NT Tuesday: Be Affectionate & Honor One Another

SubwayLast week we looked at the Biblical imperative of “build up one another“. This week we will look at being devoted to one another or outdoing one another in showing honor. Paul writes in Romans 12:10 “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor”

We want to look at two thoughts that are contained in this verse, but first the setting for the verse. In the first eleven chapters of Romans, Paul, in a most systematic and concise manner, expounds on God’s gospel according to His Son, Jesus Christ. He then exhorts us to live in an entirely different manner based on the truth of the Gospel. In fact, the difference was supposed to be so remarkable that we would appear to be like a living sacrifice! (A living sacrifice – think of how odd that sounds).

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NT Tuesday: Build Up One Another

Open Bible MarkLast week we looked at exhort one another. This week we will look at “building up of one another” or “edifying one another.” Romans 14:19 NASB reads “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.” (I had to “resort” to using the NASB because the ESV does not use the terms “one another” in its translation of this verse.)

The verse follows an exhortation by Paul to mature Christians to not allow their freedom to participate in certain liberties to be a stumbling block or a hindrance to other Christians as they walk with Jesus on the path that He leads them. Rather than causing “differences” to become an issue, Paul argues, we should spend time strengthening each other.

A similar thought is also found in 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11 – For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.

God, in His manifold and infinite wisdom, has designed the body of Christ to be knit together. Believers are not individuals running around on their own individual crusade or left alone to deal with their own issues, problems, challenges, or successes. Rather, our Father has designed a body where each member is joined together with each other and with Jesus Christ as our Head. He has designed this body so that each member is needed and vital. He has designed the body so that each member is necessary for the mutual upbuilding of the other members. In other words, we need each other. We need each other in our walk with the Lord, we need in other to be better equipped to use the gifts given to us, we need each other for encouragement, exhortation, prayer, confession, etc.

Because we need each other – and let’s think selfishly for the moment – the more we can positively impact one another, the better off we will be because the body, as a whole, will be in better shape. It’s sort of like the exhortation to husbands to love their wives like their own bodies. We can extrapolate that verse from marriage and apply it to body life – “believers edify the other members of the body as you want to be built up yourself.”

I want to make one more observation about Romans 14. Notice what Paul says. He says we are to “pursue the things which… edify one another”. That, to me, sounds like it needs to be purposeful, not random. In other words, we need to proactively and decidedly behave in such a way that it builds up the other members of the body. We need to structure our day, our week, our month around being edifying to other members of our body. That takes time, investment, sacrifice. But it would seem that it would be a wise investment and it seems that it would be pleasing to Jesus.

Until next week – fulfill your ministry and build one another up! Hey, why not invite them to the Shepherding Conference at Greenwood Hills later this week (shameful plug!!)

 

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Photo credit: CreationSwap/Krist Adams

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NT Tuesday: Exhort [encourage] One Another

Large crowd of peopleLast week I explained why I thought that the “one another” verses in the New Testament ought to be considered a New Testament principle. Simply put, principles should change our practice – it’s that simple. If we are going to adhere to New Testament principles, than our lives (not just our meetings, but our individual lives) ought to look much, much different than the world.

Last week we looked at “pray for one another” and “confess our sins to one another”. This week we will look at “exhort one another.” The verses are found in Hebrews 3:12-13 “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”

A couple things are really interesting as you meditate on this verse. First, if we are going to exhort one another (or encourage, if you feel more comfortable with that word) every day (EVERY DAY!), that presupposes a close state of fellowship. How often do you go from Sunday to Wednesday and then Wednesday to Sunday never seeing or hearing from a member of the local Body? I hope the answer is NOT often. (Thankfully, and mostly because of my amazingly hospitable wife and the blessing of owning a business where I employ members of the local body, I NEVER go through a week without some form of fellowship with a member of the local body on a daily basis!) Now, one might ask “How does that happen?” And the answer is “Not by accident.” You have to plan on investing in the lives of the Lord’s people – through visitation, phone calls, text messages, emails, etc.

