“And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech. . . . And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down, and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another’s speech. So the Lord scattered them abroad from thence upon the face of all the earth: and they left off to build the city” (Gen. 11:1, 6-8).
The divine record of the confusing of the languages due to the purpose of building a city and a tower for making “a name” (Gen. 11:4) for themselves shows some interesting details about the power of a common language. The principles of this power can be seen in the importance of knowing the word of God and the blessings from it. Consider three principles of this power.
- The Power of Understanding. The text specifically states concerning the confounding of the languages that its purpose was that “they may not understand one another’s speech” (Gen. 11:7). Understanding is an essential product of a common language. If one cannot understand what another is saying, then confusion arises and no edification. Moses wrote concerning the curses that would befall the nation if it disobeyed the Lord, “The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; a nation whose tongue thou shalt not understand;” (Deut. 28:49). The nation of Israel would be held captive by more than the power of military might. They would be held captive by the power of a lack of understanding of what is being said around them. Anyone who has ever visited a place whose language is not his own native language knows how helpless one becomes if he does not know the language.
- The Power of Unity. Having one language and one speech (cf. Gen. 11:1) was a means toward the unity of the people. Moses wrote of the Lord’s word, “Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language” (Gen. 11:6). Unity was achieved from understanding and conforming to that understanding. Consider the words of Paul about unity. “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). While Paul is not specifically addressing a common language like Greek, English, etc., he is addressing the importance of a common communication that produces and maintains unity. Hence, the principle of holding to division of teachings can never produce a unity of people.
- The Power of Utility. A common language was a tool that made useful the activities of men. Moses again wrote, “this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do” (Gen. 11:6). Clear communication produces a utilitarian effect. Consider how frustrating it is when a project is hindered by poor or ineffective communication. The construction of the city and tower ended with the scattering of the people to regions where they would hold to their own language. The miraculous power of speaking in the different tongues or languages brought about the understanding and unity of converts (cf. Acts 2:8-41). All languages become spirituality useful when in the one faith (cf. Eph. 4:5).
“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, KJV).
Another translation gives the wording, “He that separateth himself seeketh his own desire, and rageth against all sound wisdom” (Prov. 18:1, ASV). In addition, another translation gives the wording, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment” (Prov. 18:1, ESV). It should be seen from this that the translation is difficult. Even commentaries differ on whether the passage is teaching a good principle like separating oneself from the world to seek the wisdom from God or is the passage teaching a bad principle like being aloof from God believing that he is smarter than the wisdom of God. When looking into the Hebrew text, the first word of the verse centers on desire. This same word is found in Genesis 3:6 with reference to how the woman desired the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Therefore, it appears that Proverbs 18:1 is indicating a prohibitive thought and not a pleasing one. Seeking to make oneself what he is not is a danger among men throughout time. Presumptuous pride personified in elitism is unbiblical and ugly to the core. Consider three matters that hold true with this selfish ambition.
- Self-absorbed. The very next passage in Proverbs 18 states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but that his heart may discover itself” (Prov. 18:2). Another translation states, “A fool hath no delight in understanding, but only that his heart may reveal itself” (Prov. 18:2, ASV). There is no question that this passage is destructive in its import. The self-confident fool cares nothing for true understanding. He only delights to tell anyone who would listen all that he knows. He himself is his greatest topic of discussion. He would fit well in the “me-generation.” The whole world revolves around him and his feelings, wishes, thinking, etc. True biblical love is the opposite of this. Paul wrote of agape love, “charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up” (1 Cor. 13:4) and “seeketh not her own” (1 Cor. 13:5).
- Self-assessed. Solomon wrote further in Proverbs, “He that is first in his own cause seemeth just; but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him” (Prov. 18:17). Again, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand” (Prov. 19:21). The self-absorbed evaluate things according to their own eyes. Solomon wrote of the fool, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes: but he that hearkeneth unto counsel is wise” (Prov. 12:15). Faulty standards make for confusion and corruption. This type of person is illustrated in Luke 18:11-12.
- Self-approved. Solomon wrote, “It is not good to eat much honey: so for men to search their own glory is not glory” (Prov. 25:27). Again, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit? there is more hope of a fool than of him” (Prov. 26:12). Paul warned of those in Corinth who evaluated things improperly and thus were not wise (cf. 2 Cor. 10:12). He closed the thought-provoking paragraph with the words, “For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth” (2 Cor. 10:18). Elitism blinds and ultimately dooms the soul. May God help all to see such dangers and act wisely.
“Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core” (Jude 11).
Whatever may be said of the three particulars given as warnings to these readers, such needs exploring by Christians since this is written in the New Testament for the “beloved” (Jude 3, 17, 20). This article will explore the last of the three in the “gainsaying” (Jude 3, KJV) or “rebellion” (Jude 3, ESV) of Korah, particularly as it relates to the question “What is to be believed about the adding of instrumental music with the singing in worship today?”
- The Dissatisfaction with God’s Divine Arrangement. Moses wrote of the words of Korah and his associates, “And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? And when Moses heard it, he fell upon his face: And he spake unto Korah and unto all his company, saying, Even tomorrow the Lord will shew who are his, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto him: even him whom he hath chosen will he cause to come near unto him” (Num. 16:3-5). While they challenged the authoritative positions of Moses and Aaron, Moses declares that God would show “whom he hath chosen” (Num. 16:5). This is a clear indication that God had authorized whom he had authorized and Korah and his companions were dissatisfied with it. Whenever anyone becomes dissatisfied with what God has chosen and revealed, the path down the road likened to the rebellion of Korah lies ahead.
- The Decision to Add Thus Challenging God’s Arrangement. Moses further explains their rebellion, “Seemeth it but a small thing unto you, that the God of Israel hath separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to minister unto them?” (Num. 16:9). Notice again the despising or taking lightly of what God had given them in the service. Again, “And he hath brought thee near to him, and all thy brethren the sons of Levi with thee: and seek ye the priesthood also?” (Num. 16:10). Herein is the heart of the problem. They were safe in what God had authorized for them, but they wanted to add the priesthood as well. Here is a classic example of the warning, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Going above that which is written (cf. 1 Cor. 4:6) is precisely the objection to adding instrumental music with the authorized music of singing (cf. Heb. 2:12).
- The Determination to Follow Through While Having Been Warned. In spite of the warning, Moses was going to let God do the showing of who are holy and authorized to serve in the burning of incense (cf. Num. 16:6-19). God’s destruction of this rebellious group was a clear message “that these men have provoked the Lord” (Num. 16:30). Where is the Biblical authority for adding instrumental music to the singing (cf. Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16-17)? To add such without Biblical authority, being determined to have it anyway, is to equally provoke the Lord. Jude’s warning holds true to all generations.
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:5-8).
These four verses are all one sentence in both the Greek and English texts. The major thought is in the words “Let this mind be in you” (Phil. 2:5). In other words, think like this. Jesus left heaven and became human doing the work of a servant to be obedient even to death on a cross. Such is the epitome of getting out of one’s comfort zone. This challenge is followed up with the words, “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Therefore, the point of this section is having Jesus as the example, keep on obeying no matter what.
Continual obedience is tough. It means getting out of one’s comfort zone time and time again. Consider three areas of getting out of one’s comfort zone that some may not think about in the realm of serving like Christ.
