Volume VI, Number 48
In this issue:
During the present conflict in Iraq, as during other wars, the yellow ribbon serves as a symbol of hopeful anticipation for the safe return of loved ones. Perhaps that is the inspiration for the following “idea” we received in an e-mail this past week (it was not signed by the sender). It read:
“I have an idea for a ribbon program that I would like to share. I would like to see the Church of Christ support the return of Jesus Christ by representing and wearing “Purple Ribbons” as a sign and relief for His imminent return. Decorating the church with purple ribbons during services is a powerful message on the return of Christ! All of our children should be aware of the greatest event that the world will ever experience. And the purple ribbons will represent “His return in the sky and not on the land,” and the purple ribbons will be honored in His imminent return. I believe that this would be a wonderful program for our children to engage in, actively participating in something special and positive! Thanks for your time.”
There are several things we are compelled to say in response to this post (I will be sending a copy of this article back to this individual). What we say is not generated from a heart of malice or strife. This is not written with animosity, but with a genuine appeal to come back to the Bible and to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11). It is a call to establish Bible authority (the approval of heaven) for all we do in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17).
We do not question this person’s sincerity – clearly he or she is earnest. Herein lies our first lesson: sincerity does not establish what is approved in the sight of God. Shall we accept and practice every “idea” generated by a sincere heart? If so, let us hurriedly introduce sprinkling for baptism (which began in a sincere effort to address the demands of deathbed repentance). And, let us not forget to make room for the instrument of music in our worship services (on which we can certainly attach some of our purple ribbons!). I have an idea: let’s have a Red Ribbon Program in December as a “powerful message” of the birth of Jesus, and a Green Ribbon Program in the spring because “our children should be aware” of the resurrection of Jesus!
You see, dear friend, when sincere ideas provide the basis for what the church does and teaches it is no longer “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15). The Bible says “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death” (Prov. 16:25). What we need in order to accept and promote as “positive” for the church to do is the book, chapter and verse that allows a church to have a “ribbon program” at all, much less a Purple Ribbon Day.
This person is not alone in this approach to the work of the church. More and more brethren are coming up with their own “ideas” which are not rooted in a “thus saith the Lord” of the Scriptures but in the customs and traditions of men. We are seeing increasing evidence of this in such things as “Youth Seminars” and “Women’s Retreats”. One church of Christ recently had what it called an “Oasis Praise weekend” for its youth, and now intends to develop “it’s (sic) work and it’s (sic) mission to the community”. This is not speaking as the oracles of God! We ask of them the same questions we pose concerning purple ribbons: “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” … is it “from heaven or from men?” (Matt. 21:23, 25)
Christ warned of and scolded such “ideas” of men (however well-intentioned) by quoting Isaiah the prophet:
“‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” (Matt. 15:8-9)
Again, the apostle Paul cautioned against things that “have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion” but were in fact “the commandments and doctrines of men” (Col. 2:23). Because there is no Bible support for churches to have Ribbon Days, we will not be having one. Does that mean we do not believe in the return of Christ? Of course not. But, we do not believe the Lord teaches us to anticipate it by wearing purple ribbons “as a sign and relief for His imminent return.”
As for the “imminent return” of Christ, when Jesus returns has not been revealed to us.
“But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.” (1 Ths. 5:1-4)
Let us prepare for the Lord’s return by following His inspired Scriptures to walk by faith, not by the “sight” of humanly-devised customs that have nothing to do with His return (2 Cor. 5:7).
