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THE SPIRITíS SWORD
"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)

                        published by

Mt. Baker church of Christ
                  Bellingham, WA
Volume III, Number 26 ∑ August 15, 1999
Editor..................Joe R. Price


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 In this issue:

--By Faith Abraham Offered Up Isaac (Jeff Herrin) (A series on Hebrews 11: Part 2)
--Does God Have A "Plan of Salvation?"?
--Sermons:
----The Pearl of Great Price
----The Truth About Gambling
--Noteworthy News: Excommunication for adultery? At one church, yes


A Series on Hebrews 11 (Part 2)

BY FAITH ABRAHAM OFFERED UP ISAAC
Jeff Herrin

Was there ever a test of faith to match the one which was given to Abraham when God said, "Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you" (Gen. 22:2)?

Years earlier, God had called Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees with promises concerning his descendants. His descendants would become a nation, they would inherit a land, and through Abraham's seed all nations of the earth would be blessed. Years passed and still there was no seed. Finally Ishmael was born, but God rejected him as heir of the promises (Gen. 17:20-21). It was twenty-five years after the call to Canaan when Isaac was born and all of Abraham's hopes were wrapped up in the little child.

Then came the perplexing command to offer up this son as a burnt offering. Were the last thirty years of his life wasted? Had God forgotten His promise? How could Abraham receive the blessings if something happened to Isaac?

The scriptures tell us that, "Abraham rose early in the morning" (Gen. 22:3). Surely he must have dreaded fulfilling the command, but he would not procrastinate in his obedience. By faith he started the day's business. Old and blessed with servants, he nevertheless "split the wood for the burnt offering" (Gn. 22:3). Every swing of the axe was an effort of faith. Then he "arose and went to the place of which God had told him" (Gen. 22:3). Abraham could not briefly screw up his courage and impulsively obey the Lord. Three days were spent in contemplation of what God had asked him to do. By faith he resisted the constant temptation to turn back and go home.

After three days they reached the appointed place. By faith Abraham bound his son and "stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son" (Gen. 22:10). Was this an act of faith, or some blind and uncaring obedience? The Hebrew writer tells us, "By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, 'In Isaac your seed shall be called', concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense" (Heb. 11:17-19). God had said nothing of raising Isaac from the dead, but Abraham was absolutely persuaded that God was both trustworthy and had the power to keep His promise.

The angel of the Lord halted Abraham, but the great test of faith had been passed. There are some things we face as Christians which require complete trust in God. Abraham had developed such a faith. The NASV says, "With respect to the promise of God, he did not waiver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith" (Rom. 4:20). This astonishing faith took years to develop. Abraham remains a great example for us today of the potential and the power of faith.


DOES GOD HAVE A "PLAN OF SALVATION?"
 Joe R. Price

A plan is a program of action, "a scheme for making, doing, or arranging something" (Webster). Football teams have game plans, architects have building plans, teachers follow a teaching plan. Many people use "day-planners" to arrange their daily activities.

Having a plan connotes order and definition. Although the word is not used in Ephesians 1:3-14, it is obvious from a reading of this passage that God has executed His plan of saving the lost through Jesus Christ. When we speak of the "scheme of redemption," we are referring to this plan of God which saves sinners.

When speaking of how God's salvation is received by the person who is lost in sin, we also speak of a plan - the plan of salvation. From learning the gospel of Christ it becomes clear that God does have a plan - an arrangement - whereby His mercy and grace removes man's sins. What follows is that plan - the arrangement God has revealed - which, when obeyed, will result in our salvation.

First, one must believe in God and Christ (Heb. 11:6; Jno. 8:24). Without faith, nobody will be saved. When one has been brought to belief in Christ by hearing the word of God (Jno. 20:30-31; Rom. 10:17), that same word commands the sinner to confess his faith in Christ (Matt. 10:32; Rom. 10:9-10). When one has confessed his faith in Christ, that faith will compel him to repent of his sins, another commandment Christ has given us in order to be saved (Lk. 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38; 17:30). Having changed one's mind toward sin, what now remains is for Christ to wash away one's past sins, which He does when one is baptized (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:27). Now saved and in Christ, the Christian is added by the Lord to His church and called upon to live a life of obedient service to Jesus (Acts 2:47; Rom. 6:17-18; 12:1-2).