- Focusing on the Little Things. While there is a tendency for some to want to focus on activities that attract the eyes of men (cf. Matt. 6:1-18), Jesus would concentrate on things people would leave unnoticed. Jesus spoke up about a widow who gives two mites (cf. Mark 12:41-44). Jesus speaks up about people who do basic things for the “least of these my brethren” (Matt. 25:40). Jesus gave attention to little children where others would seek to hinder (cf. Mark 10:13-16). Jesus would wash the disciples’ feet where others would not serve (cf. John 13:4-17). Over and over Jesus pointed out small things as being important. One sheep among a hundred (cf. Luke 15:4), one coin among ten (cf. Luke 15:8), one penitent, prodigal son returning home (cf. Luke 15:12-24) all show that Jesus is concerned with the individual as much as for the whole world.
- Friendly to New Faces. Here is an area where every congregation can improve. Anyone who travels knows what it is like to worship with a congregation where one is unknown. While all congregations have the words “everyone welcome,” such can be very hollow if actions do not back up those words. Jesus, while not a participant in sinful behavior (cf. 1 Peter 2:22) was a “friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34). Jesus befriended a woman from Samaria (cf. John 4:7-9). Jesus, as the greatest friend to all humanity, laid down his life for his friends (cf. John 15:13). Some people are very uncomfortable speaking to strangers, even fellow members of the church. All need to treat each other by the “golden rule” (cf. Matt. 7:12).
- Facing Challenges Optimistically. Pessimism was not the mind of Christ. He said himself, “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). It is the rare person indeed who does not get “caught up” in the negative. One can get comfortable in “murmurings and disputings” (Phil. 2:14) fashioned by the world’s thinking and practice (cf. Phil 2:15). Developing great thinking habits (cf. Phil. 4:8) can create a positive mindset that benefits now and eternally.
“And Salmon begat Booz of Rachab; and Booz begat Obed of Ruth; and Obed begat Jesse” (Matt. 1:5).
The name of Ruth brings special thoughts to those who know the history of this great woman. While some would consider marriage to a Moabite something disagreeable (cf. Ruth 4:5-6), Boaz did not see her in such light. Prejudice can cause people to misinterpret God’s will for mankind. Ruth is an example of how an outsider became one of the great people of the line of Christ. Consider three lessons from her life.
- Her Devotion. The name Ruth in Hebrew means friendship. There was not a better friend that Naomi had than Ruth. The first chapter of the book of Ruth finds her in distressing circumstances with the death of his husband (cf. Ruth 1:5). A “fair weather” friend would not have been like Ruth to Naomi when things looked as bleak as they did (cf. Ruth 1:3-13). While one of Naomi’s daughters-in- law, Orpah, returned to Moab (cf. Ruth 1:14), Ruth stayed with her as some might say “Through thick or thin.” Her well-known words, “Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17) reveal her devotion. Her devotion led her to do what Boaz would later say, “The Lord recompense thy work, and a full reward be given thee of the Lord God of Israel, under whose wings thou art come to trust” (Ruth 2:12).
- Her Diligence. When Ruth and Naomi came back to Israel it was the time of the barley harvest (cf. Ruth 1:22). Ruth happened to glean in the field belonging to Boaz (cf. Ruth 2:3). Her work ethic was not one of laziness or half-hearted effort. The text states, “so she came, and hath continued even from the morning until now, that she tarried a little in the house” (Ruth 2:7). The amount gleaned and beat out “was about an ephah or barley” (Ruth 2:17). She gleaned “unto the end of barley harvest and of wheat harvest; and dwelt with her mother in law” (Ruth 2:23). After Naomi found out that Boaz was a near kinsman who might raise up descendants, Ruth was diligent to do what her mother-in-law told her to do (cf. Ruth 3:5-18). She had truly demonstrated to all that she was a “virtuous woman” (Ruth 3:11).
- Her Destiny. This friend of the house of Elimelech would ultimately be in the family line of the Messiah. The promise to Abraham that of his seed “shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 22:18) would ultimately have one originally from Moab in the genealogy (cf. Matt. 1:5). Ruth would be a blessing and also be blessed. Women from Israel would say to Naomi, “Blessed be the Lord, which hath not left thee this day without a kinsman, that his name may be famous in Israel. And he shall be unto thee a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him” (Ruth 4:14-15). Her biography could declare some of the great men of Israel to come through her. Truly, God brought about a greatness that started with one who overcame great obstacles.
