Suffering Is Relative?

suffering
suffering (Photo credit: muffinbasket)

The title for this article might seem somewhat out of place. I want to start off with the understanding suffering is real. There are many different kinds of suffering and I do not wish to minimize anyone’s suffering. What I would hope to do is to increase our understanding and maybe open our minds to a different viewpoint that should help us to keep suffering in its proper place.

I want to start off with a bold assertion. Setting aside physical pain, the majority of suffering is a comparison between where we are now and where we think we should be.

Imagine if you will an experiment. If you took 10 Young men from an impoverished country where every day is a struggle to survive along with 10 men from an upscale private school and sent them to live in the same building. In each room is a mattress, running water, and all their meals are provided for them, I have no doubt each group of men would see the identical facilities differently. Even though there is nothing different about their physical environments one of those two groups would be “suffering.” in this case it is easy to see the comparison to understand how one group would consider themselves to be suffering.

I want to develop this same idea a bit further. What about the family who loses a young child to an accidental death. Their suffering is real and their grief certainly understandable. Yet, their suffering is a comparison to where they are and where they would want to be, enjoying the life of their departed child.

Consider the below statements from the apostle Paul and notice the items in his list of suffering:

From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. – 2 Corinthians 11:24-28

I know we understand how difficult it was for Paul to suffer persecution for preaching the gospel of Christ. Notice however that he lists being beaten with rods right along with sleeplessness. He lists being stoned right next to being shipwrecked. He has perils of robbers with cold and nakedness. If he considered one type of suffering greater than another type of suffering I certainly do not see it. Suffering is suffering. Whether it’s physical pain that the doctors can do nothing about or the emotional pain of the loss of a child or a parent.

Our reaction to suffering, no matter what its source, should be the same.To pray to or God (Jas 5:13). To lean upon our faith. To remember our hope which is in Christ Jesus. To comfort one another that all suffering in this life is temporary.

The apostle Paul did believe in relative suffering. He makes two statements which clearly show he compared his suffering from what he currently was enduring to what he knew he would have to endure in the future.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.2 Cor 4:17,18

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. Rom 8:18

The Emotional Suffering of Jesus

“Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” – John 13:27,28

Much has been written about the physical suffering of Jesus. I would like to focus on the emotional aspects of his suffering so that we might understand and hopefully help to comfort those who are dealing with these types of trials.
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The Value of Gospel Meetings

The apostle Paul writes, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel message is the power that God has decided to use to work on the hearts and lives of men and women in order to draw them to Himself. But in order for the gospel to do any good, it must be preached (10:13-14).

The book of Acts demonstrates that the gospel was preached to those who were already Christians, as well as to those who were not, by preachers who traveled to various places. The Scriptures describe various preachers traveling and preaching for various congregations for short periods of time in order to reach the lost and build up the saved with the gospel of Christ (Acts 14:21-22; 15:36, 40-41; 20:6-7). An incredible amount of good was accomplished through the efforts of these churches and preachers as the saving message was spread. Many local churches and preachers engage in something similar today. We commonly refer to these modern efforts as “gospel meetings.” It seems that many brethren have grown weary of “gospel meetings.” Meetings are becoming shorter in length, less frequent in number, and are not as well attended as they used to be. Furthermore, for those that have not abandoned the practice of having gospel meetings altogether, there exists the danger of continuing to have meetings each year simply out of habit. In addition to these concerns, the question is sometimes raised as to whether or not there is really any value in having gospel meetings anymore. For these reasons, we would do well to give some much needed consideration to the subject of gospel meetings.

What is the value of a gospel meeting?

1. The value of reaching the lost with the gospel of Christ. Jesus is the only hope of salvation for the sinner (John 14:6; 8:24). In fact, the apostle Paul states that the Lord will one day come “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 1:8). In order for a lost sinner to obey the gospel he must first hear the gospel. Many of our religious friends regularly attend religious groups in which they hear the opinions and doctrines of men, rather than the gospel. They may never visit the services of a church that is serving as “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) in their community on a Sunday morning due to obligations already in place. But they may be willing to come visit one of our services during a gospel meeting, since the gospel meeting presents opportunities in addition to our normal meeting times on Sunday. There are people all around us who are in dire need of hearing the gospel and, contrary to what many seem to believe, lost sinners do still attend gospel meetings when invited by members of the church. A gospel meeting is used as a valuable tool for evangelism when the lost are invited to hear the good news.

