Standing Up (2)

Do you believe that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit on that Pentecost morning gave them a spiritual booster shot, so that Peter and the rest of the Apostles suddenly stood their ground? What about the fact that by then they knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus was the Christ? They had seen with their own eyes, and had watched hundreds of miracles worked by Christ. And they witnessed the finish of it all. The eternity shattering miracle: they had seen both the dead and then the resurrected Christ. The full and complete proof that Jesus was indeed the Anointed One, the Savior, both Lord and God. This was proven among hundreds of witnesses. There was no other way to understand things after Christ’s resurrection.

Jesus had told them the Holy Spirit would be given to them until they died, but his purpose would be:

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.  And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:  concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

(John 16:7-11).

The Spirit was given to confirm to them the teachings of Christ. And his arrival was after Christ left the earth. His purpose (clearly stated above), was to implement the Gospel plan of salvation as the closing point to all the things that God the Father had started. The Holy Spirit refreshed them to what had already been taught by Jesus and through the prophets of old. And continued to teach and instruct and finalize the Word of God through these Apostles and their chosen disciples until they passed away. So, it was not the giving of the Spirit that “changed” them. For God has never taken away anyone’s freedom of choice. It was the sign of the resurrection that had stopped their wavering faith.

Just 53 days earlier, had Peter been up to doing what we last recorded and discussed – of boldly standing and teaching? What about the rest? They were all in hiding after the trial of Christ; and the record clearly confirmed this, as we noted in the first part of this series: “they all forsook him and fled.” Two of the Apostles had asked Jesus if they should call fire out of heaven to destroy a village in Samaria where those folks had refused to receive him on his way to Jerusalem. These two were among others of their number who later had been asked to stay and watch for one hour, but fell asleep while he prayed on the night of his betrayal.

And sent messengers before his face: and they went, and entered into a village of the Samaritans, to make ready for him. And they did not receive him, because his face was as though he would go to Jerusalem. And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, wilt thou that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them. And they went to another village.

(Luke 9:52-56)

How do you read it? Were they up to the task of standing before Christ’s killers? Could they have stood their ground? Yet, something happened; and it wasn’t their being baptized in the Holy Spirit. Peter stated it this way to the multitude that morning:

Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.

(Acts 4:10).

Jesus arose — He had been resurrected from the dead. They had witnessed the risen Christ and were with him during the intervening time from his resurrection and up to the point when “a cloud received him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9). (And as an aside: the scriptures never say a word about Christ ever setting foot on this world again, or that he had done so at some point since that day. It states: “Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so, shall we ever be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17).)

We need to know what the Bible teaches, and start teaching only that, or we will never see the lights of heaven. We need to get it right. It was told to us and put in book form for a reason. So that we could not forget, or get it wrong. The Holy Spirit was to guide the Apostles and to instruct them, not tell them what to think and make them into shadow puppets. And no one else had a “baptism” of the Holy Spirit like the twelve Apostles. Read the Scriptures.

All doubt had been removed that morning of the resurrection or by the time Christ appeared to them. They were then fully charged up and resolved to do exactly what they had first been given to do. They had seen both the dead and the risen Christ; and he taught them, and they had spoken with him. They no longer had any doubt. His resurrection from the dead and his ascension into heaven sealed the deal.

Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

(John 20:24-29)

Peter and the rest stood and delivered beginning on that Day of Pentecost. And many other saints have stood and proclaimed the truth since. Some until death overtook them too – just like Stephen. And the overwhelming number of those had not witnessed the risen Lord. They just believed the report of those who had. We have that same detailed report.

A little believing and standing won’t hurt any of us. We are in sore need of people who teach the truth and not some slippery ungodly nonsense. Instead of Christians holding unity meetings with people and organizations who have nothing to do with the scriptures, or who don’t care a thing about the truth – wouldn’t it better serve us to stand against false teachers, digressions within, without and between Christians and churches? We must not stand for useless fables. We need to stand on the truth and with the witness to the resurrection of the Lord.

No denomination has any part in the truth. Every one of them teaches error mixed in with the doctrines of men. Bits of the truth will not get anyone to heaven. It will be fatal if we accept any of it. The truth has long been corrupted by conniving men and women through the intervening centuries and continuing to this day. There have been bad teachers, bad ideas and bad theories. Some have even dared to change the Word through their own “shadow translations.” What that means is that there is no truth at all in what they believe and practice – not then or now. Such unscriptural talk and teaching is nothing more than useless prattle. And unfortunately, these people and organizations are no different than the disbelieving Jews in the time of Christ. All were warned that it would be this way.

There is no partial Word of God. There are no partial instructions; and there are no partial duties. There is no “different” translation. And, we have no latitude to change a single thing that we have been given. If you are unaware, you should know that just like the false teachers of today – some of the churches of Christ had and have taken on the practices and beliefs of the various denominations. Some introduced instrumental music into their worship services, and started missionary societies. Fellowship halls were built, and support of preacher schools and orphan homes eventually came out of the church treasuries. There are a variety of different digressions.

Since those days proclaimers of the “social gospel” have also met to see if any common ground could be reached with the Lord’s Church. Yet, no one can show any scripture for the church being or becoming a charitable organization. It is Christians themselves who are to be charitable. The assembly wherever Christians meet is primarily for the partaking of the Lord’s Supper. We are also commanded to teach each other, to offer songs, hymns and spiritual songs up to God and Christ and each other; and to offer prayers and allow the taking of a collection for a local congregation to meet the needs of its members (or where a need is received to help another group of like-minded Christians in another location). No other obligations at all are ever mentioned or sanctioned. Nothing is said anywhere in the New Testament of any other activities on any level being authorized by Jesus or by his chosen Apostles.

Have you read 2 Peter 2:1-4?

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.

Does the Bible teach about common ground between truth and error? If so, where is this passage found?

During the mid-eighteen hundred’s, Alexander Campbell (who, along with his father Thomas, had coined the phrase: “We ought to speak where the scriptures speak, and be silent where the scriptures are silent.”), championed missionary societies and ended up as the first president of the one he helped establish. A piano was first brought into a church of Christ in Midway Kentucky in the first quarter of the 19th Century. Since that time, a full-blown denomination came out of those disciples, based on the imaginary allowance for instrumental music in the assembly. Children’s homes and schools have been championed by many other churches since. These things were unscriptural then. And that makes them lawless and unscriptural now. Seemingly good ideas with no scriptural legs are still unscriptural; and they should all have been and should now all be rejected. But that hasn’t always been the case.

This was said of Gideon’s fighters:

Every man stood in his place around the camp, and all the army ran. They cried out and fled.

(Judges 7:21)

They had been told to stay where they had been stationed – to do as they were told. What do you suppose would have happened if they had left those assigned posts? Better yet, for us today let’s ask: What did Jesus say? Did his instructions change over time? What does the rest of the New Testament state? According to the scriptures: What is the sole source for everything we need for eternal life?

Straight thinking and right conclusions are required if you ever want to see God. If you do not stand for the truth and base what you do on the scriptures, you will fall for anything that suits you. And every one of us who aids in digressions from the truth will end up living the lies and will answer for it. Gentle reader: Let’s remind ourselves where all liars end up.

“And all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.” (Rev. 21:8).

We must cast off error, lies, opinions, bad teaching and selfish ideas. If we can’t trace what we do to Jesus, His Word, or that of His Apostles and disciples, we are in trouble. We need to get as far from those things as is humanly possible. So, how can we do that?

The churches that won the fights in the 1st Century stood firm in the truth of the Good News. In latter times men and women who had the courage to stand, spoke the truth too. As the Apostles charged divisive folks with their sins, and told them what must be done about it; so, we must also purify ourselves to remain acceptable to God. The churches won only when Christians were not afraid if brothers and sisters had followed a wrong course, because they were kind and careful in what they did to try and correct those things. But correct them they did; or at least they tried. And those activities added power to the work then, and should do the same now. If no changes were made, the offenders were noted and left to their own devices and to times accounting. “Repent, or you shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3 and 5). Jesus stated this to his Apostles twice in less than a minute when they got it wrong.

The world is confused from an overabundance of bad judgment and from listening too long to false teaching – straight scripture, straight talk and clear thinking is sorely needed. We need to drop the pretense of trying to get along with everyone and everything, and concentrate on exactly what God and the Savior of the World gave us as instruction in what to do. Part of that is to quit acting like the godless denominations and start thinking less about comfort and more about the truth. Forget reciting John 3:16 all the while ignoring that Jesus had also said: “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). What will be our fate if we do the same things that these bad players do?

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”

(Matthew 7:15-23)

Every Christian should know what the Word states. We need to read and study, not just get a thirty minute public address each week. We are not in the final judgment business – that belongs to Christ; but we must be able to judge and distinguish truth from fiction. And, when (not if) we get it wrong, and we learn that we have gotten it wrong. Then we need to say so, ask for forgiveness before whom the error was made and before God and the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer.

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account…”

(Heb. 4: 12-13)

Stand for the truth and do not allow error into the assemblies – no matter how insignificant it may seem. And if it is already there, correct it and deal with it or move it out of Heaven’s way.

“Casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.”

(2 Cor. 10:5).

Brothers and sisters: How many thoughts is “every thought?”

If our sights are not set on heaven and what we must do to reach its gates, none of us will ever get there.

We must be immovable in the truth, unafraid to teach it, and able to warn against error, armed only with the Word of God, a clear tone and a smile in our hearts; and with care for everyone. To do this we must first know the truth, and study long and hard to get it right.

Don’t be afraid to stand up. That is what Christ has challenged us all to do. Peter and the rest certainly weren’t afraid after they had witnessed the power of God through the risen Christ. They left us their report. What are we doing with it?