When our correspondent says “decorating the church with purple ribbons during services is a powerful message on the return of Christ” he/she reveals at least two additional problems at the heart of the Purple Ribbon Day idea. First, “the church” is not the building which one can “decorate”. It is the body of Christians – those who are called by the gospel out of the world of sin into salvation in Christ (Matt. 16:18; Acts 2:47; 1 Pet. 2:9-10). “Church of Christ” is not a denominational title; it is a statement of possession (the church that belongs to Christ, Matt. 16:18; Rom. 16:16). To use the phrase “Church of Christ” as does our purple ribbon promoter indicates, at best, a failure to understand New Testament teaching about the church, or at worst, that error has already embedded itself within the heart. When we forget what the church is we are indeed on a path of digression. Secondly, the church of Christ already has a “powerful message on the return of Christ” at its disposal – a “special and positive” message which will help our children “be aware of the greatest event that the world will ever experience”. That powerful message is the New Testament of Jesus Christ! Why not spend time immersing ourselves and our children in Bible teaching and preaching which sounds forth the truth of His return (Acts 1:11; 1 Cor. 15:20-27; Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Ths. 4:13-5:11; 2 Ths. 1:7-10; 2 Pet. 3:1-13)? After all, faith comes by hearing the word of God, not by tying purple ribbons on the old oak pulpit (Rom. 10:17).
We appreciate the zeal for God seen in the idea of a Purple Ribbon Program, although it is a zeal that is “not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). Our plea is that we all love and follow the authority of Christ, not the ideas of men. Joe
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
Hold The Traditions
Scripture Reading: Mark 7:1-13
Tradition (paradosis): “A handing down or on” (Vine); “giving
up, giving over… (Thayer).
I. RELIGIOUS TRADITIONS OF MEN – Mk. 7:13.
Much Religious Zeal - Gal. 1:14; Mk. 7:9 (cf. Rom. 10:2-3).
II. APOSTOLIC TRADITIONS – Acts 2:42.
Apostles’ Doctrine: The Word of God – 2 Ths. 2:15 (1 Ths. 2:13).
III. WE MUST AVOID ESTABLISHING OUR OWN TRADITIONS!
A. By Being People of the Book (Hos. 4:6); 2 Tim. 2:15;
You can find the complete outline of this sermon at BIBLE ANSWERS
The Body of Christ in Ephesians
Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5:22-32
1. “What church do I have to be a member of to go to
heaven?” Does it matter?
I. PHYSICAL BODY OF CHRIST: HIS DEATH IS OUR REDEMPTION – Eph. 1:7.
Redemption is Through the Blood of Christ (His death).
II. SPIRITUAL BODY OF CHRIST: THE CHURCH – Eph. 3:10-11.
Church of Christ is the Body of Christ – Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18.
III. THE CHURCH (BODY) OF CHRIST:
the Fullness of Christ – Eph. 1:22-23.
Knowing the Time
It’s time to “spring” ahead one hour – Daylight-savings time is here again (for most of this country). We are also reminded to do other things this time of year, like replace the batteries in smoke alarms.
The Bible tells us we should know what time it is, not meaning the time of day, but the occasion before us to believe and obey the gospel of Christ in our lives. The apostle of Christ wrote:
11 And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed. 12 The night is far spent, the day is at hand. Therefore let us cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armor of light. 13 Let us walk properly, as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in lewdness and lust, not in strife and envy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. (Rom. 13:11-14)
It is time to wake up (v. 11)! Spiritual apathy and neglect will cause the souls of many Christians to be lost. Jesus warned “because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold; so, He admonished that “he who endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 24:12-13). If you are not living the life a Christian should, wake up and get right with the Lord (Eph. 5:14).
It is time to clean up (vss. 12-13)! When you obeyed the gospel of Christ and because a Christian you began a new life in Christ (Rom. 6:4). It is now imperative that you cast off the darkness of sin and walk in the light of truth (1 Jno. 1:6-7): “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal. 5:24).
It is time to grow up (v. 14)! Christians must commit themselves to spiritual growth. One way of doing so is to “put on Christ” by carefully avoiding those things which entice one to sin. Love God, not the world (1 Jno. 2:15-17). Go on to maturity, exercising yourself toward godliness (Heb. 6:1; 1 Tim. 4:7).
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 04/04/2003
Sword is a free, weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ,