if should have been Jesus; and rightfully so. Look at how we have treated His creation. Look at how mankind treats others. Look at the wars, the crime, the injustice, the neglect; look at how some take advantage of the innocent.  If it was you or me we’d probably be a lot like James and John who wanted to call down lightening and zap people. We would have been zapping people left and right in anger because of how they destroy and pervert what is good.
But there was more Love in Jesus than anger. I believe James saw that growing up with Him. I believe Jesus was not only a good listener, I also believe He chose His words carefully and He was slow to anger. He probably didn’t let every little thing set Him off
As James wrote, anger does not produce the kind of righteousness that God wants to see in us. I believe He would rather see love, patience, and mercy than hostile anger in us. Anger closes and hardens our heart.   We need to let go of it. If we don’t, we can become bitter a miserable.
Do you have what can be considered a short or hot temper? Ask God to help you in this matter. Picture how Jesus chose the emotion of Love over anger and ask Him to help you do the same. And, if there is a good reason to get angry, be careful not to let it lead to you sin. Two wrongs don’t make it right.  A Loving attitude is powerful and more pleasing to God and more important to others.
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