Our next installment of the study of Galatians 5:22-23 comes by way of the word "faithfulness". When the question is asked of any member of the body of Christ regarding his, or one of his brother's, faithfulness often times the litmus test thereof is that of their attendance to the gatherings of the church for worship or fellowship. However, that is not be the entirety of the story. Understanding that a person's standing with God is not wholly dependent on whether or not he arrives at the building on time and sits through the entire service (sitting in a church doesn't make you a Christian just as sitting in a garage doesn't make you a car), what concept best describes that of faithfulness? What character exuding from a knowledge and application of the Truth makes one's outward actions based upon his beliefs (his religion) able to be categorized by somewhat obscure word, faithfulness? It's very simple... CONVICTION.
The Bible speaks of God's giving mankind "assurance" or "faithfulness" with regard to the 2nd Coming and the Judgment by the resurrection of Christ (Acts 17:31). How does one become assured of this by the resurrection of Christ? By His promise to return to gather His children (John 14:1-4), by His giving us the Scriptures whereby we can have knowledge of Him and salvation through Him (2 Timothy 3:16-17, Romans 10:17, James 1:21), through faith which is an obedient trust in God which allows us to see the unseeable (James 1, Hebrews 11:1). That is how we have that assurance! That is how we have faithfulness! - Through the conviction that comes from our God's giving us something that no man could ever give, the Scriptures and the things taught therein.
So, is there any Biblical passages which point to one's faithfulness equaling his conviction in the Truth? Yes...
It might be something that is somewhat elementary to state that faithfulness is derived from the conviction in the Truth of Christ. But, if we aren't convicted will we worship, evangelize, live, help in the ways that God would have us to or even be saved from our sins? Remember, a person without conviction in the cause but still acts as if he does is worse than a person who doesn't even try.
One look at me and you know what my second favorite thing to do on the first Sunday of each month is. Aside from the great privilege that I have been given to preach the Gospel to a lost world which happens every day but most specifically on the Lord's Day, one of my favorite things to do is sit down with friends and family and enjoy the delectables offered by what I am convinced is a congregation made up of some of the best cooks in the body of Christ. The laughing, the funny stories and jokes, even inevitable question, "Lee, did you try my ____" which is universally understood to be answered with a "Yes" followed by a quick "I loved it" (provided that answer is truthful). However, recently I have been asked the question of whether or not such gatherings are permissible with reference to their taking place in the buildings owned by the church or with any support (financial or otherwise) from the local congregation. Let's lay aside all preconceived ideas and simply see what the Scriptures have to say about the authority for Christians to gather together and fellowship while eating, specifically with regard to the place and funds with which this is carried out.
First, one ought to look to what the Christians are said to have done within the confines of the 1st Century and the writing of the New Testament. Acts 2:42, a passage often quoted with regard to the kinship seen in the early church of Christ, speaks of their continuing in something called "fellowship". This word, according to Strong's, means something to the effect of communication, communion or distribution. It is also used in 1 Corinthians 10:16 to speak of the Lord's Supper. It is often understood, yet rarely mentioned, that our partaking of the Supper on the first day of the week is, in a spiritual sense, eating with Christ (cf. Matthew 26:29). So, fellowship can be seen in the eating of the Lord's Supper.
Notice that word, "eating". If Acts 2:42 is a command by example, and I believe that it is, then we are commanded to fellowship with one another. If fellowship can be done by eating, and it can, then the fellowship meal conducted at the building of the local congregation is something which members of the Lord's church know very well, an expedient. That is to say, it is something which is lawfully done in order to carry out a command which was not specifically identified to be done in one way or another. An example of this would be the worship of the saints at a specified location, often owned by the church in that area, known as a church building. Since we are commanded to worship in Spirit and in Truth (John 4:24) and that worship is to be a gathering of Christians for edification (Hebrews 10:2-26) then the building is the expedient to worship. The same can be said with regard to the fellowship meal. Since fellowship is commanded (Ephesians 3:9) and there is Biblical example of the early Christians doing so through a common meal (Acts 2:42, 46) then it is just as expedient to do so within the building in order to carry out that command as it is the one to worship.
This question may have never been asked of you but if it ever is, the answer is written clearly in your Bible.
If you are a regular to the PFP's website you might be noticing an all new look. There's a very real reason for this which is two fold. First, because we were looking for something which is more in line with our tastes but more importantly we wanted something which would help people recognize what the PFP is all about. The logo, which might look like a cross with a funny banner around it, is a play on a very popular symbol in the English language - the pilcrow. It is the symbol for a paragraph break. Since it is our goal to highlight the favorite passages of some of our fellow preachers each month in the e-zine we wanted to embody that into our logo. Also, you might notice that the most prominent part of the logo image is the cross. Obviously, our goal is to preach the Gospel of Christ and spread the saving power of the cross of Jesus to the whole world in our generation (cf. Matthew 28:19-20) and therefore we wanted it to be part.
