Study the Word: Bulletin Articles
Have you ever wondered how the early Christians knew when to gather together when the Bible didn’t state where and where on Sunday? Was it just a coincidence that all the brethren showed up at the same place and at the same time (Acts 20:7)? It is reasonable to conclude that the church decided this ahead of time.
Knowing there had to a decision that needed to be made, did they do this with Biblical authority? The skeptic will jump in and say no because there isn’t a book, chapter and verse to tells them when and where. That is not true. The passage is found in I Corinthians 11:17-29. This is where Paul pointed out that brethren were to gather to take the Lord’s Supper. You cannot fulfill that command without understanding necessary inferences. No one can function in this world without doing such.
For example, a mother tells her child to clean their room today. Is that enough information for the child to get the job done? Absolutely. They will use their legs to walk into their room. They will use their eyes to look around. They will use their hands to pick up things and put them where they belong. They will schedule time that day to get it done. Now, if the child doesn’t do the job because their mom didn’t provide all those inferences, will the mom accept that? Not a chance.
The question is, does the principle of inference, open the flood gate so people can infer anything they want? No. There are boundaries. Going back to the mother and child example. If the child gets their baby brother to clean the room, they violated the command – “you clean your room.” If the child opts to clean it another day, they violate the command. If the child opts to clean their parent’s room, they violate the command.
Abiding in the teaching of Christ (II Jn. 9), consists of doing what we are told by thinking about the inferences that are connects with what we are told. Look for next week’s bulletin where we deal with aids and additions, in understanding authority.
Can you picture Jesus’ audience during His sermon on the mount (Matt. 5-7)? Can you imagine then interrupting Him every five seconds to have Him explain what He just said? That would be odd as His message was given clearly and needed no clarification. When it comes to God’s word, people rarely have a problem with what was actually said – rather, they often have a problem with who it was said to.
Stop and think about the tree of good and evil in the garden (Gen. 2:17). What was wrong with the fruit in and of itself? Beyond the spiritual consequences of eating the fruit, was it going to taste bad? Was it unhealthy? Why did God make it pleasing to the eye? Why not have it covered with thorns so that it would hurt to even touch it? None of those question matter. The fact is, Adam and Eve knew which fruit to avoid and yet they ate it – period.
Over-thinking leads to over-analyzing, which often leads to missing the obvious. Those in Acts 17 searched the scriptures to know if what Paul taught was true (verse 11). They did not consult those deemed “more” scholarly. I have studied with many people and exposed their false ideas with scripture. Rather than accepting God’s word or studying further to confirm my argument, they often return to their religious leaders. I rarely hear from them again. When the Bible speaks, there is no need to hear the opinions of man.
Just last week, a TV viewer disregarded what I said Matthew 19:9 was teaching. He argued that the Greek word for “except” does not mean exception. This can be quickly solved by going to I Corinthians 14:5 where the same word in the Greek for “except” is used, and one can see that it means an exception. Searching the scriptures provided the correct answer.
Over-thinking a Bible verse can be as harmful as never reading it. We should be wary when we hear someone say, “I know it says that, but that’s not really what it means.”
There is no question that Christians need to remember the Lord’s death every first day of the week by taking the Lord’s Supper (Acts 20:7; I Cor. 11:23-26). When gathered, should Christians use just one cup though? After all, Jesus did take “the” cup and give it to His followers (Matt. 26:27).
The need for consistency is clear. If Christians are to uniformly do exactly like Jesus did, then we had better be consistent across the board. Should one person pass the cup to seated recipients as Christ did? Should they follow Jesus’ pattern of picking up the cup first, praying, passing it, and then saying what it is for? (Matt. 26:27-29).
Let us not forget about the bread when dealing with this question of consistency. We read in the previous text that Jesus took the bread in His hand, gave thanks, broke it and then passed it around (I Cor. 11:23-24). There is no mention of a plate or even a table to set it on.
My point is that questions of consistency can be taken so far that people fail to see “the forest for the trees.” Essentially, we can lose focus on what Jesus was emphasizing. For example, Jesus breaking the bread logically left pieces in His right and left hands. He then said “take, eat.” Should we eat the piece in His left or the piece in His right? It does not matter – both represent His body.
Concerning “the” cup, should we just use one cup when serving the Lord’s Supper? If more than one cup is allowed, should the Lord have picked up two or three cups? If the number of cups was a specific instruction, Jesus would have said “These are the bloods of the new covenant…” or at least “These are the blood…” Obviously, He did not say either of these things.
Do we see that Jesus was focusing on the contents of the cup? Look at I Corinthians 11:27. “Therefore, whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord…” Notice “this” bread, even though Jesus broke the break in Matthew 26 into multiple pieces. Notice “this cup” even though they did not consume the cup itself, nor did they break off pieces of the cup as it was passed around. Again, the focus is clearly on the contents.
In Luke’s account, the fruit of the vine is “divided” up before it is consumed just as the Lord did with the bread. In Luke 22:17, Jesus said to take the cup and divide it among yourselves. He then takes the bread and gives thanks (verse 19). He finally takes a cup while all of them had their own in hand and gives thanks for it (verse 20).
