Study the Word: Bulletin Articles
Supply and Demand
We all know that this title relates to the offering of a product to the consumer. For example, if there is a huge demand for a certain tool, then a company will do what they can to supply that need. On the flip side, if there is very little interest, there would be no need to supply that need. This is why businesses come and go. Those that survive have found a product that continues to be in the demand.
So, just how do we get excited in spreading the gospel, when Jesus Himself stated that there won’t be much of a demand for it (Matt. 7:13-14)? The answer is simple. Even though many people don’t want the truth, there is a huge need because everyone needs it (Mk. 16:15). Unlike any business today, people can live without whatever new invention comes along. However, everyone NEEDS the gospel whether they believe it or not.
The danger comes when you lose sight of what people need in favor of what people want. Let’s face it, if someone knew that lots of people wanted a product that isn’t available, they would do what they can to make it. Sadly, in the religious realm, you have those who have decided to preach what people want rather than what they need. This is exactly what Timothy was warned not to do (II Tim. 4:2-5).
There is a reason why there are so many religious groups today, and why more and more churches of Christ have drifted away from the pattern in God’s word, it’s called supply and demand. People have lost sight of what man really needs. This should not surprise us. We see it in that way people are raising their children. Kids are getting anything they want, because it is easier to let them decide what’s best for them. How sad that is!
This reminds me of the mindset of Israel of old when everyone did right in his or her own eyes (Judges 21:25). Mankind would do well to remember the words of Jeremiah when he stated, “It’s not within man who walks to direct his own steps.” (Jer. 10:23). Yet, that’s exactly what you see in the religious realm. People starting their own sects, creating their own doctrines; designing “better” and more appealing worship. This may supply the demand, but our God demands we stop supplying their wants!
Paul admonished Timothy with these words, “remain in Ephesus that you charge some that they teach no other doctrine.” (I Tim. 1L3). Why Paul? Those teachers are having some “good” results. That’s just the problem, people think that any sort of success is God approved. It’s as if the Lord is interested more in quantity than quality. That is simply not the case. If anything, it is the opposite. Oh, yes, our Lord is not willing that any perish (II Pet. 3:9), but that desire of wanting everyone saved doesn’t mean He will overlook sin.
The interest in the quality is taught over and over in scripture. When it comes to worship, it is to be done in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24). The doctrine taught must ONLY be the doctrine of Christ (II Jn. 9). There is also no better church that the one Jesus built with His own blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; Rom. 16:16). It simply doesn’t matter to the Lord if His people are the few. After all, the Lord is not there to please man, it is man that must please the Lord (Heb. 11:6). Take note that pleasing self doesn’t necessarily mean it is pleasing to the Lord.
Looking at things from the Lord’s standpoint in examining supply and demand, saints should be motivated to do all they can. The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few (Matt. 9:37). This is why we find the Christians in the early church, when persecuted, went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:4). Was there a large demand for the gospel? Yes, even if people didn’t want it. The key thing is that there are people looking for the truth and that is a demand that needs to be supplied. Are you doing what you can to supply that need? For people to find what they seek (Matt. 7:7), there needs to be children of God there pointing the way to Christ.
I held a Bible class this week with one of the viewers of our TV program. They were shocked to hear that the Bible does not teach anything about the “Rapture”, “Christ reigning on earth for 1000 years” or “the future battle of Armageddon.” You can guess the subjects they wanted to study in the next class.
This article is not about those topics per se. (I wrote a bulletin article several months back about 40 things people think are found in the Bible but are not – contact us if you want a copy of that). Rather, this article is about the fact that people are convinced certain things are in the Bible that are not.
How do religious people become convinced that the Bible contains ideas that it truthfully does not? These people own Bibles, after all! In some cases, they simply have not studied. What about those who truly want to please God though? What else could derail their efforts?
- Allowing teachers to be general with their teaching. Much of the false doctrine taught today sounds Biblical. For example, many religious leaders have been known to say that “Baptism is an outward sign of an inward grace.” That sounds like it is scriptural, but it is not a phrase found in the Bible! We must demand a “thus saith the Lord” (Col. 3:17).
- Allowing doubts to rest on the confidence of their teachers. I realize people have different levels of knowledge and familiarity with the Bible. However, this does not mean that we should simply accept anything a religious teacher says. I was once told the following in a Bible class: “My preacher spoke on that topic. I don’t remember what he said, but I am certain he spoke the truth on that.” It is our duty to search the scriptures to verify the things we are being taught (Acts 17:11).
- Allowing ourselves to believe that teachers will be accountable for inaccurate teaching but not students. If the blind lead the blind, both fall (Matt. 15:14). Yes, those who teach error with be punished. This does not let those who believe lies off the hook either those. We are all accountable to God.
Why people are so quick to accept those who claim to be a prophet? This requires both a lack of knowledge on the part of the listener and smooth talking on the part of the deceiver. Liars are only as successful as those will to listen to them.
We are warned not to be deceived (I Cor. 6:9; 15:33; Gal. 6:7 etc.). We cannot stop false prophets from periodically promoting themselves, but we can prevent ourselves from following them. Teaching that is rooted in the persuasive words of human wisdom should be treated as just that – words of men rather than the word of God (I Cor. 2:4-5). Remember, the gospel (not words of men) is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16).
It might seem heartless to say that all those who are deceived by false prophets want to be. However, this is not entirely untrue. Consider what happened to the brethren at Corinth. The apostle Paul labored with the brethren there for years. Yet as soon as he left, other teachers arrived and turned the brethren against Paul (II Cor. 11). How did they do it? It was with a boastful attitude that the brethren put up with (II Cor. 11:16-21).
I do not know how many times, over the years, I have heard people accept something just because of the way someone said it. Speakers can come across with such confidence and credentials (graduate degrees, years of service, etc.) that they intimidate and recruit followers. People who succumb to this have only themselves to blame. They can claim that they do not want to be deceived, but they are not mustering the courage to question their religious leaders. They have become the blind followers Jesus spoke of (Matt. 15:14).
When Paul told Timothy about Eve’s deception in the garden (I Tim. 2:14), there was not much else to say. He did not have to say “how” Eve was deceived. She simply was quick to believe what she was told. It was what she wanted to hear. We must recognize this lesson that those who want to be deceived will be. Do we recognize this happening our own lives?
Are Christians brainwashed?
If you read the first article carefully, you will realize that Christians are not brainwashed. Being a Christian means a person must reason and come to proper conclusions on their own. If saints are instructed to come to their own conclusions, are Christians thus allowed to believe whatever they want? Only if they ignore the word of God.
Children of God are supposed to only speak by the oracles of God (I Pet. 4:11; II Tim. 3:16). How then can we say that Christians are also supposed to think on their own? To answer this, we must understand the concepts of general and specific authority. For example, husbands and wives are to have their own mate to love (Eph. 5:28; Titus 2:4). Yet, the Bible does specifically state how the husband and wife can demonstrate their love for one another. They are simply required to think of ways to please them (I Cor. 7:33).
If married couples were brainwashed, they would mindlessly go through the motions of doing things they were programed to do and would not consider whether their spouse actually appreciated these gestures. The same goes for Christians in all other areas of their lives. They are to be hospitable (Rom. 12:13). But how is that to be done? One Christian might demonstrate hospitality by letting visiting Christians stay in their home overnight. Another Christian might demonstrate hospitality by having a family over to share a meal. Or by hosting several families for a meal. Or by taking a fellow Christian out to eat. The point is that Christians are told to be hospitable – a general command – but that there are several specific ways to accomplish this. These specifics are left to the Christian.
If God’s people were brainwashed, then nothing that was offered to the Lord would be genuine. Something cannot be done out of free-will if that person does not even have a will. This explains why Christians are told such words as, “beware”, “watch”, “take heed”, “choose”, etc. Just as God’s people can choose to serve faithfully, they can also choose to disobey (Matt. 13:18-23).
Do not believe everything you read
A couple of weeks ago, I taught a lesson about the life of Saul of Tarsus (later as Paul the apostle). The study pointed out how Saul left Judaism and began preaching the gospel of Christ (Acts 26:1-11). During Paul’s missionary journeys, people were being converted to Christ and local churches were established (Acts 15:36).
