Friday, December 14, 2007

The Grace of God That Brings Salvation

When the Holy Spirit authored the letter to Titus, the instructions to Titus were to set things in order in the church on the island of Crete (Titus 1:5). In this letter Titus was given the qualifications for elders to be "ordained in every city" (1:5). Also instructions were given for dealing with false teachers, and the importance of "Sound Doctrine" was stressed. He gave timeless instruction concerning the proper conduct of "aged men," "aged women," "young women," and "young men" (2:2-10). Then he declares; "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men" (2:11). We ask the question, what is this, and what does it mean?

In Acts 20:24, Paul through inspiration tells us WHAT it is. "But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God." This gospel of the grace of God contains, commandments, words, and laws.

How does this "grace of God" bring salvation? The answer; through preaching. Paul said; "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom.1:16). The Holy Spirit also reveals to us that it is the responsibility of the church to proclaim this message. "To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God" (Eph.3:10). This will include all religious instruction man needs for proper service to the Lord.

To whom has this "grace of God" appeared? The scripture says to "all men." It is no longer only for the Jews, but for all men. God does not want for anyone to be lost (2 Peter 3:9), but for everyone to come to repentance. This however does not negate man’s responsibility to be obedient to the Lord’s commands.

We are told that this "Grace of God that brings salvation" teaches things (Titus 2:12). "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world;" This will involve more than just "Grace only." The grace of God teaches us both negatively and positively.

Negatively, that we must deny: ungodliness, and worldly lusts. Meaning that even though we live in this world we cannot act like this world, for we, as obedient Christians, have been redeemed from all iniquity, and purified unto Christ, a peculiar people (Titus 2:14).
This grace of God that brings salvation teaches us positively that we must live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world (2:13). We are then to be "Christlike" in our thinking and behavior as we influence others in this walk of life.

No doubt, we are saved by GRACE (Rom.8:24), but we are also saved by FAITH (Acts 16:30-31), and by MERCY (Titus 3:5), and by OBEDIENCE (Heb.5:8-9), as well as the WORD (James 1:21). Fact of the matter is that the "Grace of God that brings salvation" includes all of the above.

David Harris

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Racism: A Sourge of Society

Racism is a problem in the United States in 2007. But it doesn’t seem as bad now as it did in the past. From the 1600s until the mid-1800s, black people were owned—OWNED—by Americans of many colors, but mostly by whites.

Even after slavery ended, racism continued. It was institutionalized in the South with Jim Crow laws. Segregated businesses and schools in the first half of the 20th century reminded everyone that black Americans were considered second-class citizens.

America has come a long way since then, but racism still exists. And it probably always will, just like theft, murder and lying will always exist. Some people will always dislike others simply because of the color of their skin.

Unfortunately, sometimes even people who claim to follow Christ look down on those of a different color. But that’s nothing new. Part of the argument for slavery in the 1800s was that the Bible taught that black people were cursed descendants of Ham. Allegedly, the curse was that they would be slaves forever.

Pro-slavery ideology rested on the assumption of black inferiority. This legacy stayed with some Americans through the 20th century, and some still hold this view today.

Are some races inferior? If so, is it OK to treat them with less respect?

The Biblical answers are no, and no.

Genesis chapter one tells us that God created man in His image. If all humans descended from Adam and Eve, this means the entire world’s races have common ancestors. Paul affirms this in Acts 17:26 when he says that God “hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

God made all humans of one blood. We all trace our beginning to Adam and Eve. Since they were made in God’s image, all humans are made in the image of God. All people, all nationalities, all colors. We’re all made in the image of God.

This suggests that all people are entitled to equal treatment. IF the Bible tells us how to treat someone, that’s how we should treat everyone, since there’s no difference in value among different races.

Over and over we’re told to treat people with respect and kindness. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus says, “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them.” We call it The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Treat other people the way you want to be treated—with kindness, dignity and compassion. Not just people of your race—everybody.

In James 2:1-9, James condemns showing partiality to the rich and mistreating the poor—what he calls showing “respect to persons” in verse 9. The same principle applies when dealing with people of your race and other races. All humans are worthy of equal treatment; we’re all made in God’s image.

Paul tells the Galatians in chapter 3, verses 26 through 28 of that book, that God doesn’t made distinctions among races if you are “in Christ.” It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, black or white, rich or poor; all are equal before God. But even if someone of a different color or race isn’t a Christian, he’s still made in God’s image and is worthy of respect and kind treatment.

People who claim to be Christians, but who discriminate against those of another race or color, give Christianity a bad name. But the Bible, specifically the New Testament, does not teach that whites are superior. It doesn’t sanction discrimination or racism. The religion of Jesus calls on His disciples to “do unto others.”

If you don’t treat all people, regardless of race, color or nationality, as worthy of your respect, you’re certainly not practicing the religion of Jesus. Christianity makes the world better, not worse. If Christianity were practiced the way Jesus and the apostles teach us to practice it through the pages of the New Testament, racism would end.

Landry Brewer