Strange Weapons Lesson 1: The Prod (background)

February 28, 2011 at 1:41 pm | Posted in Biblical farming, Strange Weapons | 13 Comments
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Strange Weapons: A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

Lesson One: The Prod

BACKGROUND INFORMATION AND HISTORICAL SETTING

And after him was Shamgar the son of Anath, which slew of the Philistines six hundred men with an ox goad: and he also delivered Israel.

Judges 3:31

This verse interrupts the suspenseful tale of Ehud and Eglon the way a breaking news story will sometimes interrupt a television program. The breaking news story that day was about a man named Shamgar. The Bible does not tell us a great deal about him. Judges 3:31 and Judges 5:6 are the only Verses in the Bible about him.

In the days of Shamgar the son of Anath, in the days of Jael, the highways were unoccupied, and the travellers walked through byways.

Judges 5:6

Shamgar was apparently honored, because the Bible refers to “the days of Shamgar” in the same way that our secular history books speak of “the Roosevelt years” or “the Reagan years” or “Victorian England.”

Because of the honor afforded to Shamgar and because his account is given in the Book of Judges, it is possible that Shamgar was a judge, although he is not called a “judge” in the Bible.

Judges 5:6 also tells how dangerous the land of Canaan was in those days. It says that “the highways were unoccupied, and the travelers walked through byways.” In other words, travelers had to sneak around the country to avoid the perils that came with being out in the open or away from inhabited areas in a lawless land.

This is a good place to pause and review this important lesson from the days when these events took place. In the days which are recorded in the Book of Judges, every man did what was right in his own eyes. Judges 17:6 and Judges 21:25 say almost the same thing, and that is one of the main themes in the Book of Judges: “In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.” In that respect, it reminds us of America today. We do not live in a society where there are no laws, and for that we may be thankful, but certainly today the most common barometer for a person’s behavior when it comes to moral matters is “what is right in his own eyes.”

When Shamgar appeared on the scene, the Philistines were seriously oppressing God’s people. The reason for this is that God’s people were not acting like God’s people. In fact, the name “Shamgar” isn’t a Hebrew name. Shamgar is called the son of Anath, and Anath was a Canaanite goddess. She was the goddess of sex and war, and she was worshiped as the wife and sister of the false god, Baal. Therefore, it is possible that Shamgar was from a very worldly family. Being raised in a worldly household is certainly not a positive thing, but the fact that God used Shamgar in a great way should be an encouragement to those today who are Christians, but who did not have the advantage of being raised in a godly family. God can choose you and God can use you regardless of your background or upbringing.

Shamgar was probably a simple farmer, not noble or wealthy, but one day something caused Shamgar to rise up on behalf of God and kill 600 Philistines with a very strange weapon. This weapon was his ox-goad – what we would call a cattle prod. It was a tool that was probably between five and ten feet long. It would have had a sharp iron point on one end and a small shovel or spade on the other end. The sharp point was used to keep the oxen moving while plowing and the spade was used for cleaning the plow which the oxen pulled.
http://tommyboland.files.wordpress.com/2010/06/ox-goad.jpg

This prod was a useful tool, but it made a strange weapon. Keeping this background information in mind, next time I will make three comparisons between Shamgar’s prod, which he used as a weapon, and the weapons of our spiritual warfare today. The prod was a strange weapon, and the weapons which God will use in our lives today as we wage spiritual warfare may seem just as strange.

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The Lack of a Good Upbraiding

February 25, 2011 at 9:31 am | Posted in Uncategorized | 15 Comments
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In school, students are often taught to raise their hands if they have a question.

raising hand

A good teacher understands that everything being taught is not understood by every student the first time it is spoken. Some students, however, are shy about asking questions, fearing that they will appear less intelligent to other students who already know the answer.

The axiomatic teacher’s platitude for this situation is, “Remember, students, there are no dumb questions.” While this sentiment may be encouraging for some, most of us remember, at one time or another, being mocked or scorned by a teacher for asking a question to which everyone else already knew the answer.

The Lord Jesus’s disciples sometimes called Him “Rabbi” (John 1:49; 6:25), which meant “Teacher,” but aren’t you glad that God is not like an earthly teacher? The Bible says that, when we do not know what to do, and even when we might feel dumb for not knowing, we need to ask God. He gives wisdom freely, and never shames us for asking.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

The Bookends of Faith (Part 5)

February 23, 2011 at 11:00 am | Posted in The Bookends of Faith | 6 Comments
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The Bookends of Faith in the Deity of Jesus Christ: The first and last of the seven “I AM” statements in the Book of John

Last time we looked at two proofs of abiding as branches in the True Vine Who is Jesus Christ:

1. Pruning is proof.
2. Producing is proof.
Now we see that,
3. Proliferating is proof.

When the fruit of abiding is produced in our lives the principle of proliferation or multiplication goes into effect. Fruit has seeds. When your fruit starts to produce more fruit, better fruit, and much fruit, it is proof you are abiding.

One bookend is the Bread of Life. If you have partaken of the Bread of Life, you HAVE (present tense eternal) eternal life. You could lean all your books on that bookend, but, if you have ever tried to line up books on a bookshelf, you know that if you only have one bookend, eventually the books are going to lose balance. They will fall down or get pushed over. If you lean too hard on the first I AM statement to the exclusion of the last I AM statement, you will fall down. And falling down, you will live a defeated Christian life. The Lord has put this last bookend – I AM the True Vine – at the other end, lest we believe one of two fallacies:

1. The fallacy that the guarantee of eternal life is a license to sin.

2. The fallacy that a branch can stop being a branch.

One who is born again cannot be unborn. One who has eternal life can not have temporary life. We cannot work for our salvation, and no amount of works will seal our salvation. This bookend – I AM the True Vine and those branches who abide will bear fruit – draws the distinction between victorious Christian living and defeated Christian living – between the spiritual Christian and the carnal Christian. Branches that do not abide experience severe chastening (pruning), and, if they will not return to abiding they may be cast into the fire and burned. HOWEVER, this fire is not the fire of hell – not the fire of eternal damnation. These verses must not be used to teach that doctrine. Both bookends are equally strong, and they do not contradict the books in the middle. The “fire” into which non-abiding, unfruitful branches may be thrown is the most severe judgment the Lord administers to His Own children – it is the judgment of letting them have their own way. This fire is the physical, not the eternal, not the spiritual, death of a believer. It is the ultimate chastening due to disobedience. It is the “sin unto death” of which I John 5:16 – written to believers – speaks.

He Was Beside Himself

February 21, 2011 at 10:49 am | Posted in Common Expressions, Mark | 8 Comments
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And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.

Mark 3:21, emphasis added

This is an expression we still use for people today when we are implying that they are not “in their right mind.” Some of the ancients believed that a person’s psyche could actually leave his body and hover next to the person, inducing a state of madness or lunacy. The friends of Jesus who knew Him before He began His public ministry were concerned that He may have lost His mind, going around performing miracles, preaching, and claiming to be the Messiah. After all, He was only a simple carpenter’s son from Nazareth.

C.S. Lewis is known for positing the so-called “Trilemma:” He wrote that the claims of Jesus Himself were such that no one can marginalize or minimize His ministry or Person by referring to Him as simply a “good teacher.” The life of Jesus and His Words leave us with only three alternatives: He was a liar, He was a lunatic, or He was Lord. The overwhelming evidence (and in fact the incontrovertible Truth) is that He was Lord.

Paul and the Apostles later faced this same accusation.

For whether we be beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we be sober, it is for your cause.

II Corinthians 5:13, emphasis added

If you serve God and proclaim the Gospel in this dark world, where sin and unbelief are the prevailing atmosphere, there are going to be times when your sanity is questioned. This has never stopped the Lord’s true servants. We rest in the knowledge that we are not “beside ourselves.” In fact, we are more sane and in touch with reality when we walk in the Spirit of the Lord than we are at any other time.

And as he thus spake for himself, Festus said with a loud voice, Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make thee mad. But he said, I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness.

Acts 26:24-25, emphasis added

We may not be able to stop people from calling us “mad,” but at least we can make sure that there is “a method to our madness.”