Yes, God has a plan of salvation. The question is, have you obeyed it? Why not now? (2 Cor. 6:2)


THE PEARL OF GREAT PRICE
(Scripture Reading: Matthew 13:44-46)

I. LOOKING FOR THE PRECIOUS PEARL - cf. Eccl. 2:3.
A. The World's Concept Of The Most Valuable Things In Life:
1. Material wealth & security - Lk. 12:15-21; Eccl. 2:7-9; 5:13-17.
-Contentment holds real value, not materialism! 1 Tim. 6:6-10
2. Physical pleasure - Eccl. 2:10-11, 4-6; Acts 17:18; Jas. 4:3-4.
-Spiritual satisfaction hold real value, not fleshly passion!
3. Worldly wisdom/learning - Eccl. 2:12-14; Jno. 7:15; 1 Cor. 1:18-25.
-Spiritual wisdom holds real value & surpasses all human wisdom!
4. Prestige & prominence (high station) - Eccl. 4:13-16; Lk. 14:7-11.
-To be honored by God holds real value above every exaltation given by men! - v. 10
( None of these are the 'pearl of great price'!!
B. The Pearl Of Great Price: The Kingdom Of Heaven - Matt. 6:33; Phil. 1:21; 4:19.
C. Appraising The Value Of The Kingdom Of Heaven ('pearl') - Rev. 5:9-10.

II. THE SEEKING MERCHANT....
A. Desired The Better Things In Life - 13:45. cf. Mary, Lk. 10:42.
B. Could Discern Between Genuine & Counterfeit Pearls - 13:46; Phil. 1:9-11.
C. Was Determined To Get The Pearl - Matt. 13:46; cf. Matt. 7:7-8.

III. THE PURCHASE OF THE PEARL.
-The Purchase Was Made: Matt. 13:46; 18:8-9; 16:24; Lk. 14:33; Phil.  3:7-8.


THE TRUTH ABOUT GAMBLING
(Scripture Reading: 1 Timothy 6:6-10)

1. "To play at any game of chance for stakes.to stake or risk money, or anything of value, on the outcome of something involving chance.bet;
wager...."
2. What is wrong with gambling? Should a Christian gamble?

I. GAMBLING VIOLATES LEGITIMATE ECONOMY.
A. Three Legitimate Means Of Transferring Property:
1. Law of labor - Eph. 4:28; 2 Thess. 3:l2; Luke 10:7.
2. Law of buying & selling - Matt. 13:44; Matt. 25:27 - Investment.
3. Law of giving & receiving - Eph. 4:28; Acts 2:45 - Voluntary gift to needy.

II. GAMBLING VIOLATES DIVINE LAW.
A. It Violates Private Industry Which God Ordained For Man & Makes Him
Unfit For This Mission In Life - Gen. 3:19; 1 Ths. 4:11-12; Lk. 16:10-13.
B. The Essential Motive For Gambling Is Covetousness - 1 Tim. 6:10.
C. Gambling Is Accompanied By Other Evils - Matt. 7:16 - Know by its fruits.
D. Gambling Is Opposed To The Good Of Society.
E. Gambling Does Not Promote Godliness - Phil. 4:8; l Ths. 5:22; Matt. 5:16.
F. The Amount & The Benefactor Does Not Changes Gambling Into Innocent Activity.


NOTEWORTHY NEWS
(Current events in the light of Scripture)

EXCOMMUNICATION FOR ADULTERY? AT ONE CHURCH, YES
By Deborah Kovach Caldwell / The Dallas Morning News

COLLEYVILLE - The man was a former Sunday school teacher and a longstanding church member. He was having an adulterous affair, and he wouldn't repent.

The penalty was as uncommon as it was harsh: excommunication.

But the Rev. Dale Smith of Colleyville Presbyterian Church takes a strong stand. Christian moral boundaries, he says, aren't negotiable. In his 23 years as the church's pastor, the church's elders have excommunicated four men, all for moral sins. The latest, the former Sunday school teacher, was censured in May during a special excommunication ritual.

Over the years, Mr. Smith, 50, and the church elders have confronted other members teetering on the edge of expulsion - among them, men struggling with adultery, homosexuality and pornography.

In an age when most Americans say they don't care that the president of the United States committed adultery in the Oval Office, a stance like Colleyville Presbyterian's is all the more unusual. Mr. Smith knows the idea of ritualized shunning for sexual transgression makes people fidget.

"They think it represents the Salem Witch Trials and the Inquisition," he said. "But I can assure you, it's done in the context of love."

Mr. Smith acknowledged that a variety of factors, including a more diverse culture and people's consumer mentality in choosing their churches, make Americans uncomfortable with excommunication.

"The church has abandoned its historical stance, which declared that right is right and wrong is wrong," he said, settling into a plaid wing-back chair in his office. "A large reason is the moral relativity that marks the church today." (edited for length, jrp)

COMMENTARY
Joe R. Price

Moral relativism has found its way into the Lord's church, too. Excuses are made for Christians who openly sin against the Lord or their brethren. Many churches do not practice corrective discipline, as outlined in the NT, to try to correct and save the sinner (1 Cor. 5:1-5; 2 Ths. 3:6, 14-15; Matt. 18:15-17).

When God's people tolerate sin in the camp, the cause of truth suffers. Consider the defeat of Israel at Ai in Joshua 7 -- all because Achan's sin. We shouldn't think that because we do not think about or speak about sin among us that God does not see it!

The Colleyville Presbyterian Church has this much right: sin must be disciplined, as an effort to both save the lost soul and protect the saved (1 Cor. 5:4-5; Rom. 16:17-18).


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