Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

Index by Subject

Let Your Conduct be Worthy

worthy walk

In his letter to the Philippians, the apostle Paul gave them this charge, “Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27). He also noted of what that worthy walk consists.

  1. “That you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” This was important to Paul, and he wrote about it often. In 1 Corinthians, he made the same call to the brethren there, “that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1:10).

    This unity of mind has the common purpose of serving the Lord. We work together for the faith. This is why unity can only be based upon God’s revealed will. This is why the concept of unity in diversity (agree to disagree) is so misguided. Our one mind must be centered on the gospel of our Lord.

  2. That you “not in any way [be] terrified by your adversaries” (28). Such fear of those who oppose right can discourage and even defeat our will to walk in a worthy way. Jesus said, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell” (Matthew 10:28).

Put simply, a worthy walk is found in working together with other Christians in obedience to God, no matter the obstacles and enemies that might seek to prevent it. To do this is to secure salvation!

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Negative Examples

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We contend that the examples we find in scripture serve to establish authority. When we see Christians in the New Testament engaged in an activity with God’s approval, we know the activity to be authorized by God. We can do it as well.

An example, Acts 20:7. The disciples ate the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Sunday). So, we are authorized to do the same.

Similarly, we are to learn from negative examples. Paul affirmed this in 1 Corinthians 10. He noted the sinful actions of the Israelites during their time in the Wilderness, saying, “But with most of them God was not well pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (5). He then wrote, “Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted (6).

Four things are mentioned specifically: idolatry, fornication, tempting Christ and complaining.

Taking fornication as an example, we note that any sexual activity outside of marriage (heterosexual, as defined by God, cf. Genesis 2:22-24) is condemned (cf. Hebrews 13:4). As Paul wrote, “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (12).

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A Pattern of Mercy

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Paul, in his letter to Timothy, revealed himself to be an egregious sinner. He had been guilty of persecuting Christians. He described himself as “formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and an insolent man” (1 Timothy 1:13). God, though, extended His grace to all men, including Paul. Paul wrote:

“However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life” (1 Timothy 1:16).

Note the words of Paul. By his example, Jesus Christ has established a “pattern.” We look to the example of Paul, and from it we are assured that no matter how horrible our sins may be, we can be saved. If Paul could receive forgiveness, so can we.

Many deny that we can look to scripture as a pattern. Most commonly, it is because they desire the freedom to live as they like, and do not want to be constrained by God’s revealed will. But, it works both ways. We better hope that Paul is right, and that his example establishes a pattern! That way, we can be confident that we too can obtain mercy, no matter how horrible our sins!

“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1:15).

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“Behold, I give you the authority”

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In Luke 10, we read of Jesus’ sending 70 disciples out to preach, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (9). When the disciples returned, they were rejoicing, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name” (17).

Consider the Lord’s answer. “And He said to them, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.'”

There is much of interest in His words. For our short article, consider the words, “Behold, I give you the authority…” (19)

All authority rightly belongs to Jesus, and Jesus alone (cf. Matthew 28:18). The reason, the only reason the disciples were able to do what they did was that Jesus delegated the authority to them.

The same is true for us today. The reason, the only reason we are able to accomplish anything that pleases God is that Christ grants us the authority to do it. If what we do is not authorized by Him, it is without value. “And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:9).

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The Patternists: Children, Obey!

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In Ephesians 6:1-3, Paul gives instructions to children:

“Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother,’ which is the first commandment with promise: ‘that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.’”

Consider the following truths about this text:

  • Children are commanded to obey their parents
  • Such obedience is “right” (as it should be)
  • Such obedience shows “honor” (a respect for their authority)
  • The commandment is accompanied with a promise of God’s blessings

Now, consider how this call for obedience parallels our responsibility to God. (After all, we are His children, cf. Romans 8:16-17):

  • As God’s children, we too are commanded to obey Him. (His will is revealed in the holy scriptures). There are dire consequences for those who do not obey! (cf. 1 Peter 4:17).
  • Such obedience to God is as it should be, considering that He is God! (cf. Psalm 50:6).
  • Such obedience shows honor to God. Conversely, disobedience shows great disrespect, bringing God’s judgment! (cf. Leviticus 10:1-3).
  • The command to obey God is accompanied with the promise of everlasting life! (cf. Hebrews 5:9).

Any argument or doctrine that denies the necessity of obedience to obtain standing with God is illogical and unscriptural. Children, obey your God!

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They Would Deliver Only Themselves

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In Ezekiel 14, the prophet received a word from God concerning the idolatry and other abominations of the land. Men were guilty of setting up “idols in their hearts”, and practicing abominations and lawlessness. In short, their actions mirror that of our own nation and land.

