Let me be clear from the outset: I am not writing to promote the COVID vaccine, to try to convince you of its effectiveness, or to justify the many draconian measures that have been instituted in order to coerce individuals to take the vaccine. Each one of us must seek the face of God for wisdom concerning whether or not to take the vaccine, which vaccine to take, and when.
The point that must be considered is whether or not the COVID vaccine is the “Mark of the Beast.” This accusation has been raised ever since the announcement of the vaccine’s release. It is sad to watch as Christians become “rabid” in these erroneous claims, even cutting off those who fail to agree with them on every point of their claims. The extremes of this position are heard in statements such as “No Christian would ever get the vaccine.”
Over the years, many different things have been identified as the Mark of the Beast. Some of these same people who now trumpet about the vaccine being the Mark of the Beast also trumpeted that Social Security (Social Insurance) Numbers, bar codes, tattoos, National ID cards, microchips, etc. were the Mark of the Beast. Rather than recognize that they are in error, they leap to the next popular wave concerning the Mark of the Beast.
Making a claim about the Mark of the Beast, regardless of the particulars of that claim, ignores a number of important Biblical truths that we want to identify. When we gain an understanding of these truths, we will gain assurance that COVID vaccines are not the Mark of the Beast.
Ignoring the Context
The Mark of the Beast is not a central theme of the Bible or even of Bible Prophecy. We do not read about it until we reach Revelation 13. When we recognize this fact, there are some things that immediately fall into place.
The Mark of the Beast will not be put into place until after the Beast (Antichrist) is revealed. The Scripture tells us that the Beast will not be revealed until the One who prevents his working is taken out of the way (2Th 2:6-8). Careful study of the text shows that “He Who now letteth” is the Holy Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit, then, must be removed from the earth before the Beast can be revealed. That removal cannot occur until all New Testament believers are raptured from the earth, because the Holy Spirit indwells every believer.
Setting out the events of Revelation 13, the first mention of the Mark of the Beast, also shows us that the image of the Beast will be revealed before the Mark of the Beast is forced on the nations. The image of the Beast will be brought to life through the demonic power of the False Prophet (Rev 13:14-15). This sort of “miracle” would make worldwide news, and we have heard nothing of the sort in the news.
When we put together the prophetic timeline in which the Mark of the Beast is introduced, we realize that this Mark will not be introduced until at or near the middle of the Tribulation Period. The Scripture is very clear that New Testament believers will not go through any part of the Tribulation (1Th 5:9). The Bible teaches a pre-Tribulation Rapture of the saints . That means that New Testament believers will have been gone from the earth for as long as three and a half years before the Mark of the Beast is introduced.
As we consider these aspects of the Scriptural context of the Mark of the Beast, it is blatantly obvious that the COVID vaccine is not the Mark of the Beast.
Ignoring the Mark
Revelation 13:16 says, “And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:” Unlike the COVID vaccine, the Mark of the Beast is a mark received in the right hand or forehead. The Word of God is not speaking metaphorically, simply meaning that the mark is injected or inserted into the body in some way. When it says the right hand or the forehead, it means exactly that.
Ignoring the Promotion
Revelation 13 also states that the False Prophet will be the main influence behind the Mark of the Beast. It is not the one-world government that will push for the Mark of the Beast, but the one-world church. Today we have neither a one-world government nor a one-world church. Nor do we see all religions pushing for everyone to get the COVID vaccine.
I cannot claim that vaccine mandates and vaccine passports have nothing to do with laying the groundwork for the coming of the Mark of the Beast. I can confidently state, however, that the COVID vaccine is not the Mark of the Beast. To make this claim is to ignore too many things that are clearly stated in the Scripture.
As I stated at the beginning of this article, I am not encouraging anyone to get the vaccine. You must seek the Lord’s direction about that. I am encouraging and warning everyone not to fall prey to the false teaching that the COVID vaccine is the Mark of the Beast. Stay away from those who would encourage you to ignore what the Bible says plainly so that you can become their disciples (Rom 16:17-18). The most important thing for every Christian today is to stick with the Book!
Also, if you choose to get the COVID vaccine, do not criticize those who have not. If you choose not to get the COVID vaccine, do not criticize those who have. Show Christian love to your brothers and sisters in Christ (Rom 14:1-23).
Cults are everywhere. Many religions in the world are cults or, at the very least, display many of the attributes of a cult. If we are not careful, we can fall prey to these cults and get sucked into their manipulative ways. One gentleman, D. M. Canright, was brought into the Seventh-Day Adventist Church shortly after his salvation, and it took twenty-five years for him to recognize the fallacy that surrounded him and make his way out of that cult. For this reason, we must constantly fill our hearts and minds with the Word of God so we can recognize and avoid the traps of these cults.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a Cult as: "a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious." A religion with questionable beliefs and/or practices can be described as a cult. This is totally subjective, meaning that one individual would consider a particular religion to be a cult based on their personal feelings while another individual would consider that same religion to be "mainline." An example of this is seen in Germany where Baptist churches of any stripe are considered cults. This thinking is the result of one group of so-called "Anabaptists" in the city of Munster during the 1500s. This group neither believed nor practiced like other Anabaptists of the day, yet the fact that their enemies called them Anabaptist was enough to paint every other Anabaptist with the brush of a cult.
There has to be a better way to determine what is and what is not a cult than attempting to apply a subjective definition.
We will mention the names of several cults throughout this article so that we understand the practical expression of the various attributes of a cult. Some religious groups display cult-like tendencies by adhering to one or two of these attributes, but may not be a full-blown cult because they do not adhere to all these attributes. What is bothersome and sad is that some Independent Baptist churches fall into the category of cult-like tendencies. We must learn to recognize these so that we save ourselves, and our loved ones, from the pain and suffering of the cult mentality.
As Bible-preaching, Bible-practicing Baptists, our absolute authority is the Word of God. Psalm 119:101 tells us, "I have refrained my feet from every evil way, that I might keep thy word." It is the Word of God that commands our movements, our thoughts, our attitudes, and our actions. When we get away from the Word of God, we inevitably fall.
The cult may pay lip service to the Bible as their final authority, but the final authority is found elsewhere.
The cult will say things like "the Bible is our final authority, as interpreted by our leading council."
This is the teaching of the Jehovah's Witness. They teach that the Watchtower publications (beginning in 1879) are the only proper avenue of Scriptural and spiritual interpretation.
This has ever been the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, telling us that we must believe whatever the priest tells us because he represents the "Church." The Pope, speaking "ex-cathedra (from the throne)," can confirm doctrine that is not found in the Bible: i. e.: The immaculate conception of Mary, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the assumption of Mary, Purgatory, etc.
Yet, there have been some Independent Baptists who have also fallen into the trap of teaching that the Pastor must be believed and obeyed, even if he has no Biblical basis for his doctrine or practice. This is an attribute of a cult among people who should know better.
The cult will also say things like, "I know the Bible says that, but I've had a vision and/or an experience!"
This is true of most, if not all, Pentecostal and Charismatic groups. When confronted with the teaching of Scripture, they will fall back on their own experience as a reason to ignore what the Bible has said, or they will point out some vision or dream they have had. The Holy Spirit will NEVER lead anyone contrary to the Scripture (John 16:13-15), and He would never give a dream or vision in contradiction to God's written Word if He were still speaking through dreams and visions today.
When the leader(s) interpret the Bible according to their ideology, it is easy to see where abnormal doctrine will be the outcome. We already mentioned the various non-Biblical doctrines that have been affirmed by the Roman Catholic Church.
Another example of abnormal doctrine is found in the Seventh-Day Adventist Church. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church holds the prophecies of Ellen G. White to be of equal standing to the Bible. Many of these prophecies have been proven untrue, yet the SDA Church ignores these "problematic" prophecies and continues to promote other prophecies. It is through her prophecies that "cold cereal" was popularized, because, according to her prophecy, it would make men express less "toxic masculinity." Due to this prophecy, one of her adherents, W. K. Kellogg, established Kellogg's cereals.
Some of these abnormal doctrines will be less glaring than these examples. In an Independent Baptist church, the abnormal doctrine will be seen in carrying any practice beyond the dictates of Scripture. Consider church discipline as an example of this truth. Many Independent Baptist churches do not practise church discipline at all, even when there is an obvious need for it. This is abnormal when compared to 1 Corinthians 5:2, "And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you." Other churches believe church discipline to be at the whim of the Pastor. When a church allows the Pastor to decide that an individual member is no longer a member of the church, they are practicing Pastoral discipline rather than church discipline. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 make it clear that the whole church was to be involved in deciding to remove a member of the church: "In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, (5) To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." There are other aspects of church discipline that we will deal with as we consider other attributes of a cult.
Cults and cult leaders demand allegiance or loyalty that is unreasonable and unquestionable. While the Bible teaches that every Christian should be loyal to the Lord and the church to which the Lord has directed him, that loyalty is not blind loyalty. Biblical loyalty is based on the teaching of the Scripture rather than the manipulation of men.
When you read the Gospels you will find that the disciples constantly peppered Jesus with questions about His teaching. Jesus did not show offence at being asked to explain what He believed, but a cult leader will be highly offended that anyone would dare question his teaching/doctrine.
When you read the Gospels you will find instances where the Lord did not answer the questions of the religious crowd and those who asked questions to get "dirt" on Jesus. There are times a Pastor will discern this as the attitude of the questioner and refuse to answer a question. That is legitimate. However, to have a consistent pattern of failure to answer honest questions should be a red flag that you are rubbing shoulders with a cult/cult leader.
Absence of Soul Liberty
Soul liberty is a wonderful thing that can be twisted into something detrimental to the individual. Soul liberty states that every born-again believer can be lead and taught by the Holy Spirit of God (John 16:13), and is not answerable to anyone but the Lord for his doctrine and practice.
Of course, there are some boundaries to soul liberty: it must be used to edify other believers (Romans 14:19) and it cannot be used to produce arguments over petty disagreements (Romans 14:1). Also, a believer who is not in doctrinal agreement with the church of which he is a member may not be able to hold a particular position within the church. This is because every New Testament church is supposed to show unity in doctrine rather than diversity in doctrine (1 Corinthians 14:26; Ephesians 4:5).
A cult, however, allows for NO dissent. You cannot believe differently and be a part of their group. If you happen to disagree with the cult or cult leaders, you will be identified as a troublemaker and removed from the group. On top of that humiliation, the cult will ban any of its adherents from any sort of contact with you.
Again, this can be seen in Independent Baptist churches in the area of church discipline. The Pastor or church will point out that the disciplined church member is to be treated as a publican or a heathen man (Matthew 18:17). The Pastor or church will proclaim that this means every church member must treat the disciplined member as if they had died. This is beyond the teaching of Scripture: Jesus Himself sought to reach the heathen man and the publican. He did not associate with them in their sin, but He did seek to reach them for God. In church discipline, the church member should not go out of their way to maintain contact with the individual under church discipline, but when they have contact it must be to promote reconciliation. So, these churches have taken the truth too far; demanding that every church member falls in line.
This has been hinted at in previous points, but it is needful to bring it to the forefront. Cults/cult leaders will seek to control every aspect of your life: where you go, who you see, what you do, etc.
Again, this is extreme. The Pastor ought to preach the Word of God with authority, telling folks what God expects of them in every aspect of their lives. However, this bold preaching does not translate into dictatorship, where the Pastor or church-appointed official enters the home of the member to correct detected error (misuse of money, inappropriate music habits, attendance to worldly entertainment, etc.), except in those areas where church discipline would be necessary. Cults have a "snitch system" or "secret police" built into their religion which spies on various members to bear tales to the leadership. The cult leaders then approach the individual cult member in a heavy-handed manner to maintain total control.
This sort of control has been known to occur among Independent Baptist churches, too. I can recall staying in the home of a family during a visit to a particular church. The wife had 4-5 children, home-schooled most of them, cared for one child that had special needs, arose every morning at 5:00, walked 5 miles every day, baked homemade bread every day, and a host of other responsibilities all because the Pastor had said from the pulpit that every wife should be doing those things. Of course, the Bible says nothing about what time to rise each morning, how far an individual should walk every day, whether bread should be homemade, etc. This was a Pastor taking total control over the daily lives of every individual.
What every Pastor of every Independent Baptist church should pray for and promote is a people who will look to the Word of God and follow that as their pattern for living. That would be a blessing to every Pastor and church member!
Avenue of Salvation
Finally, a cult has the attribute of claiming to have a corner on truth. This is usually seen in the area of salvation, but not always.
