Tuesday, April 23, 2013



R. D. Ice 10-21-2003


                After Pentecost, what???   One has written: “Perhaps it is time for us to realize that as long as we debate institutions and structures, and not the mystery of the Church in her depths, we are bypassing the real issue.” 

                What if God withdrew His Holy Spirit from our world??? 

                Without the Holy Spirit, God would be far away.  Christ would stay in the past.  The Church would be simply another organization.  Authority would be a matter of domination.  Preaching the gospel would be a matter of propaganda.  Worship would be no more than seeking to “call upon” an absent Deity.  Christian living would be no more than a “slave mentality.”

                The Holy Spirit IS present.  The Creation is resurrected and groans with the birth pangs of the Kingdom.  The Risen Christ is here.  The Gospel is the power of God to salvation.  The Church shows forth the life of the One God who is a Trinity.  Authority is a liberating service to bless all humanity.  Preaching the gospel is a “Pentecost.”  Worship remembers the Cross & Resurrection; celebrates present blessings; anticipates the coming future glory.  Human action is given a divine meaning.

                James M. Campbell wrote in 1897.  “The truth for which Pentecost stands requires to be specially emphasized in the present day to counteract the tendency towards materialism in philosophy and life; and also to counteract the tendency toward formalism in religion.  On the one hand we have a science which denies the existence of spiritual agencies and shuts God out of His world, combined with a worldly spirit which takes account of the seen and tangible only, and ignores the spiritual in life; and on the other hand we have a religion which shows a decided tendency to decorous formality in worship, and to exclusive absorption in mere outward activities and in material and humanitarian interests, to the neglect of the cultivation of inward life, from which all the streams of religious activity are fed.  How needful, therefore, it is to see that the Holy Spirit is here to oppose and to overcome this downward drift! . . The advent of the Spirit means that there is now present in the world a divine power working for spiritual results. . . The two pivotal events in historic Christianity are the coming of Christ in the flesh, and the coming of the Spirit.”

                Note that Jesus said: “And I will pray to the Father and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him for He dwells with you and will be in you.  I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”  John 14:16-18.  NKJV

                Jesus said: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth.  It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.  And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.”  John 16:7-11.  NKJV


"Nor bound, nor clime, nor creed thou know'st

Wide as our need thy favors fall,

The white wings of the Holy Ghost

Stoop, seen or unseen, o'er the heads of all."


                Partly because of the rationalism of John Locke, partly due to the extremes of "pentecostalism" on the frontier, God The Holy Spirit has been pushed aside or ignored [even denied by some] among the Restoration Movement.

                 "An attempt is made to bring the doctrines of the Holy Spirit into harmony with the enlarged Christological thoughts of the present day.  The place which the doctrine of the Holy Spirit occupies in the self-revelation of God to man is just beginning to be appreciated.  It is not too much to say that no other doctrine within the circle of evangelical truth has suffered a more complete eclipse."  [James M. Campell]

                In New Testament Christianity the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as One with the Father, and it was sufficient to appeal to Christian consciousness as evidence of His continual presence, to regenerated lives as evidence of His divine power.  “The Fathers in the church appealed to experience because Christianity, as they knew, is essentially not a past event, but a present life; a life first manifested in Christ, and then perpetuated in His church.”  [Gore]

                We do not need to go back to Pentecost.  We need for the church to bring Pentecost into the present.  We look to the past, but we must look to the future also.  God’s great kingdom must reach forward into the future, to spreading the gospel of Christ Jesus - Crucified, Risen Coming Again.  As a historical event, Pentecost can never come back again.  But everything that was spiritual and essential remains.  The heavens that were opened are kept open.  God The Holy Spirit continually bestows vitality and spiritual power to God’s church.


1. A spiritual Christ.  A changeless gospel must adapt to a changing society.  Note Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.  The message never changes, but methods do.  And it is the historical task of the church to be forever spiritualizing more and more her understanding of the Christ and of salvation.

                The One God is Father-Son-Holy Spirit.  [Some demote the Spirit to emphasize Christ, and then demote Christ to emphasize the Father.]  The coming of God The Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the coming of Christ to dwell in the hearts of His people by His Spirit.  James M. Campbell wrote: “No more serious mistake could be made than to regard the Holy Spirit as supplying the lack of an absent Christ.  He is rather the ‘bodiless divinity’ [the Nameless One] by whom Christ, no longer with us in the flesh, is made present and omnipresent.”

