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).
February 22, 2015


1) A Rainbow in the Clouds (Colly Caldwell)
2) Why Do "Churches of Christ" Differ So Widely? (Sewell Hall)
3) News & Notes


A Rainbow in the Clouds
by Colly Caldwell

"I establish my covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said: This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I set my rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between me and the earth" (Gen. 9:11-13).  

Do you remember this old song we used to sing: "As I journey here 'mid the toil and tears, there's a rainbow in the cloud; He will safely lead, I must have no fear, there's a rainbow in the clouds."

"Noah and the Ark" is one of the first Bible stories we all remember from our cradle classes in the church. God told Noah to build a huge boat and take into it every kind of animal. By doing so, Noah and his family would be saved from perishing in a flood that would take all other living beings on the earth. It was amazing!

But perhaps the most amazing part of the story is when the water recedes and God makes a covenant with man and every living creature on earth that He will never again destroy the earth by a flood like that. To confirm that promise, God established a sign, the rainbow, as a reminder.  

I want to encourage you to think about God's promise every time you see a rainbow. It is not just a pretty vision of blue, red, violet, green, and golden arches. You can see pretty rounded designs in front of McDonald's, near the riverbank at St. Louis, or even on billboards advocating homosexuality. But you can see this vision of God's great promise to man in multiple colors anywhere on earth when the storm clouds ease and the rain is passed, telling us that He will never destroy us all by flood again.  

I want to encourage you to think about something else which should be a great blessing to you. Notice in the wonderful paragraph from which we are reading in Genesis, chapter nine, that God says in verse 14, that He too will look at the rainbow and remember. "It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud; and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you...." And again in verse 16, he says, "The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant...." This is saying that when we look at the rainbow and remember God's promises, He is looking too!!!

Some of the oldest of Bible stories speak to our hearts today in ways that move us to want to be better people and to be more Godlike. They do so by reminding us not just of truths like the fact that God will not destroy us all in a flood. They do so by reminding us of the great character of God and of His love for us. Think about it:

Even when God sees the terrible sinfulness of man, He wants to save us. Even Noah was not a sinless man. Neither were his wife and sons and their wives. And yet, when the world hit bottom and God had to do something because "the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually," He offered an escape for humanity through this one family.  

You know, God made another covenant (with Abraham), that he would save the world through his seed, and that came when He sent His Son to die for us. That covenant had two signs, circumcision and the Sabbath, in Old Testament days. But ultimately, the universal symbol we recognize of that covenant and the New Covenant is the cross! That is beheld each Lord's Day when we partake of the Lord's Supper. The cross is not just a piece of wood to us, but a symbol of God's love and His promise to save those who have faith in His Son.  

It is sad that people often see in God's symbols only the material, physical elements intended to remind us of greater things. Like the woman in Paris in 1993, who paid $18,000 for two slivers of wood supposedly from the cross on which Jesus was crucified. With them she received two certificates from the Vatican issued in 1855 saying they were authentic.  

I believe that God sees the cross in His mind's eye and remembers His spiritual covenant with man in Jesus; just as he looks on the rainbow and remembers His physical covenant with all the creatures on the earth. He does that because of His love for us and His desire to save us from the consequences of our sins.  

Do you see the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? God has secured rich rewards for those who believe in Him and follow His Son along the pathway that leads to the blessings secured by His promises. All God's promises are true. There's a rainbow in the clouds!

-- via Biblical Insights, July 2012


Why Do "Churches of Christ" Differ So Widely?
by Sewell Hall

A sign reading "Church of Christ" in front of a building tells you very little these days. Most any doctrine or practice may be found inside. This is frustrating to many people.  

Outsiders make fun of the situation, saying, "You preach unity but you are the most divided people we know." They may add, "This just proves you are not the true church." This last statement shows a total misunderstanding of what the true church is, but it is a misunderstanding shared by far too many "members of the church."

How Can We Explain It?

First, many churches that claim to be churches of Christ are not "of Christ" at all. Any church can claim that designation, but only one that truly recognizes Christ as its head is justified in using it. There is no denominational accrediting board that can certify a church as a true church of Christ -- the Lord Himself is the judge of that.  

In addition, there are churches, claiming to be churches of Christ, that intend to follow Jesus but have widely differing ideas of what that involves. Some, like the Sadducees, "are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God" (Matthew 22:29). Others know the scriptures but construe them loosely, rejecting only those things that are forbidden. Still others believe that only those things clearly authorized are to be practiced; but even among these there may be differences as to what is authorized. When such congregations are truly autonomous, it is inevitable that there will be noticeable differences.  

Such Differences Are Not New

Differences existed among churches established by the apostles even while the New Testament was still being written. The "seven churches of Asia" (Revelation 2 and 3) provide good examples.  

A visitor in Ephesus would have found an old established church that was doing everything right but with a lack of love (Revelation 2:4). Moving on to Smyrna, he would find a rather poor little group that had a bad reputation among the Jews in town (Revelation 2:9). Visiting the church in Pergamum, he might well hear a teacher defending idolatry, approving the eating of meat sacrificed to them (Revelation 2:14). And if that was not shocking enough, going on to Thyatira he might meet a woman in the church who claimed to be a prophetess and was actually teaching and seducing the men to commit fornication (Revelation 2:20).  

If the traveler expressed concern about what he had found thus far, he might well be told that he would find things better in Sardis where there was a church widely known as a really lively church. But on arriving there, he would be disappointed to find that, as far as doing what God wanted them to do, they really were dead (Revelation 3:1-2). Moving on to Philadelphia, he would find a church made up of good people, but relatively small and with "little strength" (Revelation 3:8). Finally, in Laodicea, visiting the church he might be met by greeters at the door offering him a brochure and telling him how rich and self-sufficient the church was; but on closer inspection he would find that they really were spiritually "wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked" (Revelation 3:17). At least, that's what the Lord found.  

Were all of these churches right because they would claim to be "of Christ"? No! Two of them were threatened with total rejection by the Lord (Revelation 2:5; 3:16) and three others were warned of dire consequences if they did not repent. Did the remaining congregations comprise the "one true church?" NO! The one true church is not composed of congregations but of faithful individuals saved by the Lord (Acts 2:47). In spite of the false teaching and immorality in some of the churches there were still some who had "not defiled their garments." The faithful remnant in these and other churches made up -- and make up -- the "one true church."

What All Churches Must Do

In John's epistles, written about the same time, we see echoes of the same problems. He speaks of those who questioned both the divinity and humanity of Jesus (doctrine of the Nicolaitans?); of those claiming they could sin without guilt and of some who hated their brethren. There had even been divisions which John explains by saying, "They went out from us because they were not of us" (I John 2:19).  

John stated the solution. Approximately ten times in I and II John he speaks of "the beginning." Most often that expression seems to refer to the beginning of the church on Pentecost under the direction of the apostles of Jesus (see I John 2:24). After warning of false teachers (I John 4:1) he provides the standard by which they are to be tested. As an apostle he writes: "We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (I John 4:6).  

We cannot be responsible for every church in the world that calls itself a church of Christ. Our responsibility as congregations is to go back to be the church as it was in "the beginning" and to the apostles doctrine in which that church continued steadfastly (Acts 2:42). As individuals we must make sure that we are a part of the faithful remnant that makes up the "one true church."

-- Via Biblical Insights, February 2012


News & Notes

We extend our sympathies to the family and friends of Patricia Lynn Seif (nee Daniels) who recently passed away, due to complications brought on by cancer.  Though originally from Reading, Pennsylvania, she had moved  to the Dallas area soon after her marriage in 1986 to Jeffrey L. Seif.  She is also survived by her two sons Jacob (and his wife Sasha) and Zac, and also by her mother Jenevieve Rosteck Daniels, and brother Johnny Daniels.  Let those of us who are Christians pray that God will bring comfort to her loved ones.

And let us also include the following in our prayers:

Doyle Rittenhouse is still having trouble with his back.  Though he went out once last week, due to “cabin fever,” that made it worse; and he’s having to use a cane around the house.  His wife Joyce is still having trouble with a couple of her fingers on her right hand, due to a recent fall. Her mother Jewell Wilson is doing well from her surgery, which shut off her tear ducts and removed all infection from her eyes.  She is now free from pain, and will be re-examined March 23.

R.J. Joyner has improved from his shingles, which have peeled off; and the pain is gone. But last Monday, he fell backwards in the snow, which hurt his back and hip.

Melotine Davis is still having pain from time to time, due to her recent knee replacement -- and especially when undergoing physical therapy. She has also been using a cane. 

Mary Vandevander is now at the Baptist Village nursing home.

Let us also continue to remember the following in our prayers: Myrna Jordan, Danielle Howard, Jim Lively, Deborah Medlock, Shirley Davis, Penny Medlock (glaucoma), Cheryl Corbitt (seeking employment), Rex and Frankie Hadley, Jesse Bailey (cancer), Dexter Roberts (cancer), Sue Wooten (at nursing home), Dolly Moody, and Collen Henson.

There will be a Gospel Meeting March 6-8 at the church of Christ in Hoboken with Bob Waldron as the guest speaker.  Time: Friday (7:30 PM), Saturday (6 PM), and Sunday (9:30, 10:30, and 5).  The church meets at 5101 Main Street.

Tebeau Street

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
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