Volume VI, Number 45
March 16, 2003

Published by

Mt. Baker
church of Christ
Bellingham, WA
(1860 Mt. Baker HWY)
(360) 752-2692

Bible Classes..........9:30 AM
Worship............10:30 & 6:00

Bible Classes...........7:00 PM

Web sites:

Editor................Joe R. Price

"And take...the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17)

In this issue:

Do You Understand What You Are Reading?
Joe R. Price

In Acts 8 we are introduced to an honorable man with a dilemma.  He was a worshipper of God on a long journey home after traveling to Jerusalem to worship.  He was an honorable man, for he held a position of great power, in Ethiopia as the queen’s treasurer.  He was an educated man, for he was reading from the prophet Isaiah.  He was a sincere man, as his desire interest in spiritual things makes clear.  He was also a humble man, willing to admit an inadequacy he wished to correct (Acts 8:27-31).

The Holy Spirit sent the preacher Philip to this man, who asked him a simple question:  “Do you understand what you are reading?,” to which he replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”  (Acts 8:30-31)  Thus begins a teaching session which ends with the man understanding the Scripture he was reading, believing it and obeying Christ unto the salvation of his soul (Acts 8:32-39).

Philip’s question is pertinent today, for many people believe the answer to that question must always be “no” because to them, it is impossible to understand the Bible (much less, understand it alike).  To them, no one should be so presumptuous as to suggest they understand the Scriptures! 

We may necessarily conclude that the Ethiopian believed the Scriptures can be understood the way God wants us to understand them.  His reply indicates as much, as does his direct question about the text he was reading:  “I ask you, of whom does the prophet say this, of himself or of some other man?” (Acts 8:31)  If he had been wrong, wouldn’t Philip had corrected him? 

We may necessarily conclude that Philip believed the Scriptures can be understood the way God wants us to understand them.  Philip proceeded to “guide” the man in understanding the Scriptures by preaching Jesus to him (Acts 8:35). 

Do you believe the Scriptures can be understood the way God wants you to understand them?  You can, you know, despite what many religious people (and brethren) say:  “how that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3-4).  We can understand God’s word and use it properly (2 Tim. 2:15).

When we understand the Scriptures as God intends, we will all understand them alike (Jno. 17:17, 20-21; Eph. 4:3; 5:17).


Capital Punishment
Joe R. Price

   Question: “We would like to better understand how the bible views capital punishment.”

    Answer:  The question before us is this: Does the Bible give civil government the right to execute the criminals? The simple and straightforward Bible answer to this question is “yes.” Let me elaborate from the word of God.

    The first mention of such a thing is found in Genesis 9:5-6: “Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.”

    The stated reason for God demanding the blood of the person who sheds blood (murders) is that man has been made in the image of God. As a result, man is unique among God’s creation (Gen. 1:26-27).  So, the uniqueness of human life is to be honored by mankind. The punishment for not doing so, as ordained by God, is “capital punishment.”

    How is this reconciled with the commandment, “Thou shalt not kill” (Exo. 20:13)?   The answer is not difficult nor strained:  This commandment forbids murder (“You shall not murder,” NKJV).  This is consistent with Genesis 9:6, which mandates death as the God-imposed punishment for murder (the shedding man’s blood).

    Please notice that the law of Moses, which contained the commandment not to murder in Exodus 20, also authorized the nation of Israel to execute the murderer in Exodus 21:   “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death”  (Exo. 21:12-14).  Indeed, the law of Moses ordered the death penalty for a variety of crimes, both civil and spiritual:

