And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 22, Number
In this issue:
Joe R. Price
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was going to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). What occurs in the following days changes Saul from being faithless to faithful, from being a persecutor to a preacher, and from being an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16).
It is necessary to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul. It was to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11).
But three days later, in Damascus, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road.
follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away
sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?
Joe R. Price
2020 has been a strange, challenging, and even sorrowful year. Many will look at 2020 with regrets, sorrow, and even despair. But there were also many blessings in 2020. We ought to remember them, too. 2021 holds its own share of promises, problems, aspirations, and anticipations. Every year does.
Looking back on our lives is a good thing when it moves us to improve ourselves. “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent” (Rev. 2:5). God’s blessing of memory helps us to recall and reform. Memory helps us be better than we were before. To be more cautious and careful, more kindness and compassion, more concern for the things of God and the things of others (Eph. 5:15; Col. 3:12-15; Matt. 22:37-39; 1 Cor. 13:1-7). As you look back over your life in 2020, where was your spiritual life a year ago, and where are you now? Are you farther from or closer to the Lord? If you have fallen, repent and do the first works.
Looking back can be harmful if we do so longing for the sinful deeds of the past. Jesus said to “remember Lot’s wife,” who, rather than escape for her life from God’s impending judgment against Sodom, looked back in disobedience and became a pillar of salt (Lk. 17:32; Gen. 19:17, 26). Each of us has spent enough time in the past in the sinful ways of the world (1 Pet. 4:3). Now we must live for the will of God (1 Pet. 4:2). As you look back at 2020 are you yearning for the things you used to do before you were a Christian? If so, repent of such thinking and “cease from sin” (1 Pet. 4:1).
Looking forward is a bad thing if we forget God. Those who plan for tomorrow without trusting in the will of God are bound to fail; no matter how successful they are in the eyes of men (Jas. 4:13-15). Life is uncertain and brief, so we must keep God in all of our plans. You never know when you will leave this world and meet your God.
Looking forward is good when it propels us onward and upward in our service to Christ. Paul wrote, “…but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:13-14). A crown of righteousness is reserved for all who faithfully serve Jesus (2 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Pet. 1:3-5).
As we look back at 2020 and ahead to 2021, let us examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5). May we repent and repair the transgressions we find, live by faith, and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus (2 Cor. 12:20-21; Heb. 12:1-2). Salvation is nearer than when we first believed (Rom. 13:11).
Preachers often say that everyone can be saved. We want people to investigate the claims of scripture, compare it to their lives, and “… rend your heart, and not your garments; Return to the Lord your God, For He is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger, and of great kindness; And He relents from doing harm” (Joel 2:13). But there are three cases where someone who’s lost can’t possibly be saved. And knowing these may help you make the correct eternal choices.
First, lost people cannot be saved if they harden their hearts and will not listen to the Bible. Matthew 13:14-15 says, “And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them’” (Matthew 13:14-15). Pharaoh hardened his heart and refused to listen to God’s command to let His people go. This ultimately caused his destruction. The number one power you have is the power over your own heart. Don’t close it to God’s precepts.
Second, lost people cannot be saved if they die lost. At death our deeds are sealed. Paul said, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). When the body ceases to live, you’ll then be responsible for what you’ve done in it. Furthermore, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus taught that those in torment cannot cross over to Abraham’s bosom or Paradise (Luke 16:23-26).
Third, lost people cannot be saved if they are lost when Christ returns. Jesus will come again and “we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). This verse is speaking of the righteous who are alive when Christ returns. But what will happen to the wicked? Paul again instructs Christ as coming “in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8).
A lot of people are going to be lost (Matthew 7:13-14). But there’s no good reason for anyone to be punished for eternity (Mark 9:44, 46, 48). Stop resisting the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51) and listen to the words of Jesus and He will become the author of your eternal salvation (Hebrews 2:14-15).
-Loop 287 church of Christ, Lufkin, TX
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
Resolutions for 2021 (and beyond)
Joe R. Price
Another year full of “noteworthy news” has passed, with another one on the horizon. We hope our weekly reflections in this column have built up your faith.
Every new year brings resolutions. The Bible contains many statements that can take the form of New Year’s resolutions. Perhaps the following examples will help us plan our new year, “if the Lord wills” that “we shall live and do this or that” (Jas. 4:15).
“Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go” (Josh. 1:7). Like Joshua, we have a path set before us, the gospel of Christ. We have the light of eternal life when we follow Jesus, Jno. 8:12.
“And if it seems evil to you to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24:15). The decision to serve God impacts the lives of many around us, not the least of which are our families.
“But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary in doing good” (2 Thess. 3:13). The ability to stick with doing what is right in the sight of God is essential to faithful living.)
“Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away“ (Heb. 2:1). Resolving to carefully follow God’s word is essential to help prevent falling away.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer” (Psa. 19:14). Knowing that our lives, our words, and our thoughts are seen and known by God will help us make right choices in 2021 and all the days of our lives.
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 12/29/2020
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA