An Answered Prayer…In A Most Unexpected Way

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 
The Word of God assures us that the Lord hears the prayers of His people. Christians can avoid the pains of anxiety by letting our requests be made to known to God by supplication and prayer with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6-7). We have the confidence that the prayers of God’s people are a delight to the Lord (Proverbs 15:8). Amazingly, the Lord knows what we need, even before we ask (Matthew 6:8)!  
The Lord encourages Christians to be “watchful” in prayer (Colossians 4:2). What does this mean? 
“The accompanying exhortation to “keep awake, be on the alert” (yprlyop£w) is drawn from the imagery of guard duty (Neh. 7:3; 1 Macc. 2:27; Mark 14:34, 37), but its metaphorical usage seems to be almost wholly Christian….Moreover, the link with prayer may echo the scene in the garden of Gethsemane from the passion narrative, which would no doubt be familiar in all the early Christian churches (Mark 14:38/Matt. 26:41), since there is no other obvious reason why the metaphor should be preserved here (Moule, Colossians and Philemon 132; Houlden 216; Caird 210)….At the very least the sense of an impending threat requiring constant alertness is retained, and prayer functions as the vital channel of communication with the commander in chief. The other accompanying exhortation is once again that their prayers should be made in a spirit of thanksgiving (Ev evxapi ‘ria). This repeated emphasis in Colossians makes it one of the most “thankful” documents in the New Testament (1:3, 12; 2:7; 3:17; 4:2). Here it provides an important balance to the call for watchfulness: they are to keep alert, not in a spirit of fear or anxiety, but with the confidence and assurance that their resources (in Christ) are more than equal to the potential challenges.”. (James D.G. Dunn, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistles To The Colossians And To Philemon, 3686-3894 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 
The idea seems to be linked to that of keeping a watching attitude about two things.  
First, be watchful for situations that require prayer.  
Second, be watchful for God’s answers to your prayers.  
With this idea of “watching,” in mind, I want to tell you about a most unexpected way that God recently answered one of my prayers.  
Many people know that since moving to Hazard, I have been faced with lots of difficult challenges and persecutions. I have had people threaten to burn down my house. I have had some people slit my tires. One night, someone opened fire at my old residence (shooting, I believe, above my roof). I have received threatening phone calls, had dogs set loose upon me, received threatening notes left at my home, had malicious rumors spread about me by deviant people, and have had hexes put upon me by satanists and occultists. I have nearly been robbed by people who were making plans to first “beat me up” (I believe they probably would have been surprised at the outcome of such an endeavor) and then take the money in my wallet. We have had a couple of denominational preachers threaten to “bring their sword” down upon us, and assured their followers that soon my wife and I would be dead.  
We also have good reason to suspect that someone tried to burn our house down about a year or so ago.  
Now, I have tried to endure all of this as a Christian and a Gospel preacher, recognizing my own sinfulness and frailties. I have tried to be faithful to the Lord and to teach and preach His Word when it is convenient and when it is not (2 Timothy 4:2-3).  
But, I do not want to do anything to unnecessarily put myself, or my family and friends, in harm’s way (Ecclesiastes 7:16-17; Matthew 10:23).  
Well, recently I wrote up some articles on a topic which I believed would likely get me in the proverbial hot water.  
I was working on the articles inside an excellent Chinese restaurant in Corbin.  
As I was typing up the last article and thinking about all of the potential consequences, I had a heart-to-heart with God.  
Mark: “Lord, I’m trying to do Your will. But maybe I shouldn’t publicize these articles right now. God, you know that this could get me in hot water. If you want me to be, fine; but if not, I really don’t want to put myself in there for nothing. Please, could you let me know what to do? I’ll wait for you to show me.”  
God: Silence.
So, I waited.  
I had some more Hawaiian Chicken and hot tea.  
And I prayed.  
Mark: Lord, could you let me know what to do?
God: Silence.  
I opened up a book on my IPhone by Robert Jordan (the Wheel of Time series), and read for a few minutes about Rand Al’Thor.
And I prayed.
Mark: Okay Lord, can you give me just an inkling? 
God: Silence.    
I opened up a book on my IPad and read some interesting word studies from the Greek New Testament.  
And I prayed.  

Mark: Lord, this food is so good! Please, can you give me an idea about whether or not to publish those articles?
God: Silence.  
Finally, the nice Chinese lady stopped by my table with my check and a fortune cookie. As I was drinking my last bit of hot tea with some Dr. Pepper (no, not together-gross!), I popped open my fortune cookie and read my “fortune.”  
Then I sat back, stunned.  
I put that fortune cookie in my wallet and posted the articles on my Facebook and shared them with some friends who I believed would benefit from them.  
Wanna know what that fortune cookie said?  
Here it is: 
“There Is No Glory Unless You Put Yourself On The Line.”  
Please…stop and think about that for just a moment.  
Now, I”m sure some people would say, “Mark, that is a fortune cookie and probably lots of people have gotten it!”  
True enough.  
Yet what are the odds that I would get THAT fortune, on THAT day, in THAT restaurant, with ALL OF THOSE CUSTOMERS getting cookies, just a FEW MINUTES after I had specifically prayed to God with THAT specific concern of physical safety???
Some might say, “Mark, do you really believe that God would answer your prayers through a Chinese fortune cookie?”  
Well, God worked through the pagan Magi when Christ was born, did He not (Matthew 2:1-12)? He also spoke to the people through Balaam, a false prophet, if I remember correctly (Numbers 24:1). Did God not communicate His Word (in general revelation) through pagan prophets and poets (Acts 17:26-28; 1 Corinthians 15:33; Titus 1:12), as well as through non-inspired Jewish books (Jude 1:9, 14)?  
Furthermore, if God could speak through a DONKEY (2 Peter 2:15-16), who is it so difficult for us to believe that He can answer the prayers of His people through common and everyday experiences and events?  
With that all being said, let me these four considerations. 
First, prayer is a blessing for God’s people, not for those who are unsaved (1 Peter 3:10-12). The Word of God teaches that the prayers of those who refuse to keep God’s Word are an abomination to the Lord (Proverbs 28:9). God does not “hear” sinners (John 9:31), at least not in the sense that He grants their petitions even though He knows what they are praying (Acts 10:1-4).  
Many in the religious world tell non-Christians to get saved by praying a sinner’s prayer; yet Saul was a believer in Jesus who had repented of his sins (Acts 9:5-8) and was fasting and praying for three days and nights (Acts 9:9-11). If there could ever be someone saved this side of the Cross through the sinner’s prayer, it would have been him!  
Yet what was he told after those three days of prayer and fasting?  
Acts 22:16-And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.  
We cannot get saved through the sinner’s prayer beloved. The sinner’s prayer is, I personally believe, one of the greatest lies that Hell has ever unleashed upon mankind.  
Second, when a Christian prays to God, he should pray while “watching.” Expect for God to hear your prayers, and to answer them in harmony with His will (1 John 5:14-15) when we ask from godly motives (Psalm 66:18).  
God’s answers to our prayers can take the form of everyday occurrences, or the extraordinary. Pray in faith for Him to answer as He sees fit. Sometimes, His answers to our prayers may not take the form that we wish they would, or that we would normally expect.  
Isn’t that a lesson that the Apostle Paul learned?  
2 Corinthians 12:7-10-7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure.

8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.

9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Third, when God answers your prayers, give Him thanks! Of all the people in the world, Christians should be the most thankful. We know that, in whatever form they arrive, our blessings come from God Himself. After all, God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17). How thankful to God we should be!  
Isn’t it God Who daily loads us with benefits (Psalm 68:19)?  
Fourth, remember to compare anything and everything with the Word of God. Satan is the great deceiver (2 Corinthians 11:13-15; Ephesians 6:10-12; Revelation 12:7-12). He knows how to deceive people, and he can do so with great subtly.  
Years ago, I was having a Bible study with a lady who desperately wanted to be forgiven of her sins. We were studying the Gospel over the Internet with a friend of mine from Tennessee, and she decided at about 12:30 A.M. that she wanted to be saved. After learning the Bible teaching that believers must repent of their sins and be baptized by the authority of Christ upon a profession of faith in Him to be forgiven (Acts 2:37-41; 8:35-e8; Romans 10:9-10), she asked us to help her find a minister who would baptize her into Christ that very day (Acts 2:41). We were blessed to find a minister who would have gladly helped her, but when we told her the good news, she explained something that had happened to her after finishing our Bible study.  
The lady claimed that an angel had appeared to her and told her that she did not need to be baptized into Christ, and that God would forgive her sins right then and there if she called out to Him in prayer. Sadly, she followed the “advice” of this “angel,” and (to my knowledge) never has been baptized into Christ. (Unfortunately, she refused to heed the teaching of the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-9).  
It is absolutely essential that we test everything against the Word of God. This is how the Bible teaches that we learn the difference between truth and error.  
1 John 4:6-We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Isaiah 8:20-To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Finally, I want to share this with you. Several times when I pray (especially before I preach or teach, or before I write an article), I say something like this to God: 
“Lord, help me as I prepare this lesson. I pray that it will be a blessing to those who need it. May it convict those who are in sin, and may it bring glory to You.”  
If we are focusing on bringing glory to God, then we need to “follow through” with obedience to Him.  
In our world, obedience to God gets a bad rep. To the unlearned and unstable, if you talk about the need to obey God, you suddenly become a “legalist,” or maybe a person who thinks that you are somehow earning your salvation.  
Now, it’s clear that we cannot perfectly keep the Law’s demands (Galatians 3:10-12), which is why we so desperately need the righteousness of Jesus (Romans 8:1-3). Yet whom does Jesus apply that righteousness?  
Romans 6:17-18-17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you OBEYED from the heart that FORM OF DOCTRINE to which you were delivered.

18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.
If we are seeking the glory of God, we will obey.  
Isn’t it sad that the Bible tells us of some people who believed in Jesus, but refused to obey Him? 
John 12:42-Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue;
Yet what is perhaps the saddest statement is found in the next verse:
John 12:43-for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.
Friends, please do not be like those Pharisees. Seek the glory of God first and foremost. It was the mercy and grace of God which led Him to send His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sins on the Cross of Calvary (Titus 2:11-14). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 1t5:1-8). He has promised salvation to every person who believes in Him, repents of sin, confesses Him as the Son of God, and is baptized into Him (Acts 2:37-47). When we sin as Christians, He promises forgiveness if we will repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).  
When we are in Christ (i.e., in His church-Acts 2:47), we have access to all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3), including prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:21). Why not avail yourself of those blessings by turning your life to Him today?  
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

The Sinner’s Prayer Is Still Not In The Bible 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Recently while studying with a friend about the Gospel, I was reminded again of the need to study the Word of God carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

You see, there are many false ideas and notions in the religious world around us (1 John 4:1).

For that reason, we must make sure that we receive the Word with all readiness of mind and search the Scriptures daily to determine whether or not the things which we are told are true (Acts 17:11).  

My friend that I was studying with had made the comment that they were trying to teach people of the need to be saved.  

That was wonderful!

Indeed, all the fallen sinners of Adam’s race need redemption (Romans 3:23).  

My friend had pointed out that it was only through Jesus that a person could be saved.  
That was wonderful!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  

Then my friend made the following comment (paraphrased):

“Mark, I have been trying to get the lost to see their need to pray the sinner’s prayer and be saved from their sins.”  

How tragic and how sad.  

While I commend my religious friends for teaching people of their need to be saved, I am very saddened that so many proclaim that this salvation takes place in the form of a “sinner’s prayer.”

You see friends, there is no sinner’s prayer salvation in the Bible!  

In each of the conversion accounts mentioned in the Book of Acts, sinners are NEVER told to pray the sinner’s prayer to be saved.

Instead, they are told of their need to believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) when they hear His Word (Acts 2:40; 8:11-12; 18:8), to repent of their sins (Acts 3:19-21), to confess their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:37), and to be baptized into Christ to receive the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38).  

It it is often argued that the statement “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21), refers to the “sinner’s prayer.”

Yet does it really?

I would ask you to consider three things with me regarding this allegation.  

First, the phrase ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ was a common expression used throughout the entire Bible.

It simply meant to serve or to obey God in whatever He has commanded.

The Lord was clear about this in HIs statement through the Prophet Zephaniah: 

Zephaniah 3:9-For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD, To SERVE HIM with one accord.

Do you see that here “calling on the name of the Lord” simply meant to “serve” or “obey” Him?

Isaiah the Prophet also made it clear that ‘calling on the name of the Lord” means to obey Him completely and with the whole heart: 

Isaiah 55:6-7-6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, CALL UPON HIM while He is near.

7 Let the wicked FORSAKE HIS WAY, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him RETURN TO THE LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

Calling on the name of the Lord simply meant to obey God with the whole heart.  