One interesting part of this text is Jehovah’s statement in verses 13-14, “’Son of man, when a land sins against Me by persistent unfaithfulness, I will stretch out My hand against it; I will cut off its supply of bread, send famine on it, and cut off man and beast from it. Even if these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they would deliver only themselves by their righteousness,’ says the Lord God.”

God is longsuffering in His dealings with men. He does not immediately bring to an end an ungodly nation. Time is given for repentance, but again and again nations have squandered such considerations by the Lord, and persisted in ungodliness. Finally, there is a time when God determines to punish nations for their ungodliness. Even the presence of the righteous in such times will not guarantee deliverance.

The righteous, however, can be delivered from judgment. That does not mean the righteous will not suffer. It does mean that they will be recognized and accepted by God, (like Noah, Daniel & Job), despite being surrounded by evil. Take the example of the church in Sardis, condemned by God as “dead.” “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). The ungodly will not be saved from God’s judgment because there are a few righteous who remain. However, if we are faithful to God, we can avoid the condemnation of the world.

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The Patternists: The Limit of the Elder’s Authority

Elder

God, in His Wisdom, designed the local church to be led by godly and qualified men (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9).

These qualified men, appointed and serving, are limited in their authority in several ways. First, they have no right to legislate to the flock. It is Christ Himself who has established His will for His people (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). Elders are to feed the flock (1 Timothy 3:2), convict the gainsayer (Titus 1:9-11), and watch out for the souls of their charges (Hebrews 13:17). But, they can not make laws.

Second, these men are limited in their domain. They are to “Shepherd the flock of God which is among you” (1 Peter 5:2; see also Acts 20:28). Their oversight is limited to the local congregation of which they are a part. This means they have no sway on any other congregation, which precludes any centralized oversight in the body of Christ. It also precludes their exercising authority over any man-made institution like a home for orphans, a hospital or a college.

Finally, they are limited in the nature of their superintendence. They are to serve, “not by constraint but willingly, not for dishonest gain but eagerly; nor as being lords over those entrusted to [them], but being examples to the flock.” Dictatorial tendencies among elders are destructive, and sinful in the sight of God. Faithful elders do not dictate. They instruct, beseech, show, exhort and express their love and concern for those under their oversight.

May God bless the men who serve well in this office. May God spare His people from men who would abuse the position.

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The Patternists: Christ Does ALL the Work?

foot washing

A woman, in commenting on an article I had written, stated her belief that we are saved by grace (which is a given), then stated regarding her eternal salvation that yes, we need to follow Jesus, but that He does all the work. And, regarding her life, maybe Jesus hasn’t gone through all the steps as of yet.

This idea is a bit different from what is commonly stated by those who teach salvation by faith alone. They claim we do nothing, rather that we trust in the finished work of Christ.

To be clear, Jesus secured our hope for redemption when he shed His blood for our sins (cf. Matthew 26:28). After His resurrection, He ascended to the right hand of the Father. His work in redeeming men is finished. The gift of grace has been extended. But, if nothing else is clear in scripture, this is – God expects us to do our part!

Consider Hebrews 5:9, “And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” If we want to be with Christ in eternity, there is work we too must do!

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The Patternists: That Little Silk Ribbon

silk ribbon

I came across an item of interest recently, stating that very few hymnals used by the religious denominations have a silk marker attached to the book.

Of course, every song book I have come across in the various places where I have worshiped has one. And yet, in the religious world at large it is rare.

Why do we have the silk ribbon? As far as I can tell, solely to mark our books for the invitation song. Consider the progression. Before the ribbon came the book, before the book came the concept of an invitation song, before the invitation song came the offering of an invitation.

Continue reading » The Patternists: That Little Silk Ribbon

The Patternists: “They hear your words”

Hear

Ezekiel 33 records an attitude toward the word of God that existed in that time, and in ours as well. The text verses 30-33) relate God’s words to the prophet regarding the reception of his message by the people.

“…they speak to one another, everyone saying to his brother, ‘Please come and hear what the word is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them” (30-32).

Back in 1871, Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown published a commentary on Ezekiel, where they attributed the following quote regarding this text to Jerome (4th century), “They praise thy eloquence, but care not for the subject of it as a real and personal thing; just as many do in the modern church.”

In Ezekiel’s day; in Jerome’s day; in the 19th century; in the 21st century; indeed in every age, among every people, there is the tendency to give lip service to God’s word.

“Oh, how beautiful it is, how soothing, how wonderful. It’s beautiful music to our ears.”

“…For they hear your words, but do not do them.”

How about you. Do you hear God’s words? Do you recognize how important it is to submit to Him? Do you obey God’s will for you?

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The Patternists: The Pedagogue

pedagogue

In ancient times, wealthy Romans and Greeks commissioned a slave to care for the well being and morals of their sons. This trusted slave was called a pedagogue (from the Greek pais – a boy; and ago – to lead).