Moreover, do we think that when Jesus said “this” cup that he meant a particular cup? If we used a single cup this Sunday, someone could correctly say, “Hey, that’s not the cup the Lord used!” Keep in mind that the brethren at Corinth were just one of many churches that gathered to take the Lord’s Supper (I Cor. 11:23-26; Rom. 16:16; Acts 20:7). Logically, Jesus must have authorized the use of many different cups to be used in the future.
These questions are not foolish – all Christians should seek to be as consistent and respectful as possible concerning the Lord’s Supper. Ultimately though, we have scripturally demonstrated that there is nothing wrong with having more than one vessel containing the fruit of the vine. We must discern the Lord’s body while partaking or else we will be sinning (I Cor. 11:27-30). There is no doubt that Jesus was focusing on the contents and not the container.
Have you ever wondered how the early Christians knew when to gather together for worship on Sundays? Was it just a coincidence that all the brethren showed up at the same place and at the same time (Acts 20:7)? The Bible does not specifically state where or at what time to meet. It is reasonable to conclude that the church decided this ahead of time.
Knowing that a decision that needed to be made, did the early Christians have Biblical authority for making this decision? A skeptic might say no because there is no book, chapter and verse to tells them when and where. However, I Corinthians 11:17-29 contains a command by Paul that brethren were to gather to take the Lord’s Supper. You cannot fulfill that command without understanding necessary inferences – i.e. when and where to meet.
This is a skill we all use in our daily lives. For example, a mother tells her child to clean their room. Is that enough information for the child to get the job done? Absolutely! They will use their legs to walk into their room. They will use their eyes to look around. They will use their hands to pick up things and put them where they belong. They will use their judgment to make sure they give themselves enough time to get the job done that day. If the child does not clean the room because their mother did not provide all those details (inferences), will the mother accept this excuse? Not a chance.
Does this mean people can infer anything they want? No. There are boundaries. In the example of the mother and the child, it would not be acceptable for the child to get their younger sibling to clean the room for them. They violated the command “you clean your room.” If the child opts to clean it another day, they violate the command. If the child opts to clean their parent’s room, they violate the command.
Abiding in the teaching of Christ (II John 9) consists of doing what we are told by making the necessary inferences. We will continue with this subject in next week’s bulletin by exploring “aids and additions” to understand authority.
Are you a good recruit for a cult?
Based on my experiences, members of cults seem to share some common characteristics. This article will examine the qualities that make a person a prime target for recruitment into a religious cult. We will do this by noting people in New Testament times who exhibited the same traits and became victims of false teachers.
Be influenced more by the teacher than the teaching
An example of this is found in Acts 14:8-18. Paul and Barnabas healed a man. The people tried to worship them as Gods, but Paul and Barnabas insisted that they were just men and should not be treated that way (verses 12-14). Even after this, they could not stop the multitude from sacrificing to them (verse 18). This happened with teachers who tried to stop correct the crowd - imagine what could happen if Paul and Barnabas encouraged the crowd to worship them instead! Cult teachers tend to be intimidating to begin with. When they find someone who can be so influenced by a teacher, they will have an easy time recruiting followers.
Do not question the teacher nor their teachings
Stories about the shady practices of cult leaders are easy to find in the media, yet their followers are often not dissuaded. Why not? Followers have blind allegiance and refuse to ask hard questions about the cult, its leaders, its teachings, etc. Not only that, followers will defend their actions and teachings. This sounds Biblically familiar.
Jesus asked, “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch? A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher,” (Luke 6:39-40). Just as a righteous teacher can foster righteous disciples, false teachers can foster lost, unquestioning followers.
Avoid those who believe differently
The biggest fear cults have is losing their converts. If they had the truth, they would not have to be afraid. However, they want complete and utter control of all their members. This is achieved by isolating them from family and friends. They are trained only to talk with those who will listen and not question – other people like them. In contrast, Christians are encouraged to associate with non-Christians in order to have a positive influence (Matt. 5:13-16; I Cor. 7:13-16, I Cor. 5:9-10). We do not want Christians to fall away but also do not fear a fallen Christian exposing “secrets” or the inner-workings of the church like those who leave cults tend to do.
Develop an irrational confidence in the cult’s teaching
Christians are told to examine themselves regularly to make sure they are in the faith (II Cor. 13:5). Many Christians, including the apostles, had to be rebuked for doing things that were wrong (Gal. 2:11-12; Gal. 1:6-9; I Cor. 5:1-2; Acts 5:1-5). I have been in many studies with those who belong to cults. I consistently tell them that while I do not believe I am wrong, I will certainly admit that I am if it can be proven. When I ask them to state the same, they refuse. Why? They are puffed up and think the cult is infallible. We all need to remember the words in Romans 12:3, “…not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”
Cults only have as much power as their members give them. Let us consider these Biblical examples and remember that faith grounded in genuine truth has nothing to hide!