Mark 16:15

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"

Contending Earnestly for the Faith

As we begin to focus on the purpose of this epistle, we see that Jude's original desire was to write about our common salvation shared in Christ (v.3). The need to change his purpose is seen in the next verse (v. 4). That men “crept in “unawares” (“unnoticed” NKJV) should cause us to stop and think. That such could happen in spite of the many warnings given by Jesus, Paul, and Peter, how much easier for this to happen today when we live in a time far removed from the initial warnings?
In light of this, Jude's call to “contend earnestly for the faith” becomes even more relevant and needful for us today. We ought to appreciate the need to contend for the faith. And we should understand the “how” when it comes to contending earnestly for the faith. And so, in this study, we want to concentrate on how this is to be accomplished.
1.
We must contend earnestly. “The expression that is here translated contend earnestly, is related to the English word agony. The term is associated with strife and combat of a most vigorous and determined variety, this is to be a continuing struggle.” (The Believers' Study Bible).
Therefore, the use of such an expression suggests that this is a serious matter. We are at war! Paul described the nature of our warfare in II Corinthians 10:3-6 and again in Ephesians 6:10-13. This means that this is not a time to be unprepared; we must arm ourselves! We must contend with vigor, even to the point of agony, for “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
2.
We must use the weapons at our disposal. Paul describes our weaponry in Ephesians 6:13-18. We are to be girded with truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace, the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, and watching (vigilant) and prayer.
Notice that most of these are for our own defense, lest we be lost in the struggle! The element of truth, righteousness, the Gospel, faith, and salvation are needed for our own salvation as much as for those we seek to conquer. We must make sure that we first “cast out the beam out of our own eye,” so that we will be able to see clearly how to “cast out the mote out of our brother's eye” (Matt. 7:5). Some are so quick to take up the “sword,” they leave the rest of their armor behind!
Paul also had something to say about the weapons that are “mighty through God” (II Cor. 10:4) such as the “meekness and gentleness of Christ” (II Cor. 10:1), making sure that we are first “spiritual,” and then displaying gentleness and caution (Gal. 6:1), refraining from quarrels, using gentleness, and the Word, with patience and humility correcting the opposition (II Tim. 2:23-26).
In our next article, we will attempt to draw some conclusions from what we have learned.

Paul M. Wilmoth

Thoughts on the Passing of Time

As a boy growing up in the small Algood, Tennessee community, I never thought a lot about the passing of time. Of course, I heard it taught from the pulpit and in Bible Study; but at a young age it didn’t sink in very much. If I live very far into the next year I will be well over the seven and one half decades that I have been permitted to live. I consider myself to be living in the “if by reason of strength” portion of the number of years spoken of by the psalmist (Psalm 90:10).
I have taught many lessons on the swift passing of time, and pointed out how each age group deals with this idea. Since I have been engaged in this physical battle (cancer) for over a year now, I have considered what the psalmist said, when he uttered, “Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men? What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:47-48). In the New Testament James asked the question, “For what is your life?” He answers that question with these words. “It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 414).
James was dealing with those who were making grave errors due to their presumptions stated in the context of this question and answer: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow” (James 4:13-14a). In their presumptuous assumptions, James lists five things that they had decided about the future and then rebuked them because they did not even know about the next day!
All of us have heard the expression that “The older you get the faster time flies.” Of course there is no truth in that, but it certainly seems that way. There is seldom a week goes by but what a friend, acquaintance, or someone with whom I have worked passes into eternity. A great many of the men and women who have influenced my life over the years have gone ahead into eternity and their reward. Among them are men like Oliver Anderson, Troyce Cavender, and Malcolm Hill, just to name a few. I would love to have the opportunity to sit down with one of these men and discuss the mess our world is in. But the passing of time has made that impossible. I remember a good friend of brother Malcolm, Dallas Wyatt, calling me at TBC one day to ask about Malcolm’s health. Before he hung up he said, “Tell brother Malcolm that if he goes before I do, wait for me at the tree of life.”
So what is the point of these thoughts? For one, we don’t have to be concerned with the passing of time if we are obedient to God’s word, and living faithful lives. Jesus tells us to “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come” (Matt. 24:42). Good instructions! And we are to “watch” while ready! Are you ready for the Lord to return? Are you ready to meet the Lord in judgment?

Paul M. Wilmoth

Making Choices

From the Garden of Eden till the present day, God has given men the ability to choose. Man is a creature of choice. Every day choices are made, both good and bad. Of course there are some things in which we have no choice; we cannot choose our parentage, race, etc. But when choices are allowed, we should all be careful to choose wisely. Because the choices we make today will have consequences in the future.
Bible examples of choices include Joshua’s statement: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Josh. 24:15). Lot’s choice (Gen. 13:12) and Moses’ choice (Heb. 11:24-26) are also prime examples of choices and consequences.
What are some of the important choices we have to make today? They include an educational choice, our occupation, marriage choice, and religious choice. All of these choices are monumental in nature.
The religious choice is to serve God or not. Jesus issued the invitation to all in Matthew 11:28-30: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Not all will make the right choice. Many will make their choice based on wrong information. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:21-23). Those in this statement of our Lord were religious, but not religiously right. Again, we must make our choice in this area allowing the Word of God to be “a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).
Some have also made excellent choices in the past, but later have chosen to revoke those right choices. One of the saddest things I know is to see someone who has been a faithful Christian, become unfaithful and eventually leave the place of refuge, Christ and His Church. We need to teach over and over the importance of having authority from Christ and His Word for everything we do, and for everything we say. Paul issued this instruction when writing to the church at Colosse: “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him” (Col. 3:17). If we made our choices based on this instruction, we would never hear, “Join the church of your choice,” “One church is good as another,” and hundreds of other doctrines of men.
Let me urge all of us to be sensitive in making choices. Think of the consequences of wrong choices. Remember that all choices have consequences! What is your choice concerning Christ and His church?