The Bible teaches that Christ is the only way to heaven (John 14:6)! Sadly, the majority of "Christian" churches do not teach this, having fallen into the trap of adding the works of man to the work of Christ. Some would claim that we are a cult because we believe this, but that is not the case. Many people have been saved outside of an Independent Baptist church, and I am thankful for every soul that has come to Christ, no matter the church or denomination that was involved. A cult, however, believes that no one can be saved unless they are a part of their group. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that they are the only way to heaven. The Jehovah's Witness teaches that they are the only way to heaven. The Seventh-Day Adventist teaches that they are the only way to heaven. The Mormon teaches that they are the only way to heaven. And the list goes on.
Some point to a group of Baptists called "Baptist Briders" and claim that they are a cult because they believe that they are the only ones going to heaven. Having known many who called themselves "Baptist Briders" and having discussed this issue with them, I can honestly attest that they do NOT believe that only Baptists go to heaven. This claim is a gross misrepresentation of what they believe.
In these Last Days, believers need to recognize a cult when they see one, even if that cult claims to be "Independent Baptist." We must avoid these cults, and pray that we never find these attributes of a cult to be a comfortable place for our church to stand.
“But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.” Galatians 3:22
According to God’s Word, everyone has sinned. That means that you have sinned before a holy God. Your sin stands as a barrier between you and God so that you cannot have a relationship with Him nor can you hope to enter heaven. “But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2).”
Because of this separation between God and man, something must be done. But the question is: “What will you do about your sin?”
You Can Ignore Your Sin
Many people today simply ignore their sin. They may acknowledge that they have sinned at some point in their lives, but they refuse to consider the consequences of sin. Many of these will stand at the Great White Throne Judgment, to receive the just reward of their sin. “And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:14–15).”
Others ignore their sin by refusing to admit that they have ever done wrong before God. These people may live good, moral lives, but they are still sinners before God. The very act of refusing to admit sin is a lie people tell themselves and an insult to Almighty God. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us...If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us (1 John 1:8, 10).”
Simply ignoring sin cannot help us. Something must be done with all the sins that each individual has committed.
You Can Attempt To Bear Your Sin
Some people consider themselves able to remove the stain of sin from their own lives. To accomplish this purpose they go about doing good, helping the poor and needy, and going to church. While all of these things are good things in which to be involved, they cannot do anything about the sin that has already been committed.
Still, some seek to erase their sin by doing good and being good. But the fact is, God has told us that the very best we can do is unacceptable to Him. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away (Isaiah 64:6).” Also, by seeking to bear their sin through good deeds, these people have ignored what God has provided for them. “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God (Romans 10:3).”
Some consider their church attendance and the work they have performed for their church to be sufficient to remove their sin. Jesus told of these people in Matthew 7:21–23. “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” We can consider the people referred to as being faithful church members, having been baptized, partaking in communion, and attending many church services. However, none of these things helped them as the Lord calls them people “that work iniquity.” So, in all that they do, these people cannot remove their own sin through religious efforts.
You Can Allow Christ To Bear Your Sin
The whole purpose of Jesus’ coming to this earth was to bear your sin. “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).” “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (John 1:29).”
All that Jesus suffered on the Cross was to free you from your sin so that you could be at peace with God. “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ...But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5:1, 8–10).”
Jesus has already suffered the penalty of sin for you so that you can be free from sin through Him. “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification (Romans 4:25).” “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Corinthians 5:21).” “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God (Hebrews 10:10–12).”
Today Jesus calls you to come to Him for forgiveness of all your sin and life through His death on the Cross. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool (Isaiah 1:18).” “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:14–16).”
If you choose to allow Christ to bear your sin, there are two things that God requires of you.
1. You must turn away from your sin and faith in yourself, your religion, and your ideology. You must realize that your sin is the cause of your separation from God (Isaiah 59:1) and that none of these other things can help to relieve you of your sin or bring you closer to God (Ephesians 2:8–9). This means that you must repent. “But go ye and learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy, and not sacrifice: for I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance (Matthew 9:13).” “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15b).”
2. You must also place all of your faith in Him as your only hope for salvation from your sin. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference (Romans 3:22)...” You must then call upon Him, asking Him to take the load of your sin. “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation . . . For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:9–10, 13).”
The choice is yours to make. What will you do about your sin?
Originally published November 2005.
While out visiting recently, my wife met a woman who described herself as a pagan. She had a five-year-old son, very near my oldest son’s age. The boys played together for a few minutes, which opened up a door of further discussion with this woman. She said that, while she was pagan, she allowed her son to attend church if he chose to do so. She then began asking about the church, and especially what we did in regards to children her son’s age. She told my wife that she had taken her son to several churches, but had not liked what she had seen in these places. “All they do is play,” she said. If her son was going to go to church, she wanted it to be in a place where he would learn something, not just play and be entertained.
The Difference Between this Pagan and Many Christians
How sad that this unsaved woman had more discernment than many Christians today. She claimed to be pagan, which is defined as someone who does not recognize God in any religion. Yet, she knew that for her son to go to church to play was a waste of time. Why is it that God’s children have not figured this out? It seems that the first question Christians ask about any church is, “What sort of activities do you have for the children?” A church without numerous activities for young people and children will fail to see large numbers of visitors who last, unless these visitors are without children, or they feel that activities aren’t what makes for a good church.
Some Christians Go to Church to Play
So many so-called fundamental Baptist churches have changed the format of their Wednesday evening service. It used to be that the children would sit and be taught from the Word of God right alongside their parents, then there would be a time of prayer over the many needs of the church and its people. Nowadays, many churches have done away with prayer, except for an opening and closing prayer. The adults have a Bible lesson, while the children are taken off into another room or building to play and be entertained. The majority of the adults in attendance are “helping out” with the children, and miss out on the teaching from God’s Word. We will never raise another generation to fear and serve God when we refuse to teach them anything but games and an occasional devotional. Even the occasional devotional is nothing to brag about. The children only endure it so that they can get on with playtime. Other churches try showing videos to their children to keep them entertained, while their parents are singing choruses along with the worship team. What we see happening today is a competition between the world and churches. What children find as they grow older is that the world has better entertainment than the church, and they drift away from the church and the things of God. Many parents’ hearts have been broken over this very thing, but they do not seem to understand that they, the parents, have taught their children to crave play over truth.
