In This Issue
"WHO DO MEN SAY THAT I AM?"
The Bible says, 'Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caeserea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, 'Who do men say that I am?' So they answered, 'John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.' Then He said to them, 'But who do you say that I am?' Peter answered and said to Him, 'You are the Christ.' Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him." (Mark 8:27-30).
We are all more familiar with Matthew's longer account of this incident, recorded in Matt. 16:13-20. By the time this event took place, Jesus was in the last year of His earthly ministry. Events quickly began to unfold that would lead to His crucifixion. The time had come that His disciples needed to fully understand His identity as the Messiah, the Son of God. The time for them to make that truth universally known was still some months away, but for now, they must understand. And so, Jesus leads into the conversation concerning His identity. "Who do men say that I am?"
Of course, that question had more than one answer, because not all men had drawn the same conclusion. Some, like King Herod, believed that Jesus was John the Baptist, risen from the dead. John had not worked miracles during his ministry, and thus the ministry of Jesus was drastically different from John's even though both had the same basic message: 'Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).
There were others who had made the mistake of making a too literal application of Mal. 4:5-6. These thought the literal Old Testament prophet Elijah would appear on earth again just before the arrival of the Messiah. These individuals did not realize that Jesus was the Messiah, but they thought He might be Elijah and that the Christ would appear soon. If these individuals had listened to Christ's teachings, they would have learned that Mal. 4:5-6 and similar passages in the Old Testament were fulfilled spiritually in the ministry of John the Baptist. John was the Elijah who was to come. He fulfilled those prophecies by coining in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17; Matt. 11:13-14.
Others thought perhaps Jesus might be some other Old Testament prophet, risen from the dead. Without any particular Biblical reason, some folks expected Jeremiah and certain other prophets to be resurrected and live on earth again in a future glorious age. Thus some supposed that Jesus must be one of those resurrected prophets. But all these theories were wrong. Jesus was the long expected Messiah - the Christ, the Son of God!
--Clarence R. Johnson
ARBITRARY REQUIREMENTS FOR PREACHERS
Paul told Timothy to instruct "faithful men who shall be able to teach others also"
(2 Tim. 2:2). "Faithful" and "able" pretty well cover the field. All who are faithful to the Lord are not "able" when it comes to public instruction. By the same token, all able men are not "faithful" to the Lord. Such men are to "preach the word; be instant in season, out of season reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine... watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (2 Tim.
4:1-5). Timothy was told to "give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine" and was to "take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee: (1 Tim. 4:13-16).
When I ponder this uncluttered divine instruction, I am made to wonder what some of the brethren have been reading when they start searching for a preacher. I have seen requirement sheets put out by brethren which would eliminate from consideration the apostle Paul, Timothy or even the Lord himself.
One church wants a man between 40 and 45 years old. Paul would have qualified only for a short time. Timothy would have found it necessary to wait several years to be useful to that church. And the Lord Jesus could not have qualified at all since he was only 33 when he was crucified.
Many churches insist on a married man. They want an image of family stability. That would have ruled out Jesus and Paul. I understand why preachers with families need to have them under control. The same is true of all men who are Christians. And single preachers, like married ones, ought to behave themselves. But to make this an absolute, binding law, is arbitrary.
One congregation which owns the house for the preacher forbids a preacher having a pet. So, if you want to go there, give away your cat or dog, or take them to the pound. Really!
Some congregations are unwilling to have the treasurer write any extra checks beyond salary to cover insurance, utilities, or such things, That often puts a man in a different tax bracket and fails to allow him to take advantage of legitimate tax breaks allowed for preachers. To add insult to misery, some churches which make such an ironclad ruling are not willing to pay an adequate wage to allow for the extra amount it will cost the man under such requirement.
Some churches want a preacher with a secular degree, preferably at least a Masters Degree. It is fool hardy for brethren to become "anti-education." A good well-balanced education should be an asset to any brother in whatever he does, including preaching the gospel, provided his greatest education is in his knowledge of the word of God. If he is too much in love with the wisdom of the World; be will not be what any church needs. Does he know THE BOOK?
Over and over, when brethren have asked me if I know of an available preacher, it has been said "Now, we don't care if he is not very good in the pulpit, just so he is a good personal worker." What's that now? Do brethren really mean that they want a preacher who can't preach? This puts a premium on ineptness and mediocrity. I do not know of a strong church any where which does not have a strong pulpit. Certainly, a gospel preacher needs to know how to work with people on a personal level. But to "preach" means to "proclaim," to "herald," and a man needs to learn how to do that as effectively as possible.
It would do brethren everywhere much good when they are searching for a gospel preacher to live and work among them, if they would all carefully read 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus, 1 Thessalonians (especially noting chapters two and three) and 2 Corinthians. Some of the arbitrary demands of brethren searching for preachers are not remotely related to divine instruction on this subject. If some of those who prepare these lists would stop fancying themselves to be executives out to hire an executive, it would relieve the problem considerably.
--Connie W. Adams, Searching the Scriptures, Vol. 32, Number 11
A CROWN AFTER A CROSS
The words of Rev. 2:10 were spoken by Jesus and recorded by the apostle John to the Lord's church at Smyrna of Asia. The saints in Smyrna were already suffering the blasphemy of Satan's minions, and things were going to get a lot worse before they got better. The faith of some would be tested by prison and possibly even by death. And so, Jesus had a message of encouragement for them - keep on keeping on, and not only would the suffering end, but the cross they bore for a short time would be replaced by a crown to wear for eternity.
"Be faithful." How many times have you heard someone say, as Peter did long ago, "Lord, I will die for You!" That is a wonderful statement, you know. But I do not think that is what Jesus wants to hear.
I think rather that He would like to hear (and see) that we would live for Him. I think He would like to hear that we would live for Him even when living means suffering blasphemy for Him, and going to prison for Him, and yes, even being executed for Him. It is easy to claim death defying faith when God has not called you to die for Him, but it is another thing altogether to evidence life-denying faith when God has called you to live with Him.
"Until Death." What does that mean? Is it qualitative (even to the point of martyrdom), or is it quantitative (be faithful all the way until you die)? I have heard it argued well both ways, and both are true.
We must be faithful even if our faith gets us killed at an early age, and we must be faithful even if our faith must stretch out over dozens of years filled with trials and disappointments. No matter what, as long as we draw breath, we must be loyal to our Lord.
"A crown of life." That is what awaits the dying faithful on the other side. We will be crowned with life that can never be taken from us, life that is full of the glory of God, life that is empty of all the things that disappoint and discourage us on this side.
Is the crown we wear there worth the cross we must bear here? Just wait and see!
--Jerry King, Bible Viewpoints, Katy, Texas
WHO IS GUILTY?
Certain persons, in whose hearts the spirit of the age seems to be supplanting the Spirit of Christ, are bold to say, in substance, that they who do no more than the Lord commands, and who positively refuse to countenance innovation, are schismatics. But this is the doctrine, not of reason and Scripture, but of folly and papal apostasy. It is he who makes a new institution and contends for it that makes the schism! These words ought to be pondered by every progressionist in the land. No matter what the institution is - be it infant sprinkling, instrumental music, or "societyism," he who introduces it and contends for it, without the express authority of God's Word is a schismatic, all the protestations he may make to the contrary notwithstanding. It is not they who are obeying the Lord's commandments, but they who are fashioning the golden calves, and setting them up in the camp, that are making the present confusion in Israel.
--L. F. Bittle in Apostolic Messenger June 1, 1918
Clarence R. Johnson
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