Second, that “calling on the name of the Lord” here in Acts does not have reference to praying the sinner’s prayer for salvation is evident from the text itself; for if the people in Acts 2 had understood the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” to be the sinner’s prayer, then they would not need to have asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

They would have already known that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer! Yet their response shows that they understood the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” simply meant to obey God’s Word.  

Third, the connection between Acts 2:21 and Acts 2:38 is clear, and it is here that we see what ‘calling on the name of the Lord” meant in this particular context. &nbsp

Notice: 

Acts 2:21-And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on THE NAME OF THE LORD shall be saved..’

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We “call on the name of the Lord” when we as believers repent of our sins and are baptized by Jesus’ authority (in His name) for the remission of our sins.  

Don’t we also see this with Saul of Tarsus? Saul was a believer who had repented of his sins and who had been praying to the Lord for three days and nights (Acts 9:9-11). Yet what was he told after those three days of prayer and fasting?  

Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.’

Most of our religious friends would have told Saul that he was forgiven when he prayed as a believing sinner who repented of his wickedness for those three days and three nights. Yet he was not forgiven until he arose and “got himself baptized” (literal translation).

Further, even though he had been praying for those three days and nights, he still had not truly “called on the name of the Lord,” i.e., he still had not done what God instructed him to do.  

Since the sinner’s prayer is not in the Bible, where did it originate?

One author, carefully investigating that very question in great detail, has written the following: 

“It is clear from this study that a theology that could support the use of the Sinner’s Prayer emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century. This is evident in the teachings of Methodist preachers, such as James Caughey and, especially, William ‘California’ Taylor. It was a crucial component of D. L. Moody’s preaching from the mid-1870s. At the end of that century, it would also seem very likely that the use of spoken Sinner’s Prayers was being encouraged in Moody meetings by some counsellors and by officers in The Salvation Army. This practice seems to have become common in the first half of the twentieth century, especially in America, with printed forms certainly appearing in books in 1922 and 1945. Cards, booklets and tracts with Sinner’s Prayers were being used from the late 1940s and 1950s, and they became common in the 1960s. Billy Graham and Campus Crusades’ Four Spiritual Laws have done more than anything else to popularise this method of evangelism, taking it to most countries in the world. Sinner’s Prayer evangelism, therefore, can be regarded as first emerging in the late nineteenth century, developing in the first half of the twentieth, before becoming a major form of evangelism from about 1960. Yet it is not good evangelism. As we suggested in chapter 2, there are better and more biblical ways to evangelise. It is recommended that you read chapter 2 again to become more familiar with those practices. Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). This we must do and do it well.” (David Malcolm Bennett, The Sinner’s Prayer: It’s Origins And Dangers, 4039-4050 (Kindle Edition); Capalaba Qld; Even Before Publishing a division of Wombat Books) 

To all of my denominational friends and preachers, I plead with you: please return to the Gospel plan of salvation that is clearly outlined in Scripture. Let us turn away from these human constructs and return with all of our might to the Word of God.

The sinner’s prayer IS NOT found in the Bible.  

Could you face criticism for speaking out against these ideas (2 Timothy 3:12)?  

Yes.  

Could friends from your denominational affiliation reject you for preaching what the Lord did (Mark 16;15-16)?  

Yes.  

Is it possible that you will be hated by religious people for speaking the words of the Bible and turning away from the innovations of man (Galatians 4:16)?  

Yes.  

Will God be proud of you for not being ashamed of His Word (Mark 8:38)?  

Absolutely!  

Will people who desire to hear the Word of God be saved because you had the courage to speak that Word to them in love (1 Thessalonians 2:13)?  

Without a doubt!  

Friends, I plead with you: drop the “sinner’s prayer” and embrace New Testament Christianity.  

The God of Heaven loves us so very much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of mankind on the Cross of Calvary (Isaiah 53). Jesus died for each and every person (1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:15) because He wants all sinners to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4). He died for us, was buried, and on the third day arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

With His blood, He established His church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28) to which He adds all those who are saved (Acts 2:47).

Who are those whom He saves?

Those who obey His plan of salvation outlined above (Romans 6:17-18).

Why not today turn your life to the Son of God and let Him save you from your sins?

If we are faithful to Him, He has promised us a home in Heaven when He returns in judgment on the world (John 14:1-3; Revelation 2:10).

When we sin and fall away after being saved, He forgives us when we repent of that sin and confess it to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).

Why not obey God today?  

If I can help you in any way, please call upon me.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

The Mysterious Bond Between Angels And Humans 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist). 

In the Book of Revelation, the inspired Apostle John is told something fascinating by an angel who had been ministering to him:

Revelation 19:10-And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am YOUR FELLOW SERVANT, and OF YOUR BRETHREN who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

Through this statement to the Apostle, the angel speaks of some kind of connection between humans and angels.  

What is the basis of this connection?  

In what sense may it be stated that angels are of “our brethren?”  

To answer these questions, we will carefully investigate another text of Scripture which is found earlier in the Book of Revelation.  

In Revelation 4, John describes the throne room of Heaven. Among other things, he describes a powerful image of “four living creatures.”  

Revelation 4:6-8-6 Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.

7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.

8 The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”

Notice that there are “four living creatures” surrounding the throne of God.

 
The first is like a lion;
the second like a calf;
the third like a man;
and the fourth like a flying eagle.  

What does it mean?  

The answer to this question (and to understanding the connection between angels and humans) is found in studying the Old Testament Scriptures, from which much of the Book of Revelation is derived.  

“As noted in volume 1 (239, n. 160), the pages of the New Testament are filled with citations from the Hebrew Scriptures, with as many as three hundred direct quotations from the Tanakh and several thousand allusions to the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament. In fact, some scholars claim that almost one out of three verses in the New Testament-2,500 out of a total of 8,000 verses-contains an Old Testament quote or general allusion, while, quite solidly, it can be demonstrated that “more than ten percent of the New Testament text is made up of citation or direct allusions to the Old Testament.”‘ More than 10 percent! The Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament, contains 404 verses, most of which (as many as 331 verses) are drawn from the imagery of the Hebrew Scriptures, although Revelation hardly ever directly quotes a specific verse from the Tanakh. All this indicates how deeply the Hebrew Scriptures are intertwined in the New Covenant Scriptures.2” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Four-New Testament Objections, 3 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) 

Hebrew Christians would understand the imagery of John, for they had been raised with the Old Testament.  

With this in mind, let us turn our attention to the Old Testament.  

We will begin with a study of the “flags” of the twelve tribes of Israel.

The Tribal Flags Of The Twelve Tribes

Each of the twelve tribes of Israel had a specific “standard” or “insignia” which represented their particular tribe. We find references to this throughout the Old Testament.

One of the most relevant is found in the Book of Numbers:

Numbers 2:2-Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.

Numbers 2:2 (CEV)-how the Israelites should arrange their camp: Each tribe must set up camp under its own banner and under the flags of its ancestral families. These camps will be arranged around the sacred tent, but not close to it.

The symbols on these flags were drawn from the blessings which Jacob gave to his children (the twelve sons which became the twelve tribes) on his deathbed (Genesis 49). Each of the tribes had a specific “flag” with a descriptive emblem, which was made to represent that particular flag.  

In describing how the people of Israel were to camp around the Tabernacle (Numbers 2), the Lord gave specific instructions that the Hebrews were to assemble in the four cardinal directions.  

There were to be three tribes in each group, with a particular tribe facing towards the Tabernacle. The tribal insignia or flag of the main tribe was to face towards the Tabernacle. (The capitalized tribe in each of the following lists was the one which was in the middle of the three tribes in its’ group, and its’ flag faced towards the Tabernacle).  

To The North: Issachar, JUDAH, Zebulon 

To The West: Asher, DAN, Naphtali 

To The South: Manasseh, EPHRAIM,
Benjamin 

To The East: Gad, REUBEN, Simeon

In The Middle: The Tabernacle

What does this have to do with our study?

Well, notice with me what the tribal flags were (especially of Judah, Dan, Ephraim, and Reuben): 

“EACH of the tribes of ancient Israel appears to have had a distinctive emblem….Each tribe of Israel had a primary emblem (a banner) and one or more secondary emblems to remind them of their unique patriarchal blessing received from Father Jacob (Israel). Jacob called his sons together a short time before he died, and gave to each a blessing….The second chapter in the Book of Numbers tells us that Jehovah had directed the twelve tribes to camp around the tabernacle in specific areas. This configuration is shown in Figure 11. Four brigade leaders were appointed: Judah, reuben, Ephraim, and Dan. Both tribal and brigade standards were adopted. The tribal flags with their unique emblems were displayed when camped around the tabernacle and when moving to a new location. “Every man of the children of Israel shall pitch by his own standard, with the ensign of their father’s house” (Numbers 2:2)….The four brigade emblems are shown in Figure 25. JUDAH IS REPRESENTED BY THE LION, REUBEN BY THE MAN, EPHRAIM BY THE OX, AND DAN BY THE EAGLE. Relatively few emblems of other tribes are used in national heraldry, because they were usually identified by the emblem of the brigade to which they belonged. Thus Benjamin, as a member of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, would frequently be identified by the Lion, the emblem of the Brigade of Judah. The more frequent use of brigade emblems does not necessarily indicate that the other tribes of the brigade were not in the country. Heraldry related to provinces and municipalities usually includes more emblems of individual tribes than does national heraldry. Two visions, one seen by Ezekiel and the other by John the revelator, each mention the four brigade emblems, adding credibility to them. Ezekiel 1:5–10 records four living creatures, each having the faces of a man, a lion, an ox, and an eagle. John, in revelations 4:7, also records four beasts, like a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle.” (Vaughn E. Hansen, PhD, Israel’s Lost Ten Tribes: Migrations To Britain And The United States, 961-1022 (Kindle Edition, emphasis added, M.T.); Springville, Utah; CFI)

Notice that the tribal insignias of Judah, Dan, Ephraim, and Reuben line up perfectly with the four living creatures identified in Revelation: 

Tribe And Insignia  

Lion (Judah)

Man (Reuben)

Ox (Ephraim)

Eagle (Dan)

Four Living Creatures

Lion

Calf (Ox)

Eagle

Man

 
Remember that these four specifically mentioned tribes actually represent all of the twelve tribes (each aforementioned tribe having two other tribes in its’ group).

 
Why were there such specific instructions about how the people were to camp?  
One author has explained that (from an aerial view), the tribes formed a gigantic cross!  

“Each of the camps, of three tribes each, were to encamp on one of the four cardinal compass directions (N, S, E, or W) with respect to the camp of the Levites enclosing the Tabernacle. 98 We can only guess at how much space was required by the Levites, whether it was 100 ft. on a side, 100 yards, or whatever. But whatever it was, we’ll assume that length as a basic unit. To fully appreciate all of the implications, you must try to think like a rabbi: you need to maintain an extremely high respect for the precise details of the instructions. They resorted to heroic measures in their attempt to comply with the letter of the law. The tribes of Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun—collectively called the Camp of Judah—had to encamp east of the Levites. This poses a technical problem. Notice that if the breadth of their camp was larger than that of the Levites, the excess would be southeast or northeast, not east. Therefore, if they were to strictly comply with their instructions, their camp could only be as wide as that of the Levites, and they then would have to extend eastward to obtain the required space. The camps of Reuben, Ephraim, and Dan had the same constraint on the south, west, and north respectively. The length of each leg would thus be proportional to the total population in each camp….If we assemble what we can infer from the Torah account, we can imagine what the camp of Israel looked like from above: the Tabernacle and the Levites in the center, surrounded by the four faces of the tribal standards, and each of the four camps of Judah, Ephraim, Reuben, and Dan, stretching out in the four cardinal directions. We can also tally the approximate size of each tribe to determine the relative length of each camp as they stretched out in each of the four cardinal directions. The startling results are on the next page….It would appear that when the Israelites encamped, they formed a giant cross! This is a graphic macrocode, indeed! And this is from the Torah, not the New Testament! The New Testament is, indeed, in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed.” (Chuck Missler, Hidden Treasures In The Biblical Text, 925-947 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID 83816-0347 http://www.khouse.org; Koinonia House) 

Thus, we see that the “living creatures” which surrounded the throne of God are identifiable with the saints of God throughout the Old Testament.  

Further, we learn that there is a mysterious foreshadowing of the Cross of Jesus in the camping arrangement of these Hebrews.  

The Cherubim Of Ezekiel 

Our second clue in the investigation of the mysterious bond between humans and angels is found in the Book of Ezekiel.  
Long before the time of Christ, the Prophet Ezekiel had two terrifying visions of the glory of God.  

Ezekiel 1:5-10-5 Also from within it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had the likeness of a man.

6 Each one had four faces, and each one had four wings.

7 Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.