Some Christians Skip Church to Play
Any excuse is acceptable for skipping a church service in these last days. Church services are cancelled or rescheduled for the benefit of the Super Bowl, or any other event in the community. This teaches our children that church is unimportant; that we hear enough of the Bible at some times to leave it out at other times. Many individual believers skip church for various reasons. It seems that meeting with family and out-of-town guests is much more important than meeting with God in His house. Folks claim that they need to get away from everything, but they only succeed in getting away from God. And, in the end, their children never come to God.
This circumstance is nothing new. For centuries people have been unfaithful to the house of God. Even the prophet Isaiah was given some words to say about people’s appetite for play rather than God. “If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it” (Isaiah 58:13-14). It seems a great effort is necessary to get folks out on Sunday morning, while the Sunday night service is nearly impossible to get many people to come to. God’s people sit in the pew and think about all the things they could be doing if they just hadn’t come to church. According to Isaiah, these people miss out on the blessing of God, while they dishonour the Lord by their lack of attendance. They certainly aren’t helping their children to develop a relationship with God.
Where Is the Teaching?
“But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14-15). ” As a whole, our children are not being taught in the things of God. Memory verses used to be a part of our Sunday School class when I was growing up, but I hear very little of that sort of thing now. I do hear that it is unwise to expect that children should sit and learn Bible verses, meanwhile, we expect them to learn what they are taught at school. I hear that it is unwise to expect that children should sit and be attentive in Sunday School or a regular church service, meanwhile, we expect them to sit and be attentive in school. These are wrong priorities, and these wrong priorities will bear bitter fruit. Who is to blame for this lack of teaching among our children? I believe that we can find a two-fold failure to train our children in the things of God.
First of all, these children have parents who are responsible to teach and train their children in the things of God. Deuteronomy 11:18-19 says, “Therefore shall ye lay up these my words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” The first need for parents who desire to teach their children, is that they have a personal walk with the Lord. The “do-as-I-say-and-not-as-I-do” philosophy has never worked with teaching and training our children, and it never will.
Beyond this, parents must immerse their children in the things of God. In other words, parents need to talk about these things with their children constantly, not just on the way to church and on the way home from church, but daily. We need to start young with our children because if we do not, the world certainly will. We must follow the Lord’s command to “bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). ”The phrase “bring them up” seems to mean that parents are to make the nurture and admonition of the Lord a way of life for their children.
This means that if parents are to teach their children the things of God, they must regularly attend a church that will teach their children the things of God. It is inconsistent for parents to seek to train their children at home, and then take these same children into a church that will please their children’s flesh, rather than teach them the truth.
But, what if the father is not a Christian? Should the mother sit idly by and watch as her children are raised as heathens? Of course not. The Apostle Paul talks about Timothy’s training in the Word of God. This training did not come from his father, who was a Greek (Acts 16:1), but from his mother and grandmother, who were believers (2 Timothy 1:5). What a precious thing it is to have a whole family that loves God and serves Him together, but we cannot allow a lost or backslidden loved one to keep our children from being taught in the Word.
Also, a pastor is responsible for the teaching of those who attend services at his church. The Apostle Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28). ” There is no mandate for a pastor to seek out ways to entertain his flock, but to feed them from the pure Word of God (Matthew 28:20). It is the pastor’s responsibility to see that even the children in his church are being taught in the Word of God. He must set the priorities for the children and youth of the church. Will they be taught godly things or games?
It is vastly more popular to try to entertain the children because a happy child is a cause for parents to remain in a church. Therefore, pastors are tempted to create or allow more and more activities for the children. Many pastors seek to justify this clamour for fun by calling it an outreach tool. The way I remember it, tracts and a New Testament were outreach tools. Has the Word of God become so powerless that it takes modern media and modern tactics to draw folks to Christ? What we lack today is not more methods, but more consecration. If God’s people were devoted to Him, there would be no need for other methods to draw people into our churches.
What we have to offer a lost and dying world is far better than a little fun on a Sunday or Wednesday. We have the hope of abundant, eternal life and salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. We have the truth. Because we have the truth, we must teach it to our children. If we do not have the truth, then, by all means, let them be entertained rather than diluted.
Why is it that a pagan understands more about what should go on in church than many Christians today? I believe that Satan has been working overtime to blind and distract believers from our purpose, which is to bring Christ to a Christ-less world. We must examine ourselves, and be certain that we are not guilty of entertaining our children at the cost of teaching them the truth. If we are not faithful to teach our children in the things of God, in a very few years we will see many churches close their doors, missionaries return from the field due to a lack of support, and countless souls sent into a hopeless eternity.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." -Exo 20:8
The topic of the Sabbath has become a hot button issue for many Christians in these last days. Much confusion and distraction surround the subject. Sadly, many once-solid Christians have fallen from their steadfastness into the Messianic movement and related cults. New Testament churches and faithful Christians need to understand what the Scripture has to say about the Sabbath so that the Devil cannot use this issue to cause them to err from the faith once delivered unto the saints.
The Placement of the Sabbath
"And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the LORD: to day ye shall not find it in the field. Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none." (Exo 16:25-26)
Moses makes it clear that the Sabbath is the seventh day of the week (Saturday). Other holy days were called "Sabbath days," even though they fell on other days of the week. However, the weekly Sabbath was always the seventh day.
Nowhere in Scripture (Old or New Testament) is the Sabbath day said to be changed from the seventh day of the week to any other day.
Today, those who demand that New Testament Christians worship on the Sabbath are sometimes called "Sabbath-keepers." These Sabbath-keepers make a point to tell us that the Pope changed the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday. This is silly. The Scripture identifies the Sabbath as the seventh day of the week, and no man can change the Word of God to suit himself, no matter his position or title.
What brings about confusion to some New Testament Christians are those believers who unwittingly call Sunday the "Lord's Sabbath." Of course, this is an error, and we should refrain from giving a name to the first day of the week that does not belong to it.
The People of the Sabbath
"See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day." (Exo 16:29)
"Wherefore the children of Israel shall keep the sabbath, to observe the sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant." (Exo 31:16)
As we consider the Sabbath day and the place it should hold in the lives of New Testament Christians, it is important to consider the Sabbath in its proper context. The Sabbath was not given to Adam, Seth, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob. It is not until Israel was wandering in the wilderness that God spoke of the Sabbath. When God first spoke of the Sabbath, no one was around but the children of Israel.
In fact, in Exodus 31:16 (printed above), we find the Lord making it very clear that the Sabbath was for the children of Israel. No one else was included in this statement. Even when the Sabbath day was incorporated into the 10 Commandments (Exo 20:8), it was given as a part of the covenant that God made with Israel alone (Exo 34:27).
That means that when a Sabbath-keeper tries to guilt-trip a New Testament Christian into attending church services on Saturday (or even Friday evening), they are trying to enforce a covenant that was never intended to apply to New Testament believers. We would do well to turn a deaf ear to these manipulators.
The Purpose of the Sabbath
The Sabbath-keeper loudly proclaims that the Sabbath is the day in which we should attend church services. They tell us that this is what the Lord meant when He commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy.
Is this what the Scripture teaches?
The word "Sabbath" comes from a Hebrew word meaning "intermission." That doesn't sound like a church service. It sounds as if someone is taking a break or a rest. This is evident in the things that the Lord said about the Sabbath.
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it." (Exo 20:8-11)
An honest reading of these verses brings us to the conclusion that the Sabbath was intended to be a day of rest, rather than a day of worship. Further study shows that the priests were required to perform certain duties in the Tabernacle/Temple on the Sabbath day, but the people were not called upon to gather together for the reading of the Scripture. During the Babylonian exile, the Jews began to meet on the Sabbath day for the reading of the Torah and to keep their culture and language alive. This became the common practice for the Jews, as we see in the New Testament. However, we do not find it expected or commanded anywhere in Scripture.
The Sabbath was supposed to be a day of rest! So, if someone tries to make you feel bad about going to church on Sunday, just remember that the Sabbath was never for that purpose.
The Plan of the Sabbath
Since the Sabbath was given to Israel, as a day of rest, what should the New Testament Christian do about it? Are we to continue its practice today? Very simply, we can keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, or we can choose not to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest. We are not bound by the covenant made between God and the nation of Israel.
The Apostle Paul addressed this topic as he wrote to the church in Colosse. He said, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ." (Col 2:16-17) The Apostle Paul did not expect these New Testament believers to follow the Law of Moses, which was only a shadow of good things to come. His desire was for believers to follow Christ, the substance for which Israel had been waiting.
The Purpose of Sunday
Having considered what the Scripture teaches about the Sabbath, we must ask ourselves what we are to do on the first day of the week (Sunday), or why we meet for church services on Sunday. There is much that could be said on this subject, but we will briefly state the highlights that we find in Scripture.
The first reason that we meet together on Sunday is to commemorate and celebrate the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We find that the Lord Himself met with His disciples on Resurrection Sunday to bring them peace and direction (Joh 20:19-21). A little study informs us that Jesus met with His disciples again on the following Sunday (Joh 20:26). This sets a good pattern for us today.
The second reason that we meet together on Sunday is to fellowship together and to hear a message from the Lord. "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight." (Act 20:7) The breaking of bread that is referred to in this verse is not the observance of the Lord's Supper, but a potluck or "fellowship" meal that the members of this church enjoyed together. This meal was accompanied by the preaching of the man of God, which is needful for every believer.
The third reason that we meet together on Sunday is to bring our tithes and offerings. "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." (1Co 16:2) Would it not be strange for the Apostle Paul to make this statement if New Testament Christians are supposed to meet together on the Sabbath? Yet, he tells the church at Corinth to bring their tithes and offerings when they gather together on Sunday. This leaves no doubt as to what day of the week believers should gather together.
To draw this to a close, we must realize that the Sabbath day has nothing to do with the New Testament Christian, but is part of the covenant that God made with Israel. We do not need to fear the heckling of the Sabbath-keepers. Instead, stay faithful in gathering together each Sunday to celebrate the Lord's resurrection, fellowship together, bring our tithes and offerings, and hear a message from the Word of God.
Everywhere you look, people are hurting from the happenings of 2020. Death, unemployment, lockdowns, and restrictions have combined to make this a unique year in my lifetime. We hear of people facing discouragement and depression due to all the heartache that has been dished out by 2020. These situations sadden me, and I must pray for those who are suffering.
I have faced personal difficulties in 2020. There have been health issues for myself and others in my family. There have been legal issues as one individual has sued me for a fender bender that occurred nearly three years ago. There have also been attacks against my youngest son, myself, my parents, our sending church, and our church plant in Canada. These are the difficulties I am willing to share. 2020 has given me plenty of reasons to be discouraged, disappointed, and depressed.
As we reach the end of 2020 and look at the new year coming in just a few hours, I want to share some reasons why I am not discouraged by all that has happened. Instead, I am encouraged about what the Lord has done, despite the difficulties. I am encouraged by what the Lord may do. I am encouraged by what the Lord will do.
What the Lord Has Done
While we had to stop our door-to-door and literature distribution efforts as a church, we have found other ways by which to get the Word of God into a lost, dark world. We have given away about 35 Bibles and 60 New Testaments through an ad we posted on Kijiji (sort of like Craigslist, but WAY better). We distributed these Bibles and New Testaments because individuals contacted us to receive one. Toward the end of December, we produced a booklet entitled Seven Steps to God. We also recorded a YouTube playlist of these lessons and added the link to each booklet. We have already given away 6 of these booklets to people who have reached out to us. This response amazes me! We plan to continue this effort in 2021.
We have not seen high attendance to our church services due to the fear promoted by the media and the various restriction measures that have been in place most of the year. However, we have had several people search us out and come with a heart to join us and learn from the Word of God. Some of these folks were saved several years ago, while others came to the Saviour during the lockdown. We are already planning the baptism of three individuals in the next few weeks. These events tell me that the Lord is still working, even if it is not as quickly as I would prefer.
I have seen the Lord work and bless in my own family. Just a week or so back, my youngest son made public the Lord's call on his life to preach the Gospel! What a thrill that was to hear. I have also had the privilege of training all three of my sons in our church plant's college-level Bible Institute. This has been a joy to me, and I am looking forward to seeing my two oldest sons graduate in June 2021!
Many of you already know about the personal attacks on myself, my family, and especially my youngest son. These have been vicious, yet unfounded, attacks. It has sometimes been hard to answer the telephone, knowing that the topic is likely to be these false accusations again. Through this difficulty, the Lord has given us new friends and prayer partners. These good folks would never have known or prayed for us had they not received these malicious accusations in their email or through their church website. Some churches have even chosen to take us on for financial support as a result of these attacks. The attacks still hurt, but the Lord has been good to us through it all!
What the Lord May Do
What the government will do regarding their restrictions is unknown. We do our best to cooperate while still meeting together as a church family. Despite this uncertainty, we are looking forward to what the Lord may do.