2. The value of spending more time together worshiping God. It is obvious that the early disciples of Christ spent as much time as possible together praising the Lord and studying His word (Acts 2:42, 46-47). Gospel meetings provide an opportunity to take time out of our busy schedules in order to spend some more time worshiping God and studying His word together. Are you interested in doing that? Gospel meetings provide those who have a sincere interest in spiritual things with a great opportunity to meet together more often in order to glorify God. Time spent stirring one another up to “love and good works” is valuable time (Heb. 10:24).

3. The value of edifying the members of the church. One of the primary responsibilities of each local church is to edify, or build up its members (Eph. 4:14-16; cf. 1 Cor. 14:26). Each local church of Christ is responsible for seeing to it that each of its members is built up and strengthened spiritually. Edification takes place when we worship together in spirit and truth and study God’s word together. Gospel meetings provide a great opportunity for edification as the members of the church gather each night to sing, pray, and listen to God’s word being taught. Those who are bored with gospel meetings, or who ignore gospel meetings are sure to discourage their brothers and sisters in Christ. Any time spent in the interest of edifying the saints is time that is spent in a valuable pursuit.

4. The value of learning and growing. The apostle Peter charges God’s people with the responsibility to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). A gospel meeting provides a great opportunity for the local church to hear a faithful man preach the word of God. While we may have the opportunity to hear eight or ten sermons in an average month, a gospel meeting may present the opportunity to hear that many lessons over the course of only one week. Do not forget that “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). What value can be placed upon an opportunity to learn and grow by hearing the word of God proclaimed?

5. The value of putting spiritual things ahead of worldly matters. Jesus expects those who follow Him to seek the kingdom of God first in life (Matt. 6:33). A gospel meeting provides a unique opportunity to focus on spiritual matters and to put the kingdom of God ahead of other things. In many ways, a gospel meeting also exposes one’s priorities in life. We will prepare for social occasions, weddings, fun events, and holidays and circle them on our calendars so that we will be sure to set time aside for them even if it means booking time off of work. How many of us place the same emphasis on setting time aside to attend a gospel meeting? There is inestimable value in laying aside worldly matters in order to focus on things of eternal importance.

Conclusion

Gospel meetings are certainly not the only method by which the local church may seek to reach the lost and edify the saved. But at the same time, gospel meetings can be used as a very effective tool in accomplishing the Lord’s work once we recognize the potential value of such concentrated efforts to “proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). Don’t give up on gospel meetings!

David Dann

2108 Amherst Dr.

Lewisville, TX

The Greatness of Small Things

For behold your calling, brethren, that not many wise after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong; and the base things of the world, and the things that are despised, did God choose, yea and the things that are not, that he might bring to nought the things that are: that no flesh should glory before God. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who was made unto us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption: that, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord. – I Corinthians 1:28-31

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Family Bible Reading

(Deuteronomy 6:7; Psalm 78:5-7)

“And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. – Deut. 6:7

I am quite confident no one would disagree with the idea that reading the Bible to your family on a daily basis is a good thing. The question I wish to focus on is just why then don’t we do more of it? When reading the above passage in Deuteronomy and the referenced passage in Psalms, one cannot help but notice the diligence and consistency God was trying to impress upon His people. If we truly desire to raise godly children, we must be diligent and consistent in training our children. The basis for the spiritual education of our families should begin with families reading the Bible together.

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How Are Deacons Selected?

H.E. Phillips Lutz, Florida

How are deacons selected and appointed in the local church? Are they self-appointed? Are they ordained with the laying on of hands in a special ceremony? Are they elected by majority vote? Do they grow into the office? This is the subject assigned to me in this special issue on the work of deacons.

Deacons are listed with the bishops, servants (ministers) and saints in Philippi 1:1: “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishop and deacons.”

While we do not have detailed directions for the step by step procedure in selecting and ordaining elders and deacons, we do have principles in the New Testament that govern the procedure of putting elders and deacons in the office (work) of the local church. Ignoring what the New Testament says about this matter will usually cause internal problems and will make it virtually impossible for elders and deacons to function after they begin their work. We must know what we are to do and then know how we must do it.

What the Church Is to Do?

Neither elders nor deacons are self-appointed. It would be a disaster for any congregation to accept just any man who decides he should be a deacon and appoints himself to that work. The requirements in the word of God would be worthless if the church could not “look ye out among you” those who meet the pattern given by the Holy Spirit.

It is important to understand the meaning of select and appoint. The appointment of elders and deacons is the beginning of an agreement between them and the church. It is the point at which the elders and deacons begin their work. Such a beginning is necessary to know when one is an elder or deacon, and when the church has an obligation to them in that capacity.

