Vol. 6, No. 6
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Paul said, "I am a debtor both to the Greeks and to foreigners, both to the wise and the unwise" (Romans 1:14). Hugo also is a debtor, both to Paul and to hundreds of people, living and dead. Paul also recognized his debt to Jesus, expressing it this way:
"I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I who lives, but Christ lives in me. And the life I live in the flesh is in trusting the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
Hugo also is a debtor to Jesus, as are all human beings. Every human being should say that the Son of God "loved me, and gave himself for me" as "an unblemished and spotless Lamb," in the pouring out of his "precious blood" (Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 1:19).
Not only are all responsible human beings sinners (1 Kings 8:46; Romans 3:23), but in themselves, by their own resources, they cannot rid themselves of the guilt of sin, as Jeremiah admitted: "I know that the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (10:23). All of us are helpless, but, thankfully, the supreme Helper saw our condition, and, moved by love, sent a book from heaven, a book of directions for all of us to reach the benefits of Jesus' "precious blood" (1 Peter 1:19).
Among the thousands of books in the Congressional Library in Washington, or in any other place, there is only one that came from heaven! We call it the Bible. Not anything, in the teaching of the Bible, is of human origin (2 Peter 1:20). The appointed writers were men who "spoke from God," being "guided by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). The happy result is that "Every Scripture is God-breathed, and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped and completely ready for every good work" (2 Timothy 3:16). God's power "has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3).
You have been taught to be a daily Bible reader (Psalm 1:2; 119:97). Of the 1189 chapters, if you read four chapters a day beginning on January 1, you will have read all the Bible by October 26. If from October 26, if you begin again with Genesis 1 in your daily four chapters, by December 31 you will be ready for 2 Samuel. In 1998 Granville Brown of Murfreesboro, TN said: "When I finish reading through the Bible this time, this will make 66 times I have read through the Bible."
Every Bible reader is to be complimented. He is fulfilling James' inspired commandment: "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" (1:21). However, James said there is something more important than Bible reading, or of hearing it read:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (1:22-25).
A reading of the 21 chapters of the Gospel of John is designed to cause sinners to become believers "that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God" (20:31). But more Bible reading shows that believing in Jesus, that is, a mental conviction alone, will not save a sinner:
Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue (John 12:42).
Even Satan believes in God (James 2:19), and an unclean spirit told Jesus, "I know who you are, the Holy One of God" (Mark 1:24), and James wrote "that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (2:24).
Furthermore, more Bible reading tells sinners, who have become believers, that repentance (metanoia, a change of heart, Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30; 2 Corinthians 7:10) is part of sinners' obeying God.
Furthermore, more Bible reading tells believing penitent sinners that a confession of faith in Jesus is part of their obeying God, for Jesus said, "Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:32). Jesus himself, before Pontius Pilate, made the "good confession" (1 Timothy 6:13; John 18:37).
Furthermore, more Bible reading tells believing penitent sinners who have made the "good confession" that they must be "baptized" in "water" to have their sins washed "away" by the blood of Jesus (Acts 10:47; 22:16; Mark 16:16; 1 Peter 1:18-19). One reads of a penitent believer exclaiming, "Look! Water! What hinders my baptism?" (Acts 8:36). The inspired preacher replied, "If you believe with all your heart, you may." The man answered, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." Then both the sinner and the preacher "went down into the water" and "he baptized him" (Acts 8:38). Then the purified believer in Jesus, a Christian, went on his way "rejoicing" (Acts 8:39; 1 Peter 4:16).
Furthermore, all "saved" people (Mark 16:16) in their joy begin to "grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18), dedicating their lives to Jesus (Galatians 2:20). Among other good activities, taught by the good Book, they neglect not to assemble with other Christians on the first day of the week to break bread and to lay by money offerings for God's holy work, to pray, and to offer up the sacrifice of praise to God continually (Hebrews 10:25; 13:15; 1 Corinthians 16:1-2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17).
However, if Christians become "lukewarm" (Revelation 3:16) and allow the devil, stalking "about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and they leave their "first love" (Revelation 2:4), "their last condition is worse than the first. It had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, having known it, to turn back from the sacred commandment delivered to them" (2 Peter 2:20-21).
At that dangerous stage, God, Christ, the Holy Spirit and the angels (Luke 15:7) still love the backsliding sinners. Then "spiritual" Christians do their best to "restore" them "in the spirit of gentleness, watching themselves lest" they "also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). He "who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save a soul from death, and he will cover a multitude of sins" (James 5:19-20). Happiness is restored when a backslider repents and prays (Acts 8:22).
Furthermore, there are erring Christians who have not placed their membership with any congregation, who occasionally drop in to partake of the Lord's Supper. One of them says, "I am a member of the church everywhere." That statement is true, but it displays a lack of love and consideration for other Christians who are working hard to make their congregation a shining light for Jesus. Wherever such a wandering, floating Christian happens to drop in, he expects others to have prepared the Lord's Supper for him. He is selfish.
The elders are commanded to "shepherd (poimaino) the flock (poimnion) of God which is among you" (1 Peter 5:2). But if a sheep (a Christian) is "a member of the church everywhere," he is a freelance, defined by Webster as "a person who acts according to his principles and is not influenced by any group; an independent." An independent Christian then is a sheep who does not want to be under shepherds, which means he has no use for Hebrews 13:17: "Obey your leaders. They keep watch for your souls, and they will give an account. Submit to them that they may give a joyful account, not with a complaint, which would be bad for you."
Paul, after his conversion, attempted to place membership with the Jerusalem congregation (Acts 9:26), but those Christians were afraid of him, not knowing that he had become a Christian. Barnabas came to the rescue, letting the Jerusalem Christians know that Paul ought to be welcomed (Acts 9:27).
Later, Paul wrote a letter of recommendation for Phoebe, a Christian lady moving from Cenchrea to Rome, asking the Roman congregation to "receive her in the Lord in a manner worthy of saints. Help her in whatever need she may have. She herself has helped many, including me" (Romans 16:1-2).