    -Striking parents, Exo. 21:15
    -Kidnapping, Exo. 21:16
    -Cursing parents, Exo. 21:17; Lev. 20:9
    -Failure to confine a wild animal that killed someone, Exo. 21:28-29
    -Idolatry, Exo. 22:20; Lev. 20:1-2
    -Working on the Sabbath, Exo. 35:2
    -Adultery, Lev. 20:10
    -Incest, Lev. 20:11-12
    -Homosexuality, Lev. 20:13
    -Bestiality, Lev. 20:15-16
    -Mediums and necromancers, Lev. 20:27
    -False prophets, Deut. 13:9; 18:20
    -Rebellion against divine authority, Deut. 17:12-13"
    -Rebellion against parents, Deut. 21:20-21

    The law of Moses was an “eye for an eye” system of justice which exposed the serious nature of sin (Exo. 21:23-25).  But, punishment was only executed after the facts of the crime were verified (Deut. 17:1-7).  When Israel honored human life and revered God, naturally, murder declined and with it the use of the death penalty.

    Civil government has been ordained by God to protect the innocent and punish the criminals within society (Rom. 13:1-6).  The governing authority “does not bear the sword in vain” (Rom. 13:4).  That is, civil government has the right to execute God’s wrath upon the evil-doer.  The sword of which this verse speaks was the executioner’s sword.  On one occasion the apostle Paul said that if he had done anything worthy of death, then he would willingly die (Acts   25:11).  His very words show his agreement with the concept and practice of the death penalty.

    From the Scriptures, therefore, we conclude that God has given civil government the authority to execute criminals as a just punishment of the crime and to serve as a deterrent against future crimes.  (On capital punishment as a deterrent, please see Deut. 13:11; 17:13; Rom. 13:5.)

  The individual does not have the right to take another person’s life (Rom. 13:9). God has given civil government the authority to execute His vengeance against evil (Rom. 12:19). 

(Romans 12:17-13:8 makes a striking contrast between the individual’s role and the government’s role in executing God’s vengeance or punishment against evil-doers.)

    We close with a reminder that Jesus taught even to hate one’s brother is to be a murderer, and that every sin produces spiritual death (Matt. 5:21-22; 1 Jno. 3:15; Rom. 6:23).


You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS

Church Discipline:
Love and Discipline

Scripture Reading:  Hebrews 12:4-11

1.  The Bible has taught the benefit of corrective discipline for centuries - Prov. 13:24; 19:18.
2.  Love & correction are not mutually exclusive.
3.  What the Bible says about discipline is true of children in your house & children in the house of God.

I.  GOD DISCIPLINES HIS CHILDREN OUT OF LOVE – Prov. 3:11-12 (Heb. 12:5-11).

  A.  Instruction (God taught Israel, Psa. 78:5-8).
  B.  Punishment (God punished Israel, Deut. 8:5-6; Psa. 89:30-32).


  A.  Instruction – Prov. 4:10-13; Deut. 6:6-9; Eph. 6:4.
  B.  Punishment – Prov. 13:24; 19:18; 22:15; 23:13-14; 29:15-17. 


  A.  Christ Loves the Church – Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 3:19.
  B.  Instruction – Matt. 28:20 (Eph. 4:11-12).
  C.  Punishment – 1 Pet. 4:17; cf. Matt. 18:15-17; 2 Ths. 3:6, 14.


  A.  Discipline Should Never Be Practiced…
    1.  For personal vengeance, He. 12:6f; 2 Ths. 3:15.
    2.  With a self-righteous attitude – Gal. 6:1.
    3.  To prove “who is the boss” – Col. 3:24.
  B.  Discipline Should Be Practiced:
1.  To save the erring child.  Home (Prov. 23:14; 19:18); Church (1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 2:6).
    2.  To prevent shame & reproach, & produce rest.  Home (Prov. 29:15, 17); Church (1 Cor. 5:6; Gal. 6:1).
    3.  To honor God & perpetuate His blessings.  Home (Eph. 6:1-3); Church (1 Cor. 5:6-8).


You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS

Church Discipline:
Purposes of Corrective Discipline

Scripture Reading:  2 Corinthians 2:1-11

1.  For any organization to flourish it must use corrective discipline (home, school, military…church) – 2 Cor. 2:6; Eph. 4:16.
2.  What will church discipline accomplish?  What are its effects on the sinning saint, the church & world?