In Galatians 3:23-24, Paul used the term to refer to the Old Covenant that God had with Israel. The NKJV translates the term “tutor.”

“But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

The purpose of the pedagogue (the law) was to guard, protect, and lead to the Christ. It served its purpose well. Faith has come, and Christ is our Teacher, Savior and Lord.

Much can be gleaned about God and His interactions with men even today by perusing that previous covenant. But, it is the previous covenant. Verse 25 states, “But after faith has come, we are no longer under the tutor.”

Some Jewish Christians were seeking justification by an appeal to that previous covenant. With these words, Paul explained clearly that such efforts were vain and misguided. In chapter 5, Paul wrote, “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (vs. 4).

Some today seek similar justification from that covenant. Whether it be the observance of the Sabbath, tithing, or the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, they should consider carefully the words of Paul before seeking such validation.

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“In Understanding be Mature”

old hands bible

It is interesting how foundational the concept of authority is to the Bible. Almost every page includes the concept, with calls to obey God, warnings about disobedience, and examples of those who experience God’s pleasure or wrath. Often the references are explicit, but there are innumerable implications as well.

In 1 Corinthians 14, the apostle Paul instructs his readers in the matter of spiritual gifts. He there explains that the gift of prophecy is of greater value than speaking in tongues. This is because prophecy can be understood, where tongue speaking can’t (without an interpreter). Paul writes, “Yet in the church I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that I may teach others also, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (vs. 19).

He then writes, “Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature” (vs. 20). One might ask, why is it so important to be mature in understanding? The answer is found in Paul’s contention in verse 37, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”

One wag said, “It is the 10 commandments, not the 10 suggestions. We need awareness of what scripture teaches, because scripture contains God’s commandments to men. These instructions, by nature, are not optional. Remember, Jesus “became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9).

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The Patternists: “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”

Elijah Ahab

1 Kings 18 records a conversation between Ahab, the evil king of Israel, and the prophet Elijah. Elijah was a thorn in Ahab’s side. Elijah told Ahab that a drought would afflict the land beacuse of his sin, and it came to pass. The drought was God’s way of chastising Ahab and the nation for their sins. But, Ahab blamed Elijah for the drought, and sought his life.

Elijah ran for his life, and evaded the king for the three years of the drought. God then instructed Elijah to go to Ahab. When they met, Ahab said, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah’s response is instructive, “And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals'” (vs. 18).

Too often religious people criticize those who stand for truth as being divisive. To contend for a standard, and fidelity to God’s commands brings charges of “judging”, “intolerance” and “sectarianism.” In fact, standing with truth is not the problem. The problem is, as Elijah so eloquently said, with forsaking “the commandments of the Lord.”

Fortunately, Elijah stood tall against the king. His victory over the prophets of Baal led the people of Israel to proclaim, “The Lord, He is God” The Lord, He is God!” (vs. 39).

In the same way, we must stand for truth in the face of those who would lead God’s people astray. Hear and heed the words of Jude, “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).

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The Patternists: You Who Desire to be Under the Law

Patternist

Some who claim to be disciples of Jesus will seek to justify their doctrinal positions by an appeal to the Old Testament. For example, why do people advocate tithing, or Sabbath keeping, or the use of instruments to accompany the hymns they sing in congregational worship? The only appeal that can be made is to the Old Law. “David did it!”

In Galatians 4:21, Paul wrote, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?” His point was that the law spoke of its own end, and that the children of promise would be free through faith in Christ Jesus. As Paul concluded, “So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free” (Galatians 4:31). By extension, one can’t argue from the Law to justify his practice as a Christian.

Consider these truths as examples:

  • Christians don’t tithe, they give as prospered (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2)
  • Christians don’t keep the Sabbath, they worship on the first day of the week (Sunday) (cf. Acts 20:7)
  • Christians don’t worship with instruments, they sing songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16)

The warning is severe: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have follen from grace” (Galatians 5:4).

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The Patternists: A Bondservant of Jesus Christ

submission

At the end of his epistle to the Colossians, Paul makes reference to several of his fellow workers. One of these, Epaphras, is described as as “a bondservant of Jesus Christ” who is “always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Colossians 4:12).

In this verse there are several things that point to the need to respect the authority of Scripture:

First, Epaphras is described as a bondservant. The greek word here translated (doulos) is defined by Thayer, “a slave; metaphorically, one who gives himself up to another’s will.” Those who refuse to limit themselves to what is authorized in scripture can’t rightly be called bondservants.

Second, Epaphras’ prayer was for their perfection and completeness (both words that indicate an “all in” mentality) toward all the will of God.” Again, those today who seek to minimize any aspect of God’s will miss the point of these words.

Don’t believe anyone who tells you that God is pleased when you do things your own way. God wants you to be His bondservant, fully invested in doing His will.

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