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Responses to "How the Holy Spirit Dwells in the
Editors Note: This
was the most read article for November-December. There were several good
responses and questions. This is a very lengthy section on this timely
subject. To read other sections you will need to scroll down to the next red
In your article on the Holy Spirit, you said:
Whatever work the Holy Spirit does
for us, the Word also does. For example, the Holy Spirit gives us
instruction (Neh. 9:30), so does the word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17).
The Holy Spirit gives us a new spiritual birth (John 3:5), so does
the word of God (James 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23). Time and again we find the
Spirit and the Word doing the same work in Scripture (e.g., Jn. 14:26/ Jn
6:45; Jn. 16:8/ Tit. 1:9; Jn. 6:63/ Ps. 119:50; Jn. 16:13/ 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 1
Cor. 6:11/ 2 Thes. 2:13; etc.). Thus, the word of God must be the
instrument the Holy Spirit uses to do His work (Eph. 6:17b)
and indirectly dwell in Christians today.
That same logic can be applied in many other ways. For
- My wife makes me happy.
- Eating ice cream makes me
- Therefore, my wife must make
me happy only when I'm eating ice cream.
I've seen others in the Church of Christ make the same
argument that you have made. However, such an argument is only made by those
who have a misunderstanding of the rules of logic. The fact that two
different things, A and B, might produce similar or identical results does
not logically determine that A and B are identical or that they must be tied
to one another. In other words, the argument you make about how the Holy
Spirit indwells us or works within us cannot be validated by the rules of
Just so you know, I do not think the Holy Spirit
necessarily enables Christians today to speak in other languages that they
did not previously learn. However, when the Bible says that the Holy Spirit
indwells every Christian, I do not think we have to explain that away as
only happening through the written word.пїЅ Were that true, then no
Christian would have been indwelled by the Spirit in the early church prior
to their having a collection of the new covenant writings.
--- Bob, Mobile, Alabama
Thank you for your reply to my
article on the Holy Spirit that you sent me a few weeks ago. I am thankful
for the feedback and appreciate it very much when others want to help me in
my study of God’s word.
You emphasized in your letter the
importance of following the rules of logic when coming to an understanding
of truth from the Scriptures. Concerning my article: “How the Holy Spirit
Dwells in the Christian” you said that my argument: “Whatever work
the Holy Spirit does for us, the Word also does... Time and again we find
the Spirit and the Word doing the same work in Scripture... Thus, the word
of God must be the instrument the Holy Spirit uses to do His work
(Eph. 6:17b) and indirectly dwell in Christians today” cannot
be validated by the rules of logic. I beg to differ.
As important as logic may be in
the understanding of Scripture, we need to first of all come to an
understanding by what we mean when we speak of the importance of using
logic. Logic can mean very different things depending on the situation or
From one perspective, logic is an
extension of mathematics. Mathematical logic emphasizes the use of
true and false instead of numbers (e.g., calculus). Predicates are
used which are statements that are true and false depending on the values
given to each. The rules for mathematics are exact and the
rules for logic are properly designed; any valid mathematical deduction is
guaranteed to be correct.
If the deduction is not valid, then we must
have made a mistake in following the rules.
In contrast, philosophical
logic, which ideally follows the same rules as
mathematical, are typically based on real world experiences instead of
mathematical abstractions. Thus, there are errors that can occur in what
appears to be a valid philosophical deduction that cannot take place in a
mathematical deduction. The problem we run into is that while
mathematical terms are completely unambiguous, real world terms (words) are
not. If the meaning of a term changes even very slightly in the
course of a logical deduction, that deduction may turn out to be false. The
same is true when a word can have several meanings or when words are vague.
Let’s take a look at the example you gave:
My wife makes me happy.
Eating ice cream makes me
Therefore, my wife must make
me happy only when I’m eating ice cream.”
The sense in which each makes one
happy is not exactly the same. The statement: “My wife makes me happy” may
refer to the fact that by being married to her I do not experience the
trouble and heartache of discord or infidelity and this gives me joy and
contentment (certainly not the same kind ice cream can bring!). A loving
wife can help bring about a state of well-being, a more significant and
meaningful happiness than ice cream could ever bring. While ice cream may
give me pleasure, my wife brings more lasting and genuine joy.
Jackie is a great actor.
Great actors get paid millions of dollars to make a movie.
Jackie gets paid millions of dollars to make a movie.
– Such argumentation depends
on the definition of greatness, doesn’t it?
You were right in saying: “The
fact that two different things, A and B, might produce similar or identical
results does not logically determine that A and B are identical or that they
must be tied to one another.” The example you gave does indeed prove
that such reasoning does not follow the rules of logic. However, that is
not the line of reasoning I used. IF I had argued in that way, then you
would be right in saying as you did: “the argument you make about how the
Holy Spirit indwells us or works within us cannot be validated by the rules
of logic.” By inserting my argument into a faulty kind of reasoning
system (that I did not use) does not disprove my argument nor does it
make your case that the Holy Spirit can dwell in us separate and apart from
My argument did follow the
rules of logic:
I gather by what you said that
you believe that the Holy Spirit and the Word may accomplish many of the
same things for us, but may do so separately or independently from one
another. Such a conclusion would mean that the Holy Spirit and the Word are
both acting as two independent persons who do not make use of any medium,
means, or instrument to accomplish their work. Such a conclusion does
not explain how the Holy Spirit indwells us and leaves us to
speculate and come up with theories that have no basis in Scripture (e.g.,
emotional experiences, feelings, signs, etc.). Such a conclusion does not
explain why the word of God can, for example, bring about a new spiritual
birth (What makes the Word so powerful that it can do that?). If the Word is
not the medium the Holy Spirit uses, what is? If the Holy Spirit’s power is
not the means that makes the Word powerful to save, what does?
To suggest that the Word works
separately and independently from the Spirit makes the word of God out to be
a person, as if “he” did “his” work upon us without help of the Spirit. The
Word is not a person, it is the medium or instrument the Holy Spirit uses to
work in us. Are we to believe that the Word just happens to do the
same work as the Holy Spirit does, even twice on different occasions? How
are we to know when one is at work versus the other? By a rule of
logic, modus operandi (i.e., method of operation or functioning), we may
rightly conclude that the word of God is the medium the Holy Spirit uses to
indwell us and save us.
The inductive method of
interpretation of Scripture is certainly appropriate to use in hermeneutics
(method of interpretation) provided we respect all that God has said on
the subject. For example, as given in my article, “The Holy Spirit gives
us a new spiritual birth (John 3:5), so does the word of God (James 1:18; 1
Pet. 1:23).” When a result, such as a new spiritual birth, is
attributed to several causes in Scripture (e.g., the power of the
Holy Spirit, the word of truth, and our obedience to truth), we may
understand all causes to be present whenever the fact is mentioned,
in this case rebirth. The apostle Peter reminded his brethren that by the
mercy of God, they were born again to a living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). Though
that verse does not mention the Spirit, the Word, or our obedience, we
may understand that all of these causes played a role to bringing the result
to be “born again.” We may conclude that all of these causes worked
together to bring the result, not separately or independently or on
Let us remember that systems of
logic are not always adequate or accurate to learning or understanding the
truth from the Scripture (e.g., would the rules of logic apply to
miracles?). In addition, many rules of logic are rules made by men and are
thus imperfect. Aristotle, Socrates, and other philosophers of the past did
not write what they did by inspiration of God (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17) and the
wisdom of men pales in comparison to God’s wisdom (1 Cor. 1:18-25).
Furthermore, logic can explain only so much. When men attempt to use logic
to explain the mysteries of the universe, their theories, no matter how
clever they may seem, still are missing many premises to reach their
conclusion. We can only go by what is revealed, rather than what is not
revealed (Deut. 29:29). This is also true when we determine how the Holy
Spirit dwells in us today. Rather than allow our imagination to run wild and
base the authority of our doctrines on what God has not said, we
should base our conclusions on what God has said, standing only
on what God has revealed in His word concerning the Holy Spirit indwelling.
Thanks again for your letter.
Please know that I have taken to heart what you have said to me and will
continue to study the issue further. I want to be sure to rightly divide the
word of truth. Thank you for your reminder of the importance of critical and
correct thinking in the examination of Scripture.
In Christian Love,
I recently read some of the sermon outlines you
have posted and I have a few questions. In your sermon outline, "HOW THE
HOLY SPIRIT DWELLS IN THE CHRISTIANS", I saw some things that puzzled me.
One question I have is: "When does the Holy Spirit indwell a person and
where in the Bible will I find it?" Is it before baptism or one moment
after baptism, or later?
In 1Cor. 6:15-20, the Bible says that the Holy
Spirit is in us; without any qualifying language, how can I understand that
to mean it is only through the Bible?
Can sinners produce Holy Spirit fruit?
Galatians 5:24 seems to indicate that only those who have "crucified the
flesh" are those who produce it. The reason I bring up this point is
that it seems to me that if we receive the Holy Spirit through the word
only, then why isn't a sinner, who has received the word, not saved already?
Doesn't Romans 8:9ff. teach that only those who have the Spirit are
Christians? If a person has the word, why isn't he saved without
anything else? Acts 2:41 says that some "gladly received his word"
were baptized. If they had received the word, did they have the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit and wouldn't they be saved per Romans 8,
I have struggled with this issue for years; I've
known men who were scholars who disagree over this. If it is such a
simple subject, how can such learned men understand it so differently?
As long as a person doesn't teach that he can perform miracles, or tell me
the Lord speaks to him directly, I don't really get upset over his or her
beliefs on the Holy Spirit. I know that it has divided the church, I
think unnecessarily. If the Holy Spirit does anything beyond the words
of the Bible for the Christians, I don't know that there is anything
we could do about it. If Thomas Warren, brother Woods, Gus Nichols,
and a host of other men couldn't understand the subject the same way, then
it is a bit more complex than some want to allow. I know that I had
read about and heard from a few brethren that the Deaver's were teaching
false doctrine and believed in miracles. I did what I thought Jesus
would have approved of and called Mac Deaver personally. I didn't know
him but, he was kind enough to answer my questions and send his beliefs on
paper for me to study. I don't know that I understand everything that
he teaches, but nowhere did I see heresy. He doesn't teach miracles
and he doesn't teach that He knows when God or the Spirit "helps" or
"strengthens" him. This is the very reason why I don't receive
brotherhood papers anymore. Many are good and have excellent material,
but there are times when things are broadcast that haven't been researched
Understand, I've read a lot of your articles or
sermons and find them to be great; the Holy Spirit issue seems to
be complicated enough that honest people can have a totally different
understanding. Now I know everyone is not right! I see the
weaknesses of the different views of the subject. A more personal and
direct view on the Holy Spirit, some would say could "lead" to Calvinism.
A word only view, some would say, could lead to believing that God started
the world up like a clock and stepped back with a "hands-off" attitude.
Please write me back and give me any scriptures or points that might help me
as I continue to study this issue.
In His Name,
Thanks for your feedback on my sermon: “How the
Holy Spirit Dwells in the Christian.” One of the questions you asked was:
“In 1Cor. 6:15-20, the Bible says
that the Holy Spirit is in us; without any qualifying language, how can I
understand that to mean it is only through the Bible?”
1 Corinthians 6:15-20 was written to Christians
or saints (1 Cor. 1:2). Thus, when Paul says: “your body is a temple of
the Holy Spirit who is in you” he refers to the Spirit within
Christians. To take this statement by itself, we only know that the Holy
Spirit dwells within Christians, but it does not explain how He
dwells within Christians.
As you well pointed out, there is no qualifying
language in this portion of biblical text concerning the Spirit’s
indwelling. Yet, we should not form a conclusion on the matter until we
examine all that God has said in His Word about this subject. To form
a conclusion without examining all passages related to this subject may lead
us to a false conclusion about the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. For
example, Romans 10:9 says: “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as
Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall
be saved.” To take this passage alone without consideration to other
passages that speak of how to be saved and conclude that we are saved by
faith only through confession of faith would be a false conclusion. Other
passages that teach how to be saved should also be taken into account to
gain a complete understanding (e.g., 2 Cor. 7:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:21). In the
case of 1 Cor. 6:19, we must view the statement “your body is a temple of
the Holy Spirit who is in you” with a biblical perspective of all we
know about how the Holy Spirit works from other passages of Scripture.
You asked also the question: "When does the
Holy Spirit indwell a person and where in the Bible will I find it?"
Is it before baptism or one moment after baptism, or later?
We cannot find a direct statement or example in
the Bible that reveals to us exactly when the Holy Spirit indwells a person.
However, there are many principles of truth in Scripture concerning the Holy
Spirit’s indwelling that will lead to inescapable conclusions on when
the Holy Spirit begins to indwell a person.
(1) Principles of Fellowship:
God will not have fellowship with anyone who
remains in their sins (Isa. 59:2). Thus, fellowship with God does not begin
until we believe in Christ (John 8:24) and obey the gospel to be baptized
into Christ for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38; 22:16) to become
Christians (Gal. 3:26-27). This would also be true of our fellowship
with the Holy Spirit, since He is God (Acts 5:3-4). Sin grieves the Holy
Spirit (Eph. 4:30-31). People can resist the influence of the Holy Spirit by
disobedience to the Word (Acts 7:51-53). Therefore, sin must be put away and
forgiven by God for fellowship to take place with God (or the Holy Spirit).
Once we become Christians, we must do our best to practice the truth and
when we sin we must confess our sins with a penitent heart (1 John 1:5-10;
cf. Acts 8:22) if we want fellowship to continue.
(2) Fellowship Involves an Indwelling:
To have fellowship with God will also mean
that He dwells in us (See 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1) meaning God, in a figurative, but
spiritual sense, influences us for good and inhabits or resides in
us. Again, the Holy Spirit is God (Acts 5:3-4), therefore once
fellowship has begun, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit has also begun.
(3) Only Christians Have the Holy Spirit
Indwelling: As you rightly said,
“only those who have the Spirit are Christians” (Rom. 8:9-11). The same can
be said about the Father and the Son dwelling only in Christians (1 John
4:12-16; Eph. 3:17-19). Christians are people who are walking in the truth
(3 John 4) and therefore walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16).