I.  WHAT HAPPENS WHEN A CHURCH DOES NOT DISCIPLINE UNRULY MEMBERS?  (1 Ths. 5:14; 2 Ths. 3:6)    1 Corinthians 5…

  A.  Sinner is Emboldened, 5:1 (2 Tim. 3:13).
  B.  Sinner & His Sin Remains Among Us, 5:2 (1 Pet. 1:15-16; Eph. 5:11). 
  C.  We Become Desensitized to Dangers of Sin, 5:2 (1 Cor. 15:33-34).
  D.  Unwilling to Judge Righteous Judgment, 5:3 (5:12; Jno. 7:24; Lk. 12:56-57; Phil. 1:9-11).
  E.  We Fail to Submit to the Authority of the Lord, 5:4 (Col. 3:17).
  F.  The Flesh is not Destroyed & the Spirit is not Saved, 5:5 (Gal. 5:24).
  G.  Influence of Sin is not Stopped, 5:6 (Gal. 5:9).
  H.  While the Old Leaven of Sin Remains we are not Pure in Christ’s Service, 5:7-8 (2 Cor. 7:1; Rom. 12:1).
  I.  The Church is Keeping Company with Sinners, 5:9 (2 Cor. 6:17-18; Eph. 5:11).
  J.  No Distinction is Made Between the Sinning Christian & those of this World, 5:10-12 (2 Ths. 3:6, 14-15).
  K.  Church is Disobeying God, 5:13 (2 Ths. 3:6).


  A.  On the Sinning Christian - 1 Cor. 5:4-5, 11; Titus 1:10-13; Gal. 6:1.
  B.  On the Church - 1 Cor. 5:6-8; Rom. 16:17-18; 2 Cor. 2:9-10; 7:11; Acts 5:11.
  C.  On the World - Acts 5:13-14.


(Current events in the light of Scripture)

My Child was Lost and is Found
Joe R. Price 

        The news of the recovery of fifteen year old Elizabeth Smart from the clutches of her kidnapper a few days away brought joy to all who heard it.  The news that she was alive was so unexpected and startling, that when I heard it my mouth literally dropped open in amazement.  “They found her?!  Alive?!  Really?!”  It was unbelievable.  We are truly happy for the safe return of Elizabeth to her family.

        One striking thing that caught our attention throughout this terrible ordeal for the Smart family was the fact that they never gave up hope.  They expected her to return, to be found alive and come back home.  We admire their resolve even in the face of bleak circumstances.

        It reminds us of the story of another child.  He was not kidnapped; he freely left home.  He was not threatened and manipulated; he chose his course of action.  Although free to act, he became bound by a power greater than an abductor:  sin.  And, I believe it is safe to say that his father never gave up hope that one day he would return home.

        Of course, we speak of the lost son in Jesus’ parable, Luke 15:11-32.  Leaving the grace and blessings of his father, this son demanded his inheritance and traveled to a country far removed from home where he “wasted his possessions with prodigal (“wasteful,” jrp) living” (Lk. 15:13).  Finally, “he came to himself” and returned to his father seeking mercy as a servant in his father’s house.  Instead, the father, with great compassion and love, rejoiced and celebrated his return:  his son “was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Lk. 15:24).

        If you are lost in sin you can go God and there find mercy and the joy of heavenly celebration.  God has not given up on you.  He has sent His Son to live and die, to arise from the dead and ascend to heaven.  He has given us all a word of truth which is able to save the soul.  Through His gospel He calls you home.  If you are lost, be found today.  (1 Cor. 15:1-4; Rom. 5:6-11; 6:16-18; 1:16; Mk. 16:15-16)


Created by Chuck Sibbing.  03/15/2003

The Spirit's Sword is a free, weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA
Send all questions, comments and subscriptions to the editor at: