June 15, 2003


Mark tells us that after Jesus finished telling the parables recorded in Mark 4 and Matthew 13, Jesus said to His apostles, ''Let us cross over to the other side.' Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, 'Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?' Then He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, 'Peace, be still!' And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, 'Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?' And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, 'Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'" (Mark 4:35-41).

Jesus had frequently shown Himself to be the master over sickness and disease. He had shown Himself to have power to control demons and displace them. Now, He shows that He possesses power over the natural elements of the universe -- the power to calm the sea and make the wind lie down.

The fierceness of the storm is evident when we remember that four of Jesus' apostles had been fishermen by trade. Peter, Andrew, James and John had ridden out many a storm on the Sea of Galilee, but in this case, the storm was so violent that the apostles feared for their lives. Jesus, on the other hand was able to sleep calmly through the worst of the storm, until His apostles woke Him in alarm, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"

Jesus mildly rebuked them for their fear, which indicated the shallowness of their faith. Then He worked one of the miracles that most amazed them, thus strengthening their faith.

Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that the primary purpose behind all of Jesus mighty miracles, signs and wonders, was to produce faith in those who had not yet become believers, and to strengthen the faith of those who were already His followers. Those miracles confirmed that His message and His mission were from God, Mark 2:10; John 3:2. His miracles were recorded that they may also produce faith in the hearts of those of us who were not there to experience them in person.

--Clarence R. Johnson


Of what duration is that state to which the Scriptures assign the Devil, his angels, and those who are his earthling subjects?

Well, how long is God? In Rom. 1:20 His power and deity are said to be AIDIOS-- eternal, or everlasting. The word is used only twice in the NT.- the second time in Jude 6 where it describes the nature of the chains by which Satan's angels are bound.

In 1 Tim. 1:17 God is called King eternal (TON AIONON, of the ages) and His honor and glory is for ever and ever (AIONAS TON AIONON, ages of the ages). Then in Rev. 20:l0 the Devil is cast into the take of fire and tormented forever (AIONAS TON AIONON, ages ofthe ages). The 14th. and l5th verses say (the powers of) death and hell "and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire."

How long is "eternal" life? I am aware that the term can refer to the quality of life in Christ, but the etymology of the word is that of duration. Moulton and Milligan say, "it never loses the sense of perpetuous." In John 10:28 Christ relates eternal (AIONION) life with time, saying "and they shall never perish neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand." It is this same word (AIONON) that is used to describe the fire and destruction of Matt. 18:8, Jude 7, and 2 Thess. 1:9.

Matt. 25:46 assigns certain ones to punishment eternal (AIONION) and others to life eternal (AIONION). How long is hell (GEHENNA, punishment)? Exactly as long as heaven

Man, being time bound, has time-bound concepts -- and terminology. He has had to adapt his words, by special usage (as "ages of the ages") to express perpetuity. When God wished to describe to man His "eternal" nature, He used the terms man would so understand. But the Bible terms that describe the unbounded limits of the punishment that awaits those who rebel against their Maker, are exactly the same terms used there to define the limitlessness of God, of Christ, and of the heavenly home of saints.


--Robert F. Turner, Plain Talk, March 1974


Two churches want to grow, but their attitudes toward growth differ greatly.

The first church looks upon growth as its primary purpose. Goals are placed before the membership: "We want to double our membership within the next three years," for instance. Success (or failure) is judged almost entirely on the basis of that congregation's numerical growth.

The second church looks upon the saving of souls as its primary purpose, and any growth in membership is just a natural result of that primary purpose. Members of the second church are infused with the value of immortal souls rather than with a sense of congregational pride.
Members of the first church become eager to get people to the water. Baptism is the point at which people are added to the membership list; consequently, it's going to take so many baptisms to keep pace with their goal of doubling their membership. They must not only get them to the water, they must get them there within the time period that has been arbitrarily set by their leaders.

Members of the second church are far more eager to get people to repent. Their concern is for additions to the Lord's body rather than additions to a membership list. Their approach is to bring sinners to a consciousness of their sin and the consequences of remaining in sin. If they can do this in one study, great! But if considerable time is required to uproot false concepts and to plant the true seed of the gospel, they patiently accept this. Their only sense of urgency grows out of the uncertainty of life and its duration. But they know that shortcuts are not the answer; that baptism without repentance is worthless; and that once people are brought to true repentance, having been properly taught, baptism for the remission of sins will follow. So they wait with longsuffering until the gospel brings about its desired effect in the hearts of those whom they are teaching.

Members of the first church will be tempted to use questionable tactics in their approach to people. The old methods and approaches don't seem to be effective anymore. New and more positive approaches must be found. So the members of the first church make their appeal to the pride of people. They persuade them of their self-worth; they build their self-image; they tell them how valuable they would be to the congregation. "We need you," they tell their prospects. They might extol the virtues of the congregation, persuading their prospects of the value of being a part of such a vibrant, growing group of people. So, people "become members," and they conform to the rules that are placed before them for acceptance within the group, but there may have been little grief over sin; in fact, they might even still believe they were Christians before they "became members."

The members of the second church recognize that the gospel never makes its appeal to the pride of people. They bring people to see their spiritual bankruptcy; that they have "nothing to pay"; that their true worth is not to be found in self, but in Christ; that they must humble themselves and look to Christ for their exaltation; that they are sinners in desperate need of salvation; that their only hope is to be found in Christ.

The first church may become compromising in its teaching. Its elders intend to maintain doctrinal soundness, but there is the pressure to produce, to maintain the growth rate set before the congregation. When doctrinal soundness becomes an obstacle to that purpose, the elders may succumb to the pressures and ease up on its teaching. The second church faces no such pressure, for in its concern for the spiritual well-being of people, there is desire for truth on every subject vital to salvation.

The emphasis of the first church is organizational and institutional; the emphasis of the second church is spiritual and heavenly.

We commend the second church to our readers. Serious problems can result when churches see growth as their primary purpose. If goals are to be set - and goals can serve a good purpose - let them focus on the number to be taught rather than the number to be baptized. If new approaches are needed, let them be conceived only if they are compatible with God's wisdom. In efforts to reach others, let all determine to know nothing "except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." When churches thus become really serious about saving souls, God will give the increase, and growth will take care of itself. 

--Bill Hall, Bible Viewpoints, Fry Road church, Houston, TX


"We want a place to go to church. Tried out one across the tracks but the building was dilapidated, in a bad part of town. Not many folks and kinda unfriendly. Appeared to us they didn't have much money and none of the nicer folks went there. It might do - in a lurch.

"We want a place to go to church to belong and be proud of. Mind you, now, we don't want to be called on to help the poor, preach the word, or even have to attend bible classes. We'd be happy as long as folks would just let us go to church and leave us alone. We just really want a place to perch when we got the urge to go to church."

Folks who want a place to "go to church" don't want to belong to a church made up of folks like them, because it wouldn't be much of a church. They miss out on the close, warm feeling of brethren caring for one another. They perch in the church pews to evaluate the worship and preaching but experience neither the thrill of really knowing God nor the joy of spirit worship.

We tell folks up front and plain - we are not a place to go to church -- We are a living, loving, working, worshipping, serving, group of Christians, who are committed to putting God first. And if being all that is not what they want, they need to continue their search. Because God does, we expect more of folks than "going to church"!

--Jim R. Everett, Cedar Park. TX


Clarence R. Johnson
Phone: (717) 361-6212

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Marietta, Pennsylvania
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Those who worship God must worship in Spirit and in Truth

John 4:24