Stand Your Ground

February 18, 2011 at 10:03 am | Posted in Biblical farming, Biblical Violence, Common Expressions | 10 Comments
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And after him was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. And the Philistines were gathered together into a troop, where was a piece of ground full of lentiles: and the people fled from the Philistines. But he stood in the midst of the ground, and defended it, and slew the Philistines: and the LORD wrought a great victory.

II Samuel 23:11-12, emphasis added

This is one of the briefer battle scenes in the Bible, but it is one of my absolute favorites. It is found in a passage of Scripture where the Holy Spirit is giving an account of some of the heroic deeds of “David’s mighty men.” We don’t know all that much about Shammah, but he appears to have been a farmer as well as a warrior.

There he was one day, out in his field of lentils. When I originally taught this lesson in Sunday School, I called it “Shammah and His Pea Patch,” and, boy, did I pat myself on the back for being clever. However, a quick Google search reveals that I was not so original after all. Anyway, there he was, when suddenly some Philistines, who had “gathered together in a troop” showed up. We have three enemies in the Christian life: Satan, our flesh, and the world. If you find yourself under attack from any one of these you could be in for a long day, but there are many days when all three of these enemies gather themselves into a “troop” to concertedly attack you all at once. When that happens you may be in for a really long day!

Shammah’s name meant “astonishment,” and I would imagine that he was astonished, but his actions didn’t necessarily reveal it. The peas that Shammah was cultivating on the land that the Lord had given him were not for the Philistines. They were for Shammah’s family and the Israelite people. Imagine spending long hours and days and weeks toiling in the field, plowing, planting, watering, weeding, sweating, guarding, watching, praying, preparing to harvest, and then here comes the enemy trying to profit off your labor! We don’t know if the Philistines wanted these lentils to feed their own troops, or if they just wanted to destroy them to try to starve out God’s people. Either way Shammah was having none of it.

Notice that Shammah’s people fled, but he stayed to fight. There are going to be times when you have to stand alone for the Lord (which is only true in a sense, because He is still with you.)

Notice that Shammah didn’t scheme and mince and devise some worldly battle plan. Nor did he try to compromise or negotiate. He took his stand “in the midst” of his field. Open to ambush from behind? Yes, he was. Subject to being surrounded? Sure. Without cover to help funnel his enemy into a more manageable position? You bet. But Shammah didn’t care. Enough was enough. This was the Lord’s pea patch, and Shammah would defend it or die trying!

The Bible says that Shammah defended his crop and slew the Philistines. The Bible also says that the Lord wrought a great victory. All glory must go to God when we stand on the ground that He has given us by the power of His might and defeat our enemies (who are also His enemies) by His strength.

Destined for Victory

February 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Posted in Romans | 15 Comments
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For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Romans 7:14

The Law can not change us. Nobody can deny that the Law is holy and good and just, because it came from the holy God. The Law is good because it reveals God’s holiness and our unholiness – our sinfulness. But the Law cannot cure us – it makes the diagnosis.

According to Romans 7:15-21, our “members” – our arms, legs, and whole body – can be controlled by our flesh (carnal nature; old nature), or by the Spirit (new nature). It is okay for the believer to have a goal of not breaking God’s laws, but the believer has to realize that, like the Apostle Paul, we can not obey the laws in our own power. Nor does the Law itself provide the power for us to do good.

According to Romans 7:21-24, believers have been “redeemed.” We have been “set free” or “bought out of slavery.” But the Law can not set us free. The Law is like gravity. The more we struggle to jump up in the air, the more keenly we feel its weight drawing us down. The Law – when viewed as a burden of weight to carry – draws us down into sin. When the Apostle Paul calls himself a “wretched” man, he means “wretched” in the sense of someone who has been in a battle and is worn out and worn down. No matter how hard we struggle in the battle, we will wind up wretched unless we are delivered – delivered by the Lord Jesus.

According to Romans 8:1-4, as believers, we are not condemned by the Law. There is now (present tense eternal) no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus (those who are saved). We owed a debt for our sins, but Christ paid it for us. Now, it has been paid in full – the Law can not claim that it is still owed.

According to Romans 8:5-17, as believers, we are destined for four specific victories:

1. God’s Spirit, which lives inside us, is stronger than our flesh. Therefore, we are destined for victory over the flesh.

