In This Issue
"HE MARVELED BECAUSE OF THEIR UNBELIEF"
Mark 6:1-6 tells us that Jesus returned to His home town of Nazareth "and His disciples followed Him. And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?' And they were offended at Him. But Jesus said to them, 'A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.' Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching."
First note that in Nazareth, or wherever He went, it was Jesus' practice to be in the synagogue on the day of worship. See Luke 4:16.
Note that His home town folks were astonished by Jesus -- amazed at the wisdom with which He spoke, and amazed with the mighty miracles His hands were able to accomplish. He, in turn, was amazed by them -- amazed by their degree of unbelief!
Verse 4 is perhaps our first indication that Jesus was rejected, not only by the townspeople, but even by His own relatives, His own siblings who grew up with Him. See John 7:5.
Verse 5, perhaps needs special attention. Some Bible students have concluded from Mark's statement that Jesus was not physically able to work miracles while in Nazareth, that He was so hindered by the unbelief of the citizens that His power could not prevail. Matthew's account simply says, "And He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief (Matt. 13:58). Both Matthew and Mark indicate that Jesus did some mighty works in Nazareth. Mark says He laid hands on a few sick people and healed them. He also records that His miracles were one thing that so astonished the citizens of Nazareth. But as Matthew says, Jesus did not do very many miracles there, because of the unbelief of the citizens.
The apparent problem in these two accounts can be cleared up by remembering the purpose of Christ's miracles -- to produce faith in honest hearts of His identity and authority. See John 3:5; 20:30-31; Mark 2:10, etc. In Nazareth, His miracles were not accomplishing their intended purpose. It was not that Jesus was physically unable to work miracles there, but that to continue to do so was to cast pearls before swine, to give what was holy to the dogs. This Jesus could not do and would not do.
--Clarence R. Johnson
BENEVOLENCE IS NOT THE "MISSION" OF THE CHURCH
[Editor's Note: In the following article, the writer presents some ideas that may be new to some of us. While in a few cases, "We might not have said it that way," this editor believes we should give careful and prayerful consideration to the thoughts presented here. What we have come to call "benevolence" is without doubt an authorized WORK of the church in proper circumstances, but it is not, and was never meant to be a primary MISSION of the church. And one more thing. This editor fears that we have contributed to a lack of understanding of this Bible subject by substituting a term the Bible does not use in discussing this subject. The Bible speaks of "alms" and "relief." Perhaps our concepts would have stayed closer to "the book" had we spoken of this subject in Biblical terminology. Let us renew our commitment to "call Bible things by Bible names and to do Bible things in Bible ways." -CRJ]
In gospel sermons, debates, articles and class materials we have long been led to believe that the mission of the church of our Lord is three-fold, consisting of evangelism, edification and benevolence. At the risk of being viewed as a "heretic," I would suggest that the real mission of the church is two-fold, and that benevolence, though an authorized work within certain God-given limitations, can hardly be classified as a primary mission.
There is no question that the church has been charged with the task of preaching the gospel as far and wide as ability and opportunity allows. For that reason, the church is described as the 'pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15).
An equal partner in the church's mission is edification, which includes, but is not limited to, assembled worship and study. Indeed, the church was designed to cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love" (Eph, 4:16).
Just as Jesus came "to seek and save that which is lost" (Lk. 19:10), His church has been charged with bringing the lost to Christ and helping them to grow so as not to fall away. That's evangelism and edification.
This is not to minimize the need to 'remember the poor" (Gal. 2:10), and the relief of needy saints. When legitimate emergencies arise, the church is there to give the needed relief. However, even in such cases, because it is not the primary mission of the church, when other remedies arc available they certainly should be pursued so that the church is not 'burdened' (I Tim. 5:16). This is so that when a real emergency arises, the ability will be there to help.
I have come to believe that church benevolence should be limited to emergency situations When you look at the examples in the New Testament involving church benevolence it is very noticeable that in every ease it involved circumstances beyond the control of the recipients. Natural disasters (such as famines) prompted response from the churches. There were likely some that were placed in jeopardy due to persecution. Others, as in the case of widows who were really widows" (1 Tim, 5:1), were poor because of the death of the sole wage earner.
There are still natural disasters, catastrophic illnesses, and loss of employment, rendering some Christians destitute through no fault of their own. When that has happened, brethren have been good to come to the aid of such needy saints. Please understand that I am not questioning these and other emergencies.
However, too many times the only criteria for determining whether church funds ought to he used in benevolence is whether or not the ones "in need" are Christians. Just as important is the reason there is a need. Church benevolence should not be extended to those who simply refuse to live within their means. Nor was it designed to help people live in the manner to which they have grown accustomed.
Affluence has trained many people to view luxuries as necessities. If they don't get help from the church they won't be able to pay for cable TV, or they may have to get by with only one car, or they won't be able to "eat out" as often.
Even when there is a legitimate emergency, it needs to be determined if other remedies have been exhausted before we burden the church. First response ought to come from other family members. If they can't (or won't) help, then is when the church ought to be approached.
To upgrade benevolence from simply an authorized work of the church in emergency situations to the status of a mission of the church would render the church incapable of doing anything else. Even our Lord said, "For the poor you have with you always..." (John 12:8).
--Al Diestelkamp, Think on These Things, Vol. 34, No. 2
IN SEARCH OF PURE MORAL DEPRAVITY
Man is not as depraved as he would sometimes like to think. Paul shows this by divine revelation in Romans 1:32-2:15. To really appreciate his point, it is helpful to see the buildup (or build-down) sketched from the twentieth verse of the first chapter. Post-diluvian
man, Noah and family-begins with a knowledge of the righteous God and His upright laws. Somewhere along the lineage descendants were galled by this knowledge, and sought to "hinder"the truth. Irreverence and ingratitude gave way to perverted religion, which in turn led to widespread immorality, then to grossly perverted forms of immorality, and finally to every malicious, sadistic sort of thought and activity humanly possible. Yet even in this most advanced state of decadence, a certain sense of awareness remained unshakable: "Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them." (Romans 1:32)
Then in the first part of the next chapter, Paul illustrates just how acute is the individual's power to recognize wrong doing for what it is. Therefore thou art inexcusable, 0 man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself for thou that judgest doest the same things" (verse 1). The most worldly man, the most primitive society, is able to recognize wrongdoing when it is being practiced by someone else. The gang member knows that it is wrong when he has been mugged. The thief condemns theft when he is the victim. The terrorist perceives that he is wronged when he is terrorized. The gossip feels wronged when targeted by malicious rumors. Paul shows that the same logical processes indict the individual when he does that which he knows to be wrong for the other fellow to practice. Even those who are totally untouched by divine revelation have conscience enough to know that there is such a thing as sin, and that they have done it (see 2:14-15).
Ungodliness and wrongdoing, then, do not result because one is so completely depraved that he cannot know any better. Wickedness is a life of choice on the part of the perpetrator, and cannot be blamed upon Adam and Eve, society, the devil, or God. It's not up to you to slash a throat and then twiddle your bloody thumbs, while waiting for the Holy Spirit to come along and zap you with better sense. It is up to you to repent in the realization that you have sin in your life and that righteous retribution awaits you. It's your responsibility to search for what you must do to be saved from the wrath to come. If you don't, you will be unable to blame the Lord for failing to enlighten you. Sorry to disappoint you, but you are not as depraved as you may wish to think!
--J Princeton Simons, Extolling Truth, Aug. 29, 1996
Clarence R. Johnson
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