Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Are interracial marriages wrong?

The prohibition of marriage in the Old Testament was rooted in God’s desire to keep the Israelites free from the influence of idolatrous and heathen nations: “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4).

Several have brought applied to our day and say that we cannot marry between races. This belief has no biblical merit because the purpose is not the same. People today reject interracial marriages because of the sinful attitude of racism, not because they are trying to do God’s will (cp. James 2:1-9). In Christ, there are no differences among any people or races. Galatians 3:28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

The only prohibition which we have today concerning marriage of this type is Paul’s commandment in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” Paul is not forbidding the marriage of Christians with non-Christians, but he is commanding Christians not be bound with someone who will pull you away from serving God.

Kyle Campbell

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Should we judge others?

If someone studies the context of Matthew 7:1 (“Judge not, that ye be not judged”), it becomes apparent that Jesus is talking about hypocritical judgment. He says not to judge someone with a standard that you are not willing to be judged against. That is why He commanded in vs. 5, “Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

In Romans 14:13, which says, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way,” Paul is discussing judging each other in reference to conscientious objections — objections that did not involve sin. He was telling those who ate meat not to judge those who did not eat meat.

Neither of these passages prohibit a Christian from making a judgment on someone else in regard to sin. In John 7:24, Jesus commands us to “judge righteous judgment.” This tells us that it is appropriate to judge, and that judgment is to be righteous or according to the Bible. Furthermore, it was necessary for the Corinthians to judge the situation of immorality among them so they could punish the offender (1 Corinthians 5:1-13). In the next chapter, they were exhorted to judge among themselves instead of turning matters over to a civil magistrate (1 Corinthians 6:1-8).

Humans naturally want everyone else to leave them alone. No one wants to be judged or told that they are guilty of sin. So in order to appease ourselves, we take these passages out of context and try to make them apply to our sinful situations. The Bible commends judging in the right way; it condemns hypocritical judging.

Kyle Campbell

Monday, October 21, 2013

What God hasn't said

Some folks seem to take their cues in religion from what God hasn’t said. Apparently, almost anything can be a part of a fellowship and church work or worship if “God didn’t say not to do it.” Let’s think about that logic and reason for a moment.

When giving Noah instructions for building an ark through which he and his family could be saved from the coming destruction of those who were unwilling to obey God, the Lord didn’t forbid him from using pine, oak, cedar, maple, sycamore, cypress, etc. Instead, God just told Noah what type of wood he could use, and that automatically eliminated the rest, Genesis 6:14-16. God was silent on these other kinds of wood because He specified the type of wood He wanted Noah to use.

Likewise, when God specified through Moses that priests had to come from the tribe of Levi, Deuteronomy 33:8-11, He didn’t have to forbid the tribes of Rueben, Simeon, Issachar, Dan, Naphtali, Judah, etc. All the other tribes were necessarily excluded when God specified Levi as the priestly tribe (cp. Hebrews 7:14). God was silent on these other tribes because He had specified the tribe He wanted to serve as priests.

As priests, Nadab and Abihu were to keep fire burning on the altar of the Lord continuously (Leviticus 6:12-13) and fire used for other sacrifices and offerings was to be taken from this altar (Leviticus 16:12). So, they were killed by God when they “offered strange fire before the Lord, which He had not commanded them” (Leviticus 10:1-2). Did God need to say, “Don’t use fire from here, or here, or there”? Not at all -- when He told the priests from where the fire needed to come, every other place and source was automatically eliminated. God was silent on “other fire” because He had specified the fire He wanted to be used.

Now, let’s make a specific application of these things (though the same principles should guide all other applications also). Most religions of today use instruments of music to praise God in worship. If asked why they choose to worship in this way, the answer is often, “God didn’t say not to use it.” Can’t we see that God didn’t tell Noah “not to use cedar,” or tell Israel “not to make priests from the tribe of Rueben,” or tell Nadab and Abihu “not to use fire from some other source” either? But God does tell us what “instruments” to use to praise Him in Ephesians 5:19: “Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord.” The voice and the heart were the instruments specified -- not the violin and harp.

The objection usually raised to this is, “But they used instrumental music to praise God in the Old Testament!” They sure did, but please answer this question: “Why did they use instrumental music in the Old Testament to praise God?” Second Chronicles 29:25 provides the answer, “He stationed the Levites in the house of Lord with cymbals, with harps, and lyres, according to the command of David and of Gad the king’s seer, and of Nathan the prophet; for the command was from the Lord through His prophets.” God specified instrumental music for Jews under the Law of Moses in the Old Testament. We are Christians under the Law of Christ in the New Testament. Where is God’s specification of instruments of music besides the voice and the heart in the New Testament?

