The Elon Challenger
ELON CHURCH OF CHRIST
New Hope, Alabama
Seeking to challenge your interest in things
spiritual & eternal (Eph. 6:10-18)
Volume 16 Number 1
Table of Contents
Is Conscience a Safe Guide? ———————————— Mike Johnson
It Must Be Applied ——————————————– Author Unknown
They Were All Wrong —————————————– Author Unknown
Never Follow Custom Blindly —————————— Author Unknown
Speaking as the Spirit Gave Them Utterance ———- Bobby L. Graham
Beware of Satan’s Counterfeits ———————————- E.R. Hall, Jr.
Assumptions —————————————————- Author Unknown
The Devil and Scriptures —————————————— John Iverson
IS CONSCIENCE A SAFE GUIDE?
“Always let your conscience be your guide.” “Just do what your conscience says.” This is the attitude many people have when trying to determine what is right or wrong. They think as long as the conscience is followed, on some doctrinal matter or even on a moral issue, they will be correct. Is conscience really a safe guide or is there another guide which must be considered?
What do we mean by the conscience? The conscience involves an internal recognition of right and wrong regarding our actions and motives. It can be described as the part of the mind which either approves or disapproves of one’s actions on the basis of them being either in or out of harmony with the standard one has chosen.
It is important to recognize that a conscience not properly “programmed” with the right standard will lead a person astray. For example, a person might not think it is wrong to lie so he could tell a lie and his conscience would not condemn him. He would sin, of course, by telling the lie, but since he had not been taught properly about lying, he could lie with a good conscience.
Further, if conscience is to be our guide, there would be as many guides, or standards, as there are people. A person’s conscience, for example, may tell him a certain practice is correct or it may even result in him thinking he is saved. Another person’s conscience may tell him the exact opposite. With this approach, right and wrong is based only on what each individual perceives it to be.
Paul serves as a good example in this area. Prior to his conversion, he persecuted Christians, and he did so with a good conscience thinking he was doing right. Before the Jewish council (much later), he said in Acts 23:1, “. . . Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.” Paul always did what his standard told him to do, but before his conversion, his standard was not correct. In Acts 26:9 he said, “I verily thought with myself, that I ought to do many things contrary to the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” Thus, Paul’s actions prior to becoming a Christian makes it clear that a good conscience is not proof of a person’s actions being right.
What is to be our standard? It is to be the Bible, God’s Word. Christ has all authority (Mt. 28:18). We must abide in the doctrine of Christ and not go beyond His Word (II Jn. 9, Rev. 22:18-19). It is important for us to align our conscience with the teaching of God’s Word.
IT MUST BE APPLIED
A gospel preacher met an acquaintance, a soap manufacturer, on the street. All about the two men were evidences of worldliness and sin, in the flashing signs advertising liquor, in the shadowy stairways leading to questionable places of amusement, and even in the language tossed into the air by a careless throng of pedestrians.
“Your religion hasn’t done any good, otherwise there would be no sinful people like we see here,” said the friend to the preacher.
As they walked on, they came near a little boy playing in the gutter, his hands muddy, his clothes filthy–and the preacher pointed him out:
“Your soap hasn’t done any good, or else this child would not be so dirty.”
“But, of course, the soap has to be applied before it will do any good,” replied the man.
“How true,” the preacher answered, “and so does religion have to be applied to the hearts and lives of sinners before it will do them any good!”
THEY WERE ALL WRONG
A good many years ago, a preacher went into a town where there was no New Testament church. He preached in a house of worship and then in the market place of the city. Soon the religious leaders of the city heard him and invited him to address them. They thought that if his religious claims seemed meritorious to them, they would fellowship him. But, to their dismay and confusion, he preached that they were wrong and he was right; that their worship was not acceptable to the God of heaven. He preached that the church to which he belonged was the only true church of the living God. Such a preacher! Don’t you know he hurt their feelings? Evidently, they were sincere. Surely, he could have made a nice talk and got away without causing discord! Who was this preacher anyway? His name was Paul, and he preached this sermon in Athens. It did cause some stir. It did not please those religious leaders at all. They got up and left before he finished. But, the sermon pleased God. You can see and read it in Acts 17. There is no room in Christ’s church for a compromise.
NEVER FOLLOW CUSTOM BLINDLY
The new husband watched his wife prepare her first ham for the oven and noticed that she cut off a few inches from one end. Asked why she did that, she replied that her mother always did it the same way. They called Mother, and while she admitted cutting off a few inches, she could give no reason except that her mother had always done it. Finally, they called Grandma, who said, “Oh, I always did that because my pan was too small.”
Are you guided by the Bible or human custom? Think!
