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

Investing, Divesting & Usurping

Numbers 20 records a rather significant event in the early history of the nation of Israel.  Aaron and his sons were appointed by God to be priests of the people at the establishment of the nation.  “Now take Aaron your brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister to Me as priest, Aaron and Aaron’s sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. And you shall make holy garments for Aaron your brother, for glory and for beauty. So you shall speak to all who are gifted artisans, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, that they may make Aaron’s garments, to consecrate him, that he may minister to Me as priest” (Exodus 28:1-3). Continue reading » Investing, Divesting & Usurping

What Does it Mean to Submit?

The call to be submissive is made constantly in scripture. In 1 Peter 5:5, the apostle wrote, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.'”

The term submit is defined by Thayer: to subject one’s self, obey; to submit to one’s control; to yield to one’s admonition or advice; to obey, be subject.

This term teaches us two things: First, authority exists. Second, you are not that authority! The idea that men are free to do what they wish, without consequence, is flawed. Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18).

As Peter indicated earlier in our text, even those who have been delegated positions of oversight must realize their position as servants. “nor as being lords over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (3).

Ultimately, submission becomes natural when humility is present. Humility in turn comes from a sense of selflessness. It is not about you, it is about others. Paul used Jesus as the ultimate example of such selflessness, and admonished the Philippians, “Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

Be definition, any departure from the Biblical pattern, any presumption that God is accepts our innovations, denies this concept of submission. It is not our place to make the rules. It is our place to humbly obey (submit to) the rules that have been established by our Lord.

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Are You A Legalist?

The term “legalist” is used quite often in religion, and always in a negative sense.  If someone calls you a legalist, they are not giving you a compliment.

The term is not used in scripture, so we must go to secular sources to define it.  Dictionary.com does so:

  1. strict adherence, or the principle of strict  adherence, to law or prescription, especially to the letter rather than the spirit.
  2. Theology
    1. the doctrine that salvation is gained through good works.
    2. The judging of conduct in terms of adherence to precise laws.

Looking at the definition above, it would be inappropriate for Christians to ascribe to any of the definitions, save perhaps the last.  Let me explain. Continue reading » Are You A Legalist?

Constantly Affirm!

Consider the following words by Paul, “This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men” (Titus 3:8).

We will leave aside for a moment whether a failure to “maintain good works” will have an impact upon the salvation of the negligent Christian.  My question is this… If Paul wanted Titus to “affirm constantly that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works” why do men today speak evil of those who do just that?

Men trumpet the joy and release they feel when they stop worrying about obedience, and just trust in the “finished work of Jesus.” They disparage their “destructive” upbringing, among a group of legalists who constantly emphasized, “OBEY, OBEY, OBEY!”  They call such “patternists” destructive and evil.

It seems the American version of “Christianity” will not put up with men like Titus, especially as they diligently follow Paul’s instructions.

Nevertheless, Paul contends that such constant calls to faithfully obey God are “good and profitable to men.”  As such, the diligent evangelist will endeavor to remind men “to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called” (Ephesians 4:1).

Remember Paul’s words, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them(Ephesians 2:10).

 

The Patternists: We Walk by Faith

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The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:7, “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Contextually, these words were a reference to his surety about life after death. “So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord” (vs. 6). Men wonder, “What happens after we die?” Paul was a Christian. He knew. God told him. He was confident that after death he would be rewarded with eternal life (cf. 2 Timothy 4:8).

Since judgment was certain, and an eternal existence after death was his lot, how did Paul react? “Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him” (vs. 9).

It is unwise to live your life to please yourself. If you make it your aim to please Him, then you too can look forward to an existence in the presence of God!

God has revealed to us what pleases and displeases Him. It is foolish to take chances, presuming to know what pleases God. Instead, make it your aim to learn God’s will, and do what is “pleasing to Him.”

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“Abolished in His flesh the enmity”

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The apostle Paul acknowledged the hostility that existed between Jew and Gentile in the first century. He also acknowledged that such enmity was a result of the Law of Moses. This Law placed a barrier between the Jew (the chosen people of God), and the rest of humanity.