“But weren’t the first Christians Jews?” Absolutely, and yet any reputable historian or bible encyclopedia will tell you that mechanical music was not a part of Christian worship until late in the seventh century A.D. when Pope Vitalian decreed it as an acceptable form of worship. Overwhelmingly, instrumental music in worship was rejected by all the major Protestant denominations (and their leaders such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and John Wesley) until the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But more importantly, why did Jewish Christians, who were accustomed to using mechanical instruments to worship God under the Old Testament Law, suddenly abandon the use of them in Christian worship? Again, the answer is simple: “Neither God, Jesus, nor the Holy Spirit (or men inspired by them) authorized the use of mechanical instruments in the New Testament for Christian worship.” There was no need to say (or write), “Don’t use this or that mechanical instrument” because God had specified the voices and hearts of Christians singing praises to Him. There are at least nine New Testament passages that specify singing praises to God (Matthew 26:30; Acts 16:25; Romans 15:9; 1Corinthians 14:15; Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16; Hebrews 2:12; 13:15; James 5:13). But, though mechanical instruments were readily available, and had been a part of Jewish worship, there is not one New Testament passage that species using one (or several) for Christian worship. Apparently, early Christians understood that the silence of God did not authorize this, or any other practice. Does it really make that much difference? Ask Nadab and Abihu.

Adapted from Philip C. Strong

Friday, October 11, 2013

"Create in me a clean heart"

This statement came from Psalm 51:10, where David was writing in the aftermath of Nathan condemning his sin with Bathsheba. He had written in the previous verses, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities” (vss. 7-9). David knew the horribleness of his sin and his need of forgiveness from God. These three tender verses represent the noble thoughts of a heart broken by sin.

However, forgiveness was not David’s only need. Going forward, he needed the ability to shun temptation. His plea in vs. 10 begs for a clean heart. A clean heart can keep one from being led into temptation (cp. Matthew 6:13). This is why Paul commanded, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). Focusing on purity keeps the heart clean.

A third part of David’s petition in Psalm 51 is contained in vs. 13: “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee.” A natural progression of someone who has committed sin is to be convicted of it, desire a pure heart, and then try to tell others about sin. David was willing to teach the lost about God so they could be converted to Him. Everyone who reads this article and has been redeemed by the blood of Christ should take this to heart. Talk to someone who is lost. Teach them the gospel. Help them find the way to the salvation of their sins.

Kyle Campbell

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Churches "update" services

According to a recent news report, a growing number of people now “shop” for their church as they do for a supermarket or fitness center. Robert E. Hinson, the senior “pastor” of the Spring Valley Church of God in Pennsylvania, said, “They could care less about what denomination a church is, and instead look for one that most suits their needs.” Furthermore, he stated, “People aren’t coming because we’re a Church of God. They’re coming because they like what we offer.”

Calvin Kurtz, executive director of the Reading Berks Conference of Churches, observed that “church shopping” became popular during the 1960s and has grown more so over the last decade. He said, “Some seek a new church after changing residences, while others simply decide they want a church or religion that makes them feel more at home.”

When we talk about “shopping” for churches by looking at what they “offer,” we transgress the word of God. Jesus demanded that we worship “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We are to look for the truth, not what we want. In ancient times, the king of Israel, Jeroboam, thought he would invent a religion that would “offer” the people convenience and allow them to worship closer to home. Does this not sound like the news article above? However, this was an abomination to God. By divine inspiration, the writer declared that “this thing became a sin” (1 Kings 12:30). The first century church was directed as to how to worship God. Why do we keep devising ways of our own heart (1 Kings 12:33)? Can we not be content with God?

Kyle Campbell

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The battle of Armageddon #3

By way of concluding our series of articles concerning the battle of Armageddon, the figure is employed not for the literal, physical location of Armageddon in Israel, but for the battle imagery for which the place was famous. People today desperately want it to be literal. In Revelation, the “battle of Armageddon” is the figurative term describing the symbolic overthrow of all the forces of evil by the might and power of God. In the context of the final chapters of Revelation, “Armageddon” represents the complete defeat of the Roman Empire and paganism behind which Rome threw its total power (19:11-21).

One must respect of figurative language when it comes to interpreting Revelation. For example, if one takes “Armageddon” literally, as so many do, what will one do with “three unclean spirits like frogs” or the island which “fled away” and the mountains which were “not found?” It is obvious that the elements in Revelation 16 are figurative. Why do most religious people not see this?

If we say this is a physical battle between human armies, we violate the purpose of Revelation. As far as practical application is concerned, “Armageddon” is any decisive battle between good and evil or between right and wrong. Whenever Christians fight a spiritual battle and win, they have fought the “battle of Armageddon.”

Kyle Campbell