We are toying with the idea of beginning an internet radio station. We would not be live 24/7 but would have consistent programming each weeknight. Of course, we could ramp up the hours we are live as we are able to obtain further programming, etc. We are excited about the possibility of this opportunity as a means of outreach in our city.
The Lord may allow everything to return to "normal" in 2021, and to bless the seed we have sown in 2020 with a tremendous harvest of souls. We will keep sowing the seed because we do not know what the harvest will look like. However, we do expect a harvest of some sort.
The Lord may count us worthy to suffer for His Name. This means more difficulty than we have ever experienced, but if it means Jesus' Name being lifted up, it would be well worth the pain. I am not prophesying that this WILL happen in 2021, but there are indications that it MAY happen. As Jesus told us, "Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets (Luke 6:23)."
What the Lord Will Do
I am certain that the Lord is going to use our efforts for His glory; that our labour is NOT in vain (1 Corinthians 15:58). If I am faithful to sow and water the seed of the Word of God, God has promised to give the increase. God will not give the increase to allow me an opportunity to brag on my ministry, but to lift up His own Name. I am OK with that! The truth is that I am here for Him, so I don't need the spotlight.
I am certain that the Lord is going to continue to keep His promises to me, that He wrote in His Word. I have trusted these promises for nearly 41 years since I first trusted Christ, and I have always found the Lord to be true to His Word. I have NO reason to think that the Lord will turn His back on His promises just because we enter the year 2021.
I am also certain that the Lord is coming soon. It could be before we reach midnight in Edmonton, which means that we won't see 2021 on earth. That would suit me just fine, except for the plight of the lost who are around us and need to come to Christ. The more I think of how difficult 2020 has been, the more my mind returns to the "blessed hope" of every believer. When Jesus comes, He will reward His servants for their faithfulness. It is exciting to think that I may receive a crown that I can then cast at the feet of Jesus, for He alone is worthy!
There is no reason to be discouraged as we prepare to enter into 2021! The Lord has been too good to me in 2020 to be discouraged. To be honest, I am excited to see what the Lord will do in my heart, and through my life in 2021. I am excited about enjoying His promises even more deeply than ever. I am excited about being one step nearer to His coming.
The Apostle Paul said that these last days would be perilous times (2 Timothy 3:1). In the verses following, Paul described the character of these last days, and they are indeed perilous! What is more fearful is the realization that these character traits were applied to professing Christians, rather than the lost world (2 Timothy 3:5-7). We see these character traits played out before our very eyes, from those who profess godliness, but deny its power in their own lives (2 Timothy 3:5). We also see that these professors are constantly “learning” more about God, getting so close to Him (in their own words), yet they can’t seem to grasp the simplest Bible truth
One very practical avenue by which we see the character of these perilous times is the philosophy that church is unnecessary, and that “nowhere does the Bible command us to attend church.” Too many professing Christians have the idea that church is optional, for those who have nothing better to do with their time, or for those who are just feeble-minded sheep, not being mature enough in their Christian walk to step out on their own.
So, let’s take an honest look at the Bible. Is there one verse of Scripture that says, “Thou shalt attend church?” And, if not, why would we think that people should attend church?
Those who oppose the idea of church attendance will rejoice to hear me say that the Bible does not directly say, “You have to attend church.” It says a good many other things that we will consider, which will inevitably lead us to the conclusion that it is God’s will for every believer to attend church (and be a member of a New Testament church, too). Let us begin at the beginning.
The Word “Church” Requires Church Attendance
The Greek word that is translated “church” is “ekklesia.” This word means “an assembly.” But, more than that, it means “a called-out assembly.” When we are speaking of a New Testament church, we are talking about “Christ’s called-out assembly (Matthew 16:18).” By mere definition, you have to assemble (attend) to have a church.
But, we do not really have to appeal to the Greek to understand this truth. The best dictionary for the Bible is the Bible! When we approach the word “church,” we find that God gives us a clear definition within the pages of Scripture. In Acts chapter 7, Stephen was detailing the history of Israel before the Sanhedrin. As he spoke of Moses and Israel in the wilderness, he used the phrase “the church in the wilderness.” The Old Testament never uses this terminology to describe Israel in the wilderness. Instead, the Old Testament uses the phrase “the congregation of the children of Israel (Exodus 17:1).” This means that the word church may be defined as a congregation. Again, the very word congregation teaches us that to have a church, one must congregate (assemble/attend)!
The Purpose of the Offices of the Church Requires Church Attendance
The New Testament teaches that a New Testament church has only two offices: Pastor (Elder/Bishop) and Deacon. As we study the office of the Pastor, we find that he is given by Christ as a gift to men (Ephesians 4:11-16). The purpose of a Pastor, according to Ephesians 4:12-13, is to produce maturity among the believers, to accomplish the work of the ministry, to build up the church (as a whole) so that every (Paul uses the phrase “…we all…” He left no believer out of this statement!) believer might arrive at the unity of the faith, to the point that they are moulded into the image of Christ. It is impossible for a pastor to accomplish this in the life of every believer, if every believer does not attend church.
The Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy, “And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).” As a Pastor, Timothy had a responsibility to “pass the torch” of the faith to the next generation, but that could not happen without believers attending church.
The Example of the Churches in the New Testament Requires Church Attendance
The book of Acts is filled with examples of how the early believers conducted themselves. There should be no doubt that they have set an example for us, as Paul said about the Old Testament: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).” What was their example?
Jesus commanded His church to remain in Jerusalem until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit. He gave this command as they were assembled (attending) together. “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me (Acts 1:4).”
The new believers at Jerusalem assembled with (attended) the rest of the church there. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers (Acts 2:41-42).”
As you search through the book of Acts, you really do not find a believer that is not an active member of a New Testament church. Even in the ministry of the Apostle Paul, we find that he went preaching the Gospel and ended by planting churches with those new converts (Acts 14:22-23), which gives a further indication that God’s plan is for every born again believer to be an active, attending member of a New Testament church.
Barnabas and Saul assembled with (attended) the church at Antioch. “And when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch (Acts 11:26).”
The “Gotcha” Verse for Church Attendance
So, the Bible doesn’t say, “Thou shalt attend church,” but there are indications everywhere one looks in the New Testament that promote faithful church attendance. Still, there is one more reason why church attendance is necessary.
While God didn’t say, “You must attend church,” He did say, “Do not fail to attend church.” In Hebrews 10:25 we read, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” It is very clear that God’s will is for every believer to assemble with other believers (remember, a church is an assembly). This requires faithful church attendance!