                “While He [Christ] was with His disciples they were like weak children clinging to the hand of a father; when He was taken away they learned to walk alone.  The blossom dropped off that the fruit  might appear; the earthly Christ faded from sight that the spiritual Christ might be revealed; the visible hand was withdrawn that the unseen hand might henceforth guide and sustain in all life’s dark and difficult ways.”  [J. M. Campbell]

                Paul speaks of an ongoing spiritual transformation in we Christians.  “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”  [2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV] 

                God is One.  The Christ who could die is seen to be also the Christ who has conquered death and is alive forevermore.  It is not enough to believe in a Christ who lived and died.  We must also believe in a Christ who lives and reigns right now.  The ransomed march on their way to Zion with everlasting Holy Joy upon their heads.


2. A spiritual God.  In giving a spiritual Christ Pentecost gave a spiritual God.  Pentecost did not give a new God, but a new and fuller conception of God.  The Incarnation was God manifest in the flesh.  Pentecost was God manifest in the Spirit.  “God is Spirit, and only by the power of His Spirit can people worship Him as He really is.”  John 4:24 GNB  [A correct way this verse can be translated.]

                J. M. Campbell writes: “Taken simply to express the threeness, or the three-foldness of the One divine Being, the names Father, Son and Holy Spirit are full of precious significance.  But, instead of saying Father, Son, and Spirit are one God, we ought to say there is one God, who is Father, Son and Spirit.  The Father is God in universal relations; the Son is God in revelation; the Holy Spirit is God in operation.  If love be the immanent power ‘by which Deity unfolds into a Trinity,’ in the Father we have the original fountain of love, in the Son we have love revealing itself, in the Holy Spirit we have love communicating itself.  God as love could not remain in solitude or inactivity.”

                Pentecost did not mark His coming into the world or into the heart of man for the first time.  But it did mark His coming in fullness of power.  It marked a new stage [dispensation] in His continuous and continuing redemptive activity.  “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working”  (Jesus in John 5:17)

                Peter in his sermon on Pentecost makes the fullness of the Spirit’s operations the distinguishing. feature of the new covenant age ushered in that day.  “I will pour our My Spirit upon all flesh” was declared to be fulfilled.  Sons and daughters, young men and old men, servants and handmaidens - there was a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all.  Compare Peter’s defense to the Jewish leaders at Jerusalem, Acts 11:15-18.  “Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John indeed baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’”


3. Spiritual worship.  J. M. Campbell wrote: “The truth that God is spirit carries with it the obligation to worship Him in spirit and in truth.  The revelation of God in the Spirit being the final form of divine self-manifestation, those who do not know Him in the Spirit do not know Him as He is now revealing Himself, and those who do not worship Him in spirit do not worship Him in the way in which He seeks to be worshipped.”  An alternate translation of John 4:24 would be: “God is Spirit, and only by the power of His Spirit can people worship Him as He really is.”

                Worship in the New Covenant is not of “ritual and holy places.”  Not location centered, yet the First Century church gathered together in groups to join in worship.  Somewhat like the synagogue, they sang praise, studied the Bible, preached [someone spoke a lesson of encouragement], took up a collection to carry on the work of the Lord (including taking care of the poor and needy).  Since Jesus raised from the dead, we now celebrate the Lord’s Supper [the Holy Meal] to remember and to praise Him.  Material actions can have spiritual results.  The group of worshippers has fellowship - koinonia - as we/they raise one voice to God.  The more real the love of Jesus becomes in and through our lives [and our worship], the more real our fellowship with fellow believers.  Compare 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.

                When we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, our attention is drawn to the bread and the cup (fruit of the vine) and the statement: “Do this in memory of Me.”  However, we first look to Him who invites us.  As Jesus prepared for the Last Supper, He said, “I have longed to eat this Passover with you” [Luke 22:15].  It is the Lord who first desires to unite Himself to us.  He loves us first and invites us to His table at which He presides invisibly while, in His name, a brother presides visibly.  The Holy Meal is Jesus coming to be with His own.  The Holy Meal is an act both of the Lord and of His Church; or rather, an act of the Lord in and for His Church.