SPEAKING AS THE SPIRIT GAVE THEM UTTERANCE
Bobby L. Graham
Jesus had prepared the apostles for their work and left them to return to heaven. On this next Pentecost, He dispatched from heaven the Spirit of truth, as promised (Jn. 16:7-8). It was the Spirit, working in the twelve apostles, who would convict the world. What a work He then undertook.
Such a work required the presence of the Spirit, not merely the men chosen by Christ for preaching. They were not equal to the task, unless the Spirit guided them. When they spoke, it was the Spirit speaking through them, because the Spirit would convict the world. It should be no surprise that they “spoke as the Spirit gave them utterance” on Pentecost, that their declarations were Spirit-given.
Another aspect of their utterances that we stress is the languages used on this occasion. They spoke in languages of the listeners. To make this clear, Luke informed us of those countries/languages present in the gathering in verses 9-11. Still “every man heard them speaking in his own language” (2:6). The miracle was that of their speaking languages that they never had learned. Words were the vehicle of thought on this occasion; thus, the Spirit guided them in the very words to be spoken. What we have here is a specific case of verbal inspiration, though it was not restricted to this occasion. Let us study the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures.
What is inspiration?
Theopneustos is used by the Holy Spirit in 2 Timothy 3:16 to describe the production of the Scriptures. Most experts tell us that the word does not mean “inspired of God,” in the sense of His breathing into the Scriptures. Instead, it means they were breathed out (expired) by God, being “God-breathed,” the product of His creative breath, His almighty power. The word does not indicate God’s giving the Scriptures certain vital qualities by His breathing such into them; such a doctrine finds no foundation in this passage.
“The Biblical writers do not conceive of the Scriptures as a human product breathed into by the Divine Spirit, and thus heightened in its qualities or endowed with new qualities; but as a Divine product produced through the instrumentality of men. They do not conceive of these men, by whose instrumentality Scripture is produced, as working upon their own initiative, though energized by God to greater effort and higher achievement, but as moved by the Divine initiative and borne by the irresistible of the Spirit of God along ways of His choosing to ends of His appointment” (The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, Warfield, p. 153).
Accordingly, it is significant that various Biblical writers said their words came from the Lord. David spoke by the Spirit (Mk. 12:36; cf. Acts 1:16; 2 Sam. 23:2). Three thousand and eight times the Old Testament claims to be God’s Word. Moses wrote all the words of the Lord in Exodus 24:4. “Thus says the Lord” or a similar expression appears 120 times in Isaiah, 430 times in Jeremiah, 329 times in Ezekiel, and 53 times in Zechariah. Jesus declared that the Scripture cannot be broken in John 10:35, meaning that it cannot be annulled or its authority denied, because it is from God. So closely is God identified with His Word that often “God” is exchanged with “Scripture” and visa versa (the reader is left to explore this exchange for himself).
Explaining the origin of Scripture, not the means of explaining or understanding it, Peter affirmed: “ knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture is of private interpretation. For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20, ASV). Notice that Peter said it was not by man’s will that Scripture originated, effectively eliminating the noetic/noematic (thought, idea) kind of inspiration. If God had supplied only the thought, leaving to man to fill out with his own words, it would have ended up being by man’s will. Observe also that the Spirit of God bore the prophets, moving them to the ends that He appointed and along ways that He chose.
Inspiration could not have been partial, limited to the ideas, in view of man’s incapacity even to understand the prophecy that God gave him. Peter said the prophets did not understand the full import of their prophecies (1 Pet. 1:10-11); and Peter himself failed to understand the God-given prophecy concerning the inclusion of Gentiles (Acts 2:39), as we know of his initial refusal to go to teach Cornelius in Acts 10. How could they have filled out the God-given idea with their own words when they did not even understand the part that God gave? You see, friend, inspiration did not cover a man’s personal understanding or his personal conduct in response to the revelation. Not only did Peter not comprehend what he taught by inspiration in Acts 2, but he also did not act in keeping with it when he was hypocritical in Galatians 2:13. Inspiration did not depend on human effort to fill out what God had not originally said. If it had, then the faith of the early Christians would have rested in the wisdom of men (1 Cor. 2:3-5).
Verbal Inspiration Affirmed and Demonstrated
- Every word is important, Deut. 8:3; Mt. 4:4.
- Jesus said even the smallest part of a word (jot or tittle) was significant, Mt. 5:18.
- Jesus’ argument against the Sadducees’ materialistic idea of the human being’s nature depended on God’s use of “am” (present tense of the verb) from Ex. 3, Mt. 22:31-32.
- Paul’s explanation of Jesus as the seed of Abraham rested on a word (singular noun) for its correctness, Gal. 3:16.
“But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For who among men knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of the man, which is in him? even so the things of God none knoweth, save the Spirit of God. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is from God; that we might know the things that were freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Spirit teacheth; combining spiritual things with spiritual words” (1Co 2:10-13, ASV).