1. The Selection. The New Testament gave the criterion for a man to be a deacon, and the church where they are to serve is to select out those who have the qualifications. The men must be what God requires of them before they can be selected, otherwise the disciples could ignore the requirements and select whomsoever they pleased.

The selection is simply the choosing out from the number those who have the requirements given by Christ. The qualifications determine whether a man may be appointed to be a deacon, and the church simply looks out from their number those who have the qualifications. They are not deacons at this point.

Voting usually means the majority rule, which is scripturally wrong. The kingdom is not a democracy, it is a monarchy, with Christ as the only King, Ruler and Lawmaker. Someone has said, “The first attempt at voting in scriptural matters marks the beginning of division: for and against.” Voting for elders and deacons, with the majority vote winning the office, is not scriptural from any point of view.

When the multitude of disciples did what the apostles told them to do, they chose those seven who were qualified who were “set before the apostles” to be appointed “over this business” (Acts 6:5,3).

2. The Appointment. The term “appoint” signifies a subsequent action to the selection of those to be deacons. Of Paul and Barnabas the Holy Spirit said, “And when they had ordained them elders in every church. . . ” (Acts 14:23). Ordain here means “to elect by stretching out the hand” (Young’s Analytical Concordance).
Titus was instructed by Paul to “ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee” (Titus 1:5). Thayer says the word “ordain” here means “to appoint one to administer an office.” The apostles appointed the deacons in Jerusalem who were selected in Acts 6:3. This was something the apostles did following the selecting by the multitude of disciples – the church. This is what the church is to do in appointing deacons.

How Is the Church to Choose and Appoint Deacons?

The selection of those to be deacons is not done by majority vote election. This method automatically makes the winners deacons. Others put the responsibility upon the preacher to select and appoint the deacons. This is not what Acts 6:3 teaches.

Some believe that deacons “grow” into the office. They began doing the work and one day they are recognized as deacons. Various views of this method are put forward, but none are scriptural.

There is not a detailed procedure, point for point, given in the New Testament for selecting and appointing deacons. There are three steps necessary in getting men into the office of deacon:

1. Qualifications determined. The first thing to be done is to determine exactly what essentials the men must have because selection depends entirely upon whether or not the men have them. A lot of teaching and studying of the New Testament should be given to this subject by the congregation.

2. The Selection. The Holy Spirit said: “Look ye out among you” (Acts 6:3). This places the responsibility upon the disciples (church). Whatever method of selecting out the qualified men that is decently and orderly, and fully respecting the Scriptures, may be used. One method may be to have each member of the congregation make a list of the names of those believed to be qualified and give the lists to two or three respected brethren of the congregation to put together for all to consider. Any orderly method of doing this will be successful. To stop here would be “majority vote rule.” After the names of those who have been suggested are given, each member should have the opportunity to voice any scriptural objection against any name. If any objection is scripturally valid, that person should not be appointed, no matter how many want him; he is not scripturally qualified. The selection depends upon the qualifications. If any man is contentious about being a deacon even though valid scriptural objections are established against him, he is confirming his unfitness for the office.

3. The Appointing. Titus was left in Crete to “ordain” elders in every city (Tit. 1:5). Paul and Barnabas “appointed” elders in every church where they had preached (Acts 14:23). Deacons are appointed in the same way. The evangelist may appoint those who are qualified and have been selected by the brethren. This appointing is simply the designating them to the work. The method of doing this may vary from place to place, but it must conform to God’s word.

Some time should be allowed between the selection and the appointment to allow for consideration by the church. Someone may know of a scriptural reason why one should not be appointed. After a sufficient time has elapsed after the selection, the preacher may appoint them in a very solemn manner to impress the seriousness of the responsibility of both the deacons and the church. No secret balloting should be used because too many evil things can be covered up.

Every responsible and faithful member of the church should know when one is qualified to be a deacon. If one is taught to act without bias and prejudice, and to try to please God rather than self, there will be little or no difficulty in the matter of selecting and appointing deacons to the work.

Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 22, pp. 686-687 November 16, 1989

The Resurrection Appearance

by Mike Willis

The events of the previous twenty-four hours had been incredible to the disciples. Following the observance of the Passover, they had accompanied Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. There Judas brought the soldiers who arrested Jesus. From there he was taken for trial to Annas (Jn. 18:13), Caiaphas (Jn. 18:13) for a private investigation and then with the scribes and elders gathered (Matt. 26:57). At this trial, Jesus was condemned to die. The Sanhedrin reconvened early the next morning to ratify the judgment of the previous night (Lk. 22:66). Afterwards he was taken for examination before Pilate, Herod, and then again before Pilate where sentence was given that Jesus be crucified.