You also asked: “Can sinners produce Holy
Spirit fruit? Galatians
5:24 seems to indicate that only those who have ‘crucified the flesh’ are
those who produce it.” No, sinners
cannot produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Though sinners (non-Christians)
may at times display qualities that are similar to the fruits of the Spirit
(Gal. 5:22-23), the deeds they do are not done as children of God who are in
fellowship with God who follow the Spirit’s lead (Gal. 5:18) or guidance as
revealed in God’s word. Only those who have “crucified the flesh”
(Gal. 5:24) (i.e., put to death the old self and body of sin – Rom. 6:6),
“who belong to Christ Jesus” (Gal. 5:24; cf. Rom. 6:1-11) produce Holy
Spirit fruit. Non-Christians are still in their sins and thus walk according
to the flesh, not the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-25) and therefore do not bear Holy
You also asked:
“Why isn’t a sinner, who has received the word,
not saved already?” and made
reference to Acts 2:41 “they that gladly received his word were
baptized.” By your additional questions, I gathered that you want
to know if the 3,000 who received the word were saved and had the Holy
Spirit dwelling in them before baptism.
If a person has truly received the Word,
that person has also accepted it as true and believes in the message. He has
taken it to heart and made it his own to live by (See the meaning of
“received” - lambanoo - by Thayer’s Greek Lexicon). Therefore, those who
receive the Word will obey the Word, just as the three thousand did
on the day of Pentecost when they were baptized into Christ (Acts 2:41; cf.
v. 38). Once they were baptized into Christ, we may conclude that they
entered into fellowship with God and at that point God or the Holy
Spirit dwelled in them.
The Christians at Galatia were reminded by the
apostle Paul when they first heard the faith and received the Spirit (Gal.
3:2; cf. Eph. 4:5; Jude 3). Are we to conclude that they received the Spirit
merely by hearing God’s word? No, because being hearers only is
not enough to benefit from the blessings of the gospel (cf. James 1:22-25)
and be saved. Sometimes people receive the Word initially, then fall away or
depart from the truth (Mat. 13:20-21). We may necessarily conclude that the
hearing of the faith by the brethren at Galatia led to their
obedience to the faith because they received the Spirit (Again, God
dwelling in us depends on our obedience to His word).
There was another question you asked: “If a
person has the word, why isn't he saved without anything else?” I am not
sure exactly what you meant by this question. The word or the gospel has the
power to save provided we believe in it and obey it (Rom. 1:5, 16; 1 Pet.
1:22). And just as the Father and the Son each fulfill a role in the
conversion or salvation of Man, so does the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:4-7). 2
Thessalonians 2:13 describes both the Holy Spirit and the Word working
together for our salvation: “But we should always give thanks to God for
you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the
beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in
the truth” (NASB).
In closing, I would like to reply to one final
question you had: “If it (i.e., the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) is
such a simple subject, how can such learned men understand it so
differently?” Certainly, there are times when brethren are mistaken and
need to be corrected (e.g., Acts 18:24-26). Other times, it is the unlearned
and unstable that distort the truth about the Holy Spirit and come up with
doctrines contrary to the truth (2 Pet. 3:14-16). The bottom line is: There
is but one faith (Eph. 4:5; cf. Jude 3) or one gospel (Phil. 1:27; Rom.
1:16). Since, ultimately, there is only one truth we must never stop
believing that it can be found. Jesus promised that if we continue in His
word, we can know the truth (John 8:31-32). He wants us to come to the
knowledge of truth (1 Tim. 2:4) and that includes the truth on the issue of
the Holy Spirit! God designed the Word to be understood (Eph. 3:3-5), thus
if we study and search it out (2 Tim. 2:15) we will come to understand the
truth on any issue that He has revealed in Scripture.
I hope my reply has been helpful to you in your
study and understanding. Thanks again for writing us and for your good
example of diligence in the study of God’s word.
In Christian Love,
I just sent you a reply to your questions on the
indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I got to thinking more about one of the
questions you asked: “If a person has the word, why isn't he saved
without anything else?”
When I taught that the Holy Spirit operates or does
His work through the Word, I didn't mean to suggest in any way that what is
accomplished (e.g., sanctification, salvation, etc.) is done only
by the Word.
There is a big difference between saying that all
spiritual blessings are accomplished only by the Word
(which is wrong) versus saying that everything the Holy Spirit does for us
is done through the Word. The Holy Spirit is very
much at work in Christians and the medium or instrument He uses to do His
work to influence us is the Word of God.
In Christian Love,
"The Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with
groanings which cannot be uttered. The word of God does NOT do that."
Larry passed on your comment on
my lesson on the Holy Spirit which said: "The Holy Spirit
makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. The
word of God does NOT do that." I appreciate your feedback very
Please know that I am still
learning and studying this issue and that I am open-minded to learn from you
in the studies that you have had on this issue. I was pleased to discover
your web site on the debates you have held. I had no idea you have been so
busy in conducting debates. That's great! I have saved the material on the
debate you had on the Holy Spirit and I want to study it as soon as
possible. Thanks for your efforts and zeal for the truth. I recognize now
more than ever (after getting feedback from some) that the work of the Holy
Spirit's indwelling us may possibly not be so simply explained. Thus, I am
open to study more about this issue.
Concerning your above comment,
perhaps in my lesson I should have been more specific to point out that
whatever the Holy Spirit does for us as far as an indwelling is
concerned, the Word does also and thus His work for us while
indwelling us in done through the Word.
Now to specifically reply to your
comment: I am persuaded that Romans 8:26-27 (the passage you make reference
to) refers to the Holy Spirit doing a good work on behalf of saints
(Christians) and does not have to do with Him doing a work
within us (i.e., indwelling) in
which the Spirit directly or personally indwells us to enable us to pray as
we ought separate and apart from the word of God.
As I emphasized in my lesson, an
indwelling of the Spirit means that He resides or inhabits us in a
figurative, but spiritual sense and influences us for good. The Spirit does
not do this separate from the Word. When it comes to prayer, He is at work
on our behalf, but He is not personally or directly indwelling
our hearts to enable us to pray “as we ought” through such groanings.
I find it interesting that
immediately following Romans 8:26 ("Likewise the Spirit also helps in our
weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the
Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot
be uttered") the next verse says: "Now He who searches the hearts
knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the
saints according to the will of God" (v. 27, NKJV). While
doing the work of intercession for us in prayer, the Holy Spirit does so
out of respect to the will of God (v. 27b). Jesus is our
only mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), thus the Spirit must do His work through the
work of Christ (Heb. 7:25).
The Holy Spirit dwells only
within Christians (v. 11) because Christians are people who faithfully obey
the word of God. Thus, when Christians pray, they do the best they can to
express themselves unto God according to God’s word. "He (God)
who searches the hearts (cf. Jer. 17:10) knows what the mind of the
Spirit (Holy Spirit) is" (v. 27) - God knows what is in our
hearts -- what our needs and concerns are and what we are trying to express
to Him, yet we struggle sometimes to come up with the right words (even
though we study God’s word regularly).
The argument Paul is making is
not that the groans the Holy Spirit makes are impossible to put into
words or that they are impossible to express by use of words. Bible
translations usually do not do justice to the Greek word being used here
when they say “groanings which cannot be uttered.” This phrase
comes from the Greek word alaleetos defined by Thayer to mean "not to
be uttered, not to be expressed in words." It is not that the groanings
cannot be uttered (as if impossible), but rather that the groanings are
given without words. If the Holy Spirit had so chosen to utter them in
words, He could have done so.
The point is, not just any
groanings does the Holy Spirit give when He intercedes on our behalf.
The groanings are not meaningless because God knows exactly what
these groanings mean as the Holy Spirit makes intercession (as noted above).
Why does the Holy Spirit groan? (i.e., sigh, cry, groan). Because He
recognizes our weakness that we are not able (at times) to pray as we should
and He empathizes with our problems, struggles, and our own “groans” or
cries for help. He therefore assists to help us communicate what we
ought to in prayer to God.
To “pray as we should” will
require that our prayers are in harmony with the word of God or God’s will.
Thus, even the groanings in which the Holy Spirit offers for us will
be expressed in such a way that harmonizes with the word of God. The
fact that the Holy Spirit does this work for us "according to the
will of God" means that God will listen attentively to His petition
on our behalf (cf. 1 John 5:14-15).
Thanks again for your feedback.
In Christian Love,
THANKS for your kind response. I agree with what
much of what you said below. I agree that the Holy Spirit could make
intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered without
personally dwelling in us, if God wanted to do it that way. The
question is, does He?
I have a written debate (actually a transcript of an
oral debate) at my site with Tom Bright on the "personal indwelling" that
would probably be the quickest thing for you to look at if you wanted to.
You might consider all the passages that tells us that the Holy Spirit is
given to us as a gift if we obey, not something that is equivalent to
4607 Old Railroad Bed Rd
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Response to "Studies in the Cross of Christ Lesson 4"
(Question on Instrumental Music)
Click here to see Lesson
I would like to use your study in a Bible
study with our friends. We used to go to a church of
Christ so I understand the language in the study, but what does instrumental
music have to do with the cross?
If you had truly been to the hill and spent
time with Christ while he hung there for you and had asked Him what he
thought of instrumental music and I am sure you would find that this subject
does not belong in your Church of
Christ study of the Cross.
I went up the hill and never was the type of
music being played on Sunday ever mentioned as being important. I
think your study would be far more effective if you pull your Church of
Christ views out of the Study of the Cross. I would still like use your
study but I would like to pull out the legalistic
Christ stuff that hinders the Gospel and is killing His church.