Secondly, we also see the necessity of this. Exhortation or encouragement from another believer is a spiritual vitamin! There is so much emphasis on taking care of our physical bodies that it seems that people are so busy juicing, training for races, dieting, fasting, etc. that they have no time for the Lord’s people! The Lord Jesus said to Peter “feed my sheep” and He wasn’t talking about organic grass, He was talking about feeding their spirit.

Ask yourself – today, have you spent more time ministering to your own physical body than you have to the Lord Jesus’s Body?

A person cannot encourage or exhort his fellow brothers and sisters without entering into close fellowship and without faithfully attending the meetings of the local assembly. Hebrews 10:24-25 provides a similar command as the one we are looking at in Hebrews 3.

We cannot live our lives in a bubble – we ought not to be isolated from a lost and dying world that needs to hear about God’s Gospel according to His Son, nor can we live separated from our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are going to be obedient to the Word of God and truly encourage and exhort one another every day, then we must live purposefully, fixed on that goal, we must allow other Christians to exhort us, and stop blaming the elders for not doing the job – this proves that the New Testament principle of relating to one another is not an “elder” thing – it’s a believer thing.

Until next week – fulfill your ministry!

 

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Photo credit: Public Domain

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NT Tuesday: ‘One Another’ Verses in the New Testament

Large Crowd of PeopleI must admit, I had writer’s block, which is odd, since I am not a writer!

The only topic that came to my heart and mind was writing on the “one another” passages in the New Testament. But, I said to myself, “self, that isn’t a New Testament principle.” Ah ha! Little did I know that I would sit through a message on Nehemiah and be told that the “one another” passages in Scripture are in fact a New Testament principle. Therefore, this week’s blog post is on the “one another” passages found in the New Testament.

Let me explain why I agree with the Bible teacher who declared that as New Testament principle practicing saints, we ought to pay heed to the “one another” passages.

Principles should change our practice – it’s that simple. If we are going to adhere to New Testament principles, than our lives (not just our meetings, but our individual lives) ought to look much, much different than the world.

Let’s consider some of these passages…

 


Confess our sins to one another



 

“Therefore confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16.

In this verse, we are instructed to participate in two different activities as part of our relationship with each other in the body of Christ. The first is to confess our sins to one another. Interestingly enough, it does not say to confess our sins to a robed clergy, to a recognized elder, to a Bible teacher, to a deacon, etc. It says to confess our sins to one another.

While Jesus Christ’s work on the cross has made it possible for us to confess our sins directly to God, there are some benefits to confessing our sins to each other in an appropriate manner.

Certainly, if we have wronged a person, we ought to confess our sins to that person and ask for forgiveness. Likewise, if we have sinned publicly (or been caught in a sin and it becomes public), there is a necessity to confess our sins to the local church and others who may have been offended by the sin.

If we need support or accountability, confessing our sins to one another has a benefit. I have sat with more than one young man who has confessed his addiction to pornography. Even as they were confessing them, there was a burden that was being released and now shared by another brother. Accountability, love, grace, and forgiveness are often needed during these times.

 


Pray for one another



 

Notice how closely, confessing our sins, praying and healing are connected. It would do us well to take note of this relationship. I would suggest that our prayers are hampered when we fail to confess our sins and likewise, holding in unconfessed sins is certainly not healthy.

Prayer is powerful!

Prayer benefits the one praying and the one who is the subject of the prayer.

Prayer aligns our thoughts with God’s perspective on things.

Prayer forms a bond between brothers and sisters that is not easily broken.

We need to pray because it expresses our dependence on God.

We need to pray for others, because it expresses our love for them.

We need others to pray for us, because it allows them to show their love for us. Let us be prayer warriors during our time here.

 

More on the “one another” passages next week – unless the Lord Jesus comes back – oh, what a thought… until then, fulfill your ministry.