Jesus was taken to Golgotha where he was crucified. In shocked amazement, the disciples witnessed the death of the one whom they supposed would be the Messiah. No doubt they shared the contemporary idea that he would become king of Israel and overthrow the Roman government dominating them. Those hopes were dashed.

In a state of shock, the disciples left others to take care of Jesus’ dead body and departed from Golgotha. The next day was the Sabbath, so little or no activity occurred on that day. No doubt their broken hearts were trying to mend as they tried to pull together their shattered hopes. The following morning, Sunday morning, would forever change their lives.

The Body Is Missing (Matt. 28:1-10; Mk. 16:1-11; Lk. 23:56-24:12; Jn. 20:1-18)

The women who had followed Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus to see where they buried Jesus (Jn. 19:38-42) prepared spices to anoint his dead body. Early on Sunday morning, when the sun was risen, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, Joanna and Salome went to the tomb. There was a great earthquake. An angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone. Those who were guarding the tomb became as dead men. When the woman arrived, the angel announced, “Fear not ye: for I know that ye seek Jesus, which hath been crucified. He is not here; for he is risen, as he said. . . . And go quickly, and tell his disciples, He is risen from the dead; and lo, he goeth before you into Galilee; there shall ye see him” (Matt. 28:57).

Mary Magdalene (Jn. 20:1-2) ran and told Simon Peter that the soldiers had removed Jesus’ body and she did not know where they had taken him. Peter and John ran to the tomb. They found the tomb empty; the burial garments were there but the body was missing.

Jesus’ Appearance To Mary Magdalene (Matt. 28:9-10; Mk. 16:9-11; Jn. 20:11-18)

Mary Magdalene stood outside the tomb weeping. When she stooped to look inside, she saw two angels who asked her why she was weeping. She explained that she was weeping because they had taken away the body of Jesus. When she turned around, Jesus was there. Supposing him to be the gardener, she asked where they had taken Jesus’ body. Jesus said, “Mary.” Recognizing his voice, she replied, “Master.” Apparently the other women were also present (Matt. 28:9). They fell at Jesus’ feet and clung to him. Jesus told them to turn loose for he must ascend to his father. He told them to go tell the disciples that he was ascending unto the father. When the women reported what they had seen, the disciples did not believe it (Mk. 16:11).

Report of the Guard (Matt. 28:11-15)

The Roman soldiers went to the chief priests and reported what had occurred. The Sanhedrin assembled. They bribed the soldiers not to tell what had happened but to report that Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body while they were asleep.

Appearance to Simon Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5)

Sometime during the day, Jesus appeared to Simon Peter. Reference is made to this appearance but the circumstances of it are not recorded.

Appearance to Two on the Road to Emmaus (Mk. 16:12-13; Lk. 24:13-35)

Later that day, two disciples (one named Cleopas) were traveling from Jerusalem to Emmaus. While they were talking about the events which had transpired, Jesus joined them. “But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.” As Jesus inquired of the disciples, they related the circumstances of his death, the disappearance of the body, and the words of the angels announcing the resurrection. Jesus began teaching the two as they traveled, opening their minds that they might understand the Scriptures. As they drew near the village, they asked Jesus to abide with them and he consented. As they sat to eat, their eyes were opened so that they recognized Jesus. He vanished out of their sight. They immediately returned to Jerusalem and told the eleven disciples, who had gathered together, what had happened.

Appearance To The Eleven In Jerusalem (Mk. 16:14; Lk. 24:3642; Jn. 20:19-25)

At the end of this same Sunday, the eleven (with Thomas absent) assembled together, probably to discuss the events which had transpired. The doors were locked for fear of the Jews. Suddenly Jesus appeared to them. They were afraid, supposing him to be a ghost. Jesus said, “Why are ye troubled? And wherefore do reasonings arise in your heart? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye behold me having.” Their hearts could barely comprehend what had occurred. While they were still stunned, Jesus took a piece of broiled fish and ate it.

A spirit of joy filled the disciples. When Thomas arrived, he refused to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead. He said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and putray finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Appearance To The Eleven (Jn. 20:26-29)

The following Sunday, the eleven were again assembled together with Thomas among them. The doors were locked. Jesus appeared to them and said, “Peace be unto you.” Speaking to Thomas, he said, “Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.” Thomas replied, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus said, “Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.”