4. A spiritual apprehension of Truth.  The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit [1 Corinthians 2:14].  We thank God that the “ABCs of the Gospel are so clear that anyone can understand enough to produce faith in us and prepare us for spiritual knowledge.  Being born of “water and the Spirit” [John 3:5; Titus 3:5] gives us the ability to evaluate the written word - God’s wisdom - as the Spirit makes this known to us.  To a soul immersed in carnality, the spiritual world is a blank page.  But to the spiritual man/woman, sensitized by The Spirit, the spiritual world stands revealed.  Paul writes: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory” [1 Corinthians 2:7].

                Christ has finished the work He came to do.  A baptized Christian has been born of water and The Spirit.  Baptism is a “finished work” in that he/she has already received the fullness of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit is not still on His way, but He is already radically present from the very beginning of this Christian life - even if the awareness of His Presence is not known by the person.   Strictly speaking, our need is not to become holy, but to remain so (compare 2 Corinthians 5:17): we must become what we already are.  We have received the Spirit of Holiness within us as a pledge and first fruits.  Now we must be faithful to this and in faithfulness cultivate the resources already within us.  “You must be holy,” says God.

                When the action of the Holy Spirit becomes more effective in us, it is not that the Spirit has suddenly awakened like some dormant volcano unexpectedly come to life.  It is we who are awakened to His Presence by a combined movement of His grace, a deeper faith, a more living hope, a more burning love.  It is God who reaches out to us and bears us aloft.  This is a truth that we must learn and learn again.


5. An influx of spiritual life.  Salvation is much more than forgiveness.  We are being transformed into the likeness of Jesus [2 Corinthians 3:6-18].  This larger life which the Holy Spirit brings is the life which Christ brought down from heaven.  Christ said: “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” [John 10:10].  This abundant life which He came to bestow is administered by the Holy Spirit.  “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. . . But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” [John 7:37-39].  After Jesus was glorified in the Cross & Resurrection, the Holy Spirit was given at Pentecost.  The Holy Spirit is Himself the “rivers of living water” of which Jesus spoke.  Compare Isaiah 12:3; 43:20; 44:3; 55:1; Ezekiel 47:1-12.  And, Jesus’ offer to the Samaritan woman [John 4:13-14].


6. The spiritual man.  As we bear the image of the first Adam, so we Christians bear the image of Christ who is the second Adam [1 Corinthians 15:47-49].  Brinsmead said: “The Holy Spirit works into us what Christ worked out for us.”  We are to “work out our salvation” in the sense of making our salvation a real experience, a new way of life.  Compare Romans 12:1-2.

                “For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father .”  To be a Christian is to be Spirit-filled.  Compare 1 Corinthians 12:13.  In preaching the whole gospel, we must include the role of The Spirit also.  [The written word is not intended to be a substitute for The Spirit.  Nor is the church a substitute for Christ.] 

                A human is body/soul/spirit [1 Thessalonians 5:23].  The spiritual human is possessed by The Spirit.  We are Spirit-moved, Spirit-possessed, Spirit-governed, one with Him in all things, filled with the love of God, holy joy, and all the fruit of the Spirit.

                The spiritual human has gained the mastery over the material.  Jesus and His apostles dignified work by being a carpenter, a tentmaker, a fisherman.  But material things were tools to be used to the glory of God. Compare Ephesians 4:28; Acts 6:1-6; Luke 3:11.

                The spiritual human is one to whom all of life is spiritual.  No distinction between sacred and secular.  It is not that the sacred has become common, but that the common has become sacred.  What is the church doing?  Plowing the field, clerking in a store, feeding the hungry. But especially praying, preaching the gospel, praising God.  We know no one is a “fleshly way” [2 Corinthians 5:15-19].  In Christ we are a new creation, related to God through a new covenant, and the world is crucified to us. 

                The spiritual human is empowered to do spiritual work.  [Warning: it would be an error to be so spiritually minded that we were no earthly good.]  Filled with the Spirit’s sympathy and love, he/she gives himself/ herself to others, expecting nothing in return.  Without spirituality all gifts, natural and acquired, are useless and vain.  But let a man be moved by the impulses which come from the heart of the Spirit and he will be impelled to bring the fruits of his life as an offering of love, and lay them down at the feet of the Divine Master whose service is the service of mankind.  Put “men whose heart God has touched” behind the truth and it will touch other hearts.  We do not need a “new gospel,” but we need men and women who are filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.


7. Spiritual holiness.  “Fill the bushel (basket) with wheat,” said John Newton, “and you may defy the devil to fill it with tares.”  Note Jesus’ parable about the evil spirit [Matthew 12:43-45].  It is not enough to flee from sin.  We must practice righteousness as a habit.  As light displaces darkness; as dead leaves are pushed off by the swelling of new leaf-buds; as snow slides of the roof when reached by the heat from within; so evil disappears when the Holy Spirit, the Conqueror of sin, takes possession of the heart and life.

                The Holy Spirit does not flow into a self-emptied soul like air into a vacuum.  The command is not, “Empty your hearts and I will fill them.”  It is “Open your hearts and I will fill them.”  Note the example of Joshua the high priest [Zechariah 3:3-4].  “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”  Some are desperately trying to do with their own efforts what has been already accomplished at the Cross.  Even at its best the religion of the Pharisees was a thing of formality and ritual rather than life.  It was good form, but lacked a right spirit.  Compare Luke 18:9-14.  When at Pentecost God filled the lives of the 120 with power, and again at the house of Cornelius, a transformation took place in the lives of these disciples which was as great a change as any of the signs and wonders.  Power to be holy was bestowed on sinful men/women.

                Paul warned about having a form of religion, but denying the power (“they will hold to the outward form of our religion but reject its real power” GNB) [2 Timothy 3:5; 1 Timothy 5:8].  Jesus Himself went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil [Acts 10:38].


8. Spiritual authority.  J. M. Campbell wrote: “Pentecost marks advancement from outward to inward authority; from outward obedience to inward obedience; from outward restraint to inward constraint; from a law written upon parchment to a law written in the heart.”  Compare Paul in 2 Corinthians 3:3.

                The authority of God over our lives is spiritual. The Law was “rule and regulations” covering the details of life.  The New Covenant is written in hearts and lives.  The two great commandments are to love God with our minds, heart strength, lives; and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus said on these hang all the Law and the prophets.

                The authority of God over our lives is administered by Christ.  “The government is upon His shoulders.”  His nail-pierced hands hold the scepter of universal dominion.  He is King in the absolute sense, having all power and all authority.  And He is a King who loves His people and works for their good.

                Christ administers His authority through the Holy Spirit.  J. M. Campbell wrote: “Apart from the work of the Spirit upon the hearts of men, the influence of Christ would soon have faded out, and Christianity have become a spent (exhausted) force.  By the coming of the Spirit the spiritual authority of Christ was perpetuated, and His authority made a reality in human experience.”  [Salvation is too important to be left entirely in human hands.  Compare Romans 8:26-30.]

                God, through Christ, through the Holy Spirit, imparts a new principle of obedience.  This principle of obedience is love - Christian love.  Compare 1 John 3:23; 4:7-21; 5:1-5.  God’s own love is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit [Romans 5:1-5].  J. M. Campbell wrote: “The authority founded upon love is compatible with the largest possible freedom.  The law of love which Christ promulgated and exemplified, the law by which He rules, is ‘the perfect law of liberty (liberation).’”  “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  Loveless labor and duty is drudgery.  Labor of love is a delight.  B. F. Mills was quoted as saying: “to be a legalistic Christian is harder than to be a perfect Jew.”


9. Spiritual gifts.  Each is born with a gift or gifts.  All have at least one.  This is true of natural, but not of spiritual gifts.  In the church of the First Century spiritual gifts were given by the Holy Spirit to each as He willed, so that each was equipped to do his/her part in the work of the church.  Compare Ephesians 4:7-16; Colossians 3:12-17.

                Coming together as an assembly to worship is vitally important [Hebrews 10:25].  But there is also an overall “life” of the congregation at all times.  An English writer of the 1800s wrote: “The whole world is a temple and man is everywhere a worshipper.”  Pure religion (worship - threskea) is expressed in outward actions.  Jesus pictures the Judgment as “pass/fail” according to works of kindness and helpfulness. (Matt. 25:31-48).

                Some set up “zone meetings” to get the congregation to interact with each other.  Others act as though they believed the church ceased to exist between “assemblies.”  The church of Pentecost met every day in the temple and house to house as well.  They began  works of benevolence immediately as we may infer from Acts 6:1-7.