2. We had physical life before we were saved, but were dead spiritually. Now, we have the victory of spiritual life, too.

3. Before, we were at war with God. Now, we have peace with God. The victory is chiefly His, but, in a sense, it is ours, too.

4. Before, we wanted to please ourselves. Now, we want to please God. We are destined for victory over self.

According to Romans 8:18-30, as believers, we do not have to feel frustrated. The suffering in the world was not “created” by God. It was created by Adam’s sin. The suffering of the believer is temporary. We long for the fulfillment of our hope, but, because we know it is coming, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Jesus feels our pain, and intercedes for us in prayer. We know that God’s plans are perfect.

According to Romans 8:31-39, as believers, we do not have to worry about God disowning us. We need to be focused on serving God as our King and Lord, but there is also a sense in which God is “on our side.” He proved it when Christ died for us. If He died for us while we were sinning against Him, how much more will He bless us, now that we are His children? God is not a double-minded hypocrite. Having justified us, He will not now accuse us. Not only does the Holy Spirit pray for us, but Christ does, too. Even when we fail God, He still loves us. It is not a conditional love. A child who disobeys his father is still that father’s child. No child, once born, can change the fact of who his father is. Nobody can go back and be “unborn.” NOTHING can separate the born-again believer from the love of God.

God Is Real, God Is Good, and God Is REALLY GOOD!

February 14, 2011 at 10:24 am | Posted in Biblical Marriage, Uncategorized | 14 Comments
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I sometimes have encounters with professing atheists. Most of them would call these encounters “debates” or “arguments,” but that’s not really what they are. What is really going on is that I’m just revealing the truth of God’s Word and they are trying to suppress it, reject it, rage against it, or pretend it isn’t real. Since the Bible is the source of Absolute Truth in this world, I believe it is important to use it when confronting someone who is pretending not to believe in God.

However, I do have another practical proof of the existence of God: my wife. If you knew me and knew what an awful jerk I can sometimes be (and often am) – and, if you knew my wife and how absolutely beautiful and wonderful and intelligent and wise and witty and spiritually mature she is, there is simply no explanation for why she would be married to me, other than: There is a God Who is all-powerful, and Who is loving and kind and sovereign and GOOD to me.

My wife is the epitome of what the Bible says a wife and mother should be. She loves God and His Word, and she is a constant source of encouragement to me, our children, her friends, and our church family. Some people jokingly call her “Proverbs 31 Woman” as a nickname, but if they knew her like I do, they would see that it’s not really that much of a joke. Proverbs 31 is actually a pretty good description of her!

I know a preacher who used to say that sometimes he felt like “God’s spoiled brat,” and I thought that sounded strange because we are not supposed to respond to God’s grace like over-indulged children. However, I don’t know a better way to put it myself! Hopefully, I don’t act like a spoiled brat, but I sure do feel like one when I think that, not only did God save me from hell, sin, death, the grave, Satan, and God’s wrath, all of which I richly deserved – as if that wasn’t enough, He then turned around and gave me the greatest wife in the world – and then, overwhelming me with His goodness, mercy, and grace, He blessed me with three wonderful daughters!

It’s been two years since I tried to celebrate Valentine’s Day by posting a poem about my wife. I thought it would be more thoughtful than a Hallmark card. Here’s a helpful hint: If you stink at writing poetry as bad as I do, stick to the Hallmark! However, I do want to tell my wife – in case she reads this – that I love her more than even a good poem could have expressed. Aside from the Lord’s salvation and the richness and joy and peace of knowing God in Christ Jesus my Lord, she is the greatest gift that God ever gave me.

The Recognition Admonition

February 11, 2011 at 10:29 am | Posted in Genesis | 6 Comments
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Lord, help us to be forgetful of ourselves and focused on others. Help us also to be focused on Your glory. Help us to be looking for opportunities to give You glory and to praise Your name. Just as Joseph wanted to introduce his brothers to the king of Egypt, I pray that You will show us ways we can bring our brothers and sisters closer to You, our King. In Jesus Christ’s name, Amen.