Paul M. Wilmoth

Jesus, Redeemer

Job said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth” (Job 19:25). In the Scripture Jesus is referred to in many ways. We have already considered Him as our Saviour, the Prince of Peace and the Lamb of God in previous bulletins. Today we are considering Him as our Redeemer.
To be redeemed means that one has been bought back and brought back. When one is redeemed, he is brought back out of sin, but this requires a price to be paid for that redemption. Jesus paid that price for us! It was accomplished at great price (Heb. 2:9; Rom. 5:8).
Man is lost in sin, and “it is not in man that walketh to direct his own steps” (Jer. 10:23). Paul wrote to the saints at Ephesus with these words, “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Eph. 1:7). Thank God for the blood of Christ! To those who understand its power and the need for it, it is the most valuable thing in the universe. Many people have a great objection to the word “blood” and I have a great objection to those people. If we take out the blood of Christ, we leave the New Testament without a theme and without a purpose, and without a Redeemer!
“Redemption” is a releasing by the payment of a ransom. As stated earlier, it means that we have been bought back and brought back from sin and made free. “Redemption” (along with all other spiritual blessings) is only in Christ (Eph. 1:3). This “redemption” is “through His blood”. Our redemption cost so great a price—the blood of Christ—this is the supreme evidence of the “riches of His grace” (Heb. 9:12). The measure of what God does for us is nothing less than the limitless wealth of His loving favor.
Peter would later write of our redemption: “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God” (I Pet. 1:18-21).
Paul, speaking of the Christ to Timothy, wrote: “Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.”
Have you been redeemed by the blood of the cross? Have you taken advantage of what He did for YOU on the cross? If not, why not reconsider now while you still have the opportunity. Obey the Gospel and you will be redeemed—“being then made free from sin” (Rom. 1:6-17). Jesus is your Redeemer only if you accept His terms of deliverance.

Paul M. Wilmoth

Spiritual Growth

“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2). “But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Peter 3:18). These scriptures tell us that it is possible for God's children to grow; it is God's will that we should grow and how we may grow.
Growth is important. This can be observed in the natural realm; plants bear fruit only through a process of growth; animals become full-grown through a process of growth. We also observe the importance of growth in the human family; an infant grows into an adult through proper growth. We don't expect as much of an infant as we do a full-grown man or woman; neither do we expect the child to remain an infant (I Cor. 13:11).
The fact that growth is important can also be observed in the spiritual realm. We realize that it is vital that we become strong, well-developed Christians and this is not possible without growth. As in the natural realm, God doesn't expect as much of newborn babes in Christ as he does of older members. What is required for spiritual growth? How do we grow into mature Christians? In answering this question we can compare spiritual growth to physical growth. What are the requirements for proper growth in the natural realm? Let's look at some of the things that are necessary.
First, proper food is necessary for growth. This means that we must eliminate the wrong kind of food and include the right kind; spiritually we must do the same. We must rid ourselves of all the doctrines and commandments of men (Matt. 15:9; Gal. 1:6-10). We must be careful not to “wrest” the scriptures “to our own destruction” (II Peter 3:16). In Ephesians 4:22-32, Paul shows us that when we become Christians we “put off concerning the former conversation the old man” (v. 22) and “put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (v. 24). He then proceeds to list a number of things that we are to get rid of and tells us what we are to replace them with. We are also instructed to “study to show thyself approved unto God” (II Tim. 2:15). We should have the same interest in studying the Word of God that the Bereans did. They “searched the Scriptures daily” (Acts 17:11).
Second, the proper environment is required for growth. Physically this means that we need proper ventilation, lighting and sanitation. Spiritually it consists of avoiding evil in all forms (I Cor. 15:33; Rom. 12:9; I Thess. 5:22). When we place ourselves in an environment where we are tempted to sin growth is stunted at best. We should seek out friends and companions that will influence us for good instead of being a hindrance to our spiritual development.
Third, proper exercise is required for growth. Without exercise the physical body cannot develop and remain strong. The same is true of the spiritual man. The writer of Hebrews speaks of “those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:14b). Paul exhorted Timothy to “exercise unto godliness” (I Tim. 4:7). In comparing physical exercise and spiritual exercise, Paul wrote: For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come” (I Tim. 4:8). Spiritual exercise consists of prayer (I Thess. 5:16-17), worship (John 4:24; Matt. 4:10; Heb. 10:25), self-denial (Matt. 16:24), service (Mark 9:35) and steadfastness (Acts 2:42; I Cor. 15:58; James 1:2-4).
What are the benefits of Christian growth? We gain the ability to discern between good and evil (Heb. 5:14; Phil. 1:9-1); we bear fruit (Phil. 1:11). We become able to teach others (Heb. 5:11-14; II Tim. 2:2). It should be the desire of every Christian to grow into the strongest possible Christian and continue that growth throughout life.

Paul M. Wilmoth