Are Public Bible Classes, Tracts, Papers and TV Preachers Really 4 of a Kind? Part 1

The Question was recently posed to me asking what the difference is between bible classes and a television program or tracts. How is one any more scriptural than the other? In the Early Church their were two basic methods of teaching the Word of God according to Acts 20:20 where Paul said, “I taught you publicly and from house to house,” meaning publicly and privately.In subgroups we have three examples of how God’s Word was taught.

1. Public Worship Service (Assembly)

2. Public Evangelism

3. Private Bible Study

In order for a method of teaching the Bible to be authorized by the Scripture it has to fall under one of these categories. When examining the three modern modes of teaching that are listed in the title we immediately can come to realization. A Bible tract or religious paper is not a worship service or a private Bible study, but it is a mode of public evangelism. The same could be said of the TV preaching program, but what of the Public Bible Class? Can it be classified under any of the three authorized sub-groups? Let us see:

Is a Public Bible Class a worship service? A worship service is composed of an assembly of the saints: praying, praising god in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and hearing the Word of God taught to them, and on the Lord’s Day, the observance of the Lord’s Supper and the giving of means is also part of the public service (Acts 20:7). It is important to point out that in the worship service it is: a shame for a woman to speak (1 Cor. 13:34-35), it is not to be divided (1 Cor. 11:20, 14:23), it is to be carried out with order and reverence, with one man speaking at a time (1 Cor. 14:31), and it is forbidden for a woman to teach or take an authoritative role (2 Tim. 2:11-12). Even supporters of Bible Classes will say that they are separate and different from the worship service, if this is the case then the first of the three sub groups can be checked off.

Is a Public Bible Class Public Evangelism? Aside from the Worship service, the Bible tells us that the Apostles practiced another form of public teaching that was separate and different. In Acts 14:1 the Bible tells us that Paul and Barnabas were at Iconium and went into “a synagogue of the Jews” where they preached the word to a multitude. This was not a worship service but rather Paul and Barnabas had gone into the realm of unbelievers to teach them the Word in order to convert them. This is what such things as TV Preachers and Bible Tracts can be classified as, not a worship service, not an assembly of the Saints, not a private Bible Study, but a method of Public Evangelism. A Public Bible Class cannot be called Public Evangelism because it is not an outreach to the world intended to convert, but rather a public Bible study of the Saints.

Is a Public Bible Class a Private Bible Study? This seems like a rather silly question, the two titles show the distinctive difference: Public and Private. Supporters of Bible Classes often use the story of Priscilla and Aquila to support their claim that the New Testament gives an example of Early Church members studying the Bible outside of the Worship service. Well that is very true, the Early Church would study the Bible publicly (worship service, public evangelism) and from house to house (private bible study). But in order for the story of Priscilla and Aquila to exemplify and authorize public bible classes, it would have to demonstrate a public bible class taking place. In Acts 18:24-28 the Bible tells of Priscilla and Aquila. In verses 24 and 25 the Bible says that there was a preacher named Apollos who was “an eloquent man and mighty in the scripture.” It says that he “taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John.” So after he was finished preaching, the Bible says in verse26, “They took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.” Notice the words there, “they took him aside,” this indicates to me that it was a private discussion, or study, on the scriptures separate from the worship service. The key word there however is private.With that in mind we cannot justifiably classify Public Bible Classes under this category. What are we to do now? The only three scripturally authorized methods of teaching the Bible have been taken out of the picture and still the Public Bible Class has no home; this is because it cannot be found within God’s Word, and thus has no place within His Church. – CED

You Are What You Eat!

Do you get more milk or meat in your diet? “I’ll have a chocolate shake and a cheeseburger, please. ” No, no. Not that kind of diet, I mean your scripture diet. Do you study and challenge yourself to get a little deeper into the Word, or do you just read the easy texts?

When we start out as babies we need lots of milk. As we grow, we begin to develop a need for stronger and more solid foods. If we consumed only milk, we would have major health problems and eventually die from malnutrition. So, as we develop, we need foods other than milk to give our bodies proper nutrition to reach adulthood.

Your spiritual growth is no different than your physical growth. We start as babies in Christ because at our baptism we were born again (John 3:3-6; Romans 6:4). Then we need food. What would the spiritual person need to eat? Things that cause spiritual growth. What gave us a new spirit? The scriptures. Therefore, we need to feed on the scriptures so that our spirit can grow. “As newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the Word, that you may grow thereby.” I Peter 2:2.

As we begin the Christian walk, we will grasp the simpler passages and topics that we read and hear in the assembly. Then comes those adolescent years where we challenge everything we read and hear. Finally, we begin to mature and understand the broader topics that God has revealed in His Word.

We find Jesus, just after His baptism, in the wilderness were He is fasting to bring His mind into subjection so He can begin the great ministry. There Satan comes and tempts Jesus to eat. In this case, the food was bread. Remembering the importance of scripture over fleshly desires, Jesus said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” Matthew 4:1-4. Jesus reminded Himself and Satan during this strongly difficult time that, the spiritual foods are longer-lasting than the fleshly foods. The Word of God is the keeper of our spiritual life.