And they said one to another, We are verily guilty concerning our brother, in that we saw the anguish of his soul, when he besought us, and we would not hear; therefore is this distress come upon us. And Reuben answered them, saying, Spake I not unto you, saying, Do not sin against the child; and ye would not hear? therefore, behold, also his blood is required. And they knew not that Joseph understood them; for he spake unto them by an interpreter.

Genesis 42:21-23

Joseph’s brothers left Simeon in Egypt and went back home to break the news to Jacob. They also had to tell him that they needed to take Benjamin to Egypt. They were also alarmed that the money they left with the Egyptian’s (Joseph’s) steward had been discovered back in their own sacks.

You may notice that Joseph’s request was kind of suspicious. From the brothers’ point of view, how would this Egyptian even know that the person they brought back was really their little brother?

We see in Jacob’s unwillingness to send Benjamin, and in his fear that “something might befall him” on the way, the consequences of sin. The sin of Joseph’s brothers was not just affecting them; it was affecting the whole family and all their people. My sin doesn’t just hurt me. It hurts my wife, my children, my fellow church members, the people to whom I’ve witnessed. Sin hurts the sinner, and it hurts others, too.

Joseph began to set up a series of trials and surprises all designed to do two things:

1. To make sure, having understood his boyhood dream to be a command from God as well as a vision, that he was doing his part to make the vision come to pass.

2. To make sure that his brothers were repentant over what they had done – so that true reconciliation could be possible.

Here is an excellent piece of advice from Joseph that we would do well to heed today: “This do, and live; for I fear God.” Those who fear God do not live in fear. They live in safety, knowing that reverence for God brings life. Joseph also teaches us to plan for reconciliation with those who have hurt us. Acknowledge the source of the problems we have with others. Consider what resources God has given you since the time of the conflict you had with someone else, to see if those resources may be used to resolve the conflict. Consider how you have grown and changed since the beginning of the conflict. The person you had the conflict with might not recognize you any more.

“Recognition” is a recurring theme in the story of Joseph. His brothers recognized him from afar in Genesis Chapter 37. Since they recognized him, they had time to plot against him. The brothers asked Jacob if he “recognized” Joseph’s coat. We see the theme in a different context in Genesis 38. Tamar asked Judah if he recognized his personal possessions. There is an advantage when you recognize something that someone else doesn’t. Haggai 1:5 says “consider your ways,” and Proverbs stresses the importance of recognizing where you will end up if you take a certain path. When Genesis says somebody saw somebody from afar, remember the principle of recognizing the Lord and turning from our ways to His ways before we take action.

Objections To the Doctrine of Everlasting Security Answered (Objection 4)

February 9, 2011 at 9:34 am | Posted in Eternity, Luke, Matthew | 5 Comments
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Objection: I believe that I can lose my salvation because Luke 8:13 says, “They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” To me this is going back to free will. We have the free will to walk away.

Answer to Objection: Luke 8:13 is not teaching that you can lose your salvation. You need to read the whole parable that Jesus is teaching. Some people hear the Word of God, but it lands on their stony heart. It is like seed on a rock. It can not send down roots. There may be a thin layer of soil on the rock, so that it looks for a little while like something is growing from the seed. But sunlight shines down on it (the heat of temptation), and it shrivels and dies and falls away. If it had roots, the heat would have made it grow, not die. These are people who look like they got saved until temptation came, and it was revealed that they never got saved to begin with. They did not “lose their salvation.”

Objection: But what about Deuteronomy 30:17-20: “But if thine heart turn away, so that thou wilt not hear, but shalt be drawn away, and worship other gods, and serve them; I denounce unto you this day, that ye shall surely perish, and that ye shall not prolong your days upon the land, whither thou passest over Jordan to go to possess it. I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live: That thou mayest love the LORD thy God, and that thou mayest obey his voice, and that thou mayest cleave unto him: for he is thy life, and the length of thy days: that thou mayest dwell in the land which the LORD sware unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.”

Answer to Objection: Deuteronomy 30:17-20 does not teach that you can lose your salvation. When God renewed His covenant with the people of Israel as they prepared to cross over into the promised land of Canaan, He told them that if they disobeyed, they would die. If they obeyed, they would live long and prosper. They could be blessed for obedience or cursed for disobedience. This is speaking about prolonging their days upon the land, and the “length of their days on the earth,” not eternal salvation. Eternal salvation is by grace through faith, not through keeping the Old Testament Covenant.