Appearance to Seven Disciples By The Sea of Galilee (Jn. 21:1-24)

Enough time transpired for the disciples to return to Galilee from Jerusalem. They tried to sort through the things which had transpired. Peter, Thomas, Nathanael, James, John and two other disciples decided to go fishing – to return to their jobs. They fished all night and caught nothing. When day began to break, Jesus stood on the beach but the disciples. did not recognize him. He asked if they had caught anything and they replied that they had not. He said, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and ye shall find.” They did what he said and could not draw in the fish for the catch was so large.

John said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” Peter put on some clothes and jumped into the sea to see Jesus. The other disciples came ashore in the boat dragging out the 153 fish which they had caught. Jesus ate with them.

Appearance to the Eleven on a Mountain in Galilee (Matt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-18)

On another occasion Jesus appeared to the disciples on a mountain. Perhaps this is the reference mentioned in I Corinthians 15:6 where 500 were gathered. If so, he separated the eleven and gave them the Great Commission. “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be condemned.”

Appearance to James (1 Cor. 15:7)

Paul referred to an appearance to James, the brother of the Lord. The circumstances of this appearance are not mentioned. However its impact is shown by the fact that the brother of Jesus who previously did not believe on him Qn. 7:5) became one of the leaders in the church at Jerusalem.

Jesus’ Final Appearance to the Twelve and Ascension (Lk. 24:44-53; Acts 1:1-11)

Jesus appeared to his disciples again in Jerusalem and instructed them to tarry in the city until they were clothed with power from on high. They walked with him out of Jerusalem toward Bethany until he came to the Mount of Olives. After he finished speaking, he ascended out of their sight into heaven to await his second coming. This appearance occurred 40 days after his resurrection (Acts 1:3).

Jesus’ Appearance to Paul (Acts 9,22,26)

The final appearance of Jesus was to the infamous persecutor of the church, Saul of Tarsus. Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus. From seeing the resurrected Jesus, Saul became convinced that Jesus was the Lord and Christ. He obeyed the gospel and devoted himself to preaching it to the world. He became known as the apostle Paul.

Observations

These are the resurrection appearances of Jesus. With these facts before us, let us make these conclusions.

1. The Lord’s resurrection was a bodily resurrection, a miracle. There is no doubt that the text states that the body which was crucified died, was buried, and was raised from the dead. Nothing but a miracle, the miracle of the resurrection of the body, can explain the meaning of the text. The physically resurrected body was seen by more than 500 people. The historical record stands unimpeachable. The resurrection of Jesus is not some myth invented by delusioned men; it is a fact of history.

2. The resurrection confirmed the deity of Jesus. Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). His resurrection proved that he was both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). The resurrection demonstrated that his claims were not the claims of an impostor.

3. The resurrection of Jesus demonstrates his victory over sin and death (Rom. 4:25; 5:10). Jesus entered into the domain of Satan, the house of the strong man, and spoiled his goods (Matt. 12:29). His resurrection proves that he triumphed over the devil, destroyed the power of sin and the grave.

4. The resurrection assures me that Jesus ever lives to make intercession for me (Heb. 7:25). His resurrection confirms that he has ascended to the right hand of God and serves as an Advocate to the Father in behalf of his children (1 Jn. 2:2).

5. The resurrection of Jesus assures me of my resurrection. There can be no doubt that Jesus is the resurrection and the life (Jn. 11:25); this was not only demonstrated by his power to raise Lazarus, the son of the widow of Nain, and Jairus’ daughter, but also by his own resurrection. Jesus was raised as the first fruits of them that sleep (1 Cor. 15:20). “In Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22). He is my guarantee that my natural body which is sown in corruption, dishonor, and weakness will be raised as a spiritual body in incorruption, glory, and power (1 Cor. 15:42-44). Consequently, I can sing, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 0 death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory.”

“We look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21).

Conclusion

The knowledge that Jesus was raised transformed that small band of disciples who witnessed his death. Their cowardness was changed to boldness; their weakness to strength; their doubt to assurance; their despair to hope. After that little band which met in a room behind locked doors became convinced of the resurrection, they boldly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ at the Temple, defying the threats of Jewish authorities. They were convinced that their fate was better to die preaching Christ than to live in disobedience to him.