BEWARE OF SATAN’S COUNTERFEITS
E.R. Hall, Jr.
The Devil uses every means available to bewitch and deceive people. He has imitated everything pertaining to God and has been quite effective at passing around the counterfeit as being the real thing. The degree of his effectiveness can be seen in that there are many people who believe anything and everything is OK in religion. If this is the case, why did Jesus warn that we could worship Him in vain (Matthew 15:9)? We need to watch out for the counterfeits of Satan. What are some of his counterfeits?
Idolatry is one of the oldest counterfeits that mankind has fell for. It constantly plagued the children of Israel throughout their history. Today, the devil has a very well disguised god: covetousness (Colossians 3:5). It is sometimes referred to as “the almighty dollar” and the unsatisfiable appetite for the things money can buy. We live in a society where a person is measured by the things he has. The qualities of “godliness with contentment” mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:6 are given nothing more than lip-service. Many people are worshiping the god of covetousness for Satan has counterfeited it to appear as a way of life.
Where are the false teachers? They aren’t any! People no longer respect God’s Word enough to use it to prove the message preachers preach anymore. Everybody’s got the right to their own belief and practice. With this attitude prevailing, false teachers are a thing of the past. Isaiah’s day was much like today: “…Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophecy deceits:” (Isaiah 30:10). The truth in the matter is there are many false prophets! “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1). Satan has many ministers who preach ALMOST all of the truth.
It only follows that if Satan has counterfeit preachers he would also have counterfeited the things they teach. Doctrine which is genuine is the doctrine of Christ. That is, it originated with Christ. This is the doctrine that we must “abide in” (3 John 9, 10). There is not another gospel but there are gospels that are perverted (Galatians 1:6, 7). These “gospels” sound a lot like the real thing; just like a counterfeit twenty-dollar bill looks like the real thing. Yet, regardless of our honesty or sincerity, we are holding a worthless piece of paper in our hand. So it is in religious matters. Regardless of our sincerity, if we believe and practice a doctrine that originated with man, our religion and worship is vain. (Matthew 15:9). No matter how long we have practiced a certain belief or been recognized as a member of some religious organization, that does not make it right any more than the possibility that a counterfeit twenty dollar bill will become worth $20 if we continue to carry it around in our billfold or pocketbook.
WATCH OUT for Satan’s counterfeits! They look and sound mighty convincing!
A traveler, between flights at an airport, went to a lounge and bought a small package of cookies. Then she sat down and began reading a newspaper. Gradually, she became aware of a rustling noise. From behind her paper, she was flabbergasted to see a neatly dressed man helping himself to her cookies. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took a cookie herself.
A minute or two passed, and then came more rustling. He was helping himself to another cookie! By this time, they had come to the end of the package, but she was so angry, she didn’t allow herself to say anything. Then, as if to add insult to injury, the man broke the remaining cookie in two, pushed half across to her, and ate the other half and left.
Still fuming some time later when her flight was announced, the woman opened her handbag to get her ticket. To her shock and embarrassment, there she found her pack of unopened cookies!
How wrong our assumptions can be.
THE DEVIL AND SCRIPTURE
In his “immortal” work, “The Merchant of Venice”, William Shakespeare had one of his characters say, “The devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.” In this Shakespeare was eminently correct, for immediately following his baptism at the hands of John, Jesus was led into the wilderness, and tempted of the devil (Matt. 4:1). One of the things Satan tried to get Jesus to do was to cast himself down from the pinnacle of the temple. The devil said, “ … for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee; and in their hands they shall bear thee up lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone”. (Matt. 4:6). The adversary quoted Psalms 91:11. It seems significant that he omitted the phrase “to keep thee in all thy ways”, in other words, in keeping with God’s plans and purposes. At any rate, while the devil quoted Scripture, he did so “for his purpose” and in doing this, he most certainly misapplied what David had said!
Satan has “ministers” today (2 Corinthians 11:15) and they too quote Scripture. However, they also imitate him in perverting and misapplying the word of God. Such handling of the teaching of Christ will not bring a blessing; instead its results are disastrous (2 Peter 3:15-16).
Citing Scriptures in our teaching and preaching is truly a commendable practice, but in doing so, let us make certain that we always make a proper application.
Points to Ponder
- The man who does as he pleases, seldom pleases the Lord.
- The future is “purchased” by the present.
- Always tell the truth and you do not have to remember what you say.
The Elon Challenger is published monthly by the church of Christ meeting at 4021 Hobbs Island Road in Owens Cross Roads. The mailing address is PO Box 149, New Hope, AL, 35760 where any comments, questions, or requests for further information can be sent. The Challenger is also distributed monthly to the Elon congregation as an eight page, paper publication. The editor is Mike Johnson.
The website address is www.elonchurchofchrist.com.
Evangelist & Editor: Mike Johnson