This post may have been pointless, but I wanted to take the time and explain it before questions started coming in as to what it is and what it has to do with our meager attempt to help those in need with the Gospel. Since we experienced a much higher volume of visitors last year than ever anticipated we thought it might be time for a change as we "ramp up" and try to take advantage of the increase which the Lord has been and will be giving us in this endeavor.
From a young age my dad taught me how to read a map. On long trips he would sit me in the front seat of his truck, hand me the map and tell me where we needed to go, leaving it in my hands to get us there by the quickest route. Nowadays, I simply tell my personal assistant, "Siri navigate home" and she does the rest. While I still pride myself in being able to actually find my way home using some common sense and a good ole' fashion map, I leave the majority of my directional needs to my GPS. That being said, sometimes that GPS is...off to say the least. I remember no less than 5-6 times that she has very clearly told me to turn left when there was nothing but a fire hydrant to the left or to continue on the road for five miles when I was sitting in the parking lot of the establishment to which she was trying to direct me.
Just the other day I heard a person very confidently say something to the effect of, "My church teaches me that I ought to tolerate all religions regardless of their teaching because they are simply trying to get to the same place we are just using a different way to get there." You have probably heard something along the same lines throughout your evangelistic endeavors. But, is this a valid way of living one's life or are these directions leading a person to turn into the preverbal fire hydrant?
The problem with this belief system, and I whole heartedly believe that it alone is entirely that - a belief system, is that it fails to realize some very key teachings throughout the Gospel of Christ. Teachings like the undeniable fact that Jesus is the exclusive way to the Father (John 14:6) or that His words are going to be the law by which one is judged (John 12:48) or even that we are to go into the World and teach them the Gospel instead of some other religious system (Mark 16:15-16). Since these are the case the political correctness so sought after by our culture by way of "religious tolerance" (i.e. a permissive attitude toward other lifestyles based on the person's spiritual beliefs) is seen to be somewhat flawed.
Instead of allowing the modern culture to lead us blindly through life and into the shiny, red, fire hydrant, one must look to the actual map in order to determine for himself what is true, just, honest and holy. That map? - The Scriptures. What do they have to say about how one should see other religions and act toward them?
So, there it is. The idea of allowing people to live their religious lives without any sort of interruption by the child of God in order to pursue "tolerance" is foreign to the Scriptures. What is inherent, however, in those Scriptures is the love for mankind which leads one to teach others to reject man's ideals and replace them with God's will in order for them to be saved because you see them, a person made in the likeness of the Living God, heading straight for the fire hydrant bound for a wreck who's consequences far outweigh a dented bumper and a high insurance premium.
What did a GPS teach me about religious tolerance? - To reject and supplement that concept with the concept of Biblical love for other people who are lost in their sins.
Like the name suggests, this hypothetical is arid and without any sustenance whatsoever. However, the argument against one's need to obey the Gospel because of that individual's living in a far away place without any feasible connection to the saving word of God (James 1:21) is often used and therefore needs to be addressed. It often goes something like this, "If a person lives in a desert or on an uninhabited island, is he still amenable to the Laws of Christ if he has no access to that law?" Well, as is the case with many false positions, this question can be answered with an understanding of just one of the over 31,000 verses given by the inspiration of the Almighty. That verse? 2 Thessalonians 1:8.
(1 Corinthians 1:21) - In contrast to Paul's speaking of the world's not knowing God by its own devices, he states that preaching is the way by which one is saved (obviously connecting it to the absence of knowledge of God being one of the factors leading to one's receiving the vengeance of Christ). Therefore showing that a knowledge of God through the preaching of the Gospel brings one into salvation from sins, understanding that it must be followed by obedience to what the individual hears.
(Galatians 4:8) - In writing to the Galatians and exhorting them to not follow after the new Gospels which were being pushed in their area, Paul shows a knowledge of God to that which leads the individual into a life in accordance with the Truth of Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 4:5) - Comparing the life of a Christian in sexual purity to the life of a non-Christian (i.e. Gentile) in sexual immorality and lust, Paul again points to the fact that a knowledge of God is an obedience to His standard of living.
(Titus 1:16) - In writing to his son in the faith, Titus, Paul speaks of those who, while professing this knowledge of the Divine, do nothing more than deny His very existence by following their own thoughts and passions.
(1 John 4:7-8) - Finally, the cousin of our Lord, John the apostle, speaks of love as a way by which one knows God. Since love is a command given to all of God's children (Hebrews 13:1, 1 Corinthians 13:1-8), it is again seen that obedience is knowledge.
Now, what do these passages and the hypothetical situation have to do with each other. If one's knowing God is a culmination of hearing the Gospel (1 Corinthians 1:21), the compulsion to follow that Gospel (Galatians 4:8) and the actual carrying out of that compulsion through obedience to the ordinances of the Almighty (1 Thessalonians 4:5, Titus 1:16, 1 John 4:7-8) then the only way to escape the coming Judgment of vengeance is to do just that. But, the individual who never hears the Gospel does not have the ability to carry out the two other steps. Therefore, that individual, taking the Bible alone into consideration, will be lost in his sins.
This means two things...