That Law was special, even necessary to prepare the world for the Messiah of God. In Galatians 3:24, Paul wrote, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” The Law of Moses was wonderful, but never intended by God to be the means of mankind’s redemption. The promise that God made to Abraham that He would make of his descendants a great nation, was accompanied by the promise that “…in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).

This promise was realized when that Law of Moses ceased its authority over men (cf. Romans 7:1-6). When Jesus paid the price for the sins of all mankind, Paul wrote that He, “abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Ephesians 2:15-16).

We do not mourn the loss of Moses’ law. Instead, we rejoice that it served its purpose, to “bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” Now, we state with joy, “But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:25). “For through Him we both [Jew and Gentile] have access by one Spirit to the Father” (Ephesians 2:18).

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The Patternists: Let No One Deceive Himself

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“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’” (1 Corinthians 3:18-20).

Any man who presumes to speak where God has not is foolish. To boldly claim that God is pleased with actions that are not authorized in scripture is to be self-deceived.

“For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God” (1 Corinthians 2:11-12).

The only way to know God’s will is to study what He has revealed to us. The only safe way is the way that is revealed in the Bible.

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“These Do”

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Paul exhorted the Philippians:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:8-9).

From this text we learn that Paul had supplied them, through teaching and example, with those things that are true, noble, just, pure and lovely. He instructed them to meditate on these things. To meditate is to reckon, to deliberate, to take into account. The idea is to consider what is righteous for the purpose of making application to our lives.

Of those things, Paul wrote, “these do.” Obedience to what God has ordained as right and good is necessary for the “God of peace” to be with us. We don’t approach God on our terms. We approach God on His terms! Jesus said, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:24-25).

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The Patternists: Rebuke With All Authority

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Paul told Titus, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). For this we rejoice. We acknowledge that our salvation is wholly dependent upon God’s extended favor. If Jesus had not come to earth and died on the cross, we would be without hope.

This we know, but what does this teach us? What truth does God want us to derive from that extended grace? It teaches us that “denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously and godly in this present age” (Titus 2:12).

When men are exhorted to be obedient to God, they often respond with cries of “legalism”, and “salvation by works.” They object to being “judged” and proclaim that they are “trusting in the finished work of Christ alone.”

But, Titus was told to speak these things. He was told to exhort and to rebuke. He was told not to let anyone despise him. Titus, in his rebuke, had the authority of His Lord. When we call men to an obedient life, submitting to the pattern of God, we speak with the same authority!

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The Practice of Discipline

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In Romans 16:17, Paul wrote, “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.”

Some would take this as a mere suggestion, that can be heeded or rejected at our whim. However, we note that Paul was writing this by inspiration. As such this is the urging of the Holy Spirit, not to be taken lightly.

Others had rejected Paul’s instructions regarding disciplining the unruly. The Corinthians had ignored Paul’s admonition to withdraw themselves from a sexually immoral brother (cf. 1 Corinthians 5). In response, Paul wrote, “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (vs. 2). Later in the text, he wrote, “Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?” (vs. 6).

When we reject the Holy Spirit’s admonition to discipline the disorderly, we are prideful. Such pride is sinful, and such action is willful. We are not at liberty to disregard God’s instructions on this or any other matter!

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Whly Is It?

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Why are people who ridicule the idea of a Bible pattern of authority to be followed so quick to advocate for the authoritative nature of a select few passages? They contend loudly and strongly for verses like:

  • (John 3:16), “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
  • (Matthew 7:12), “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you.”
  • (Philippians 4:13), “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  • (1 John 4:7-8), “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

If the scriptures that show how to worship, how to practice religion, how to make disciples, how to organize, what to teach and how to work together as a church can not be considered authoritative, then why are the scriptures above accepted as true and binding?

Integrity demands a more consistent hermeneutic than that, wouldn’t you say?

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Let Your Conduct be Worthy

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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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