                Spiritual gifts are for the good of the whole church.  One has written: “Authority owes it to itself to listen and to assume at times its proper responsibility when faced with necessary changes: it will thus avoid being relegated to rearguard action.  It is striking to see how the ‘children of light’ can be so far behind the ‘children of this world’ when it comes to accepting self-criticism and a strict and impartial evaluation of methods and results.”


10. Spiritual operations.  One wrote in 1973 looking forward to the future of his “brotherhood.”  “We shall have, therefore, a period of greater freedom in the life of the Church and her individual members.  It will be a period of fewer legal obligations and fewer interior restraints.  Formal discipline will be reduced; all arbitrary intolerance and all absolutism will be abolished.   Positive law will be simplified, and the exercise of authority will be moderated.  There will be promoted the sense of that Christian freedom which pervaded the first generation of Christians.”

                The Church in all her dimensions obeys one and the same Spirit.  As a visible reality of this world, she must have laws and mechanisms.  The Word of God and the Spirit of Jesus are the ultimate authority in the Church and all “leadership” is at her service.

                But the danger of legalism becomes greater whenever the “leadership” attempts to create “laws” which are too precise, with all the risks that implies, since these must then be applied concretely in very different circumstances.  To strive for unity in the Church through rules and regulations is to confuse unity with uniformity.  [Unity is in Christ and the Holy Spirit.]

                One wrote to warn against “legalism” in our thinking.  “We have made the Church an organization like any other.  We have invested all our efforts in making it able to stand by itself, and now those efforts are expended in getting it to function.  It goes, more or less, really mostly less, but it goes.  Only, it goes like a machine, not like something alive.”

                The Church must always step back from her history and look at herself in the mirror, as James says, to “see the face she was born with,” lest she go off and “forget what she looks like.”  The history of the Church if for us a school of humility.  This same history is a school of hope.  We learn that the Church’s most disconcerting moments prepared the way for unexpected tomorrows.  We now can easily think we are at the end of the world when we really are only at the end of a world.


11. A spiritual Kingdom.  Love & Power,  There is a surprising link between Christian love and spiritual power that we need to look at closely.  The love of God that is poured out into our hearts [Romans 5:5] is just that, the love of God.  That love is profoundly humble, but it is also profoundly free and powerful.  This doesn’t look like the freedom and power that the world recognizes.  Immediately after Paul’s great hymn of praise to Love [1 Corinthians 13], he goes on to say: “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.”  It is not enough to sit back and let love come to  us - we are to pursue love.  We are to seek eagerly after love, to seek God Himself, to seek eagerly to walk the way of love.  And it is not enough to be “open” to the spiritual gifts; instead we must set our heart on them, positively desire them, pray for them, confidently yield to them.  Love impels us to avail ourselves of all that God is willing to make available to us as a way of helping and serving others, of setting others free, of encouraging and strengthening them.  Not to set our hearts on spiritual gifts is to fall back into that cowardice, timidity, or fear that Scripture explicitly warns us against.  Compare 2 Timothy 1:6-7.

                As one has said: “We must recover holiness without legalism, boldness without presumption, and power without pride.  When the church does this she will gain the attention of both the heavens and the earth, because her God will be with her in His manifest presence.”

                There is an energy, a dynamic, a power, a strength imparted by God through the Holy Spirit, love poured out into our hearts that energizes us to act.  “Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.  To this end I also labor, striving according to His working which works in me mightily (Colossians 1:28-29 NKJV).

                Christian love and spiritual power are intended to be profoundly linked; when they are not, something less than the fullness of the gospel is present.  Strengthened now, in faith, hope, love, and spiritual power, let us look again at the situation in which we and the whole Church are living.

                Ralph Martin wrote in 1994: “Seventeen hundred years of Christendom are falling into ruins around us.  An age is coming to an end, not just the end of a remarkable century but the end of seventeen hundred years of Christendom.  The greatest apostasy since the birth of the Church is clearly far advanced all around us.”  Yet at the same time we can see that Africa and India (and China?) have emerged as a new center of Christendom.

                God has made all mankind with an instinct for truth, a sense of right and wrong, and most of all a hunger for God Himself.  Eventually, truth will win out.  Perhaps after great suffering and great waiting, but truth will win out!!!

                God is judging His church.  Judgment begins at the house of God. 1 Peter 4:17.  Our choice:  Throw up our hands in despair?  Lift up our  hands in prayer, praise, joy, hope!  Note 1 Timothy 2:8.  We are privileged to live in a time that while exceedingly difficult, is also a time where we have seen and will see yet more of the great interventions of God.  But one thing is certain, God is not worried about the situation.  He is not anxious.  He is not afraid.  He is in control and will see to it that all things work out to the good of those who love Him.  The nations may rage.  Mankind may scheme.  God laughs.  Compare Psalm 2:1-6.

                At her best the Church is full of faults, many warts and wrinkles.  An ideal church is nowhere to be found, but a church with an ideal is found wherever there is a church in which the Holy Spirit dwells.  She - the Church - believes that great things are struggling to birth in the womb of the present.  She “abounds in hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” ([Romans 15:13].  The Holy Spirit fills her life with a never failing hope.  “Then he said to  me, ‘Write: Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’  And he said to me, ‘These are the true saying of God.’”  Revelation 19:9.



Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Pentecost Continues!   R.D.Ice 9/12/2003

Greetings from Union Road, Barbour County, West Virginia.  We Church of Christ folk are not "Pentecostals" (yet Spirit-filled) but neither are we "Jehovah Witnesses" (who seem to deny the Spirit).  We recognize God The Holy Spirit.  And Campbell wrote of Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Don, Jehovah the Holy Spirit [in The Christian System]. We understand we are not to "quench the Spirit."  But we may have done things to "quench" Him and be doing it now.  I have put together a number of things in this folder.  You should read with discretion.  But do as the noble Bereans did and search the Scriptures to see whether these things are true.  Someone has said: "It is right to learn, even from an enemy."  And, "God may speak to you through someone you did not expect to speak."  We join our brothers & sisters in Christ around the world to pray for Revival, Renewal and Spiritual Awakening!  Yours in Christ, R.D.Ice.

            The Bible speaks of GOD who is One.  God is Father, Son, Holy Spirit.  Yet God is One.  "Pentecost continues in the Lord's Supper as we eat and drink in the Kingdom of God."  We should begin our faith from John 3:17.  The Eternal Word came, not to condemn the world, but to be the world’s Savior.  And Peter speaks of abundant salvation.


         John wrote: "Before the world was created, the Word already existed; he was with God and he was the same as God.  From the very beginning the Word was with God.  Through him God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.  The Word was the source of life, and this life brought light to mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never put it out."  John 1:1-5 GNB.  Compare Hebrews 1:1-3; 1 John 1:1-4.


         Pessimism and a sense of defeat are in vogue today.  The world is filled with a morose negative spirit.  Even Christians are spreading doom and gloom, though this be the negation/denial of everything they might be expected to believe.  But a real Christian should be a man of hope.  The apostle Peter went so far as to say that a disciple of Christ Jesus should always be ready with an answer  "to explain the hope you have in you"  (1 Peter 3:15).  Hope is a vital factor and a component of who we are - our very being.  However, nowadays, in certain quarters, hope has gotten a bad press.  People are suspicious that hope is just an excuse or tranquilizer to distract us from the problems that face us and threaten us.


         Christianity means hope!  We must take hold of hope once again and restore hope to its rightful place.  Hope is today, as it always has been, a Christian virtue.  Hope is vital to our relationship to God.  Hope is an "anchor of the soul" (Hebrews 6:19).  Hope reaches through the veil of the heavenly temple into the most holy place!  This means that hope is a living reality within us which has its source in God and relies on God - God alone.  Hope makes mockery of our hopes and fears, our weighty statistics, our probability charts, our predictions and evaluations of the future.  Hope goes its own way despite our beliefs.  "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord" (Isaiah 55:8).


         God is the "Master of the impossible" who draws straight with crooked lines.  He even uses the "wrath of man" to praise Himself (Psalms 76:10).  In spite of what seem to be woeful setbacks, God leads all things for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:26-28).  Hope is the daughter of the God who refuses to be stuffed into a pigeonhole and who knows how to overcome obstacles by making them His servants.