8 The hands of a man were under their wings on their four sides; and each of the four had faces and wings.

9 Their wings touched one another. The creatures did not turn when they went, but each one went straight forward.

10 As for the likeness of their faces, each had the face of a man; each of the four had the face of a lion on the right side, each of the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and each of the four had the face of an eagle.

Notice that the “four living creatures” are again associated with the tribal insignias of the people of God (lion, man, ox, eagle).  

Later in Ezekiel, we read of a similar vision which Ezekiel has. In it, he again describes the four living creatures. He also shows that the four living creatures that he sees in that vision are identical with those of the vision described in chapter one:

Ezekiel 10:14-15-14 Each one had four faces: the first face was the face of a cherub, the second face the face of a man, the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.

15 And the cherubim were lifted up. This was the living creature I saw by the River Chebar.

Ezekiel 10:20-22-20 This is the living creature I saw under the God of Israel by the River Chebar, and I knew they were cherubim.

21 Each one had four faces and each one four wings, and the likeness of the hands of a man was under their wings.

22 And the likeness of their faces was the same as the faces which I had seen by the River Chebar, their appearance and their persons. They each went straight forward.

Further, we are told that these “four living creatures” are “cherubim.” What exactly does this mean?

“The next group is the cherubim. The word “cherub” is used twenty-seven times in Scripture and the plural form “cherubim” occurs sixty-four times. The cherubim are special angels whose responsibilities are (1) to guard the entrance of Paradise (Gen. 3:24); (2) gaze upon the mercy seat (Exod. 2:18; Ps. 80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16); and (3) to constitute the chariot on which God descends to the earth (2 Sam. 22:11; Ps. 18:10). They are first mentioned in Genesis 3:24. “After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.” In 2 Kings 19:15, Hezekiah mentions the cherubim in his prayer. “And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: ‘O Lord, God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth….They are also referred to in Ezekiel 10:1-20; 28:1416. There is an interesting analogy between the Bible’s description of cherubim and the winged bulls and lions of Babylon and Assyria—colossal figures that are often found in the ruins of these places.1” (Edward P Myers, A Study Of Angels, 28-29 (Kindle Editions); New York, NY; Howard Books)  

So, these four living creatures are angels, and yet are identified also as the people of God.  

The Mystery Deepens

It is by turning to a final clue in the Book of Revelation that our investigation will be concluded.  

In chapter five of the Book of Revelation, we see that the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders join together and sing a song of praise to the Lamb of God (i.e., Jesus).  

In this song, they identify themselves and explain who they are:

Revelation 5:8-10-8 Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints.

9 And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have REDEEMED US to God by Your blood, OUT OF EVERY TRIBE AND TONGUE AND PEOPLE AND NATION, 

10 And have MADE US KINGS AND PRIESTS to our God; And we shall REIGN ON THE EARTH.”

The “four living creatures” (i.e., the cherubim of Ezekiel 1 and 10) thus identify themselves as being: 

The Ones Redeemed By The Blood Of The Lamb; 

The Ones From Every Tribe And Tongue And People And Nation; 

The Ones Who (By Virtue Of Their Redemption By The Blood Of Christ) Are Now Kings And Priests To God Who Will One Day Reign On The Earth

In every way, the description of the “four living creatures” shows that they are dead Christians.  

So, what is the connection between humans and angels?  

Very simply, at least some of the angels of God (i.e., cherubim) are dead Christians (or at least some of them).  

All of my life, I had been told that angels and humans are completely separate beings. Yet here in the Word of God, we see indications that some dead Christians actually become angels of God.  

With this in mind, let me share some concluding thoughts.  

First, just because we have been taught something all of our lives does not make our belief true. We must be willing to continually study with an open and objective mind. The Word of God will help us to grow into new understanding, but only if we are willing to seek God with all of our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13; Hebrews 11:6).  

Second, there is a great deal more to learn from the Word of God regarding the afterlife. In Scripture, we are continually reminded that God’s people who have died have entered into peace with Him.  

Isaiah 57:1-2-1 The righteous perishes, And no man takes it to heart; Merciful men are taken away, While no one considers That the righteous is taken away from evil.

2 He shall enter into peace; They shall rest in their beds, Each one walking in his uprightness.

Third, when I think of these “four living creatures,” and their connection to the Old Testament people of God, I am amazed at the implications regarding the Cross of Jesus.  
Remember that we noticed the camping directions of the Hebrews meant that they would form a huge cross. 
In the middle of the camp (in the middle of the cross), the Tabernacle was located.  
Within the Tabernacle was located the Ark of the Covenant, which is where God promised to meet with His people (Exodus 25:16-22).  

In considering the camping arrangements of the Hebrews, where was fellowship with God found?  

In the center of the cross.  

If we want to be in fellowship with God, we must be one of His people, or in His church.  

How do we become one of His people?  

Only through the cross.  

Ephesians 2:16-and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.

Finally, there is another possible interpretation that I would like to consider with you about this passage.  
The text also mentions the “24 elders.” Many scholars believe this is a reference to the combined redeemed people of God, symbolically portrayed by the doubling of the number 12 (the “twelve tribes” of the Old Testament people of God, combined with the “twelve tribes” of the New Testament people of God).  
This interpretation is strengthened by the fact that the New Testament teaches the people of God today is the church (cf. Romans 2:28-29; 9:1-6; Galatians 3:26-29).  

If that is the case, then the redeemed saints would be the ones who are pictured as the twenty-four elders.  

What then, should we make of the four living creatures?  

The Bible teaches that at one time, there was a race of angelic and human hybrids known as the “nephilim.” Their lineage is recorded in Genesis 6:1-4, and they are referenced several times throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.  

One day, as my wife and I were studying this text in Revelation, she asked me, “Mark, why couldn’t these be the nephilim that were redeemed? After all, the text says the living creatures are both human and angelic in nature-so isn’t that possible?”  

The more I have thought about her observations, the more I am convinced that is a definite possibility.  

In any case, the Scriptures are clear that at least some of the dead Christians are identifiable as the “living creatures” or “cherubim.”  

This helps us to understand at least part of the mysterious connection between “them” and “us.”  

The more I study the Word of God, the more I am amazed at its’ depths and riches of meaning. One of the most profound themes throughout Scripture is that God does not want any to perish, but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). He has sacrificed more then we can imagine to make this possible! “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Corinthians 8:9). The Son of God came to this world, and suffered and died in our place on the Cross of Calvary (1 Timothy 2:6). He did this because God (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) desires that all people will be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Jesus died for us, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).  

As the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures sing, He is worthy!!  
Will you not today accept His gracious offer of salvation? Will you not glorify Him today by turning your life to the Lord? God has declared that the person who hears His Word (Romans 10:17), believes in Jesus Christ (John 8:24), repents of sin (Luke 13:3), confess Jesus Christ as the Son of God (Acts 8:37), is baptized into Him (Acts 2:38), and who lives faithfully to Him will receive all spiritual blessings in Christ and an eternal Home in Heaven (Ephesians 1:3, 7; Revelation 2:10).  
When believers thus obey God’s plan of salvation (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10), they are set free from sin (Romans 6:17-18), made children of God (Galatians 4:6), and are added by God Himself to His church (Acts 2:47).  

If you haven’t obeyed Him, why not do so today?  

If you are a child of God who has left the Lord, He promises forgiveness to all of His people who will turn back to Him and will confess their sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.  

What It Means To Be A Disciple Of Christ

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Recently, I read this quote from a fantastic book: 

“After Jesus rose from the grave, He left His followers with a simple command: “Go into all the world and make disciples” (see Matt. 28: 19). The church should be known for this. If we are going to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, we should be making disciples. But most Christians today are not known for making disciples. We have developed a culture where a minister ministers and the rest of us sit back and enjoy “church” from a comfortable distance. This is not what God intends for His church. Every Christian is called by God to minister. You are called to make disciples.” (Francis Chan with Mark Beuving, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, 9 (Kindle Edition); David C. Cook) 

In the church, many have forgotten (or have never been properly taught) what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  

In this article, we are going to study what the Bible teaches about this subject.  

Defining Our Terms 

What does the word “disciple” mean?  

William Barclay has well written: 

“Akolouthein is the common and normal Greek verb which means to follow. It is a word with many uses and with many associations and all of them add something to its meaning for the follower of Christ. First, let us look at its usage and its meaning in classical Greek. (i) It is the common and the usual word for soldiers following their leader and commander. Xenophon (Anabasis 7.5.3) speaks about the generals and captains who have followed the leader for whom they are fighting. (ii) It is very commonly used of a slave following or attending his master. Theophrastus, in his character sketch of the Distrustful Man, says that such a man compels his slave to walk before him instead of following behind him, as a slave would normally do, so that he can be sure the slave will not dodge away (Theophrastus, Characters 18.8). (iii) It is commonly used for following or obeying someone else’s advice or opinion. Plato says that it is necessary to find out those who are fitted by nature to be leaders in philosophy and government, and those who are fitted by nature to be followers of the leader (Plato, Republic 474c). Some people are fitted to give leadership; others are only fitted to accept it. (iv) It is commonly used of obeying the laws. To follow the laws of a city is to accept them as the standard of life and of behaviour. (v) It is commonly used of following the thread or argument of a discourse. When the argument has got into a difficult position Socrates says: ‘Come now, try to follow me, to see if we can get this matter adequately explained’ (Plato, Republic 474c). (vi) In the papyri akolouthein is very commonly used for attaching oneself to someone in order to extract some favour which is desired. One writes in advice to another: ‘stick to Ptollarion all the time…. Stick to him so that you may become his friend.’ The idea is that of following a person until the favour desired is finally extracted from him. Every one of these usages has light to throw on the Christian life. The Christian is in the position of the soldier who follows Jesus Christ, and who must immediately obey his leader’s command. The Christian is in the position of the slave, who must obey as soon as his master speaks. The Christian must ask for the advice and for the ruling of Jesus Christ and must have the humility to follow it, whatever it may be. The Christian is the man who desires citizenship of the Kingdom of Heaven, and, if he is to receive it, he must agree to live according to its laws. The Christian is the learner and the listener who must listen to the words of Jesus, and who must follow their thread, so that day by day he may learn more of the wisdom which Jesus is ever wishing to teach him. The Christian is always in the position of one who needs and desires the favour and the grace and the help which Jesus Christ can give to him, and who follows Christ because in Christ alone he finds his need supplied.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 594-618 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press) 

We also must realize that the word “disciple” carried the idea of personally trusting a particular person and his teaching: 

“Math teu (make disciples) is the main verb and the central command of verses 19-20, which form the closing sentence of Matthew’s gospel. The root meaning of the term refers to believing and learning. Jesus was not referring simply to believers or simply to learners, or He would have used other words. Math teu carries a beautiful combination of meanings. In this context it relates to those who place their trust in Jesus Christ and follow Him in lives of continual learning and obedience. “If you abide in My word,” Jesus said, “then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8: 31). It should be noted that some disciples were not true (see John 6: 66).” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 49990-50006 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press) 

From this, we see that there are several fundamental principles about being a disciple, including: 

Being Ready To Learn From The Master And His Word; 

Trusting In The Master And His Word;

Loving And Clinging To The Master And His Word; 

Being Willing To Obey The Master You Follow;

Being Willing To Sacrifice For The Master And To Go Wherever He May Send.  

With these things in mind, lets study three of the things which Jesus teaches us about being His disciple.  

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, You Must Put Jesus First 

In the Gospel of Luke, the Lord tells us;

Luke 14:26-27-26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Now, what does it mean to “hate” our fathers and mothers and wives and children and brothers and sisters, etc.?

Many people would read this and clonclude that the Lord wants us to literally HATE our families.

Yet how can this be since we are to love everyone? 

Romans 13:8-10-8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

9 For the commandments, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” “YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,” “YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,” “YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,” “YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

How can we literally hate our parents when the Bible teaches us to honor our fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12)?  

Perhaps the answer lies in studying that original word used in Luke’s account that is translated as “hate.”

Notice some different translations of this passage: 

Luke 14:26 (CEV)-You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life.

Luke 14:26 (Amplified)-If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters–[yes] and even his own life also–he cannot be My disciple.

These translations are picking up on something important that we often miss in limiting ourselves to one translation of the Bible: sometimes the word “hate” simply means “to love less.”  

For example: 

Genesis 29:30-31-30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.

31 When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

The word used here is the same in the Greek Old Testament as the word used here.

The idea of “hated” carried the ideas of “loved less.”  

