The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
November 30, 2014


1) The Example of Ezra: He Studied God's Word, Practiced It, and Taught It to Others (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


The Example of Ezra:
He Studied God's Word, Practiced It, and Taught It to Others

by Tom Edwards

Following the decree of Cyrus, king of Persia, that all the Jews who had been in captivity could now return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, Zerubbabel led back that first group of exiles in 536 B.C., which included a priest by the name of Ezra.  

But the Ezra we want to consider in this article is the one who had led the second group to Jerusalem, around 458 B.C. (78 years later) and also wrote the book of Ezra in the Old Testament.  He, too, was a descendant of Aaron; but having also been "a scribe skilled in the law of Moses" (Ezra 7:6), he is said to have been more of a teacher than a priest.  While Zerubbabel's return focused on the rebuilding of the temple, and Nehemiah's on the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem and its gates (445 B.C.), Ezra worked toward bringing about a spiritual reform for all the people that would lead to the proper worship of God, as also seen in Nehemiah 8.     

Ezra 7:10 nicely sums up the life of Ezra by pointing out three essential things that characterized him: "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the LORD and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel."

While many people today are still wondering why they are even here, in wanting to know their purpose on earth and the reason for it all, Ezra appears to have understood that very well and sought to do his part in carrying out his role.  And what tasks could be more important than those in connection with what the Lord wants us to be doing?

After pointing out the many vanities in the life of an individual without God -- and regardless of all the earthly attainments that person had achieved or acquired -- Solomon then states in the last  two verses of Ecclesiastes, "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it is good or whether it is evil" (12:13,14).

This certainly is not a passage to skip over nor to take lightly, for it answers that big question as to what is the main reason for our existence: We are each here to fear God and to obey His word.  In doing that, we are also maintaining a relationship with Him that helps us through life and makes our lives more fulfilling.  

Note again how serious Ezra was concerning this: His studying, obeying, and teaching God's laws to others are described as all being that which he had "set his heart" to do. He was truly dedicated, determined, and motivated.  

So, obviously, studying the Scriptures is necessary to be sure we are carrying out that which God has required of us -- and so that we will also avoid violating His word through wrong choices made unknowingly.  The Bible itself has much to say about this:   

1) Study

"Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).   The first part is rendered as "Study to shew thyself approved unto God" in the KJV.  "Study" is from the Greek word "spoudazo" (spoo-dad'-zo), which E.W. Bullinger defines as "to speed, make haste, (as manifested in diligence, earnestness, zeal, etc.)"  It is "to exert one's self," to "endeavor" (Thayer).  And the need to study, in the way we would normally think of it, is certainly implied in "handling accurately the word of truth."  For how else could that be done without studying the Scriptures?  Though translated 6 times as "diligent" in the NASB, "spoudazo" is also rendered in other passages as  "make every effort" (3 times) and "eager" (2).  So just as Ezra had "set his heart to study the law of the Lord," we need to also do likewise in carefully examining God's word for us today.  

It appears that the Bereans truly demonstrated this in their own lives.  For Luke says of them, "Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11).  As we see how keenly interested they were in God's word, we might want to ask ourselves if we have that same enthusiasm toward it today?

And isn't it something that to even the elders of the church at Ephesus, whom would have already acquired much knowledge of the Scriptures, Paul exhorts by saying, "And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:32).  So they still had that need to look into God's word to be edified by it.  And since that is true of them, how about the rest of us?  Do we not all need to take heed to Peter's instruction?  He writes, "You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Pet. 3:17,18).

Being foolish is not always from what one does, it can also be from what one fails to do: "Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:15-17).

Examining the Scriptures, therefore, is not only needful to learn what we must do, but also of those things which we must not.  And of all the knowledge our world possesses, what could ever be more important than to simply have a good understanding of all of God's word?  For Jesus says, "...the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (Jn. 6:63).  In addition, when the Lord asked His apostles, after many had already turned away from Him, "You do not want to go away also, do you?," Peter responded, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life" (Jn. 6:67,68).

2) Practice What We Learn

God's word is not only history, facts, and promises to believe and accept, but also instructions to obey.  While the history, facts, and promises can give us motivation, it is in submitting to the commands that our lives are transformed.   James, therefore, urges the brethren to "...prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves" (Jms. 1:22). And, furthermore, he points out that the "...one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin" (4:17).

Putting God's word into practice will also help us in the third step of teaching that message to others.  For what kind of positive influence will we be able to have if we ourselves are not striving to live according to God's holy message?  

Paul shows how disobedience of those who are supposed to be saints can greatly affect the unbelievers: "you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself?  You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal? You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God? For 'THE NAME OF GOD IS BLASPHEMED AMONG THE GENTILES BECAUSE OF YOU,'... (Rom. 2:21-24).  We are reminded, too, of what Jesus teaches in Matthew 7:3-5 about the need to remove the "log" from our own eye, before we try to remove the "speck" from our brother's eye.

3) And Teach It to Others

God's word is not merely for ourselves, but it is also so we will do our part in teaching it to others.  For Christians are to reach out with the gospel to the lost (for their salvation) and to the redeemed (for their edification).  

In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul gives this following instruction to Timothy: "And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."

In this passage, "men" is not from the Greek word "aner" that would be referring to males exclusively; but, rather, from "anthropos," which Thayer defines primarily as "a human being, whether male or female."  Of course, a woman is not "to teach or exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim. 2:12), so she could never be a gospel preacher who needs to "speak and exhort and reprove with all authority" (Titus 2:15).  But she can still be involved in teaching in other capacities.  For example, aged women are to be "teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women..." (Titus 2:3,4).  Also, it was Aquila and Priscilla, a husband and wife, who took Apollos aside "and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (Acts 18:24-26).  And when Christians -- male and female -- sing together, each one is "...teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs..." (Col. 3:16).  In addition, Paul shows that Christians have been "made free from sin and become servants to God..." (Rom. 6:22), and each servant of the Lord is to be "able to teach" (2 Tim. 2:24).  Going along with that, when the Hebrew writer reproved the recipients of his letter by saying, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food" (Heb. 5:12), that included males and females.  Some women had been given the gift of prophecy in the early church, which would have involved teaching (Acts 2:17).  Philip the evangelist "...had four virgin daughters who were prophetesses" (Acts 21:9).  So there are ways in which every Christian can be involved in teaching others.      

What was it that the Lord instructed the apostles in Matthew 28:19,20?  "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  Was the need, to continue in teaching the converted, only for during the days of the apostles?  We, therefore, need to do our part in helping not only lost souls to be saved, but also the redeemed to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ," as we saw in 2 Peter 3:18 -- and the reason for the latter: "...so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness" (v. 17).

May we each ever strive to be more like Ezra who studied God's word, put it into practice in his life, and also taught it to others. 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following:

While visiting relatives near Atlanta, Mandy Strickland had an accidental fall that led to breaking her lower leg in three places.  She is now back home, but will have to be wearing different casts for some time.

As mentioned recently, Penny Medlock has been diagnosed with glaucoma.

Let us also continue to remember the following in our prayers: Myrna Jordan, Marie Turner (wife of Mark), Jim Lively, Danielle Howard, Ronnie Davis, Rex and Frankie Hadley, Jewel Wilson, Mary Vandevander, Deborah Medlock, Sue Wooten, Shirley Davis, Dexter Roberts, Steve Vista, Dolly Downs Moody, and Colleen Henson.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21)     
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Tebeau Street

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evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
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