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
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
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
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
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
"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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts
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.
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can
be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).
CHURCH OF CHRIST
1402 Tebeau Street, Waycross, GA 31501
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 5 PM (worship)
Wednesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (912) 614-8593
(Gospel Observer website)