“Fourth, the Hebrew word for “hated” really means “loved less.” Indication of this comes from the life of Jacob himself. For the Bible says Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah…. The Lord saw that Leah was hated” (Gen. 29:30—31). “The former implies strong positive attachment and the latter, not positive hatred, but merely a less love.”88 The same is true in the New Testament, as when Jesus said, “ ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother … he cannot be my disciple’ ” (Luke 14:26). A parallel idea is expressed in Matthew 10:37: “ ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ ” (Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View Of Divine Election, 85 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers) 

If we would be a disciple of Jesus, we must be willing to put Him first in our hearts and lives.

In fact, we need to be ready to put Him above family, friends, and even our very lives.

Notice that we are told that we must be willing to “take up our cross” and follow Him.

In the first century, this was a picture that everyone understood would include two main ideas: 

First, there is the notion of being hated by others.

The ones who were condemned to the death of the cross were mocked and abused terribly by onlookers. There was insult, mockery, personal offense, and hostility by our fellow man.

Jesus endured this, and He and His Apostles told us to expect it from those in the world: 

John 15:18-19-18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 16:2-They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

John 16:33-33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Many of the attacks against God’s people will come from those who believe they are following God in persecuting His people!

As such, we should not be surprised when we are hated by the world for the cause of Christ. When people hear about our allegiance to Jesus and His Word, they will often insult and slander us.

Names like “Campbellite” and “waterdog” and “legalists” are often attached to Christians by the ignorant and the lost.

Jesus tells us that we need to be prepared to be hated by those in the world.  

Second, the idea of taking up our cross means casting aside earthly attachments.

To the person who was being crucified, there was the understanding that the world itself was nearly ended.

In other words, the person who was taking up their cross was at a point where his life was nearly ended. He understood this; as such, the world itself had lost its power over the one thus condemned.  

Romans 6:3-14 (ERV)-3 Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ Jesus when we were baptized? In our baptism we shared in his death.

4 So when we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and took part in his death. And just as Christ was raised from death by the wonderful power of the Father, so we can now live a new life.

5 Christ died, and we have been joined with him by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from death as he did.

6 We know that our old life was put to death on the cross with Christ. This happened so that our sinful selves would have no power over us. Then we would not be slaves to sin.

7 Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.

8 If we died with Christ, we know that we will also live with him.

9 Christ was raised from death. And we know that he cannot die again. Death has no power over him now.

10 Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time. He now has a new life, and his new life is with God.

11 In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive for God through Christ Jesus.

12 But don’t let sin control your life here on earth. You must not be ruled by the things your sinful self makes you want to do.

13 Don’t offer the parts of your body to serve sin. Don’t use your bodies to do evil, but offer yourselves to God, as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used for doing good.

Colossians 3:1-3-1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

If we would be true disciples of Christ, we must Jesus first.  

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, We Must Be Willing To Learn And Obey God’s Word 

Let’s notice a passage which teach us about the importance of learning and obeying the Lord in order to be true disciples of Christ.  

Matthew 28:19-20-19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Here we see that teaching is a definite step in becoming a disciple of Christ, and in continuing to be a disciple of Christ.

Notice that the text has an imperative (a command), i.e. MAKE DISCIPLES.

The text then tells us two participles which instruct us how to make the disciples:

GOING, TEACHING, BAPTIZING.

Furthermore, there is the added command of OBSERVING the teaching of Christ.

As such, we see that to be a disciple of Christ, we must be active in four things:

GOING-TEACHING-BAPTIZING-OBSERVING.  

Notice four things with me.  

First, Christianity is a religion that is focused on “going.”

If you are a disciple of Christ, you have the obligation to GO. Too many believers believe that their obligation to follow Christ is fulfilled on Sundays and Wednesdays.  

“Well, I have been at worship services this week, that takes care of my discipleship.”

Oh most people would not SAY such things, but many certainly live like this.  

Church, God has given us a mandate to GO. Where?

Into all the nations!!

In the New Testament, the Apostles were commissioned to start where they were and then to expand outward: 

Acts 1:8-8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Second, if we are going to be disciples, then we must be willing to LEARN and TEACH. Notice that in the text disciples are made by “teaching” (KJV).  

Friends, you cannot become a disciple unless you are taught the Word of God.

In the same way, you cannot make disciples unless you teach them the Word of God. Many in our world attempt to engage in lots of programs to grow churches, and yet the Bible is clear that it is only by teaching the Word of God that disciples are made.  

John 6;44-45-44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Please notice that Jesus here teaches how the Father draws us to Him.

How?  

Through the teaching of the Word of God, we are drawn to Him.

Everyone who has “heard” (literally, keeps on hearing) and learned (literally, keeps on learning) from the Father comes to Me.  

The only way you will personally be able to make disciples is to get involved in teaching them the Word of God.

We need to sit down with our friends and family members, ask to have Bible studies and address questions that they have, and show interest in them.

Only by teaching will disciples be made.

Third, notice that this passage teaches us that in order to become a fully initiated disciple, one must be baptized into Christ.

The Greek of the passage is absolutely clear that baptism (along with teaching) is what is involved in making disciples of Christ.

Why was this the case?

The answer lies in the phrase “in the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the first century, this was a legal phrase that had reference to a slave being transferred “into the ownership” of someone else.  

“The Greek phrase “into the name of ” (εἰς τò ὄνoμα) occurs mainly in commercial or legal documents and carries the idea of “into the ownership or possession” of someone. The Hebrew phrase “into the name of ” ( ) carries the idea of “with reference to,” defining the intention or purpose of the act, or even in some instances “in worship to.” 446 A Hebrew background has greater probability with reference to Matthaean usage, but the practical results may not have been greatly different. Something done by a person as an act of worship toward another brought the first person into a relationship of belonging to the object of the act, and someone to whom a person belonged or was obligated received acts of homage from that person.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 3005 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

“Another controversy of the religious world concerns the purpose of baptism. Many people, correctly rejecting the false doctrine of salvation upon the basis of works of human merit, have erroneously concluded that no works-of any type-are involved in salvation. Hence, they have overlooked the clear connection between baptism (which is not a work of human merit; cf. Titus 3:5) and forgiveness of sins in such passages as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, etc. One interesting passage in this connection is Matthew 28:19, 20 where the Lord’s followers are instructed to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What did Christ mean by baptizing them “into the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Many scholars were uncertain. Then archaeologists began to uncover numerous Greek papyri containing the phrase eis to onama, “into the name.” It was a technical expression denoting “into the possession” of someone. A slave was sold into the name, i.e., into the possession, of his owner. So, as Moulton and Milligan comment: “The usage is of interest in connection with Matthew 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be ‘baptized into the possesssion of the Father, etc.'”. What a thrilling concept! When one, in believing penitence, turns to the Lord by the obedient act of being immersed in water, by that submission, he becomes the possession of the divine Godhead.” (Wayne Jackson, Biblical Studies In The Light Of Archaeology, 56; Montgomery, Alabama; Apologetics Press). 

Fourth, if we want to be a faithful disciple, we have to apply ourselves to observing all of Christ’s commands.

As Jesus told His followers earlier: 

John 8:31-Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, We Must Be Active Member Of His Church 

The last thing I want to notice with you about being a disciple of Christ is that being a disciple means that you are an active member of His church.

Notice what the Bible tells us:

Acts 11:26-And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

    Let’s notice several things.  

    First, the disciples are clearly here identified as being members of “the church” and as being called “Christians.”

    A true disciple of Christ is a member of His church, and-because of that-he is a Christian.  

    Remember that it is teaching and baptism by which one becomes a disciple (Matthew 28:19).

    With that in mind, we recall that those in Jerusalem who gladly received His Word were baptized ; and the Bible tells us that these were then added by God to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).

    To be a disciple of Christ is to be a member of His church.  

    Further, to be a Christian is to be a member of His church.

    The word Christian is often applied loosely to anyone who professes a faith in Jesus; yet in the strictest sense, the word “Christian” has reference to those who have been added by God to His church when they have thus been baptized as believers into Him (Acts 2:37-47).  

    Yet notice something else.

    The Bible tells us here that these disciples were members of the church both universally and locally.  

    Sometimes the word church is used in a universal sense, to have reference to all the saved people of God in any area (cf. Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; Colossians 1:18).

    The word is also used to have reference to a group of Christians who assemble locally (1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1).

    In these local congregations, the disciples assemble together on the Lord’s Day-Sunday (Acts 20:7) to worship the Lord and to be edified by His Word (Hebrews 10:24-25; Colossians 3:16-17).

    It is in the local church that the work of the Lord for evangelizing the local community, and spreading the Gospel through the world, is planned and prepared (1 Timothy 3:14-15).  

    There are many in the church who do not want to be identified with a local congregation.

    They will travel from one congregation to another, and will never identify themselves with a local congregation.

    This is clearly against the Bible patten for faithful disciples.

    First, we are commanded to assemble with the local brethren (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Second, the Bible tells us that Paul tried to assemble with the brethren at Jerusalem when he was first baptized (Acts 9:26).

    Third, the Bible commands elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God which is among them (1 Peter 5:1-5).

    If members of the congregation do not declare that they desire to be recognized as members of the local congregation, then how can elders of the church ever shepherd the flock?

    Fourth, when Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome, he identified at least 26 saints (Romans 16:1-16).

    Many were from congregations in Rome that had congregations meeting in their homes.

    Clearly, Paul understood that there were local members in the congregations.  

    If we would be faithful and productive disciples of Christ, we must be members of the church both universally and locally.  

    Finally in this connection, I want you to notice with me that being a disciple of Christ means that we are active members of the congregation.

    The church here in Acts 11:26 was heavily involved in both evangelism and benevolence.

    Acts 11:27-30-27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

    28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

    29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

    30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

    Being a disciple of Christ means that we are willing to be involved in the work of the Lord.

    Are we ready and eager to be involved in the work of the Lord?  

    Judges 5:2-When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!

    Psalm 110:3-Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.

    It seems that in the church, there are many members of the congregation who are part of the “Tate” family:

    “Do you have any idea of how many members of the Tate family belong to your congregation? There is old man Dic Tate who wants to run everything, while uncle Ro Tate tries to change everything. Their sister, Agi Tate, stirs up plenty of trouble with help from her husband, Irri Tate. Whenever new projects are suggested, Hesi Tate and his wife Vegi Tate want to wait until next year. Brother Facili Tate is quite helpful in church business. Cousins Cogi Tate and Medi Tate always think things over and lend a helpful steady hand. And, of course, there is the bad seed in the family, Ampu Tate, who has cut himself off completely from the Body of Christ.” (Paul M. Miller, World’s Greatest Collection Of Church Jokes, 235 (Kindle Edition); Uhrichsville, Ohio; Barbour Publishing, Inc.). 

    If we want to be true disciples of the Lord, then we need to be active members of His church.  

    Conclusion

    Being a disciple of Christ means these three important things: 

    Putting Jesus And His Kingdom First; 

    Being Ready To Learn And Obey The Word Of God; 

    Being An Active Member Of The Lord’s Church

    The central message of the Word of God is the Gospel, or “Good News,” that God’s Son (Jesus Christ) came to this world to die for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53). Jesus died to pay for the price for each person’s sins because God desires for all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It is upon Jesus Christ and His Word that we can safely build our lives; only He is the solid foundation upon which His church is built (Matthew 7:24-27).  

    Why not today place your faith in Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, confess Him as the Son of God, and be buried with Him in baptism (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38)?

    When you obey God’s plan of salvation, He will add you to His church (Acts 2:47), and He promises to walk with you and to build you up through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13).

    When we fall short and sin as Christians (1 John 1:8), He will forgive us when we repent of that sin and confess it to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).  

    If I can assist you in any way, please contact me.  

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

    Are The Witnesses Of The Book Of Mormon Credible?

    By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)  

    Some of my favorite Bible studies are with members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (or members of the Mormon church, as they are usually known).  

    I admire the zeal of the members of this religious organization very much. Spending up to at least two years in mission work, many of the young men of this denomination are seen in their white shirts and ties all over America, knocking on the doors of often hostile neighbors with the message which they sincerely believe and which they desire to spread to every corner of the Earth. In many ways, these devout members are great examples in zeal of what New Testament Christians should be (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16)!  

    Over the years, my studies with Latter-day Saint missionaries have followed the same basic pattern.

    First, I invite them to share with me their beliefs about the book of Mormon and their religious tenants.

    After that, I usually share with them my convictions about the Holy Bible being the final and complete revelation of God to mankind (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

    This inevitably leads to a good discussion of evidence. I share with my friends that the Bible has many characteristics which demonstrate that it must be the Word of God (such as the supernatural unity of the Bible, prophecy and fulfillment, scientific foreknowledge of the Bible writers, archaeology and the Bible, the credible historians of the Bible, miraculous attestation, etc.).  

    Usually at this point, I then begin to ask my missionary friends about the evidences for the Book of Mormon.

    Almost always, they refer me to the testimony of the three and the eight witnesses.  

    Who are they, you ask, and what did they witness?  