Belief in the resurrection has also changed me. My belief that Jesus died on the cross for the remission of my sins and was raised from the dead on the third day moved me to obey his command to “repent and be baptized for the remission of my sins” (Acts 2:38). His word has caused me to cast aside the old man of sin and to put on the new man created in his likeness. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:20-21).

Consequently, I anticipate seeing Jesus “whom not having seen I love.” My life is filled with confident expectation because that grave was empty, because the Lord Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. Praise God for he is risen!

Guardian of Truth XXXI: 20, pp. 632-634
October 15, 1987

Resurrection!

by Mike Willis

From ancient times, man has believed in life after death. When God created man, he placed him in the Garden of Eden with access to the tree of life (Gen. 2:9). Because of sin, Adam and Eve lost access to the tree of life which enabled them to live forever (Gen. 3:22). Ever since that time, man has lived in hope of regaining the paradise which he lost through sin.

Evidences of the hope of eternal life are seen in many cultures. The American Indians believed in a “happy hunting ground.” The ancient Egyptian pharaohs displayed their belief in life after death in the building of their pyramids which housed things they might need in life beyond death. The publishing of “after death” experiences of those who have “come back from the dead” shows that our modern world longs for information about life beyond death.

These subjective experiences can never replace what revelation has spoken about life after death. Jesus, who was raised from the dead, speaks authoritatively about life after death. He points us to the resurrection.

What Happens to Man at Death?

The Scriptures reveal that at death the body goes back to the dust from which it came and the spirit goes back to God who gave it (Eccl. 12:7). Jesus revealed the nature of the habitation of the immortal spirits of the dead in his discussion of the rich man and Lazarus (Lk. 16:19-31). The dead go to a place called hades (translated “hell” in the AV in Lk. 16:23). Hades is separated into two compartments: (a) Torment, the place of the wicked dead, is a place of anguish and suffering (Lk. 16:23-24); (b) Abraham’s bosom, the place of the righteous dead, is a place of comfort (Lk. 16:25). The two places are separated by a great gulf which makes crossing from one place to another impossible. Hence, the righteous cannot “fall from grace” after death nor can the wicked be saved.

Paul expressed his yearning to go home to be with God at the hour of his death in passages such as Philippians 1:21-24 and 2 Corinthians 4:16-5:10. He understood that death is the gateway to the presence of God. Properly viewed, death can be a blessing to man; it takes him from a world of suffering (Lk. 16:23-24); (b) Abraham’s bosom, the place of the righteous dead, is a place of comfort.

What Shall Be Raised From the dead?

The Scriptures direct our hope to the resurrection. What shall be raised from the dead? Not the spirit, for the spirit does not die. That which shall be raised from the dead is that which dies – the body.

Men asked, “How shall the dead be raised” (1 Cor. 15:35). Perhaps they were thinking of the various things which can happen to the body. A body may be eaten by animals, burned in a fire, blown to bits in an explosion (as in the Challenger disaster), drowned in a sea and eaten by fish, or decay in a tomb. Men asked, “How shall the dead be raised?” How shall the various parts of the body be reassembled when the body has gone back to dust and may have blown a thousands different directions?

Paul reminds the Corinthians that the resurrection from the dead is not without analogy in nature. Even a seed does not produce a living plant except that it first die (1 Cor. 15:34-37). And the plant which grows from the quickened seed does not resemble the seed which was planted. If God is able to produce this natural event, he also will be able to raise the dead body of man. He is the Almighty God.

What Kind of Body?

What kind of body will man have? The answer is this: one fitted for eternal habitation. God has prepared a body fitted to every kind of life: he has prepared a body fitted for those birds which fly in the heavens, a body fitted for the animals of the sea, a body fitted for the various animals which is adapted to their peculiar habitations (1 Cor. 15:38-42). The same Lord is able to prepare a body fitted for heavenly dwelling.

The simplest answer to “what kind of body will man have at resurrection?” is this: the same kind of body which the resurrected Jesus had. Paul said, “For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (Phil. 3:20-21). However, in teaching the nature of the resurrected body, Paul wrote, “It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body” (1 Cor. 15:42-43).

Just as surely as man has a natural body, he also will have a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44).

Man’s physical body cannot inherit heaven (1 Cor. 15:50). Consequently, those who are alive at the moment that Jesus returns to this earth will experience a change in their body. Paul wrote, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).

Who Shall Be Raised?

The resurrection shall not be confined to the righteous. Instead, both the wicked and the righteous shall be raised from the dead (Jn. 5:29; Acts 24:15). The wicked shall be raised to face eternal damnation; the righteous shall be raised to eternal life.