In John chapter four, we see Jesus having a discussion with a woman at Jacob’s well in Samaria. There He had asked this foreign woman for a drink. Jesus encourages the woman to ask Him for some water because He had the everlasting water of life. After she departs the disciples come to Jesus and try to get Him to eat something. His reply is simple, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work.” John 4:34. So there is food and drink for the spiritual being, it is the Word and Will of God. We will not grow by reading or hearing only, but by doing (James 1:22).

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.” Matthew 5:6.

There were a few times that the Lord fed the multitude with some loaves and fishes. After a while, the people followed Jesus only to be fed in this miraculous way, and perhaps for the entertainment of His words and healing. We should always be mindful that the Lord knows our hearts as He knew theirs. “Jesus answered them and said, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.’” John 6:26-27.

Shortly after this admonition, Jesus makes another profound statement. “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” John 6:53. Jesus was explaining to the crowd that He was the embodiment of the Word of God. Without total belief and devotion, no one could be saved. Many people would no longer follow Him, because His words were too hard to understand. He lovingly asks the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter replies, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:67-68.

In our spiritual walk, we need to PRO-gress (forward) not RE-gress (backward). Concerning the young Corinthian church, Paul gave them simple teaching with the encouragement to grow up toward Christian maturity. They didn’t. At first he was “tolerant” as they learned, but when he saw they had not progressed, he became stern and commanded them to pay attention to their undone condition. “And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men?” I Corinthians 3:1-3. These had returned to a worldly standard of living and not achieved the spiritual maturity necessary to survive this side of eternity.

We must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. The more we grasp now in our youth, the stronger and more stable we will be in the days ahead. There would be a great loss to the church if we had only “children” trying to tend the flock and none able to tell right from wrong. “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those having their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” Hebrews 5:12-14.

Get involved in your bible Don’t just read, study. The next time you hear someone say, “Do you want fries with that?”, remember to give your spiritual person some food too. –Sean S. McCallister

Bed too Short, Cover too Narrow

In the 28th Chapter of Isaiah we find a rather interesting, and at the same time, humorous picture painted by the words of the prophet. In verse 20 he writes, “For the bed is too short to stretch out on, And the covering so narrow that one cannot wrap himself in it.” It is kind of funny really to picture a man of some height and width, trying to position himself in a baby crib and cover up with a washcloth. It just wouldn’t work! The point illustrated is the devastating results of insufficiency. The same Isaiah later wrote, speaking for God, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:8-9) It has been, since their very earliest days, that the thoughts, ways, and opinions of man have fallen far short of the perfect wisdom of God. “There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12) Jeremiah wrote, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.” (10:23)

We think back on the occasion when Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit and, realizing their nakedness, they were ashamed. The Bible records that they sewed for themselves some skimpy garments from fig leaves. Imagine it! It won’t take much imagination, I am sure they weren’t too far from many of the bathing suits and sports wear that people parade around in today, but the fact is, that in this state they considered themselves covered, without shame. God had a higher standard, when He saw the garments He saw them as insufficient, and we read that he slew two beasts and made for them a much more covering garment, causing them to be modest in the eyes of heaven. When one considers this, it is laughable to think that modesty, or any other sin for that matter, could conform to culture! This would place on a man’s shoulder a burden or responsibility he has never been able to handle: to define for himself what is sin and what isn’t. He will always on his own, fail miserably.

But we also find times when men have looked upon God’s plan and, failing to see the greatness set before them have viewed it as insufficient. We read of Abraham and Sarah in their promise to receive a son. God had taken the future Patriarch out into the desert and told him, “As many as the grains of sand that cover the desert floor, and the stars that spangle the heavens, too vast shall your progeny be.” What a great promise! But the years passed and Abraham, now 76 years old still had no son. Furthermore, Sarah, who was also advancing in years, believed herself to be barren. They distressed; they knew that God had great plans for them that involved a glorious bloodline, but things had run their course and obviously, God’s plan just hadn’t worked out! So they reasoned together that they would take matters into their own hands. Abraham, at Sarah’s behest, went to the handmaiden Hagar and knew her. The child that was conceived was called Ishmael. This boy should have never been born. He was the product of disregarding God’s ways, disobeying God’s wishes, and doubting God’s plan. His children and descendants for years after, of whom it was said, “He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him.” (Gen. 6:12) would have never been born. The murderous religion of Islam would have never been founded, and hundreds of wars would have never been waged, if only God’s plan had been followed.

Today there are many evils in the world, many departures from the faith, and divisions in the church have been the result of men trying to do things according to their own foolishness, or trying to do better than the ways of God. The Missionary Society came because people thought the Church was insufficient. The Sunday School came because people thought the home was insufficient. Now these Bible Study Classes (that the scriptures give no authority for) are finding their way into the Church, and causing the same terrible division, because people are claiming the public teaching in the assembly is insufficient! The Apostle Paul taught, “publicly and from house to house” when we leave the Bible pattern for something of our own design then weare using a bed too short, and a cover too narrow. The Lord gave a far less humorous picture of the devastating results of insufficiency, “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it—lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Or what king, going to make war against another king, does not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is still a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks conditions of peace.” (Luke 14:28-32) Let us not make the same mistake, but remember that “if God be for us, Who can be against us!” CED

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