I want to
thank you for your request to use my home class material: “Studies in
the Cross of Christ.” I actually encourage teachers to made changes to the
outlines so that it can taught in the most effective way. If you wish, I can
send attachments of these studies in word format so that you may edit them
as you see fit.
me the question: “what does instrumental music have to do with the Cross of
Christ?” I believe that everything I do and everything I teach should
ultimately come from the cross of Christ. Truly, as you have said, I must
have “been to the hill and spent time with Christ while he hung there for
you” before I do anything else. I must daily take up our cross and follow
our Lord (Lk 9:23-24).
cross I learn to be crucified, I come to see my complete spiritual
destitution and, as a result, I allow Jesus to become my Lord. Because His
grace has cleansed me from my sin, I now can walk with the Lord and continue
to be forgiven as I walk in the light (Acts
2:38, 1 Jn 1:7-9).
This is the foundation from which I then allow Jesus to direct me in every
thought and action in my life. “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all
in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him”
(Col 3:17). When I cease to let the Lord be first in my teachings and
in my life, then I have moved away from the cross.
Jesus taught His disciples, He teaches us. He did not give all instruction
to His disciples on any one occasion. He did lay the foundation of
repentance and of His Lordship, but other things were taught on that
foundation over time. Consider His great commission. ”And Jesus
came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in
heaven and on earth. 19Go 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, 20teaching them to observe all things that I
have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of
the age” (Mt 28:19-20).
“All things” are issues of Jesus being my Lord and thus “all
things” are tied to the cross. When we try to have one (the relationship
from the Cross), without the other (His Lordship), we have moved away from
the Cross. We cannot have the benefits of the Cross without Jesus also being
Lord in my life. “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the
things which I say?” (Luke 6:46).
Look at how the apostle Paul made the
controversy over circumcision a Cross issue! Because of Jesus’ death
on the Cross, the Old Law was not to be bound upon Christians (Col 2:14-17). In the
churches of Galatia, as well as in other churches, Jewish Christians were
demanding that Gentile males be circumcised because of the teaching of the
Old Law. When we listen to our Lord, we find that He gave no such law
(Acts 15:24), and as a result I
cannot give into the pressure from those teachers that demanded it.
Are man-made laws and forms of worship of no consequence since they are not
specifically mentioned at the Cross or, as you have put it, when “I went up
the hill”? Are all religious controversies placed in the realm of not “being
important” because of the events of the Cross? I believe this kind of
reasoning is foreign to the demands of the Cross. Again, hear the Apostle
Paul: “And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still
suffer persecution? Then the offense of the Cross has ceased” (Gal
5:11) and “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these
would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer
persecution for the Cross of Christ” (Gal
all of these things teach us that we should open our Bibles and see what the
Lord has taught on any given subject. Those who live in the shadow of the
cross will do so. Do you realize that we have yet to do that on the question
of instrumental music? We have not examined even one verse on that subject.
Please be careful that you do not develop a line of reasoning that closes
the Bible on any given subject rather than opening it. Philosophical
arguments may sound good at first, and they may be intimidating to some, but
in the end they fail to actually address the word of God where the only
right answers can be found.
day before you sent me this e-mail I had preached on the subject
“Instrumental Music and the Cross of Christ.” I honestly had addressed these
very issues before you wrote this timely e-mail! Here are the links
to the material:
I will be
praying for your success in your studies with others about the Cross of
In Christian Love,
Question on Christmas
IS CHRISTMAS CHRIST BIRTHDAY?
Thanks for your question: IS
CHRISTMAS CHRIST BIRTHDAY? Thank you also for visiting our web
and for your interest in spiritual matters.
The Bible does not give the exact
date, month, or year of when Christ was born. Many people believe that He
was born at “zero” B.C. since B.C. means before Christ. Actually, Christ was
born somewhere between 7 and 4 B.C. (A monk named Dionysius Exiguus at the
request of the emperor made a new calendar to supersede the old Roman
calendar, yet made a mistake when he tried to harmonize the two calendars).
We may assume that when Christ
was born, the climate or weather was milder than the wintertime because of
the shepherds keeping their sheep in the field and spending the night
watching them (Luke 2:8). The Jews typically sent out their flocks in
mountainous and desert areas during the summer months and would bring them
in during the latter part of October or early November when it started to
get colder. Thus, we may conclude that Jesus was born during the spring or
summertime, much earlier in the year than the month of December.
There is no way to determine what
exact day and month of the year Jesus was born. If it was truly important to
know this, God in His word would have revealed it:
Deuteronomy 29:29 "The secret
things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed
belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of
If we were truly obligated to
celebrate Christ's birthday, God would not only have given us the date of
His birth in Scripture, He would have also commanded us to do so (which He
did not). It is interesting to note that none of the apostles ever
celebrated the birthday of Christ and neither did the Christians of the
first centuries observe His birthday as an annual, religious observance.