According to this verse of Scripture, we are not to attend church less as time goes on. We are to attend church more, and more faithfully, as we draw closer to the coming of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.
In the end, there is not one verse that says, “Thou shalt attend church.” There is, however, one verse that says, “Thou shalt not fail to attend church (Hebrews 10:25).” There are also the many examples in Scripture that teach us the necessity to attend the House of God. There is even the meaning of the word “church” which teaches us the necessity to attend together with other believers.
We should not fall prey to the character of these last days by thinking that church attendance is for the weak, and that we are so spiritually mature that we no longer need to attend church anymore. We need to grow in the Lord in these last days, and one of the best ways of accomplishing that is through faithful church attendance.
People are often intrigued when they find out that our church is "Independent" Baptist. They often have many questions about how an Independent Baptist church can function and thrive in this world.
Being an Independent Baptist church makes us different from any other church or group, even those who have "Baptist" in their church name. Many "Baptist" churches have a similar, if not identical, statement of faith as their Independent Baptist counterparts, but the difference is easily seen in the practical application of that statement of faith.
First of all, an Independent Baptist church is different because it follows the pattern of the church that Jesus established. This is a broad, sweeping statement, which will surely raise the hackles of those who would defend their denomination. Still, I think it is clear that many churches and denominations do not follow the pattern of the church that Jesus established.
One way in which Independent Baptist churches follow the pattern of the church that Jesus established is by rejecting any form of hierarchy. This hierarchy can be seen both internally and externally among the many non-independent (denominational) "Baptist" churches.
When there is an internal hierarchy, there is no level ground among the church membership. In an internal hierarchy, those who hold a particular position in the church have a greater say in what goes on than another member who faithfully serves the Lord but holds no position. Still, others have boards and committees who make all the pertinent decisions that need to be made within the church, and no other members are consulted in these decisions. In both of these cases, there is an internal hierarchy. This is not the pattern that is laid out for us in the New Testament. When there was a decision to be made, the Pastor brought the issue to the attention of the congregation, who decided by 1) seeking God's direction, and 2) by majority vote (Act 1:15-26; 6:1-6; 15:13-23).
When there is an external hierarchy, there is no consideration of the church membership. Different denominations are set up in different ways, but there is always something bigger and more important than the church itself. There may be a provincial, regional, national, and international group of which the individual congregation, or church, is a part. No one cares about the individual church, because the focus always goes to the top, where the president, council, or synod makes decisions for all their member churches as a whole. This is not the pattern that is laid out in the New Testament. There are only two offices within a New Testament church: pastor (also called bishop or elder) and deacon. The New Testament knows nothing about any position that would supersede the authority of an individual church.
Another way in which Independent Baptist churches follow the pattern of the church that Jesus established is by emphasizing the church. While many churches will emphasize their denomination, an Independent Baptist church will emphasize the church. Jesus taught the importance of the church by making the church the last resort for reconciliation between fellow believers (Mat 18:17). Jesus taught the importance of the church by making it the thing that would overcome the gates of hell (Mat 16:18). Throughout the New Testament, it is the church that is emphasized, rather than anything over the church.
Secondly, an Independent Baptist church is different because she acknowledges Jesus Christ alone as her Head (Eph 1:23; 5:23; Col 1:18). This is impossible in any form of hierarchy or denomination because the hierarchy or denomination forms the head of those churches that make up that denomination. Many "Baptist" churches do not even take the time to put together a statement of faith, because they claim the denominational statement of faith as their own. This means, that if the denomination chooses to change their statement of faith, they have changed the statement of faith of a great number of the churches which make up that denomination. This is not recognizing Christ as the Head of each church, but the denomination! However, every Independent Baptist church will seek the face of Christ for her doctrine, direction, devotion, and demeanor, because He is her Head!
Thirdly, an Independent Baptist church is different because she has one goal. Many denominational churches, including "Baptist" churches, have a different goal set for them each year by their hierarchy or denominational leadership. These goals may be social, and they may be humanitarian, but they are not the same from year to year. The goal of the Independent Baptist church does not change from year to year, because we follow the goal that was set for us by our Head, the Lord Jesus Christ! Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus gave the Great Commission to the church He had founded during His earthly ministry. This Great Commission is delineated for us in Matthew 28:19-20: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen." This Great Commission, in all of its parts, is the one goal of every true Independent Baptist church. We have a desire for all people groups of the world to hear the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ. We also have a desire for every believer to follow after the Lord in Scriptural baptism, and to continue to grow as they are taught and trained in the things of God. In focusing on these things, we are carrying out the goal of fulfilling the Great Commission!
Fourthly, and Independent Baptist church is different because we have one rule book. Most denominations have rules by which they are governed, even to the point of governing the manner of worship within each church. If the individual church fails to follow the rules laid out by the hierarchy or denomination, they run the risk of being removed from the denomination, or even of having their goods and property confiscated by the denomination. An Independent Baptist church has only the Bible as her rule book. If the Bible says that something is sin, the Independent Baptist church will preach that such a thing is a sin. If the Bible promotes something as good, the Independent Baptist church will preach that such a thing is good. We do not appeal to the Church Fathers, commentaries, or the writings of men to find what it is we should preach and practice. We believe that God has already written down the things we need to know within the pages of His Book!
Fifthly, an Independent Baptist church is different because we can glorify God (Eph 3:21). When a denominational church does something special, the praise and glory go to the denomination. When an Independent Baptist church does something special, all the praise and glory go to God, because it is obvious that no human wisdom or ability was able to accomplish what that church has done! We aren't here to honour our denomination; we are here to honour God through Christ! The only way by which we can honestly accomplish this is by being an Independent Baptist church!
No, as an Independent Baptist church, we are not the same as all the other churches around, even those who carry the name "Baptist." There are some important, Biblical differences to which we hold and practice tenaciously, as we seek to please the Saviour!
Every day we make choices based on our priorities. We choose to stay home or go out based on what is truly important to us. We even use the term "essential" to demark the heights to which we raise certain activities or places.
For the lost and carnal believers, anything spiritual is non-essential. That doesn't make it so, it is just that spiritual things do not interest them.
Even some who claim to be spiritual Christians have lost the urgency or essentiality of many spiritual activities: Bible reading, prayer, church attendance, etc. What was once a high priority for them is now a mere afterthought. Those who used to be in church every time the doors are open can fall into a place where they have no more concern about missing church services for any number of reasons.