“For the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23).
How does one make it clear how detrimental sin is to life? Clearly define the penalty for sin and describe its horrendous consequences. This is exactly what God did as revealed through the Bible. Adam and Eve were told, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2:17). Paul wrote to the Roman brethren, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:” (Rom. 5:12). There are other descriptions that are further deterrents to sin when properly seen from the pages of Scripture. Consider three.
- Creating Polluted Lives. Peter wrote, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning” (2 Peter 2:20). This “pollution” is further described as a dog turning to his own vomit and a sow that was washed turning to the mire (cf. 2 Peter 2:22). Sin does things to the minds of people. Paul wrote, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto them that are defiled and unbelieving is nothing pure; but even their mind and conscience is defiled” (Titus 1:15). The filth of pollution is a detestable thing when viewed in physical situations. Such filth in spiritual areas (cf. James 1:21; Col. 3:8) should produce the same attitudes.
- Capturing as Prisoners. Paul wrote to Timothy, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will” (2 Tim. 2:25-26). Peter writes of those captivated by sin in the days of Noah, who preached (cf. 2 Peter 2:5) by the same Holy Spirit, “By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison; Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of Noah while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water” (1 Peter 3:19-20). The preaching of the gospel foretold by the prophet Isaiah is described as “to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound” (Isa. 61:1). Those incarcerating due to crimes and even POW’s of past conflicts know the horrors of lost freedom. Sin and Satan are cruel enslavers.
- Causing Perilous Losses. Paul prefaces a host of sins listed in 2 Timothy 3 with the words, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1). Sin is a high-risk, high-cost way of living. Corruption and loss litter the landscape of a sad history of the world. Nations fall due to sin (cf. Ps. 9:17; Prov. 14:34). Belshazzar, king of the Chaldeans, learned this lesson the hard way (cf. Daniel 5). Homes suffer due to sinful pride. Haman brought punishment down on himself (cf. Esther 7:10) and on his sons (cf. Esther 9:7-10). Achan became synonymous for a troubler in his sinfulness (cf. Joshua 7:24-26). People do not name their newborn children Judas or Jezebel due to their connection with sinfulness and shame. Sodomy is a heinous term due to the sinfulness of its city namesake. When men see sin like God sees it, abhorring evil arises.
“And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation: for I have written a letter unto you in few words” (Heb. 13:22)
This verse clearly declares the major thrust of the book of Hebrews; that is, to exhort or encourage. All of God’s people need strengthening and encouraging. This life for the child of God is filled with struggles (cf. Acts 14:22) and pressures (cf. 1 Thess. 3:4). Nevertheless, the victory is on the side of the Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 15:57). Consider three passages from the book of Hebrews that provides great courage for the Christian.
- Hebrews 2:18: Sympathetic toward Needs. “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2:18). These words close out a paragraph and a section that turns the attention of the reader to understand that God’s Son knows what Christians face. Though Jesus is the Son of God (cf. Heb. 1), he is also a partaker of “flesh and blood” (Heb. 2:14). Anyone who struggles with any problem can find strength in a kindred spirit. It is truly important to know that one is not suffering alone when it might appear that no one understands. People who struggle with diseases often look to those who have faced similar circumstances. People who struggle with loss often look up to those who have overcome similar loss. Those who are comforted of God can truly “be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God” (2 Cor. 1:4).
- Hebrews 4:16: Supplier of Help. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). This conclusion is drawn from the facts about the high priesthood of Christ. The context states, “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15). Access to the throne of grace is made possible through Christ, the Christian’s high priest. While helpers may be limited in the resources and knowledge of things in this world, such is not the case with Christ, who is in heaven. Needs are met through Christ. Paul exhorted this same fact to the Philippians, where he wrote, But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).