What the Bible does teach us to
observe is the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. We observe it first
of all, when we come to the Lord to become Christians and have our sins
forgiven by being baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38). Baptism represents the
death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (See Rom. 6:3-4; Col. 2:11-12). As
Christians, we observe His death, burial, and resurrection every first day
of the week by partaking of the Lord's Supper (Acts 20:7; cf. 1 Cor.
11:23-28). We can of course remember His sacrifice everyday of our lives and
rejoice in the accomplishments of our Savior who died for our sins and
gained victory over death so that we may have life eternal.
Thanks for your question!
Please don’t hesitate to write us again with any more questions you may
In Christian Love,
Mark E. Larson
Charlottesville, VA 22901
Response to Local Newspaper Ad "A World Without Jesus"
Do you really believe that those who do not believe in
Jesus have no morals? Do you think all the Jews, Moslems, and Hindus
of the world have no morals If you think those who do not accept
Jesus live with no meaning to life then you are truly part of the American
Taliban. This kind of intolerance for others is why our brave children
are fighting and dying in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Shame on you for disrespecting the very values of
religious tolerance that were sacred to our founding fathers including a
fellow Virginian, Thomas Jefferson. If you were really true to the teachings
of Jesus you would not encourage such blatant intolerance on the part of
your followers. People who follow such ignorant teachings are the same kind
of people who fly planes into buildings to kill "non-believers" .
Shame on you - you do not represent the America that I believe in -
Christian or otherwise. It's unfortunate that you give those of us who
believe in freedom another reason to be ashamed of those who claim to speak
for us in Virginia - much like the shameful, un-American statements of
Virgil Goode. Maybe we should take your beliefs one step further and
have all non-believers rounded up and put into camps.
What do you think ?
Mike & Toby
I want to
thank you for taking time to respond to our short newspaper ad “A World
Without Jesus” that ran in the Daily Progress. I never intended to suggest
in the article that “those who do not believe in Jesus have no morals.” I
would join with you in opposing that view! Let me explain what I was
attempting to communicate in the ad.
Christian, I believe that the historical Jesus was God “in the flesh”
(Jn 1:1-3, 14). Hence, if there was no Jesus, then there would be no
God. I wanted then to examine a world where there was no God, no
Bible (or any other revelation of His will) and thus no moral restraint
given from God. In this very hypothetical premise, I then explained the
world religions would accept the conclusions that I made, i.e. that if there
was no God then the world would descend into chaos and immorality. In the
Bible there is a description of the loss of morality when men turn from God
trying to point others to examine the evidence for the existence of God and
then to encourage them to find His word. I believe there is a desire in
every man to know our creator. I do, however, acknowledge that men have
perverted that innate desire of man to seek God into a source of much evil.
When we have the Taliban, suicide bombers, and mind-controlling cults, then
we can see how any religion can be perverted. Some of our church members
previously lived in Saudi Arabia and experienced this mindless use of
religion to enslave men and promote a political structure. I would
also join with you in opposing such.
Christian I do not believe my efforts are best spent in the pursuit of
politics and specific political candidates. I will pray for whoever enters
into public office (1 Pt
I am a
relative newcomer to this area. From my observations many here take their
politics more seriously than religion. In Alabama, the state where I moved
from, many take college football more seriously than religion! It is my goal
to leave those things for others to dispute.
wanted to reread the ad it is posted on my blog here:
you wish to examine what we teach then we have a website with all of our
sermons and classes posted here:
thank you for your response, and hope that you will have a different
perspective concerning what I was trying to communicate. These short ads are
a real challenge to clearly communicate a message.
let me know if you have any other questions!
Question on Hebrews 10:25
First, I would like to say I enjoy your website! My question to you is:
"What does the Bible verse Hebrews 10:25 mean to you?" The work "forsake"
has cause a big discussion at our Bowling Green Church of Christ. I am very
interested in hearing what your congregation feels about this..... I
personally think that "forsake" means "to leave completely" others believe
it means to miss a Worship service or Bible Study.
Thank you for your time!
I am very glad to hear that you enjoy our website for
the North Charlottesville church of Christ. Letting us know is a great
encouragement to us.
You asked: “What does the Bible verse Hebrews 10:25
mean to you” in connection to the issue of attending the worship services
with special emphasis on learning the true meaning of the word forsake in
dealing with this subject. Let’s first look at the passage:
Heb 10:24-25 (KJV) 24 And let us consider one another
to provoke unto love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of
ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and
so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
“Not forsaking” is a command that Christians are
expected by God to keep. Therefore, we should want to know for sure (as you
do), it means to forsake. Forsaking of Heb. 10:25 comes from the same
Greek word used in Matthew 27:46: “About the ninth hour Jesus cried
out with a loud voice, saying, "ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?" that is, "MY
GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?"
Forsaken comes from the Greek word egkataleipo:
1. to abandon, desert, i.e. to leave in straits, leave helpless,
(colloquial, leave in the lurch) ... 2. to leave behind among, to leave
surviving” - Thayer's Greek Lexicon.