         "They have taken away the church of my childhood" some have said.  But memories are not always accurate and changes sometimes need to be made to bring us back to and closer to God.  Be of good courage!  The power of God The Holy Spirit is at work deep within the heart of His church.  HE is breathing into her (the church) a new and fresh youthfulness.  Let us pray for Holy Joy, Christian Love, and all the Fruit of The Spirit!  God The Spirit is our hope for the future!  We are being molded into a "habitation of God in the Spirit" (Ephesians 2:19-22).


         As the disciples prepared for Pentecost, they were gathered in an upper room "to pray as a group" (Acts 1:13-14).  As the disciples lifted their voice in prayer (Acts 4:23-31) the place was shaken as evidence that God heard and answered.  We join in prayer: "Lord!  Renew Your wonders in this our day and give us the renewing of Pentecost.  Continue to give us an open door that no one can shut!"


         God works through people.  God The Holy Spirit has ways and means of renewal.  As the centuries go by, the Spirit, suddenly and without warning, releases a gulfstream of graces through the actions of some child of His who towers spiritually over his contemporaries.  Many are, or become, radiant witnesses of the presence of God within the church at moments of crisis.


         Faith teaches us that suffering is the seed of life (James 1:12-18).  It is perfectly normal, then, that the sufferings of the church at this moment should give rise to great hope.  No day was ever so pregnant with hope for the future as Friday - the day that Jesus was nailed to the cross.  It is a blessed time for the church when she is sustained by nothing other than God Himself.  When the situation is hopeless: this, then, is the hour for hoping.  When we have reasons for hope then we rely on those reasons.  We must rely, not upon reasons, but upon the promise given by God.  We must admit that we are lost, surrender ourselves as lost, and praise the Lord who saves us!  A constant theme in the Book of Revcelation is: "Listen to what the Spirit says to the churches."


         This moment calls for us to look beyond our easy optimism, all our too human strategies, and to nourish our hope at its source - the word of God.  Everything points to the fact that we are living at a turning point in the history of the church.  God the Holy Spirit is revealing, to a degree unknown before, a mystery of death and resurrection.  We must listen to what the Spirit is telling the churches.  He speaks of the ever necessary reform of structures.  In trying to follow a pattern (as some have defined it), we may be placing the church in a straitjacket.  It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1).  Therefore we are always renewing and reviving the church and ourselves.  We build upon the past, yet we want to answer questions relating to the challenges of today.  "Trust and obey, for there is no other way."


         As one has said: "The world today is giving birth, and birth is always accompanied by hope.  We view this present situation with a great Christian hope and a deep sense of our responsibility for the kind of world that will be born of this travail.  This is the hour of the church: united, it must offer to this new world being born, some Christian orientation as to its future."


         One in another brotherhood wrote in 1974:  Dan Herr, editor of The Critic, asked me: "Why are you a man of hope, despite the confusion in which we find ourselves today?"  I answered: "Because I believe in God the Holy Spirit."   He asked me to write a letter about this.  He published it on the cover of his periodical.  Here it is in a nutshell.  {I have put it into poem form, RDI.]




Stand up and praise the Lord your God!

Praise Him forever and ever!

Let everyone praise His glorious name,

although no human praise

is ever great enough.


Today is holy to our Lord,

so don't be sad.

The joy that the Lord gives you

will make you strong.

Do as the Lord says,

and you will be safe from sin.


The long history of the church is filled

with the wonders of God The Spirit.

Who would dare to say that the love

and resourcefulness

of God were exhausted?

I believe in the surprises

of God The Holy Spirit.

The ways of His Providence

are by nature surprising.

We are not prisoners of "fate,"

nor of the gloomy predictions

of sociologists

and those who peer into the future.


We must therefore be ready

to expect

the unexpected

from God!


Think of the prophets and

the great men and women

of old.

Who, in times of darkness,

discovered a spring of grace

and shed beams of light on our path.


I am a man of hope - not

from human reasons

nor from a natural optimism.

God is here, near us,

unforeseeable and loving,

working in the world

at this very minute.


To hope is a duty, not a luxury.

To hope is not to dream,

but to turn dreams into reality.

Blessed are those who dream dreams

and are ready

to pay the price

to make them come true.


To those who welcome Him

He gives each day fresh liberty

and renewed joy and trust!!!

I am a man of hope!

I believe in God The Holy Spirit!

I claim the promises of the Lord!


Keep on asking, seeking, knocking,

Luke records Jesus as saying this.

And don't you think the Father

who conceived you in love

will give the Holy Spirit when you ask Him?"

[Luke 11:9-13]


    “If you the, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!”  Luke 11:13





Monday, December 6, 2010

Apostle of Legalism

Rhoderick D. Ice

"You are not a Christian unless I say you are a Christian." In a nutshell, this how Dr. Thomas seemed to think. He was "Unitarian" and "Adventist" in his thinking. Thomas' ideas culminated in the strange cult known as the Christadelphians (Christ's Brethren).

John Thomas came from England in 1844. He became part of the Stone-Campbell Movement. But later he was convinced that they were the apostate church predicted in the Scriptures. So he withdrew to form a group of local meetings who finally took the name, Christadelphians (Brethren of Christ). They were "mutual edification" in having no paid or ordained ministers. In 1967 there were some 600 "ecclesias" (congregations) in the USA, with larger numbers in Australia, Britain, Canada , and Germany.

Thomas taught that Jesus is "a son" of God, but not God the Son; and that Jesus had no existence before being born of Mary. He rejected the Trinity, and a personal devil.

B. L. Smith wrote in the "Millenial Harbinger Abridged": "He was a magnetic, attractive man, and became very popular with some people. Soon he began to teach a spirit of dogmatism and exalted his own opinions above other teachings. Among other teaching was that one coming into the church should be re-baptized; that immersion, as administered by Baptists or any other, was utterly invalid."

Dr. Thomas deserves further study for two reasons: he was perhaps Campbell's severest critic within the "movement;" his type of mind set and thinking introduced a "factor of distortion" which is still with us today.

We learn much about Dr. Thomas and about Alexander Campbell by the controversy recorded in the "Millenial Harbinger." Campbell accepted more as "Christians" than some in our movement would today. He stressed immersion into Christ, and was himself immersed. [Campbell accepted the King James translators as Christians.]

Campbell received a letter from Lunenburg County, VA, in which a woman who, influenced by Dr. Thomas, challenged Campbell's definition of a "Christian." Campbell wrote: "In reply to this conscientious sister, I observe, that if there be no Christians among the Protestant sects, there are certainly none among the Romanists, none among the Jews, Turks, Pagans; and therefore no Christians in the world except ourselves, or such of us as keep, or strive to keep, all the commandments of Jesus. Therefore, for many centuries there has been no church of Christ, no Christians in the world; and the promises concerning the everlasting kingdom of Messiah have failed, and the gates of hell have prevailed against His church! This cannot be; and therefore there are Christians among the sects."

Campbell wrote: "But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys Him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of His will.. .And hence it is possible for Christians to be imperfect in some respects without an absolute forfeiture of the Christian state and character."

According to J. W. Hunnicutt, Thomas taught the following [which things were contrary to what Campbell taught].

1. All infants, idiots [mental defectives], and heathens will sleep through endless duration - they can never rise.

2. Man has no soul nor existence separate, distinct, and independently of the body.

3. The Spirit of God does not operate on any person apart from the word written.

4. It is sinful for an unconverted person to pray to God.

5. Christ will reign upon the earth in person a thousand years, the seat of government being at Jerusalem.

The Christadelphians deny some essential doctrines of Christianity; namely, that Jesus is God (John 8:58)and that salvation is by grace. Like so many other cult groups that claim to be the Restored Truth, they have their own interpretations of the Bible that deviate greatly from orthodox Christianity.

Note: Some of these things have carried over into present day Churches of Christ without our being aware of it. "Old Uncle John" may have been very sincere in his ideas yet mistaken when compared to truth. We need the witness of the Four Gospels plus the rest of the New Testament plus the witness of the Old Testament to be on solid and safe ground. What God is, the Eternal Word (LOGOS) is also. John 1:1-4; Col. 1:15-17. The ETERNAL WORD came in a body of flesh and blood to be the Lamb who takes away sin. John 1:29; 1 John 3:23; 4:1-4; 5:5-13; Hebrews 1:3; 2:14-18; Romans 8:1-4

GOD is One Lord (Deut. 6:4). Campbell could speak of: Jehovah the Father, Jehovah the Son, Jehovah the Holy Spirit (in his book: The Christian System.).