- Hebrews 13:5: Steadfastly with the Faithful. “Let your conversation be without covetousness: and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee” (Heb. 13:5). Material riches and the like are futile to bring stability and peace of mind (cf. Eccl. 2). Treasures laid up in heaven are incorruptible (cf. Matt. 6:20) and profitable (cf. 1 Tim. 6:17-19). Whether one has or does not have, being a faithful Christian will always have the abiding care of God. His omnipresence is always there (cf. Ps. 139:7-10). Moses exhorted the Israelites with the same words as found in Hebrews 13:5 (cf. Deut. 31:6). After the death of Moses, the Lord encouraged Joshua with the same words (cf. Joshua 1:5). Both Old and New Testaments affirm that the Lord is faithful to his promises and such is truly strengthening and encouraging.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come” (2 Tim. 3:1).
The Holy Spirit through Paul was warning more than Timothy about troubling times. Timothy was to pass on the truth about the troubles making “full proof of thy ministry” (2 Tim. 4:5). What kind of minister would Timothy be if he was given a warning and did not pass it on to others who would face the same trials? The troubles of those days appear to be alive and well even today. One only has to look and listen briefly to the news of the morning to realize that things are not all right with the world. Peter warned the Christians about the suffering that was coming (cf. 1 Peter 4:12). Consider three areas of trials that are found in such perilous times.
- Self-centered Egotism. Paul wrote further, “For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers,” (2 Tim. 3:2). The “me-generation” lived long ago. The philosophy that life is all about “me, myself, and I” is a perilous journey toward a horrible end. While there are opportunities for each person to improve himself, life is not about self-actualization. Man was created to glorify God (cf. 1 Cor. 10:31). Whenever man loses sight of that and seeks to glorify self, he has placed his feet on a path that will abuse and use anything and anyone to get what one thinks is his due. All sin ultimately comes back to what man desires for himself that is contrary to the will of God (cf. James 1:14-15).
- Sacrificing of Home and Family Values. Again, Paul wrote, “disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection,” (2 Tim. 3:2-3). A deterioration of the home and its values as founded by God (cf. Ps. 127:1) is a path of self-destruction. Some were brought up in anything but the “nurture and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4) and never explored that there was a proper, successful way to live. They did nothing but repeat the mistakes of their upbringing. Others were trained “in the way he should go” (Prov. 22:6) but in time rejected it as a viable course of life (cf. 2 Chron. 12:14). The turmoil that exists today among the homes and families that do not have God as their focus spills over into society. One lives his life based upon his value system, whether it be righteous or unrighteous.
- Sensual Approach of Daily Living. Paul wrote further, “trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those what are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God: Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (2 Tim. 3:3-5). It should be no surprise that lying, violence, pleasure seeking and even shallow religious conviction fill the daily living of those who seek life minimizing or totally without God. Terrorism in all forms is found here. Crime and the abuse of mankind’s rights are found here. Life is lived like that of the jungle. It truly is as Isaiah stated, “There is no peace, saith the Lord, unto the wicked” (Isa. 48:22). Solomon wrote clearly, “Righteousness exalteth a nation: but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). It is written again, “The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God” (Ps. 9:17). Jesus came to bring life and that more abundantly (cf. John 10:10). The peace so sought after by people can only be found in the Prince of peace (cf. Isa. 9:6; John 16:33).
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Eph. 5:17).
Understanding is a necessary step toward being accepted of God. The Lord clearly stated through Paul, “Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim. 2:4). Paul also wrote to the Ephesian brethren, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3-4). A proper approach to a study of the will of God in the Bible is critical to salvation. Man must do the will of the Father in heaven in order to be in heaven (cf. Matt. 7:21) and one cannot do what he does not know. Consider three basic principles of Bible study that bring understanding.