    Let me go back and share a brief history of the book of Mormon, and then we will examine the testimony of the witnesses, to see if they are indeed credible in their reporting.  

    The Story Of The Book Of Mormon

    In 1805, a young man named Joseph Smith, Jr. was born in Vermont to Joseph Smith, Sr. and Lucy Mack. Between 1820 and 1823, he had a vision from God the Father and Jesus Christ that all denominations were an abomination to God (as were man-made religious creeds). During this time, he also had an encounter with an angel named Moroni (or perhaps Nephi, as some accounts record). He was told that there were golden plates hidden near New York City which chronicled the rise and fall of an ancient civilization.  
    Over the next several years, Smith was told more about the golden plates. They were hidden under Hill Cumorah in Manchester, New York, and along with these were also to be found the Urim and the Thummin (two stones which were kept with the High Priest in the Old Testament and which were used by the Lord to somehow communicate His will to the people of Israel).  

    Moroni was eventually sent to Smith and allowed him to remove the gold plates in order to translate them from “Reformed Egyptian” to English. David Whitaker describes how Smith would translate the plates: 

    “I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear. Thus the Book of Mormon was translated by the gift and power of God, and not by any power of man.” (David Whitmer, An Address to All Believers in Christ (Concord, CA: Pacific Publishing Co., 1887), p. 12.)

    According to Mormonism, three witnesses-David Whitmer, Martin Harris, and Oliver Cowdery- were allowed to “see” the gold tablets with Joseph Smith.

    Attached to the front of every book of Mormon is the following account: 

    “BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That we, through the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, have seen the plates which contain this record, which is a record of the people of Nephi, and also of the Lamanites, their brethren, and also of the people of Jared, who came from the tower of which hath been spoken. And we also know that they have been translated by the gift and power of God, for his voice hath declared it unto us; wherefore we know of a surety that the work is true. And we also testify that we have seen the engravings which are upon the plates; and they have been shown unto us by the power of God, and not of man. And we declare with words of soberness, that an angel of God came down from heaven, and he brought and laid before our eyes, that we beheld and saw the plates, and the engravings thereon; and we know that it is by the grace of God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, that we beheld and bear record that these things are true. And it is marvelous in our eyes. Nevertheless, the voice of the Lord commanded us that we should bear record of it; wherefore, to be obedient unto the commandments of God, we bear testimony of these things. And we know that if we are faithful in Christ, we shall rid our garments of the blood of all men, and be found spotless before the judgment-seat of Christ, and shall dwell with him eternally in the heavens. And the honor be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost, which is one God. Amen.” OLIVER COWDERY DAVID WHITMER MARTIN HARRIS”  

    Later, eight additional witnesses were allowed to “witness” the gold plates. We find the following also in the book of Mormon: 

    “BE IT KNOWN unto all nations, kindreds, tongues, and people, unto whom this work shall come: That Joseph Smith, Jun., the translator of this work, has shown unto us the plates of which hath been spoken, which have the appearance of gold; and as many of the leaves as the said Smith has translated we did handle with our hands; and we also saw the engravings thereon, all of which has the appearance of ancient work, and of curious workmanship. And this we bear record with words of soberness, that the said Smith has shown unto us, for we have seen and hefted, and know of a surety that the said Smith has got the plates of which we have spoken. And we give our names unto the world, to witness unto the world that which we have seen. And we lie not, God bearing witness of it.” CHRISTIAN WHITMER HIRAM PAGE JACOB WHITMER JOSEPH SMITH, SEN. PETER WHITMER, JUN. HYRUM SMITH JOHN WHITMER SAMUEL H. SMITH

    The book of Mormon claims to be the most perfect revelation of God to mankind: 

    “Concerning this record the Prophet Joseph Smith said: “I told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”. (Joseph Smith, Introduction To Book Of Mormon) 

    With a claim like this, we must be willing to carefully examine the credentials of this book.  

    Who were these witnesses?  

    What did they actually see and witness?

     
    Do their writings pass the test of careful investigation?  

    Let’s carefully study.  

    Did The Witnesses Actually “SEE” The Things They Affirmed?  

    One member of the church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints, a man named Grant H. Palmer, wrote a fascinating book in 2002 entitled An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins. He carefully investigated the original accounts of the witnesses, and his observations are very relevant to our current study.  

    Let me say at the forefront of this section Mr. Palmer is indeed a member of the Latter-day Saints church: 

    “For thirty-four years I was primarily an Institute director for the Church Educational System (CES) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 52 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)

    “I am a fourth-generation Mormon, and I want to address this discussion to other second-, third-, and fourth-generation Mormons who will better understand where I am coming from.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 99 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)

    Having established his credentials as a member of the Latter-Day Saints church, Palmer then reveals what his investigation of the witnesses uncovered.  
    Speaking of the culture of eighteenth century America, Palmer writes: 

    “The 1820s view of how the Book of Mormon was dictated is different than what we currently assume, as we have already seen. A corollary to this is that the perspective of the eleven men who testified to viewing and handling the gold plates differs from what we now assume. Their published statements tell only part of the story, and even then, we tend to read into their testimonies a rationalist perspective rather than a nineteenth-century magical mindset. [1] We are told that the witnesses never disavowed their testimonies, but we have not come to know these men or investigated what else they said about their experiences. They are eleven individuals—Martin Harris, Oliver Cowdery, Hiram Page, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Christian Whitmer, Jacob Whitmer, Peter Whitmer Jr., Hyrum Smith, Samuel Smith, and Joseph Smith Sr.—whose lives and personalities varied. They shared a common world view, and this is what drew them together in 1829. More specifically, they believed in what has been called second sight. Traditionally, this included the ability to see spirits and their dwelling places within the local hills and elsewhere. Josiah Stowell of Bainbridge, New York, hired Joseph Smith to hunt for buried treasure because Joseph “could discern things invisible to the natural eye.” [2] Ezra Booth, an early Mormon convert, reported of Joseph: “He does not pretend that he sees them [spirits and angels] with his natural, but with his spiritual eyes; and he says he can see them as well with his eyes shut, as with them open.””. (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 3826-3840 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books) 

    Setting the stage for what he then discovered, Palmer goes on to explain the testimony of the initial three witnesses: 

    “This document gives the impression that there was an actual visitation of an angel who displayed physical plates. Church members today generally interpret the statement in this way. But the individual affirmations by Joseph Smith and the witnesses themselves indicate that their experience occurred as a vision. [57] James H. Moyle, a young LDS attorney, interviewed David Whitmer for two and one-half hours in 1885 and wrote that Whitmer “was somewhat spiritual in his explanations. He was not as materialistic in his descriptions as I wished.” [58] Zenas H. Gurley, an RLDS apostle, also interviewed Whitmer and asked, “Do you know the plates seen with the angel on the table were real metal, [and] did you touch them? [Whitmer:] We did not touch nor handle the plates. [Gurley:] Was the table literal wood? or was the whole a vision such as often occurs in dreams &c? [Whitmer:] The table had the appearance of literal wood as shown in the vision, in the glory of God … I [also] saw the ‘interpreters’ in the holy vision.” [59] In another account, Whitmer remembered: In June 1829, I saw the angel by the power of God … The angel appeared in the light … Between us and the angel there appeared a table, and there lay upon it the sword of Laban, the Ball of Directors, the Record, and interpreters. The angel took the Record, and turned the leaves, and showed it to us by the power of God. They were taken away by the angel to a cave, which we saw by the power of God while we were yet in the Spirit. [60] In his own pamphlet, An Address to All Believers in Christ, and elsewhere, Whitmer referred to this experience as a “vision.” [61] Harris testified to Anthony Metcalf of Elk Horn, Idaho, that “I never saw the golden plates, only in a visionary or entranced state … While praying I passed into a state of entrancement, and in that state I saw the angel and the plates.” [62] Another person asked Harris, “Did you see the plates and the engraving on them with your bodily eyes? … [Harris:] I did not see them as I do that pencil case, yet I saw them with the eye of faith.” [63] John H. Gilbert, Jesse Townsend, and Reuben T. Harmon all independently recalled that Harris said he saw the records with his “spiritual eyes” only. Harmon announced: “I am well acquainted with Martin Harris, who was often at my house … He never claimed to have seen them [the plates] with his natural eyes, only [in a] spiritual vision.” [64] According to the authorized testimony, the witnesses saw the plates but did not handle them. The angel turned the leaves for them to see the engravings. However, according to some of the witnesses’ individual affirmations, they handled the plates. Lucy Smith was at the Peter Whitmer home when Harris arrived immediately after the witnesses’ experience. He reported to her: “I have now seen an angel from Heaven … I have also looked upon the plates and handled them with my hands and can testify of the same to the whole world.” [65] To a group in Painesville, Ohio, in 1831, Harris declared that he knew “all about the gold plates, Angels, Spirits, and Jo Smith.—He had seen and handled them all, by the power of God! ” [66] Edward Stevenson, a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy, reported after interviewing Harris in August 1870: “He says he saw the plates, handled them and saw the angel that visited Joseph Smith, more than 40 years ago.” [67] Harris testified in the Salt Lake Tabernacle in September 1870, “I would rather have my right hand cut off than deny the knowledge of seeing and handling the plates, and hearing the words of the Angle [angel] regarding the truth of the Records.” [68] LDS bishop Simon Smith wrote that on his deathbed, Harris “did truly testify to me that he both saw and handled the plates that the Book of Mormon was translated from and that an angel of God did lay them before him.” [69] When asked about his vision, David Whitmer told RLDS member J. W. Chatburn in 1882: “These hands handled the plates, these eyes saw the angel, and these ears heard his voice.” In 1886 a newspaper correspondent interviewed Whitmer and wrote: “Mr. Whitmer describes every detail of the ‘vision’ with great precision and much fervency and insists that he handled and scrutinized the plates, and that the form and appearance of the strangely engraved characters were so impressed upon his memory that he would never forget them.” [70] Recall that when asked by Gurley if the three witnesses actually did “touch” the “real metal,” Whitmer responded, “We did not.” [71] In other words, if they handled them, it was in vision rather than in plain sight. Moyle said that Whitmer “repeated to me that he did see and handle the plates; that he did see and hear the angel” [72] in a vision, but that he “did not handle the plates” physically. [73] According to Reuben Miller, Oliver Cowdery said, “I beheld with my eyes and handled with my hands the gold plates from which it was translated.” In 1873 Brigham Young informed Elizabeth Kane and others that the plates that Cowdery saw “were in a cave; that Oliver Cowdery … would not deny that he had seen [and handled] them. He had been to the cave.” It appears that this cave was not a physical reality but rather something that was visited in a dream-vision. [74] The event, as the three witnesses describe it, was similar to the many second-sight experiences of Apostle John E. Page, John Landers, John Young (Brigham’s brother), Harrison Burgess, and Apostles Luke S. and Lyman E. Johnson (brothers), and other early Mormons. Elder Page related to John Landers his “vision” of 1833 when “three ancient-looking men” stood together in a room. According to Landers’s report: “They had the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated between them. He [Page] stood directly in front of them and saw them turn over the leaves, leaf by leaf, until they came to a thick mass of leaves that had a seal on them. While looking upon them, he heard the voice of the Lord say to him, ‘This is shown you, and you are to bear witness of it …’” [75]” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 4053-4117 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books) 

    Thus it seems that the three witnesses did not actually “see” the golden plates.  
    Instead, they had a “vision” of these things while in some kind of “trance.”  

    Before we explore the significance of this, please notice what Palmer also found out about the testimony of the other eight witnesses: 

    “Although this collective declaration again seems to describe a literal event, the supporting evidence points to a less physical incident. If the three witnesses and others inspected the plates in a vision, perhaps the eight did also. Their statements indicate that this is likely the case. On 25 March 1838, Martin Harris testified publicly that none of the signatories to the Book of Mormon saw or handled the physical records. His statement, made at the height of Ohio’s banking-related apostasy, became the final straw that caused Apostles Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and John F. Boynton, and high priest Stephen Burnett and seventy Warren Parrish to exit the church. Stephen Burnett, in a letter dated 15 April 1838, three weeks after this meeting, wrote to Lyman Johnson: I have reflected long and deliberately upon the history of this church & weighed the evidence for & against it—loth to give it up—but when I came to hear Martin Harris state in public that he never saw the plates with his natural eyes only in vision or imagination, neither Oliver nor David & also that the eight witnesses never saw them & hesitated to sign that instrument for that reason, but were persuaded to do it, the last pedestal gave way, in my view our foundations was sapped & the entire superstructure fell a heap of ruins, … I was followed by W. Parish[,] Luke Johnson & John Boynton[,] all of who[m] concurred with me[. A]fter we were done speaking[,] M Harris arose & said he was sorry for any man who rejected the Book of Mormon for he knew it was true, he said he had hefted the plates repeatedly in a box with only a tablecloth or handkerchief over them, but he never saw them only as he saw a city through a mountain. And said that he never should have told that the testimony of the eight was false, if it had not been picked out of [h]im but should have let it passed as it was … [83] Warren Parrish, like Stephen Burnett, also heard Harris say at this meeting that none of the eleven men examined physical records. On 11 August Parrish wrote in a letter: “Martin Harris, one of the subscribing witnesses, has come out at last, and says he never saw the plates, from which the book purports to have been translated, except in vision and he further says that any man who says he has seen them in any other way is a liar, Joseph [Smith] not excepted.” [84] Of the eight signatories, only three individually reported that they saw and touched the records. A fourth, Hiram Page, curiously mentioned neither handling nor seeing plates. He said that he could not deny “what I saw. To say … that [I did not see] those holy Angels who came and showed themselves to me as I was walking through the field … would be treating the God of heaven with contempt.” [85] Hyrum Smith said his “eyes had seen … [and] my hands had handled” the plates. According to LDS member Daniel Tyler, Samuel Smith said that “he had handled them and seen the engravings thereon.” [86] John Whitmer provides the only detailed statement when he said in 1839, according to church member Theodore Turley: “I handled those plates; there were fine engravings on both sides … they were shown to me by a supernatural power.” [87] This added detail of how he saw indicates that the eight probably did not observe or feel the actual artifact, just as Harris testified. If Joseph Smith placed the gold records uncovered into their hands, as the authorized statement seems to imply, there would be no reason for John Whitmer to say that a supernatural power was involved or for Harris to say that the eight witnesses viewed them in vision, like imagining “a city through a mountain.” Having handled the plates in vision, the eight witnesses therefore “hesitated to sign” their testimony because it seemed to say that their experience was physical. Both the Harris and Whitmer statements lead me to believe that the eight, like the three, saw and scrutinized the plates in a mind vision.” (Grant H. Palmer, An Insider’s View Of Mormon Origins, 4154-4200 (Kindle Edition); Salt Lake City, Utah; Signature Books)

    Palmer references several other sources to substantiate his claims.  

    Please notice two things with me.  

    The Witnesses Did Not Actually See What They Say They Saw

    The first thing that stands out to me about the credibility of these witnesses is that they did not actually witness anything tangible. They “saw” with a “spiritual” eye, and beheld things in “visions” and in the mind.  

    Is this to be considered truly authentic evidence?  

    It may be argued that the God of the Bible often spoke through visions to His Prophets and Apostles, and this is certainly true: 

    Genesis 15:1-After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.”

    Numbers 12:6-Then He said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, make Myself known to him in a vision; I speak to him in a dream.

    Daniel 2:19-Then the secret was revealed to Daniel in a night vision. So Daniel blessed the God of heaven.

    Acts 16:9-And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

    God can certainly communicate His will through visions.  

    However, there are two factors to keep in mind regarding these visions of the Bible and the contrast with the “visions” of the witnesses of the golden plates.  

    First, the supernatural visions of the Bible (which God communicated to His Prophets and Apostles) were supernaturally confirmed by God and verified by real, objective, and empirical proofs. Thus, the supernatural God provided detailed supernatural evidence which was clearly and empirically verifiable to the seekers of truth.   

    Consider the Resurrection of Christ as an example. When Jesus appeared to His Apostles, was it in the form of a vision or a trance?  

    Not at all!  

    Instead: 

    Luke 24:37-43-37 But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit.

    38 And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts?

    39 Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”

    40 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet.

    41 But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?”

    42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb.

    43 And He took it and ate in their presence.

    Jesus not only appeared bodily to His Apostles. He showed them clearly that He was alive (even eating food in their presence so that they would know He had indeed risen).  

    Later, when Jesus appeared to Thomas, we read: 

    John 20:24-28-24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.

    25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

    26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!”

    27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

    28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

    Even more to the point, we are reminded that when God supernaturally revealed His Word to His Prophets and Apostles, He supernaturally confirmed that Word in ways that were empirically veritable. So we read, for example: 

    John 3:2-This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

    John 5:36-But I have a greater witness than John’s; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish—the very works that I do—bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

    John 7:31-And many of the people believed in Him, and said, “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”

    John 10:37-38-37 If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;

    38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

    Acts 2:22-“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—

    Hebrews 2:3-4-3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

    4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

    The visions that God gave to His Prophets and Apostles in the Bible were confirmed supernaturally-not through visions and trances-but through the agency of credible witnesses in empirical fashion.  

    This is a huge factor in our investigation of the credibility of these witnesses, especially when we consider that visions may come from several sources, according to the Bible. Constantly, the people of God are warned not to trust “dreams” and “visions” when they are in contradiction to His revealed Word (Jeremiah 14:14; 23:21-32; 29:8-9).  

    Furthermore, we are warned that even Satan and his forces can work such visions and “lying wonders” (Job 4:13-15; Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12). This is especially noteworthy when we consider the occult background of Joseph Smith and of his family. One author, Peter Levenda, has carefully examined and documented these ties: 

    “JOSEPH SMITH, JR.—THE FOUNDER OF MORMONISM—came from a long line of occultists and religious zealots. For instance his ancestor, Samuel Smith, was one of the accusers of Mary Towne Easty who was eventually hanged as a witch at Salem on September 22, 1692. Even his father was well-known as an occultist and exorcist.” (Peter Levinda, The Angel And The Sorcerer:The Remarkable Story of the Occult Origins of Mormonism and the Rise of Mormons in American Politics, 82 (Kindle Edition); Lake Worth, Florida; Ibis Press) 

    “His childhood in Vermont took place at a time when there was a tremendous religious revival taking place all over the northern states, from New England to New York and Pennsylvania. The American Revolution, followed by the War of 1812 which began when Joseph Smith Jr was only seven years old, led to tremendous social and economic upheaval in the newly-independent States. His father experienced terrible luck at farming with three years of crop failures in a row and was going bankrupt. He tried to augment his family’s meager income with treasure-seeking using a divining rod, but with limited or no success. A divining rod is normally a forked branch or a specially-made wand of wood or metal that is used to point to the location of buried valuables. The operator holds the forked ends in his/ her left and right hand—a bit like a steering wheel—and invokes a higher power to enable him/ her to be drawn to the underground location. The rod will then bend towards the spot where the operator should begin digging. The use of the divining rod was extremely popular throughout that part of the country for more than a hundred years. In fact, the author knew of people using the divining rod in New Hampshire as late as the 1960s, mostly to find water during the drought of 1963–1964. But finding water or gold was not the only purpose of the divining rod. It could also be used as a means for spiritual communication. A group known as the Fraternity of Rodmen was active in Vermont at the time the Smiths lived there. The Fraternity was composed of men who—for instance—would use divining rods to determine who built the so-called “Indian burial” mounds by asking if it had been the Egyptians, etc. until the rod would respond at the mention of the Welsh. If the rod did not move, the answer was “no.” Any movement was usually interpreted as a “yes.” 1 This went further to the extent that the Fraternity began receiving instructions to build a temple, since they were informed that they were descendants of the Lost Tribes of Israel. The idea that the New World was the ultimate destination of the wandering tribes had tremendous currency in those days, and groups like the New Israelites were formed along the lines of that belief. Other groups insisted that the Native Americans were themselves remnants of the Lost Tribes, while such seventeenth-century luminaries as Cotton Mather claimed that the “Red Men” were in fact Devils incarnate since there was no mention of the Native Americans in the Bible.” (Peter Levinda, The Angel And The Sorcerer:The Remarkable Story of the Occult Origins of Mormonism and the Rise of Mormons in American Politics, 170-181 (Kindle Edition); Lake Worth, Florida; Ibis Press)

    The Prophets and Apostles of the Bible were forbidden from using any kind of paganism, witchcraft, divination or necromancy in order to try and summon Divine revelation (Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10, 14; 1 Samuel 15:23; 2 Kings 17:17; 2 Chronicles 33:6; Jeremiah 14:14; Acts 16:16-19).  

    The contrast here is striking.  

    The Obvious Contradictions In The Witness Accounts 

    As if this were not enough, we should also notice that there are obvious discrepancies in the witness accounts.  

    For example, the common Mormon assertion today is that the original three witnesses did NOT touch and handle the golden plates (and several of the later testimony of the witnesses makes this claim also). Yet it is ALSO true that the earlier accounts of the three witnesses (and some of the later ones) say the EXACT OPPOSITE: that they did indeed touch and handle the goldEN plates.  

    Further, the same may also be said of the eight witnesses. While the finished signed statement was clear that the eight witnesses had “handled” the plates, it was also evident that this was not entirely accurate (from their own testimony).  

    Indeed, this was one of the reasons why the eight witnesses were hesitant to sign their names to the statement that Joseph Smith made (as Palmer clearly documents).  

    Conclusion 

    Friends, the witnesses of the book of Mormon were not credible witnesses. The book of Mormon is NOT the final revelation of God to mankind: the Bible itself is (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  

    Often members of the churches of Christ are looked down upon for doing exactly what the Bible teaches: testing all things and sharing the Gospel with others (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Peter 3;15; Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1; Revelation 2;2).

    It was the Prophets of God who continually pointed out the false religions of the world (just read through Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel sometime and you will be amazed how often they directly confront the false teachers of that day and age). Jesus did the same (Matthew 16:12; 23:23; Mark 7:1-7; Luke 11:42), as did Paul (Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Titus, etc.) and all the Apostles of Christ.  

    Examining religious teaching is not done in a spirit of self-righteousness or to try and unduly anger those around us; but to try and encourage people to return to the Word of God which alone is the safe path for us (Jeremiah 6:16). After all, the wisdom from above above is first PURE, and then PEACEABLE (James 3:17-18).

    The Bible is the inspired Word of God, and several evidences document this clearly. The central message of Holy Scripture is that the Son of God came to this world to die in the place of sinful man (1 Timothy 2:4-6). Dying for the sins of fallen humanity, Jesus was able to become the Perfect High Priest to save us from our own wickedness (Hebrews 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). He died for us, was buried, and He arose from the dead on the third day after His death (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites believers everywhere to repent and be baptized by the authority of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins upon a profession of faith in Him as the Son of God (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38), and He invites unfaithful Christians to return to Him in repentance and prayer (1 John 1:9).

    Why not obey Him today?  

    If I can assist you in any way, please call upon me.  

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

    Hebrews 9:7-Will God Only Forgive Sins Of Ignorance? 

    By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

    Several times, I have heard the statement made that God will only forgive the sins of those who sin in ignorance.  

    In other words, it is claimed that if a person commits a sin while knowing that it is a sin, God will not forgive said person, even if they repent.  

    It is usually argued that there are several passages in the Book of Hebrews which teach this.  

    In this article, we will study one of the passages which (it is claimed) teaches this.  

    Let’s open our Bibles and study together.  

    Hebrews 9:7-Sins Committed In Ignorance 

    While discussing the various works and responsibilities of Old Testament priests, the writer of Hebrews points to the responsibility of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. This particular holiday was one of the seven feasts of Israel, and it was held each year in the Fall. The priest would go in and sprinkle blood of sacrifices on the Ark of the Covenant.  

    Speaking of this, we read in Hebrews: 

    Hebrews 9:7-But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;

    Many read this and conclude that the only sins which were forgiven by God were the sins committed by the people in ignorance.  

    Notice several things with me.  

    The Range Of Forgiveness On The Day Of Atonement 

    The Old Testament is clear that the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement provided forgiveness for ALL the sins of the Old Testament saints of which they repented. Notice what we are told in Leviticus:

    Leviticus 16:16-So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

    Please observe how this is rendered in different translations:

    Leviticus 16:16 (GW)-So he will make peace with the LORD for ALL THE SINS the Israelites committed against the holy place. These sins happened because the Israelites were unclean and because they COMMITTED REBELLIOUS ACTS. He will do the same for the tent of meeting which is among an unclean people.

    Leviticus 16:16 (Jewish Publication Society)-And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their TRANSGRESSIONS, even ALL THEIR SINS; and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, that dwelleth with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.

    These translations are pointing out something that is often overlooked, in regards to the “type” of sins being committed and atoned for.  

    Throughout the Old Testament, there are different words in the Hebrew language which are translated as “sin.”

    Gareth Reese has provided an excellent study of this:

    “It has been said that there are three classes or kinds of sin in the Hebrew Old Testament. (1) The lightest infractions are those that are called chet, chata, chatta’ah, or chattah, a fault, a shortcoming, a misstep, to sin, err, miss the mark. (2). Of a more serious nature are the sins described by ‘avon, avah, or ‘aven, a breaking of a commandment, iniquity. (3) The most serious sins are those called pesha’ (transgression) and resha’ (wickedness). There is the idea of rebellion involved in pesha’, and of what has become a habit or state in resha’. Psalm 106:6 mentions all three words, “We have sinned (cheta) like our fathers, we have committed iniquity (avah), we have behaved wickedly (resha’).” A similar threefold list is found in Exodus 34:7, “Who forgives iniquity (avon) , transgression (pesha’) and sin (chatta’ah).” (Gareth Reese, Commentary On Romans, 216; Joplin, Missouri; College Press).  

    Please notice that here in Leviticus 16:16, we are assured that God forgives all of the sins of the people when they repent and obey His Law of forgiveness.  

    With this understanding, it helps us to better understand other passages of Scripture. think of what God promised through Moses regarding intentional sins:

    Leviticus 6:1-7-1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

    2 “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor,

    3 or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins:

    4 then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found,

    5 or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

    6 And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest.

    7 So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.”

    There can be no doubt that the sins here described were intentional sins! Yet, when repentance was manifested, forgiveness was abundant.  

    Consider further what God declared through Isaiah the Prophet:

    Isaiah 55:6-7-6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

    7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

    We read later:

    Ezekiel 18:23-Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

    Ezekiel 18:27-Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive.

    God extends His invitation of forgiveness to all sinners-even to the most wicked!  
    Clearly, the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement provided forgiveness for all the sins of the people of which they repented.  

    Understanding What The Word “Ignorance” Meant To The Hebrews

    However, that still leaves the question as to the meaning of Hebrews 9:7.  
    What did Paul mean when he wrote that the High Priest provided atonement for the sins of the people committed in “ignorance?” 

    The answer is found in how the Jewish people defined the word “ignorance.” Famed scholar William Barclay wrote:

    “The sin of ignorance is pardonable; the sin of presumption is not. Nevertheless, we must note that by the sin of ignorance the Jews meant more than simply lack of knowledge. They included the sins committed when someone was carried away in a moment of impulse or anger or passion or was overcome by some irresistible temptation, and the sins were followed by repentance. By the sin of presumption, they meant the cold, calculated sin for which the perpetrator was not in the least sorry, the open-eyed disobedience of God. So, the priest existed to open for sinners the way back to God –as long as they wanted to come back.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter To The Hebrews, 54 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

    So to the Jewish people, the idea of a sin of “ignorance” included any sin that a person committed, for whatever reason, so long as there was repentance of that sin.  

    To many in our modern world, this concept is difficult to grasp.

    One researcher named Michael Brown has studied the ancient Hebrew Scriptures and rabbinic traditions for years, and has written a four part several of books on the topic, entitled Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus. At one point in his studies, he carefully examines the question of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, and whether or not they were only for “unintentional sins.”

    Speaking specifically of Leviticus 16:20-22, Brown writes:

    “Notice carefully what the text says: The High Priest is to confess over the head of this goat “all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins”-and “all” means “all.” Notice also that the text specifically speaks of the “wickedness” (or “iniquity”; Hebrew, ‘awon) and “rebellion” (Hebrew, pesha, meaning willful transgression) of the Israelites, not merely their unintentional sins. “But what do the rabbis say about this? What is written in the Talmud?” With regard to the kinds of sins atoned for by the sacrificial goats of Yom Kippur, the Talmud is even more explicit than the biblical text. Here are two different translations of m. Shevu’ot 1:6, a well-known text in traditional Jewish law: A. And for a deliberate act of imparting uncleanness to the sanctuary and its Holy Things, a goat [whose blood is sprinkled] inside and the Day of Atonement effect atonement. B. And for all other transgressions which are in the Torah-C. the minor or serious, deliberate or inadvertent, those done knowingly or done unknowingly, violating a positive or a negative commandment, those punishable by extirpation [karet] and those punishable by death at the hands of the court, D. the goat which is sent away [Lev. 16:21 ] effects atonement.22’ And for uncleanness that occurs in the Temple and to its holy sacrifices through wantonness, [the] goat whose blood is sprinkled within [the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement] and the Day of Atonement effect atonement, and for [all] other transgressions [spoken of] in the Law, light or grace, premeditated or inadvertent, aware or unaware, transgressions of positive commands or negative commands, sin whose penalty is excision or sins punishable by death imposed by the court, the scapegoat makes atonement.”‘ As codified and explained by Maimonides almost one thousand years later (Laws of Repentance, 1:2): Since the goat sent [to Azazeil]229 atones for all of Israel, the High Priest confesses on it as the spokesman for all of Israel, as [Lev. 16:21 ] states: “He shall confess on it all the sins of the Children of Israel.” The goat sent to Azazeil atones for all the transgressions in the Torah, the severe and the lighter [sins]; those violated intentionally and those transgressed inadvertently; those which [the transgressor] became conscious of and those which he was not conscious of. All are atoned for by the goat sent [to Azazeil]. This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat only atones for the light [sins]. Which are light sins and which are severe ones? Severe sins are those which are punishable by execution by the court or by premature death [karetJ. [The violation of] the other prohibitions that are not punishable by premature death are considered light [sins].230 Here, then, is a perfectly clear statement from the most authoritative sources of traditional Judaism that the sacrifices offered and the ceremonies performed on the Day of Atonement effected atonement for all kinds of sins, intentional and unintentional, willful and inadvertent. The only question raised by the Rabbinic sources is to what degree repentance was a necessary part of the equation, a question that all Messianic Jews would answer by saying, “Repentance plays a vital part in the equation!”…The rabbis (see b. Shevu’ot 2b; 6b-14a) comment specifically on the words rebellion (transgressions in Hebrew) and sins, explaining that “transgressions” refers to acts of rebellion-which are certainly intentional-while “sins” refers to inadvertent acts.232 And it is the goat whose blood is sprinkled in the Most Holy Place that effects atonement for the people, just as the blood of the bull offered up by the High Priest effects atonement for him (m. Shevu’ot 1:7, following Lev. 16:11, “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.”). Notice also that it is a sin offering that effects atonement for Aaron and the people of Israel, demonstrating that it is not only the guilt offering that effects atonement for willful sins.-“‘ Let me also remind you of the prayer of Solomon offered up at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6), in which he asked God to forgive his sinning people when they turned to God in repentance and prayed toward the Temple. The Lord promised that he would, in fact, forgive and restore-because of the sacrifices offered up in the Temple (see 2 Chron. 7:12-16, and the discussion above, 3.9)-and the text makes clear that inadvertent or unintentional sins were not the only things covered by Solomon’s prayer. See, for example,, I Kings 8:33-36, 46-50; 2 Chronicles 7:14, clearly referring to all kinds of sins and transgressions.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus-Volume Two: Theological Objections, 129-132 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) 

    Please notice with me that the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament) explicitly taught that all sins of which a person was guilty could be forgiven if there was repentance and adherence to God’s Word.  

    In fact, Michael Brown (in continuing his comments on the aforementioned subject) has some more excellent commentary on this subject. Due to the fact that it is relevant to our present study, I will include it here:

    “How then should we understand Numbers 15:22-31 ? These verses seem to teach that sacrifices could be brought to atone for unintentional sins, but for willful, defiant sins no sacrifice was possible. The sinner’s guilt would remain on him. Let’s look at this passage, allowing some Jewish biblical scholars to explain its meaning: Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses-any of the LORD’s commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come-and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’S word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” Milgrom explains: The possibility of sacrificial atonement is explicitly denied to the individual who presumptuously violates God’s law (Num. 15:30-31). This, however, does not mean, as many critics aver, that sacrificial atonement is possible only for involuntary wrongdoers. To cite but one exception, the askant offering is prescribed for that premeditated crime called by the rabbis asham gezelot (Lev. 5:20ff.; Num. 5:5-8). A more correct assertion, then, would be that the priestly system prohibits sacrificial atonement to the unrepentant sinner, for the one who “acts defiantly … it is the Lord he reviles” (Num. 15:30). This is an explicit postulate of post-biblical literature: “the hattat, the asham, and death do not atone except with repentance” (Tosef., Yoma 5:9; cf. Yoma 8:8).-” Or as expressed concisely by Rashi, “Only at the time when his iniquity is upon him shall he be cut off, meaning, as long as he has not repented” making reference to b. Sanhedrin 90b, where the Talmud mud explains that Numbers 15:31 leaves open the possibility that the sinner might still repent. Thus, his guilt remains on him as long as he fails to repent. Interestingly, there is almost an exact New Testament parallel to this warning in Numbers 15:30-31, and it is found-not surprisingly-in in the Letter to the Hebrews: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge edge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:26-31 The point in both cases is clear: There is no sacrifice, no forgiveness, no atonement for those who commit-and continue in-willful, defiant sin. If they don’t turn back in repentance, nothing will atone for them. As noted by R. L. Harris with reference to Numbers 15:30-31, “Here the NIV has correctly caught the sense of the unpardonable sin-not one done intentionally, but one done ‘defiantly,’ i.e., in rebellion, sinning against light (cf. Matt. 12:31-32).”1″‘ The Hebrew image is quite clear: The sinner transgresses “with a high hand” (bevad ramah)-almost challenging God to punish him or hold him to account. But God is not one to be challenged! As Moses reminded the children of Israel, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him” (Deut. 7:9-10). But for those who would repent and perform the required Temple service, abundant mercy and pardon was available (see vol. 1, 1.11, and below, 3.21). Looking back, then, at what we have seen so far, we can say categorically that sacrifices were not for unintentional sins only. The sacrifices on Yom Kippur argue against this position, specific sacrifices (the’asham and the hatta’t) argue against it, other scriptural principles argue against it, the Talmud and Law Codes argue against it, the custom of kapparot argues against it, and the concept of repentance offered in conjunction with sacrifices argues against it.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Two-Theological Objections, 132-134 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

    Jesus-The Ultimate High Priest

    Finally, we need to remember the point that the writer of Hebrews is making.

    From Hebrews 2-9 (and continuing through Hebrews 10), Paul has been arguing that Jesus’ Priesthood is greater than that of the Old Testament Levitical system, and that all of the ordinances of the Old Testament actually foreshadowed what Christ would accomplish. Jesus is the ultimate High Priest, and everything through the Old Testament pointed to this reality!  
    To more fully appreciate this, consider several passages from Hebrews which help to make this point more clear: 

    Hebrews 2:14-15-14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

    15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

    Hebrews 2:17-18-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

    18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

    Hebrews 4:14-16-14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

    15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

    16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    Hebrews 5:9-10-9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

    10 called by God as High Priest “ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK,”

    Hebrews 7:25-27-25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;

    27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

    All of the ordinances of the Old Testament were but a shadow of what Christ Himself would accomplish as our High Priest!  

    Hebrews 9:9-9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—

    Hebrews 9:23-23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

    Conclusion

    The God of Creation graciously offers redemption to all people.  

    Revelation 22:17-And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

    Friends, if you have believed or have been taught that you committed a sin which cannot be forgiven, please know that this is not true.  

    God WANTS to forgive you (1 Timothy 2:4)!
    God WILL forgive you (Mark 16:15-16)!

    There is no sin so great that the blood of Jesus cannot provide atonement (1 John 2:1-2)! 

    God wants you to be saved and He has made it possible. The entire Godhead-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-were involved in paving the way for mankind to be forgiven. Our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). We cannot bring redemption for ourselves, no matter how many good works that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet the Lord loves us so very much that He sent His Son to die on the Cross of Calvary, to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Yet do not think for a moment that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not also willing to make this Sacrifice, for they were; and we are assured throughout Scripture that all Three were involved in the horrible events of Calvary (Isaiah 48:16).

    Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Lord promises salvation to whoever will “call on His Name” (Acts 2:21), which simply means to serve Him and to obey His Word (cf. Zephaniah 3:9).  

    What has God commanded we do to be saved?  

    His Word commands us to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24), to repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), to confess Jesus as God’s Son (Acts 8:37), and to be baptized into Him to receive the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).  

    He commands us to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10), as a part of His church which He adds us to be when we are baptized (Acts 2:41-47).  

    When we sin as Christians, He promises forgiveness to us if we will repent and pray to Him for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  

    Why not turn to Him today?  

    If I can assist you, please call upon me.  

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

    Trying To Come To Grips With The Mind-Blowing Implications Of The Love Of The Godhead   

    By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

    Over the last several weeks in our Wednesday Evening Bible Study at couchtown church of Christ, we have been studying a teaching of Scripture which had mostly been quite unfamiliar to me: the Descent of Christ Into Hades.

    To be quite honest, I was quite shocked about the things which I discovered in our studies of this passage (and I am sure my amazement will continue as we continue our studies of these passages of the Word of God).  

    In our studies, I have come across a passage of Scripture which has thoroughly amazed me. In fact, “amazed” is not even the correct word.  

    It is a passage of Scripture which has SHOCKED me, UPSET me.  

    It is a passage which has LEFT ME WITH UNSPEAKABLE JOY AND GRATITUDE.  

    In this article, I would like to share this passage with you and carefully study it.  

    It has left me completely amazed in the knowledge that what Jesus accomplished at Calvary may be even more Earth-shattering and mind-boggling than I could ever have imagined.  

    Let’s notice the passage and then we will dig into the Word. (Let me encourage you to please read this passage in each of the quoted Bible translations).    

    The Passage

    Colossians 1:16-20 (NKJV)-16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

    17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

    18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

    19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

    20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (ERV)-16 Through his power all things were made: things in heaven and on earth, seen and not seen— all spiritual rulers, lords, powers, and authorities. Everything was made through him and for him.

    17 The Son was there before anything was made. And all things continue because of him.

    18 He is the head of the body, which is the church. He is the beginning of everything else. And he is the first among all who will be raised from death. So in everything he is most important.

    19 God was pleased for all of himself to live in the Son.

    20 And through him, God was happy to bring all things back to himself again— things on earth and things in heaven. God made peace by using the blood sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (GW)-16 He created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether they are kings or lords, rulers or powers- everything has been created through him and for him.

    17 He existed before everything and holds everything together.

    18 He is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything.

    19 God was pleased to have all of himself live in Christ.

    20 God was also pleased to bring everything on earth and in heaven back to himself through Christ. He did this by making peace through Christ’s blood sacrificed on the cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (Amplified)-16 For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.

    17 And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). [Pro 8:22-31]

    18 He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent].

    19 For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him  N1 permanently.

    20 And God purposed that through ( N1 by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled  N2 back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross.

    Studying The Context 

    It has been said that the Books of Colossians and Ephesians are in many ways parallel together. The theme of the Book of Ephesians is said to be the church of Christ, while the theme of the Book of Colossians would seem to be the Christ of the church. Throughout the Book of Colossians, Paul elaborates in many ways upon Jesus. The kingdom (church) belongs to Jesus (Colossians 1:13), and it is through the redeeming price of His blood that we have been saved from our sin (Colossians 1:14). Indeed, Jesus is the “image” of God (i.e., the full representation of God’s attributes), just as He is Ruler and owner of the entire Creation (Colossians 1:15). This is not surprising since all things in Heaven and on Earth were made through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).  

    It is by Jesus that all things “consist” or are “held together” by His sustaining grace (Colossians 1:17). Indeed, the Son of God is the Head of the church, even as He is the “firstborn” from the dead (not the first One to rise from the dead, but the One Whose Resurrection is the most important in its’ far-reaching implications-Colossians 1:18). It is through Jesus that Christians have access to all wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and by His Word we have access to what we need to have spiritual life (Colossians 2:6-7).  

    While the world offers “vain” (empty) philosophy (Colossians 2:8), in Jesus we have the Son in Whom the Godhead fully dwells (Colossians 2:9) and in Whom we are complete (Colossians 2:10) so that through what He has accomplished in His life and death, we have received salvation and remission of sins through Him when we were baptized into Him (Colossians 2:11-3). It is Jesus Who brought the curse of the Old Law to an end (Colossians 2;14) and Who has defeated the principalities and powers by His death (Colossians 2:15). Thanks to what He has accomplished, we are not bound to the Old Testament Law (as the Judaiers teach), nor are we bound to Gnostic philosophies which combined Christianity with pagan Greek religions (Colossians 2:16-23).  

    Throughout the rest of the Book of Colossians, Paul continues to discuss the priority and the preeminence of Jesus Christ (3-4).  

    The Specifics Of Our Passage 

    In Colossians 1:19-20, Paul discusses how God has made it possible for “reconciliation” to take place. What does this mean? The word “reconcile” simply means “to make friends again,” and has reference to people who were in a state of hostility who are brought back to a relationship of peace.

    Yet W.E. Vine says that the Greek word used here (apokatallsso) literally means to “reconcile completely” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 50929 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers).  

    So, Paul says that there are things which have been at war, and which have now been “reconciled” to God again. What things were at war that are now able to be reconciled to God?  

    Colossians 1:19-20-19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

    20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on EARTH or things in HEAVEN, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  

    The Things On Earth

    The things which are on Earth which have been reconciled to God are identified in the next verses: 

    Colossians 1:21-21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled…

    The Lord has reconciled sinful humanity to Himself through the Sacrifice of Jesus. Specifically, those whoa re reconciled are the ones who respond to the message of the faith (Colossians 1:22-23) in repenting of sin as believers and being baptized into Him (Colossians 2:12-13).  

    Things In Heaven…

    Yet what are the things “in HEAVEN” that are reconciled to God?  

    Fortunately, the text tells us.  

    Colossians 1:16-For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

    The things that are “in Heaven” are identified by Paul as: thrones, dominions, principalities and powers.  

    What does this mean?  

    Throughout the Hebrew Old Testament, ancient non-canonical Jewish works, and the writings of the rabbis, we find that these phrases were used to refer especially to the fallen angels. For example, Clinton Arnold has documented: 

    “While all three texts refer to the angelic hierarchy surrounding God’s throne, the Jews believed the same hierarchy existed in the kingdom of evil. Furthermore, many of these terms were commonly used to refer to various ranks of human leaders in governmental positions of authority. The angelic kingdom was widely believed to be structured in an analogous way to earthly political kingdoms….While “principalities” (archai) and “authorities” (exousiai) seem to be uniquely Jewish expressions for the unseen realm, many of the other words he used were also used by Gentiles to refer to the world of spirits and invisible powers. Words like “powers” (dynameis), “dominions” (kyriotetes), “thrones” (thronoi), “angels” (angeloi), “world rulers” (kosmokratores), “demons” (daimonia), “elemental spirits” (stoicheia) and “rulers” (archontes) were known and used by pagans, as evidenced in their magical and astrological texts.”” (Clinton E. Arnold, The Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 90-91 (Kindle Edition); Downers’ Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

    The renowned series of books, The New International Greek New Testament Commentary, agrees with this assessment: 

    “Rather, we should suppose a hierarchy of heavenly powers -“thrones” superior to “lordships,” and so on (see particularly Lightfoot 151-52). The “thrones” are assuredly to be located in heaven (cf. Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:4; though cf. Wis. 7:8), not least because the word is used for heavenly beings in Testament of Levi 3:8 (in the seventh heaven, with “authorities”); 2 Enoch 20:1; and Apocalypse of Elijah 1:10-11. Likewise the “dominions” (xvptotirltiES) are almost certainly to be taken as referring to heavenly powers, in the light of Eph. 1:20-21 (also I Enoch 61:10 and 2 Enoch 20:1; F. Schroger, EDNT 2.332). But the same must be true of the “principalities” (apxai) and “authorities” (~4ovaiat) in the light of 2:10 and 15, not to mention the other New Testament parallels (I Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21 again; 3:10; 6:12; see also on 2:10). The fact that all four terms thus refer only to the invisible, heavenly realm23 and the repeated emphasis on Christ’s supremacy and triumph over the “principalities and powers” in 2:10 and 15 do therefore strengthen the likelihood that the two lines were inserted by the author(s) of the letter, sacrificing the balance of the hymn in order to add a further reference to Christ’s superiority over all beings in heaven as well as on earth.” (James D.G. Dunn, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistles To The Colossians And To Philemon, 1292-1301 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

    So…because of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary…the Lord has made it possible for reconciliation to take place-not only for humans-but even for the angels who have sinned against Him.  

    Just stop a moment and think carefully about that: let that sink in (Selah).  

    Putting It All Together

    The Bible teaches clearly that the fallen angels as well as accountable humanity have sinned against God (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:7-12; Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29; Isaiah 59:1-2), and are therefore justly condemned before Him. Our fate is deserved (Romans 6:23)! The penalty against an offender rises in accordance with the character of the of subject of the offense, as well as the nature of the offense. We deserve eternal separation from God because every of sin (Romans 6:23).  

    What Jesus accomplished at Calvary has made it possible for everything to be reconciled back to God. Not only “reconciled,” but COMPLETELY reconciled.  

    “Throughout the New Testament are more Scripture passages indicating that the ministry of Christ on earth also accomplished final reconciliation in heaven. Many times we read these passages and simply skim over them because we really don’t grasp their import. We have not understood that the ministry of Christ, God the Son, has significance far beyond the confines of earth and humanity. It is true that the ministry of Christ-His Incarnation, life, atoning death, resurrection, and glorification-took place in interaction with humanity. However, the efficacious effects of His ministry go far beyond humanity. This will become clear as we explore further. One of these passages is in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. In this passage, Paul describes the vast magnificence of Christ and Christ’s ministry…This is a wonderful, powerful passage extolling the surpassing magnificence of the Savior. Each verse deserves full exploration. However, for our purposes, let us focus on a few key phrases…Each of these translations agree on this essential point: In this passage Paul is saying that all “things in heaven” were reconciled to God “through the blood of His (Christ’s) cross.’ In these verses, Paul is declaring something astonishing-that Christ’s ministry of reconciliation reached into heaven…Therefore, it is easy to simply slide over the rest of the words in the passage without truly grasping the full impact of their meaning. We do this because we are not used to thinking that ‘things in heaven’ were also reconciled to God through Christ. Yet, this is exactly what Paul is saying in this passage! To what is Paul referring when he says ‘things in heaven’ are ‘reconciled’ to God through Christ? It might be easy to read this passage and assume that Paul is referring to those saints who have died and gone on to heaven before the Incarnation. This is not sufficient. There is no indication that Paul is referring to earthly saints now in heaven. In the context of these verses, Paul is intending to portray the vast scope of the work of Christ. To interpret ‘things in heaven’ to mean earthly things that have gone to heaven would be to still limit the work of Christ to merely earthly things-just earthly things that have been moved to a new place. The only satisfying interpretation of Paul’s phrase ‘things in heaven’ is to understand them to mean things native to heaven. The Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament echoes this understanding of Colossians 1:20: ‘Reconciliation with God…also embraces Supra terrestrial beings…’. The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary says, ‘An actually reconciliation or restoration of peace in heaven, as well as on earth, is expressed by Paul’ (emphasis in the original). There can be little doubt that this is Paul’s plain meaning. If we interpret ‘things in heaven’ the same way we interpret ‘things on earth,’ we must understand Paul to mean heaven’s sentient population-the angelic host and other heavenly creatures…The Greek word translated “reconcile” in this passages is apokatallasso. It is a stronger form of katallasso which is used by Paul to mean humanity’s reconciliation to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18, 20; Rom. 5:10). Apokatallasso not only means ‘reconciling,’ it has a stronger meaning to ‘reconcile completely.’…In the ages to come, Christ will be fully Lord of all on earth and in heaven because His Incarnation, life, sacrificial atoning death, and resurrection has directly affected all of God’s creatures on earth and in heaven.” (Michael A. Wiley, The Salvation Of Angels: Understanding The Heavenly Impact Of Jesus Christ, 109-113 (Kindle Edition); Xulon Press) 

    Conclusion 

    Now, there are still many things about all of this that I do not understand. For example, 

    How does this harmonize with what Paul wrote in Hebrews 2:14-16?  

    Or how does this all jive with what the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46?  

    Is it possible that the fallen angels would one day repent of their wickedness against God?  

    I do not know the (full) answers to these things, but I sure that one day I will find out! 

    In the meantime, the things covered in this study leave me standing absolutely amazed at the incredible and unfathomable grace of God.

    What Jesus did at Calvary goes far beyond anything I have ever imagined (or possibly beyond anything that I can imagine).  
    At Calvary, God showed His incredible love for us: for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus death at Calvary, His burial and Resurrection three days later, serve as the basis of the Good News or “Gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Today, the Good News is that God loves you and calls you to come to Him to be saved (Matthew 11:28-30). Believers who repent of sin, confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and are baptized into Him will receive the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-38; 8:35-38). When we obey His Gospel, God adds us to the church (Acts 2:47) which Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28), and in which are found all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3-7). He calls on us to live faithfully to Him, even to death, to receive the blessed Home of Heaven (Revelation 2:10). When we as Christians sin and fall short, He assures us of forgiveness when we repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2).  

    “Could We With Ink The Ocean Fill, 

    “And Were The Skies Of Parchment Made; 

    “Were Ev’ry Stalk On Earth A Quill, 

    “And Every Man A Scribe By Trade; 

    “To Write The Love Of God Above, 

    “Would Drain The Ocean Dry,” 

    Nor Could The Scroll Contain The Whole, 

    “Tho’ Stretched From Sky To Sky”. 
    “O Love Of God, How Rich And Pure!  

    “How Measureless And Strong!  

    “It Shall Forevermore Endure, 

    “The Saints And Angels Song!”  

    (Frederick M. Lehman, The Love Of God)

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.