BACK TO THE ORIGINAL CHURCH 
 
THE CHURCH of the first century as established by Christ through his apostles was not a denomination, but simply and purely the church and spiritual body of Christ upon the earth. On this most all will agree. But on the necessity of returning to that status, and on the means of doing this, few will agree. Divesting ourselves of denominationalism does not come easy. But, if we really want to be acceptable with the Lord, and Scriptural, it is a necessity (John 17:20-22; Romans 16:17; I Corinthians 1:10-13; 3:1-4,17; Ephesians 4:1-6; Galatians 1:6-8). Let us stop trying to justify our denominational divisions, organizations, and traditions not found in the New Testament. God does not give one person the right to believe one thing and his neighbor the right to believe another as far as salvation is concerned. In that Great Day all of us are going to be judged by the same Book, and we know what that Book is--the Bible. We have no authority from God to form a denomination or invite anyone to join such a denomination (no one has such authority, for it has not been divinely given to man). In fact, when we truly obey God, we are made one, not a part of any or many denominations (Ephesians 2:16; Colossians 3:15; I Corinthians 12:13; Acts 2:38-41,47). Therefore, let us search out the old "land marks." Let us humbly return, giving up denominational pride; yes, let us be identified only with that one church which has already been established in the first century (against such Jesus said the gates of hell would not prevail, Matthew 16:18). Let us be one in Christ. There is much divesting and returning that needs to be, and must be, done. Are we up to it? 
 
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"THE CHARTER OF THE CHURCH"
(Matthew 28:18-20)
The Preamble:
"And JESUS came and spake unto them, saying, All power [authority] is given unto me in heaven and in earth..."
 
The Commission:
1. "Go ye therefore..."
2. "And teach [make disciples of] all nations..."
3. "Baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost [Spirit]..."
4. "Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you..."
 
The Promise:
"And, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world [age]. Amen."
 
ON THE PEAK his resurrection glory the Lord Jesus Christ spoke these great and imperative words to his disciples. The cross was now behind him, and his great work of human redemption had been accomplished. Now the world was to hear the good news.
 
First, as a preamble to all that follows, Jesus declares by what authority he could make such a great commission. The authority of heaven and earth is behind these commanding words. There is no greater statement of authority.
 
Next, the heart of the commission itself appears. It represents the thrust of the great work that is to be done. Go, make disciples of all nations, baptize them, and then teach them to observe all things that Christ has commanded. All men have sinned. All men are lost. All men need the Savior. This commission is to be carried out until the end of the world. That is beyond the death of the apostles. That being the case, the commission involves others besides the apostles. And inasmuch as they were to teach men to observe all things he had commanded, that means the great commission would be taught over and over again as this was one of the things he commanded. Indeed, this is the charter of the church.
 
Finally, a wonderful promise follows. It is given to all who faithfully carry out the great commission and work under the charter of the church. If we are going, teaching the true gospel, baptizing as he taught, and teaching men to observe all things he commanded, he is with us.--J.E.G.
(VOL. 35, NO. 1, 1997)
 
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WHEN A DOLLAR IS NOT
WORTH A DOLLAR ANYMORE
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 IT HAS BEEN SAID that a dollar bill held in oneís pocket since 1961 would be worth about 18 cents today. How much would that same dollar bill now be worth if it had been invested in stocks, bonds, or even a bank?
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 Letís think about this spiritually. The Lord gave the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30) and a similar one involving ten pounds (Luke 19:12-27). In each parable the one who had done nothing with that which he had received was held accountable with the most severe consequence. In the parable of the talents the servant who had done nothing with his Lordís money was sternly addressed, "So you ought to have deposited my money with the bankers, and at my coming I would have received back my own with interest" (Matthew 25:27, NKJV; also notice Luke 19:23).
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 Since becoming a Christian, what have you done with the abilities and resources with which the Lord has endowed you? In fact, have those endowments diminished in value by lack of use? That is what the parable of the talents (and of the pounds) is all about. Whether we believe this or not, we are going to be held accountable.                    (March, 2000)
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THE GOAL OF THE COMMANDMENT 
 
  • "Now the end of the commandment is charity [love] out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned" (I Timothy 1:5, KJV).
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    THE WORD translated "perfect" in the New Testament, teleios, is a most interesting word. It signifies reaching the goal. It is cognate with or comes from the word telos, which means the end or goal. Thus, God is perfect in the absolute sense, but man only in a relative sense in reaching the goal of maturity (not sinless perfection). 
     
    Paul makes use of this word as he spoke of his aspirations for Christ in Colossians 1:28, "Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (NKJV). Initially through Christ we reach the goal of forgiveness and right relationship with God. The righteousness of Christ in sinless perfection is declared to be our righteousness (Romans 10:4; I Corinthians 1:30; II Cor. 5:21). Through God's grace we put on Christ in baptism (Acts 2:38; Galatians 3:27). We are now in Christ, a Christian, and our goal is to be like Christ. Or in the language of Paul, "a perfect [teleion] man," attaining unto "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13). This is God's plan from eternity (Romans 8:29; Ephesians 1:4,5). 
     
    In one great, simple, and practical statement the apostle nails it all down in I Timothy 1:5, "Now the purpose [telos, goal, end) of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere [unfeigned] faith." The end result of God's commands and instructions is realized in the context of love, initially and thereafter (I Peter 1:22). That's what it's all about. In this context there must be a pure heart (a singular heart that has no sinful admixture or selfish motive), a good conscience void of offense (we are not dabbling in sin and questionable things; we have tender sensitivities about right and wrong), and sincere faith (one that is real, unfeigned; we are not hypocrites). John (I John 4:17,18) speaks of love being "perfected among us" (and it is when it is in accordance with I Timothy 1:5).
     
    The goal of Christianity is very simple, to be reconciled to God through Christ and to be like Christ. Christianity is Christ. When we are sidetracked into sectarian wrangling and denominationalism, we have missed the mark. Even as Paul said here: "From which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle [fruitless] talk" (I Timothy 1:6). 
     
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    WHY I DO NOT OBSERVE CHRISTMAS
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    1. We donít know when Christ was born, and if God had wanted this day observed in a special way the Holy Spirit would have let us known about it (John 14:26; 16:13; II Timothy 3:16,17). 
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    2. We havenít been commanded to observe Christmas, and we are only commanded to teach men "to observe all things" that Christ has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). 
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    3. There are many false, irreligious, and pagan things tied in with the observance of Christmas which are incompatible and antagonistic to Christianity (Psalms 119:104; Ephesians 5:9,10; Philippians 4:8). 

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    THE DAYTONA
    INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
    AND THOSE 31 DEGREE TILTED TURNS
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     THE FACILITIES of the DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, appropriately dubbed the "World Center of Racing," are very interesting. We are told the whole area takes in 450 acres. The massive grandstands, overlooked by a 15-story tower, will seat 100,000 people. NASCAR conducts two races here each year, while 8 are run altogether. There is a 2.5 mile tri-oval, and a 3.56 mile, road course. On the race track, turns like 2 and 4 have an awesome 31 degree high bank. Racing cars have to be going at least 75 miles an hour just to keep from turning over. When the turn is completed, the bank tilts back to 9 degrees, which one would think would be less intimidating. Not so, this is a very dangerous part of the track as it drops off so fast. There is not as much air pressure underneath the car. The driver must be on his toes to avoid disaster. He must indeed be a careful driver. (And as a footnote thought, there are between 42 to 44 laps before pit stops.
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     Being a Christian, this information immediately drew our attention to another race. No, we are not talking about the materialistic rat race that we witness every day. Rather, thoughts come to mind of the race every Christian must run in living the Christian life. Paul uses the illustration of racing more than once, and says, "Let us run with patience the race that is set before us" (Hebrews 12:1). This race is not run in competition with others; rather, all who finish the course will be winners (II Timothy 4:6-8). The race must be successfully completed.
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     Carrying this illustration of a race a step further, and finding a parallel in the DAYTONA INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY, we find there will be many tilted turns. Like the 31 degree turns that require a continued speed of 75 miles an hour or more, lest the car overturn, we must press on in the Christian life. If we slow down or stop when the going gets rough, or is less than smooth, it will be disastrous. To stop is to flop. We will turn over, fall, and crash our Christian life. Then when we are coming out of such trying experiences, we must keep a level head to keep from veering off the track (even as the race car driver enters the less tilted 9 degree bank). The pit stops are necessary, too, if we are to run the rugged course of this life as a Christian. We need the Lordís church, Godís Word, and one another to win the race.
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     Let us press on (Philippians 3:13,14; I Corinthians 9:24-27). Victory is for all who actually finish the Christian race (Revelation 2:10).
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    TheSwordANDStaff