Jesus Christ: The Guarantor of the Resurrection

What assurance do I have that man shall be raised from the dead? Jesus Christ is the guarantee. He is the “first fruits of them that slept” (1 Cor. 15:20). Thayer explains the image of Jesus as the first fruits: “Here the phrase seems also to signify that by his case the future resurrection of Christians is guaranteed; because the first-fruits forerun and are, as it were, a pledge and promise of the rest of the harvest” (p. 55). Even as God has given assurance that he will judge the world in righteousness by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, so also the resurrection is our proof that we too shall be raised from the dead (Acts 17:30-31). “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:21-22). When the dead are raised, Jesus will have destroyed his last enemy (1 Cor. 15:26).

Consequences of the Resurrection

Belief in the resurrection should effect how we live. Rejection of the resurrection surely effects how the wicked live. The wicked push out of their minds the idea that God will raise them from the dead and call them to account for their wickedness; they say, “God hath forgotten: he hideth his face” (Psa. 10:4-11). If there is no resurrection of the dead, men may as well live the hedonistic lifestyle. Even Paul exclaimed, “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us cat and drink for tomorrow we die'” (1 Cor. 15:32, RSV).

In contrast to the wicked, the righteous believe in the resurrection and judgment. This effects how they live. Paul exhorted, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58). Peter exhorted that, since we look for a new heavens and new earth, “what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness” (2 Pet. 3:11-14). Belief in the resurrection motivates one to godly living.

Belief in the resurrection provides comfort in the hour of death. Christians do not mourn in the face of death like those who have no hope. Paul expressed this faith as follows:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words (1 Thess. 4:1318).

The sting of death is removed by the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:54-56).

Conclusion

Each person shall live forever in a resurrected body. That body will either be in an place of everlasting torment or everlasting bliss. Every individual has control of his own eternal destiny. Where shall you live eternally?

Guardian of Truth XXXV: 2, pp. 34, 42
January 17, 1991

The Decline of Fatherhood In America

by Mike Willis

The United States is rapidly becoming a fatherless society. Dan Davenport reported, “In 1960, 5.8 million American kids lived in single-parent families. Today, that number has more than tripled, to an astonishing 18 million. Another figure is equally startling: nearly 40 percent of our children do not live in the same home as their biological father” (Better Homes and Gardens [June 1996], 46).

David Blankenhorn re-ported, “About one-third of all childbirths in the nation now occur outside of marriage. In most of these cases, the place for the father’s name on the birth certificate is simply left blank. In at least two or every three cases of unwed parenthood, father is never legally identified” (Fatherless America 10). Another wrote that “27.1 percent of all American children are born into single-parent homes, a number that is on the rise. In the black community, that figure is an astounding 68 percent” (Critical Issues [I:2], “Family Values,” Web address: http://www.leaderu.com/critical/family.html).

When Dan Quayle called our attention to this issue by commenting on the Murphy Brown sitcom in which the leading character decided to bear a child outside of wedlock, he was soundly attacked by Hollywood. The New York Daily News headline that reported on Quayle’s Murphy Brown speech was titled “Quayle to Murphy Brown: You Tramp!” However, more and more sociologists are reaching the same conclusion — Dan Quayle was right!

The Impact of Fatherless Homes

Enough time has elapsed since the social revolution of the 1960s that sociologists are able to critically analyze the impact of the breakdown of fatherhood on the lives of the children. Here are some of their findings:

• Poverty. “Over half of all children living with a single mother are living in poverty: a rate five to six times that of kids living with two parents.”

• General Health Problems: “An Australian study of over 2,100 adolescents found that teens from disrupted families had more general health problems, were more likely to display signs of emotional problems, and were more like to be sexually active than kids from intact families.”

• Child Abuse: “Child abuse is significantly more likely to occur in single parent homes than in intact families. In a study of 156 victims of child sexual abuse by the U.S. Department of Justice, the majority of the children were found to come from disrupted or single-parent homes. Only 31 percent of the children lived with both natural parents.”

• Crime: “Children from single parent homes are more likely to get involved in crime than those growing up in traditional homes. Robert Rector, a policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation, has found that across the economic spectrum, children from single-parent households are more involved in crimes and drug than kids form two-parent homes. `The most accurate indicator of future delinquency in children is whether they are reared in one or two parent homes’ (Critical Issues [I:2], “Family Values,” Web ad-dress: http://www.leaderu.com/critical/family.html).

These conclusions concur with those of Blankenhorn in his book Fatherless America.