Objection: What about Matthew 5:13?

Answer to Objection: Matthew 5:13 is not teaching that you can lose your salvation. “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” Salt in Bible times could go bad or spoil, and then it would be useless for bringing out the flavor in food, and for preserving food. Jesus is saying that you are no good as a disciple if you won’t bring the truth of God’s Word to the people with whom you come into contact. We should cast people out of the church fellowship and positions of ministry if they are not acting as salt and light.

I have seen God convince some people of the truth of eternal security. Some people I have seen simply do not want to believe it. It is important that we do not try to find Bible verses that will fit into what we want to believe. There are whole ministries and denominations out there built around teaching that Christians can lose “their” salvation. These preachers think that people will just sin as much as they want to after they’re saved, and that we can’t trust God to get saved people to do what He wants us to do. But we must let the Bible tell us what is true even if we don’t happen to like it. I hope you will prayerfully consider that Jesus can not lie. If He has promised to take all those who have once been saved, and to keep them saved forever, what makes you think this is the one exception where He would lie? If you think you are keeping yourself saved, then you are giving yourself the glory, and you may be trusting in you, instead of trusting in Christ. But if God is keeping you saved, then He gets the glory, and you must put all your trust in Christ and not in yourself.

Discipleship Lesson 6: The Local Church

February 7, 2011 at 10:18 am | Posted in Discipleship Lessons, I Corinthians | 57 Comments
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God has established three main institutions here on earth: the family; the government; and the local church. The local church acts as Christ’s body in carrying out God’s purposes in reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

I. What is the local church?

And when they were come, and had gathered the church together, they rehearsed all that God had done with them, and how he had opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles.

Acts 14:27

The local church is not a building.

God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

John 4:24

What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

I Corinthians 6:19

There is “The Church,” which is the Bride and Body of Christ, and which consists of all the born-again Christians from all times and from all over the world. And then there is “the local church.” Local churches are made up of people who meet together regularly to worship and serve the Lord in a specific place.

For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body.

I Corinthians 12:14-20

Each part of your body has at least one specific function. Each member of the local church should have at least one specific function. Not all members have the same function.

And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you.

I Corinthians 12:21

No part of your body can function alone. In the local church, members aren’t meant to function alone.

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness.

I Corinthians 12:22-23

Each member’s contribution is important.

For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.

I Corinthians 12:24-28

A properly functioning body operates as a single unit. A local church should operate in harmony and unity.

II. What are the responsibilities of the local church?

The first local church was organized in Jerusalem.

And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Acts 2:42

The local church’s responsibilities include: the teaching of the Word of God; fellowship with other believers; prayer.

Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

Acts 2:41

The local church should observe the two ordinances of the Church: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.

Acts 2:43

The local church should be a testimony of God’s grace and power.

And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 2:44-45

The local church should be involved in mutual assistance and ministry.

And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Acts 2:46-47

The local church should reach out into the community and glorify and praise God.

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Ephesians 4:11-16

According to the Scriptures the number one priority of the local church seems to be to build up, teach, and strengthen believers.

III. Why is it important for you to be involved in a local church?

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

There are three basic growth stages in the life of a believer: (1) observe and learn; (2) participate; (3) lead by serving.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

As a believer who belongs to a local church, first you learn, and then you teach what you have learned.

IV. Questions

A. How should you decide with which local church to become involved?

Pray about it.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5

B. What are some qualities you should look for in a local church?

1. Evidence of evangelism

Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

Matthew 7:20

2. A belief that the Bible is the Word of God and that it is absolutely true.

Holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince the gainsayers.

Titus 1:9

Members should be encouraged to read the Bible as much as leaders.

These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so.

Acts 17:11

3. Ministry to needs

And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.

Acts 6:1

4. Support of missionaries

And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.

Acts 13:3

C. What are two of the main purposes of the local church?

Reaching the lost and helping to perfect the saved.

V. Memory verses

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:

Ephesians 4:11-12

Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.

I Corinthians 12:27

And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.

II Timothy 2:2

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