Pretend that you once practiced Judaism with Saul. How would you react if you heard that he started teaching the things he previously spoke against (Acts 9:1-2)? Unless you were willing to leave Judaism yourself, you would not have much good to say about him anymore. You would likely do what you could to discredit him. After all, you would not tell people, “Saul found the truth and left us.”
In the sermon, I asked the audience to imagine what people (especially Jews) would say about Saul online if the Internet existed in the first century. People would call him a false teacher. There would be all kinds of false accusations flying around. People would claim that Paul taught things not lawful (Acts 16:21), that he attempted to profane the temple (Acts 24:6) and that he spoke against the law and Caesar (Acts 25:8).
All these accusations against Paul are not true. Too many people are quick to believe lies though, especially concerning religious matters. If all these things were circulated over the Internet, Paul would find himself saying something modern Christians often have to say – do not believe everything you read!
When you search for “the beginning of the church of Christ” online, you will read over and over that Alexander Campbell started the church. Alexander Campbell left the Baptist church and his father, Thomas Campbell, left the Presbyterian church. Obviously, both denominations will be critical of these men, so we must be mindful of what we read. Like Saul leaving the Jews to teach the gospel of Christ, no Baptist or Presbyterian will say, “Those Campbells left because they found the truth.”
When Paul left Judaism, he did not start his own church. The same is true of the Campbell’s – they were not seeking to start their own church. I am not suggesting that nobody has ever left a denomination with the intent to start their own. That has absolutely happened in the past and continues to happen today. Just like Paul though, people can leave a false group and begin following the Lord without any manmade creeds or teachings. This is what the Campbells sought.
When teachers preach the truth, people can be converted to Christ (Acts 9:19-20; 18:1-8). When this happens, local churches can be established. But whose churches are these? They must be the church that Christ built with His own blood, the church that the Lord’s people belong to (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; Acts 2:47). Anything else is a denomination. A church only belongs to Christ if it teaches the doctrine of Christ and recognizes Him as its head (II John 9; Col. 1:18).
Over the last few hundred years, some people who attended faithful churches of Christ were called Campbellites. This label is wrong because Christians do not follow Campbell, only Christ. Sadly, this is not a new problem. Consider the example found in 1 Corinthians. Some converts called themselves after Paul (verse 12). Whether a person called themselves a “Paul-ite” or was labeled a “Paul-ite” by others, Paul clearly taught that this was wrong (verse 13). Everyone Paul converted in the first century was converted to Christ, just as Campbell’s converts were in the 1800s or modern converts are today.
With so much false information floating around online, Christians must encourage people to open their Bibles and verify claims they hear. Confusion can be cleared up! Let’s compare what we have discussed with the origins of other denominations.
In the year 1536 AD, John Calvin began the Presbyterian church. In 1607, John Smythe started the Baptist church. Did these men get back to the gospel and encourage people to simply be Christians in the Lord’s church like we read about in the New Testament? If this was their intent, something went wrong.
Were there Presbyterians before 1536 AD? Were there any Baptists prior to 1607 AD? Most importantly, where do you read of those groups in the Bible? Both denominations were started by men, meaning they are man-made religions. They taught some Biblical truth, but they also mixed in many of their own doctrines. Recall how Paul consciously avoided creating his own sect. He did this because Christ had already established His church. This why Paul called them churches of Christ (Rom. 16:16).
Could a church of Christ become a man-made church? Of course! The group’s name might be scriptural, but they could still teach man-made doctrines. Consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons). Joseph Smith started that group in 1830 AD. The Lord’s church was started in approximately 33 AD. Any group claiming origins after that year has a fundamental problem.
When you read the New Testament, you will find letters written to churches of our Lord. Some of these letters describe improper things the churches were doing and needed to repent of (Rev. 2-3). This shows that just having a scriptural name is not enough – your religious group must recognize that Christ has ALL the authority and that all of His doctrine must be followed (II John 9). If your group does not have a scriptural name though, something is wrong from the start – think about it!