 

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Photo credit: Public Domain

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NT Tuesday: Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth – 2 Timothy 2:15

 

I recently wrote an article titled “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth” for Uplook Magazine. This week’s blog post is a condensed version of that as part of our on-going look at New Testament principles.

 


Continued Steadfastly in the Apostles Doctrine



 

The Holy BibleOne of these principles is that the believers continued steadfastly in the Apostle’s Doctrine. I’d like to suggest that studying the Word of God is a New Testament Principle. Now, let’s look at 2 Timothy 2:15.

Many dear saints have memorized the verse in a translation that includes the word “divide”, but a more practical and updated translation of the word can be found in the English Standard Version: ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” The idea is that we ought to know how to handle the Word of Truth and that we ought to handle the word of truth responsibly and with discernment.

Whether you prefer the translation “rightly dividing,” “cutting in a straight line,” or “rightly handling”; the image is clear – correctly using the Word of Truth takes work, takes effort, takes purpose and takes discernment.

 


Rightly Dividing



 

Let’s consider, in broad terms, the ways by which the Word needs to be divided – where distinctions need to be made while handling the Word of Truth.

  1. Recognizing that God has dealt with man differently throughout history. This concept is often called “dispensationalism.” A big word with even larger significance. Simply put it means that God has dealt differently with man in various ways over history.
  2.  

  3. Recognize a distinction between the Church and Israel. A casual student of the Bible will recognize that Israel has a unique and special place in history. A casual student will also recognize that something changed after the resurrection of the Lord Jesus and that a new body was formed, a body much different than Israel.
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  5. Recognize that there are two times when the Lord will come to the Earth. Failing to discern the difference between the first advent of the Son of God (that happened about 2000 years ago) and the second (still future) has led many to miss the first because they were looking for the second.
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  7. Recognize that the believer has two natures. Born again believers receive a new nature at the time of their new birth. God, in His perfect wisdom, allows the old nature to remain.
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  9. Recognize the difference between truths that pertain to the believer’s position and to his practice.
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  11. Recognizing the difference between faith unto salvation and service unto rewards. Salvation is a free gift offered by God to sinners, rewards are gifts given by God to believers for their faithful service to Him while here on earth. Many a misguided soul has confused the two and led many straight to eternal judgment.

 

There are other areas of truth that require a careful handling, rightly dividing it, but these examples should suffice to give the reader a basic understand of the necessity of heeding the Holy Spirit’s instruction to Timothy and to enable each and every believer to be a worker who need not be ashamed, but one who is approved.

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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NT Tuesday: The Importance of Corporate Prayer

Ocean Waves

In our continuing series on New Testament Principles, I’d like to take a look at the importance of prayer for the believer who wishes to be guided by New Testament principles. Specifically, I would like to consider the importance of the individual believer participating in corporate prayer.

In Acts, the church is said to have been continually devoting themselves to four functions. One of these functions is prayer. Again, I would like to point out the phrase “continually devoting themselves”. That’s a lofty characterization – does it describe our prayer life? Our assembly’s prayer life?

When we think of New Testament principles, many of us do NOT automatically think of prayer and yet, it was mentioned early on as an important activity of the church – an activity that was modeled after watching the Head of the Church, The Lord Jesus Christ, while He walked on the earth He had previously created.

Prayer is prevalent in the disciples of Jesus Christ (both pre-and post Pentecost). In Acts 1:16, the disciples are seen “in one accord… devoting themselves to prayer.” Those that were going to dedicate themselves to feeding the flock and teaching the Word, also were mindful of the importance of devoting themselves to prayer. So much so, that they chose Stephen and other men to serve at the tables so that they had more time to engage in this vital activity.