• Violence: “. . . fatherlessness is a primary generator of violence among young men… Surveys of child well-being repeatedly show that children living apart from their fathers are far more likely than other children to be expelled or suspended from school, to display emotional and behavioral problems, to have difficulty getting along with their peers, and to get in trouble with the police” (31). “Boys raised by traditionally masculine fathers generally do not commit crimes. Fatherless boys commit crimes” (30).

• Poverty: “In married-couple homes in the United States in 1992, about 13 percent of all children under the age of six lived in poverty; in single-mother families, about 66 percent of young children lived in poverty — a ratio of 5 to 1” (42).

• Domestic Violence Against Women: “Of all violent crimes against women committed by intimates during this period, about 65 percent were committed by either boy-friends or ex-husbands, compared with 9 percent by husbands” (35). The situation of a divorced woman con-trolling the husband’s right to see his children, a live-in boyfriend (or husband), resentment for the divorce and child support payments, feeling powerless to change it — all of these created a combustible atmosphere that frequently results in violence against women.

• Child Sexual Abuse: “A number of studies have shown that girls living with non-natal fathers [boyfriends and stepfathers] are at higher risk for sexual abuse than girls living with natal fathers” (41). “. . . a young child left alone with mother’s boyfriend experiences substantially elevated risks of abuse” (Idem.).

• Adolescent Child Bearing: Garfinkel and McLanahan’s study of fatherless homes reported that “daughters of single parents are 53 percent more likely to marry as teenagers, 111 percent more likely to have children as teenagers, 164 percent more likely to have a premarital birth, and 92 percent more like to dissolve their own marriages” (46).

Messages We Are Sending About Fatherhood

Our culture is sending distinct messages about father-hood in a number of ways. Television portrays fatherhood in a number of ways. Consider the role of fathers as portrayed in the following programs:

*Murphy Brown: The man is only necessary for sperm to conceive a child. After the child has been conceived, the man is not needed or wanted in the life of the mother.

*The Cosby Show: The man is portrayed as a “Father Knows Worst” type of guy, with the brains for knowing how to run the family clearly residing in the mother.

*Archie Bunker: The man is portrayed as an ignorant, prejudiced tyrant over the family.

We are sending the message to our children that divorce is a normal part of life. In divorce, the mother gets the custody of the children, the father sends child support payments and visits on every other week-end, and the divorced mother and father go on happily in their lives. Parents who divorce with hostility are encouraged to learn how to have a happy divorce. Not ever is the message being sent that divorce is not the solution to family problems. Even in the best divorces, both parents remarry and go their separate ways. The father is consumed with the responsibilities of his new family and his children see less and less of him. Within a couple of years, his children will rarely see him.

Restoring the Role of Fatherhood

In the darkness created by the deterioration in the home, Christians have a wonderful opportunity to display the light of the gospel, both in word and by example.

The word of the gospel is that God ordained that children be raised in the home of their natural mother and father. When God created the world, he created the home. Children were to be raised by Adam and Eve, not some state agency, a day-care center, a grandparent or close friend, but by the biological parents who conceived them (Gen. 2:18-25). The home is not a temporary arrangement for sexual gratification that is cast aside when the “new” wears off. Rather, the gospel announces that marriage is a life-time commitment between a man and woman (Rom. 7:1-6). It is to last “until death do us part.” This stable home is the best environment in which to rear children. Christians need to be preaching at every opportunity what God reveals about the home. The darkness of the world around us with reference to the family should cause each of us to preach what God reveals on the home to our friends and neighbors.

We can display the light of the gospel in our own homes. When father and mother love each other, accept their respective roles of husband/father and wife/mother in the home, and bring up God-fearing children, their home will be a refreshing oasis in the midst of troubled homes. Their children will not be troublemakers at school; they will show respect for their teachers and principals. They will learn their lessons and move on into higher education or specialized job training so that they can assume the roles of parents in their own homes. In contrast to the children of broken homes, this family will be an exemplary role model for others. Non-Christians will see the family of Christians and be drawn toward the God of the gospel who revealed how to have Christian homes.

Other messages about manhood emphasize that father-hood is being respectfully discharged so long as the child support payments are paid in a timely fashion and occasionally the father makes time to visit his children. The father is especially good if he is a “Disney World Father,” one who takes his child to an amusement park on week-ends or otherwise buys the children things the mother cannot afford. Can the role of “fatherhood” be satisfied by a man who visits for a few hours every other weekend?

Guardian of Truth XLI: 12 p. 1
June 19, 1997