Five out of the nine times the Greek word egkataleipo
is found in the New Testament are quotations from the Old Testament. Thus,
the Greek Old Testament translation (the Septuagint) is helpful to our
understanding. Most often, it translates the Hebrew word azab forsake
which has the meaning “to loosen ties, to give out,” or “be left defenseless
in the hands of an enemy” (that last definition, by the way, is the
way Jesus was “forsaken” by God and not abandoned.). There is nothing
inherent in the word forsake to suggest to what degree or extent
neglect or desertion has taken place. The context is only way to
If forsaking the assembling of ourselves together
means total abandonment of the practice (or to leave it completely), how
could the Hebrew writer say “as it the habit (or manner) of some”? A habit
or manner (from ethos) is something that has become a custom or regular
practice in our life. The word forsaking, as used in Heb. 10:25, cannot be
referring to total abandonment of the practice, for how is it possible to be
in the habit of something you no longer do? Some of the brethren had become
accustomed to neglecting the practice of assembling themselves with
their brethren (To what extent they neglected the practice we do not know).
That is why the Hebrew writer wrote of the importance of “exhorting one
another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Neglecting
the assembling of ourselves together can cause us to become unfaithful and
as a result unprepared for the Lord’s coming. Therefore, we need to
encourage those who miss worship services and Bible classes and be sure to
emphasize the spiritual value and eternal importance of assembling ourselves
When referring to Hebrews 10:25, some brethren often
say “do not forsake the assembly” yet the passage says “do not
forsake the assembling of ourselves together.” What is the
difference? Assembly is a noun and if we say “do not forsake the assembly”
it gives the impression we are speaking of one particular assembly. Perhaps
this is why too many brethren emphasize the morning assembly above other
assemblies of the church and attend the morning service while excusing
themselves from other times of assembly. The text says “assembling” - a
verb, denoting a continual practice or manner. Thus, it is not just
one assembly of the church that we are not to forsake, but rather it is
the practice of assembling we are not to forsake.
How do we know when we are guilty of forsaking (or
neglecting) the assembling of ourselves with other Christians? Certainly, it
is not determined quantitatively only or by the mere numbers in an
attendance record. While those numbers can be quite revealing, they do not
explain everything. Sometimes brethren miss for legitimate reasons such as
sickness. Other times, brethren may have to miss occasionally because of
their work, even though they do everything they can to get out of working on
the Lord’s Day. One church with whom I worked had many members who were
shift workers at a factory, the main source of income for their families.
Many times, they had to choose between attending in the morning or the
evening service, depending on the shift given to them. Others have careers
that may call one to duty in emergency situations (e.g., law enforcement,
physicians, etc.) and may have to miss a service occasionally.
If the reasons we do not assemble ourselves
together are illegitimate, then certainly we are guilty of the sin of
neglecting (or forsaking) the practice. What are some reasons why
brethren forsook their assembling with other Christians in the first
century? The most likely reason was due to the persecution they experienced.
Note the context of the passage (Heb. 10:24-25; cf. 32-34). Yet, rarely is
this the reason why brethren forsake today. This is a sad irony when
sticking to the context of Hebrews 10:25! Instead of persecution, brethren
forsake for many shameful reasons such as a lack of planning ahead (Prov.
27:1), the failure to prioritize and put God first (Mat. 6:33; 1 John
2:15-17), a lack of love for the Lord (Mat. 22:37) (Giving only the absolute
minimum in attendance is not loving God with all your heart.), an immaturity
in Christ (1 Cor. 3:1-3), a richness toward self, not God (Luke 12:15-21)
(e.g., career elevated above spiritual things, covetousness), and
selfishness (Phil. 2:4; 1 Thes. 5:14). Brethren are often self-centered when
they are absent; failing to realize that assembling is not primarily a
self-interest activity. First God, then our brethren, then self should be
the order. If only brethren understood how their absence affects others!
Just as the first century Christians “continued
steadfastly” in the acts of worship (Acts 2:42), we are to be devoted to
assembling ourselves together. Fulfilling the command of Heb. 10:25 is not
accomplished by numbers alone, but also by the attitude and commitment that
we bring. This leads to the great importance of saints assembling themselves
together: We assemble in order to please God because it is a command (Heb.
10:25). If we truly love the Lord, we will keep His commandments (John
14:15). Secondly, it is also an opportunity to worship God, a practice and
preparation for Heaven itself! (Heb. 13:15; Rev. 4:1-11). Furthermore, it is
a chance to encourage and build up one another, helping each other be
faithful until the end (Heb. 10:24-25; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26). It is a wonder
then why some Christians forsake the assembling of themselves with other
brethren as they do.
I hope my comments will be helpful to your study on
this issue. Please let me know your thoughts. Also, please don’t hesitate to
write us again with any questions or comments that you have. Thanks for the
In Christian Love,