When Peter was imprisoned, the church devoted itself to making “earnest prayer” for him. Acts 12:5. Their earnest prayer was heard by a prayer-hearing God who answered their prayers and freed Peter! Peter showed up at the prayer meeting, much to their surprise. (How much better would it have been if they were standing at the front door waiting for him as a sign of faith that God would answer their prayer?!) Alas, their surprise at God’s answer to prayer seems to be a New Testament principle, as well. But it ought not to be! We pray to a prayer hearing, prayer answering, all powerful God. His power toward us!!!

When it was time to appoint elders, they did so “with prayer and fasting” (Acts 14:23). Paul also saw the necessity and the vitality of prayer. While travelling to and in Macedonia, Paul went to “the place of prayer” on the Sabbath Day.

In Paul’s epistle to Timothy, an epistle with the stated purpose of teaching Timothy how he ought to conduct himself in the household of God, Paul mentions prayer several times. In 1 Timothy 2:1, Paul says “First of all, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for all the people.” Note that it says “first of all.” As a means of emphasizing the importance of prayer – before he gets to anything else, Paul wants Timothy to know the importance of prayer. Paul also, in vs. 8 of that chapter, indicates that he desires that men everywhere would engage in praying!

Paul’s epistles are filled with prayers. The Lord Jesus’s life, while here on earth, was filled with prayer. Our lives – individually, but equally important – corporately – should be filled with prayer! It’s a New Testament principle!

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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NT Tuesday: Fellowship – Part 2

Two Rowing

Last week we started a conversation about fellowship. As a review let’s remind ourselves that inherent in the principle of fellowship are three key ideas:

  1. Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
  2. Fellowship means sharing with others certain things in common such as interest,
    goals, feelings, beliefs, activities, labor, privileges and responsibilities, experiences, and
    concerns.
  3. Fellowship means a partnership that involves working together and caring for one
    another as a company of people, like a company of soldiers or members of a family.

So, how does this pertain to Boys Camp at Greenwood Hills? For one, the staff (counselors, directors, support staff, and the camp staff) are a group of people (clearly). These dear believers share certain things in common – a desire to serve Jesus Christ by serving His people at Greenwood and share in a concern for the spiritual well-being of the campers.

Usually the first two aspects are relatively straightforward. It’s the third aspect that becomes a little less clear, a little less obvious, perhaps a little less present in our idea of fellowship. You see, the concept of working together involves everyone pulling in the same direction, everyone rowing in the same direction, everyone marching to the same beat. This is where it gets a little harder, a little more difficult for some.

Well-meaning brothers and sisters can be rowing contrary to the group, marching to a different beat, and not pulling in the same direction. It’s happened before at Boys Camp and it happens all too frequently in the local assembly.

This year, we had 118 campers. That’s the highest number of campers we have had in a long, long time. One would think that the logistics would have been more challenging or that the stress level would have been higher, but it wasn’t. And the solution, as noticed by several counselors and staff, was that everyone was pulling in the same direction. There was no “lone ranger”, no counselor having his own agenda, we were all in fellowship. It makes all the difference in the world. So, in a year when directing the camp should have been harder (because of the number of campers), it wasn’t. It was the best year in seven years of directing the camp.

The same can be true in the local body. Well meaning Christians can actually hamper the progress of the meeting by failing to march together, by failing to pull in the same direction. This usually happens when brothers and sisters have their own agendas. And, franky, one can even isolate the agendas to a few key areas – music, youth work, women’s ministries, and use of gifts. These seem to be the areas within the assembly that seem to attract the most attention from individuals who are trying to “make a name for themselves” or “trying to shake things up.”

Here’s a simple test as to whether you are really in fellowship or not – whether you are rowing together or rowing contrary to the body – has it been necessary for the elders to spend an unusually large amount of their time “with you” in regards to one or more of these areas? If so, you might need to start rowing in a different direction.

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo flickr/infomatique

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NT Tuesday: Fellowship

Crew

Last week, Scott was kind enough to cover for me while I had the privilege of directing Boys’ Camp at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference in Fayetteville, PA. While directing the camp, I couldn’t help but think of another important New Testament principle.

In Acts 2:42, the Holy Spirit caused Luke to write “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” The principle of fellowship is noted early on in church history and I would like to explore it more this week and next week in my blog.

Before we start our study on fellowship, I want to remind everyone of what makes a New Testament principle. A principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption.” So, a New Testament principle is “a basic truth, law or assumption that was established or expounded upon in the New Testament for believers seeking to follow the Lord Jesus as His disciples, individually or collectively.”

Please note, that in the early church, the saints devoted themselves to fellowship. They didn’t just “have fellowship” but they devoted themselves. This means that it was a priority and was purposeful, something that was meaningful to them, something in which they invested their time and resources.

Our common conversation about fellowship falls far short of defining real fellowship. We somehow confine fellowship to that which takes place in between meetings and often involves coffee and conversation. While that may be good, it’s not the biblical concept of fellowship. I am guilty of this type of talk too – especially when it provides justification for certain activities.

For example, I enjoy (or at least I did last year, this year it hasn’t been much fun) watching the Phillies play at Citizens Bank Park. So, if I take another young man from the assembly with me, we can call it “fellowship” and it seems far more spiritual than it really is! But, that kind of activity also falls far short of the biblical concept of fellowship.

Let’s look at how Mr. Webster defines fellowship. According to Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary it means: (a) companionship, company, associate (vb.); (b) the community of interest, activity, feeling or experience, i.e., a unified body of people of equal rank sharing in common interests, goals, and characteristics, etc.; (c) partnership, membership (an obsolete usage but an important one. It shows what has happened to our ideas of fellowship).

There are three key ideas that come out of this:

  1. Fellowship means being a part of a group, a body of people.
  2. Fellowship means sharing with others certain things in common such as interest, goals, feelings, beliefs, activities, labor, privileges and responsibilities, experiences, and concerns.
  3. Fellowship can mean a partnership that involves working together and caring for one another as a company of people, like a company of soldiers or members of a family.

Joe Reese, a gifted Bible teacher, has pointed out that another good definition of fellowship is “two fellows in a ship rowing in the same direction.” You can see how that meets the 3 key ideas.

So what does this have to do with Boys’ Camp at Greenwood Hills? Tons, but we’ll have to wait to next week for the connection and the application to our relationship with other believers in the local assembly.

Until next week, fulfill your ministry!

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Photo credit: R0uge (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ordination or Commendation?

Ocean RocksIf you have been following Digital Sojourner you already know that Tuesdays have been nicknamed “New Testament Tuesdays.”

New Testament Tuesdays started back in the early spring with a series of articles by Jack Hay entitled “Which Church? A Problem.” In the series Brother Hay looked at 11 patterns, or principles, of how the early church gathered together in local congregations. Unfortunately, even a casual observer will note that there numerous discrepancies between what is commonly practiced in most local churches today and the pattern of meeting together as found in the New Testament. A PDF ebook of the series is available here for free.

After the Which Church? series concluded, Brother Mike Stoudt picked up Digital Sojourner’s Tuesday time slot and continued to write about various other patterns and principles found in the pages of the New Testament. Due to a prior ministry obligation Mike was unable to write a post for today, so I thought I could share a little about a subject found in the New Testament that I am currently studying: commendation.

What in the world is commendation you ask? Don’t worry you are not alone! The vast majority of evangelical churches never use the term nor practice the principle – even though the practice of commendation is clearly found in the New Testament. See Acts 11:19-26, Acts 13:1-5, Acts 14:24-28. Even a cursory reading of these passages will reveal that the church in Antioch recognized that the Holy Spirit had called out from among them two believers for a work that God had called them to.

 


Ordination



 

Seems fairly simple… and it is simple. Unfortunately we like to complicate what God has made simple. Today most ecclesiastical circles will speak of “ordination.” Though the practice differs widely, ordination typically means that one has successfully mastered a prescribed religious curriculum, has been approved by an officially recognized inter-church ruling body, and has been ‘ordained’ during a special church ceremony. The one who has been ordained is then considered to be a member of a special class of Christians called “the clergy” and can hold certain offices and practice certain ministries that most other Christians “the laity” can not.

The modern practice of ordination may seem fine. Unfortunately, however, the practice can not be found in the New Testament. Because the practice is so common today many refuse to believe that there is no New Testament precedent regarding ordination. However, I would like to suggest that not only does the modern practice of ordination lack a Biblical foundation, in many ways ordination is actually contrary to New Testament teaching.

How is the modern practice of ordination contrary to the New Testament? Consider this…

  • There is no ‘prescribed religious curriculum’ other than the Bible itself — no other book or even church history is authoritative. Revelation 22:18-19
  • There is no ‘officially recognized inter-church ruling body’ sanctioned in the New Testament — The passages referenced above clearly show that it was the one local church alone that recognized what the Holy Spirit said. Acts 13:1
  • There is no ‘special church ceremony’ described in the New Testament for this purpose. When the local assembly in Antioch ‘sent off’ Barnabas and Saul for the work that God had called them to do they fasted, prayed and laid their hands on them. Acts 13:3. This does not sound like an ornate ceremony with great pomp and circumstance — in fact the Lord Jesus taught against this. See Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18
  • There is no distinction made in the New Testament between the ‘clergy’ and the ‘laity.’ The New Testament actually teaches that all true Christians are members of the so-called ‘clergy’ — the priesthood of all believers 1 Peter 2:4-5 KJV

I know that this may sound shocking to you, so I would ask you not to take my word for it, but rather go to God’s Word alone and prayerfully study what God says about this topic.

 


Commendation



 

Well, if commendation is not ordination — what IS commendation? From the above referenced passages in the book of Acts one preacher has defined commendation as “an action by a local assembly in which they recognize God’s call of one of their own for a specific ministry and they hand the individual over to the grace of God for His care and blessing.”1

So, commendation is simply…

  • the local assembly recognizing that God has called one or more of their own for a special work. Acts 13:2.
  • the local assembly giving way to the leading of the Holy Spirit. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) to the Lord. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) for a specific work of God. Acts 13:2.
  • the setting apart of the called believer(s) from the local assembly. Acts 13:2-4.
  • an ongoing relationship between the commending assembly and the one commended. Acts 14:26-28.
  • involves the entire local assembly. Note the multiple use of the word ‘they’ in Acts 13:2-3.
  • involves the assembly fasting and praying. Acts 13:2-3 — in accordance with Matthew 6:5-7 and Matthew 6:16-18 both fasting and praying should be done in a spirit of humility, and in such a manner that does not draw attention to the ones who are fasting and praying.
  • the local assembly identifying itself with the one(s) being commended as symbolized through the laying on of hands. Acts 13:3.

Therefore, commendation is something that is simple and spirit lead. All too often the modern church has added layer upon layer of rules and regulations to the simple and clear teaching of the Word of God. Yet, so many true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ seem to be blinded by the traditions of man.

So, what do you think? Has the modern church over-complicated and possibly even overruled the Scriptures with the modern practice of ordination? I would appreciate hearing your thoughts in the comments.

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1William Yuille (June 27, 2012) Commendation, message given at Greenwood Hills Bible Conference, Fayetteville, PA.

Also special credit to: Tom Irwin (July 30, 2012) Commendation, message given at North York Gospel Chapel, York, PA

Photo credit: Chris Buggins, used with permission.

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Titus 2:14b The Church – A Purchased and Separated People

 

This is the 21st video in a series of teaching videos on the book of Titus. You can find the first video here.

We are currently looking at three expressions in Titus 2.14. We became excited last week because we are redeemed. What an amazing truth!

This week it gets even better. We belong uniquely to the Lord Jesus Christ. He has ensured that we will never be mixed up with the world in the long run. He has purified us unto himself. If we live in the good of that and reflect this truth in practice it will make an amazing difference in our lives.

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