- All Scripture is to be Studied. All scripture is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). “Rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15) is to be the practice of every Bible student while reading all. One should not pick and choose passages that do not give the full meaning of subjects. Such is done today on the topics of faith, sin, salvation, etc. to the perverting of truth and overthrowing the faith of some (cf. 2 Tim. 2:18). The Bible plainly states concerning revelation, “The sum of thy word is truth; And every one of thy righteous ordinances endureth for ever” (Ps. 119:160, ASV).
- Attention to Context is to be Given. Reading into a passage an interpretation that is not warranted is a device of Satan (cf. Matt. 4:6). Jesus clearly shows that passages that reveal false interpretations show that the cited passage is true but the interpretation is false (cf. Matt. 4:7). Context always determines the meanings of words in a given statement. For example, Peter stated in the first gospel sermon, “And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Acts 2:21). Some interpret that requirement to mean that one expresses his trust in the saving power of the Lord by merely praying a prayer requesting that the Lord save. If one would continue to read the context further, he will read, “Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:37-38). This is in harmony with what Ananias told Saul of Tarsus to do (cf. Acts 22:16). Misunderstanding comes when proper context is not followed.
- Applying Oneself is Essential. Solomon wrote, “My son, if thou wilt receive my words, and hide my commandments with thee; So that thou incline thine ear unto wisdom and apply thine heart to understanding; . . . Then shalt thou understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God” (Prov. 2:1-2, 5). Applied knowledge through obeying is essential (cf. 1 John 2:3-5).
One must be a doer to be blessed (cf. James 1:25). Obedience and continued practice bring an understanding that is no substitute for simply being able to repeat the facts and never commit them to life.
“Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28).
Being born again (cf. John 3:7) at the point when one is baptized into Christ (cf. Gal. 3:27) has its visible results to be seen of men. Such was true with Saul of Tarsus (cf. Acts 9:20, 27), the jailor of Philippi (cf. Acts 16:34) and many other examples referenced in the Bible. When Paul wrote of “the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Eph. 4:24), he then begins to describe what that kind of life looks like in specific detail. Consider the details of one such example found in Ephesians chapter four.
- Ceases to Practice the Old Lifestyle. The first emphasis of righteousness and true holiness of a person whose life was previously dedicated to stealing is seen in the words, “Let him that stole steal no more” (Eph. 4:28). The thief must completely stop practicing that way of life. There are things that must be put away (cf. Eph. 4:22) before one can be converted to Christ and stay converted to Christ. The very thought of living unto sin is an abomination to a convert. Paul used the strongest of language concerning living unto sin, when he wrote, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:2). While no one is saying that making a “180 degree” change in life is easy, such is the step that must be taken. One cannot mix sin with righteousness (cf. 2 Cor. 6:14-7:1).
- Commits to Pursuing an Honest Way of Living. The next concrete step of showing conversion is in the words “but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good” (Eph. 4:28). Labor by working with one’s hands is an expression denoting honest and righteous effort for the meeting of one’s needs. Paul used this expression to talk of his own work. “And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it:” (1 Cor. 4:12). Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren, “And that ye study to be quiet, and to do your own business, and to work with your own hands, as we commanded you; That ye may walk honestly toward them that are without, and that ye may have lack of nothing” (1 Thess. 4:11-12). Honest work that seeks to be productive and not destructive is truly an honorable endeavor.
- Contributes of His Earnings to the Needs of Others. Paul wrote of a converted thief “that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). Herein lies a key to a converted life. While the previous goal was to take from people in a dishonest way now has changed to making an honest living to the point that one is willing to give to those in need. How different is such a lifestyle from the looting and pillaging of stealing. Instead of cheating and devouring another he is now compassionate and distributing to others. There has been a change of heart that now is seen in a change of lifestyle. A publican once said to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold” (Luke 19:8). Jesus responded by saying, “This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham” (Luke 19:9). It is truly marvelous to see concrete evidence of converted hearts and minds.