However, church is essential for several reasons:
1. Church is essential because it is commanded. Hebrews 10:25 is still in the Bible, even though we have been required to miss assembling recently. Now that the restrictions are being slowly lifted, we should not be content with sitting at home watching the live stream or trying to fit in a view whenever it is convenient. We should feel an obligation of obedience to our Lord to be in our place.
2. Church is essential because it is encouraging. In Hebrews 10:25, we are told that we need to assemble to exhort one another. The word "exhort" means "to invite; console; implore." These are the elements of encouragement. When we sit at home and watch the live stream when we could physically meet with our church family, we are missing out on the encouragement that we could give to someone else. In fact, when we fail to attend we discourage those who notice our absence. We also miss out on the encouragement that we could receive from someone else.
3. Church is essential because it strengthens our faith. Remember the Sunday afternoon/evening of Resurrection Day? Jesus met with the disciples and built up their faith. They were "ready to charge hell with a squirt gun." That is, all of them except Thomas. Thomas wasn't strengthened in his faith. He was still grovelling in doubt simply because he failed to think that church was essential (especially a Sunday afternoon/evening service). Thomas did attend the following Sunday afternoon service and Jesus showed up! All of a sudden, Thomas' faith was strengthened, and he was just as excited about the Lord's resurrection as the other disciples had been the week before. We need to be present with God's people so that our faith will be strengthened.
4. Church is essential because it gives a testimony. When we claim to know the Lord Jesus and fail to meet with Him and His people, we are saying something to the lost world around us. We are saying that Church is not essential, and even implying that Jesus is not important. Giving church such a low priority in our lives is also a poor testimony to new converts. A baby Christian looks to those who have been saved for a longer period of time to find out how to practically implement their new-found faith. How sad when the testimony they see says that family, travel, work, sports, and everything else are of a higher priority than the assembling of believers. On the other hand, when we believe and practice the essential necessity for church, we are presenting lost and saved alike with a testimony that is sure to please the Lord Jesus.
Each one of us needs to examine ourselves to see whether or not we find church to be essential. If we find that we are giving low priority to meeting together with God's people, we need to repent of that and return to real, energetic faithfulness to the House of God, wherever they might be meeting.
"Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?" -Galatians 4:16
Young preachers are often surprised to learn that not everyone who claims to be a Christian wants to hear exactly what God says. These young men study and preach their hearts out, only to find that there is a negative reaction to their message. This negative reaction isn't confined to just the young preachers.
Pastors often get the blame for things they never did. Pastors are often blamed for wicked motivations in their preaching when it is the Holy Ghost that led them to preach on a certain topic or mention a particular thing that hits home with some who are not what they ought to be with the Lord. Pastors are often blamed for letting the family down when the parents refused to be faithful to God's house or to live at home what was preached from the pulpit.
On the other hand, pastors are also blamed for people's negative responses to the things that they do! This verse falls into this category.
The Apostle Paul wrote to the churches of the region of Galatia to correct the doctrinal error that had infiltrated their churches after his initial departure. This doctrinal error is still in existence in our world today, and expresses itself in two ways: 1) those who claim that something must be added to the completed work of Christ to obtain salvation, and 2) those who claim that something must be added to the completed work of Christ to maintain salvation. Both of these ideologies are wrong, but they cover most of what calls itself "Christian" today.
Paul, as was his way, was direct and to the point. He did not pull any punches. On the other hand, Paul was not unloving toward these believers who made up the membership of the churches of Galatia. He systematically proves that there are false "gospels" and false "brethren." He goes on to reiterate the truth that the Gospel is received by faith, rather than by any sort of works.
Paul also knew people. He knew them generally, according to their culture or sect. But, he also knew these believers from Galatia individually and personally. He knew what would be the reaction of those who had been persuaded of the correctness of these Judaizers (those who taught that the Law was a required addition to Christ's finished work to either obtain or maintain salvation). They would immediately react to Paul's epistle by framing him as an enemy of the people. But, it was this same Paul who had initially brought the truth of the Gospel to these people. The Judaizers had not put in an appearance when these people were lost. They only showed up after the fact, to divert these converts from the truth! It was Paul who had laboured, prayed, and wept over their lost condition until they had come to Christ as their only hope of salvation! Yet, it was this very Paul that was being cast as the bad guy!
Paul knew that this would be the response of some, and he addressed them by asking if he had become their enemy. Certainly, he had become the enemy of these Judaizers, because he was questioning their salvation; he was questioning their doctrine; he was questioning their truthfulness. Honestly, Paul should have been questioning all of these things, and so should the believers of Galatia.
Paul then revealed the only reason why these Judaizers would set Paul up as an enemy of the people: because he had told them the truth. The truth would expose the error of the Judaizer. The truth would open the eyes of the yielded believer, and cause him to run from the error being taught by these questionable men. The truth would set these believers free from the bandage into which these Judaizers sought to place them!
This brings us back to where we began. Many make out the Pastor to be an enemy of the people of his church or his community because what he teaches and preaches does not align with how they live and what they think to be true. However, if that Pastor is preaching the Word of God as it is to people as they are, we must realize that he is doing nothing more than telling them the truth!
If you have a Pastor who faithfully tells you the truth from the Word of God, you should never make him your enemy. He is trying to help you! He is trying to open your eyes to a greater truth that you are not seeing! He is often trying to warn you to avoid an error that will harm you, your family, and your church!
Instead of making an enemy of your Pastor, you ought to thank God for the Pastor that He has given to you and your church! You ought to let your Pastor know that you are thankful for him and for his faithfulness to tell you the truth. You ought to encourage your Pastor to continue to tell you the truth, even though you may not agree with him.
If you have been guilty of making an enemy of your Pastor, you ought to go to him and ask his forgiveness for your wrongdoing. Do not excuse yourself by saying, "He knows that comes with the job." The hurt that he and his family feel when you make him an enemy can be overwhelming, and a sincere, humble apology will go a long way toward healing the hurt you have caused. Do not excuse yourself by saying, "But that happened years ago." The hurt you cause can linger on for many years, even causing discouragement and a desire to quit.
Yes, preachers and pastors realize that not everyone will enjoy their preaching, especially when it opposes their "pet" doctrine or ungodly lifestyle. However, the faithful man of God will continue to tell the truth from the Word of God, even if everyone makes him their enemy!