The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news that mankind needs. It is a message that must be received and obeyed. Paul warned that the Loving Savior will return “In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:8). The Lord will take vengeance on those who obey not the gospel, and He will reward those who do obey the gospel.

Paul stressed the fundamentals of the gospel, reminding the Corinthians what he had preached: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3- 4). The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ were at the heart of his message. The rest of 1 Corinthians 15 is a discussion of the importance of the resurrection. He began the chapter by reminding the Corinthians that it was the gospel he had preached to them. “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2). Paul stressed that the gospel is a message to receive, and to stand in, and it is a message that brings salvation when kept in memory.

Paul asserts that we choose the master we serve. “Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (Romans 6:16). The master we choose is the one we obey. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Paul commended the Romans for the choice they had made in obeying Christ and His gospel. “But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18). They had obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine he had delivered to them. Doctrine refers to something taught, and Paul taught the same gospel wherever he went. Centered in the facts of the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, his message was one of the necessity of obeying the will of God and becoming a servant of righteousness.

Earlier he stressed that they were buried with Christ in baptism to obey the gospel. “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Baptism parallels the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Man is dead in sin, and then buried with Christ in baptism. He rises from the waters of baptism in the likeness of Christ’s resurrection to walk in newness of life. He then has the forgiveness of sin, and the joy that comes from obeying the gospel.


Syndicated columnist Sydney J. Harris made the following keen observation: “Men may be divided almost any way we please, but I have found the most useful distinction to be made between those who devote their lives to conjugating the verb ‘to be,’ and those who spend their lives conjugating the verb ‘to have.'”

It is a necessity of life, I suppose, that we must spend a certain amount of time conjugating the verb ‘to have.’ Could it be possible, however, that our focus becomes blurred when we forget that it is much more important who we are than what we have? The Master said, “Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” (Luke 12:15). He followed those words with the story of the rich fool, who had no time for God. “So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21).

There is, however, more to the observation of Mr. Harris, I believe. Conjugating the verb ‘to be’ is really our life work. We are certain things – parents, sons, daughters, Americans. We are most importantly Christians, children of God. But beyond what we are, there is something even more important. What we must remember is that we are all constantly in the process of becoming. We are becoming more faithful or less faithful, more Christ-like or less Christ-like, more godly or more ungodly. Life is not static, and neither are we. We are always becoming. We ask the child, What do you want to be when you grow up? The questions for us are always, What do we want to be? What are we becoming? and most importantly, Who are we becoming?

Paul told the Romans, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing ofyour mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2). The reason we should not be conformed to the world is that God has something better in mind for us. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:28-29).

Hamlet began his soliloquy with the words, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” He then mused about whether it was better to struggle on or just prepare for the time when we have shuffled off this mortal coil. The time will come when we will not be on this earth. How well we can live with ourselves now and later, depends on whether we devote more time to who we are and are becoming than on what we have.


The apostle Paul wrote to the evangelist Timothy, “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). This verse well-illustrates the need for understanding that word meanings may change, and we must be ever on guard against misapplying or twisting scripture, even when we try to teach the truth. The rendering, “study to show thyself approved unto God” is found only in the King James Version, translated in the year 1611. In 1611 the word “study” meant “strive”, or “be diligent”. Thus the New American Standard Bible renders the verse, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth”. The New International Version renders the verse, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth”.

Bible study is very important, but 2 Timothy 2:15 is not just a command to study the Bible. Being an approved workman involves much more. Paul wanted Timothy to understand that to be a workman that God could approve, he would have to be diligent in his service to God. God is not the kind of Master that accepts shoddy work! By earnestly applying himself in service, Timothy would not need to be ashamed as he stood before God in the day of judgment. To be that diligent, approved workman, he would have to correctly handle the word of truth, what the King James Version renders, “rightly dividing the word of truth”. Of necessity, correctly handling the Bible, the word of truth will involve much study, contemplation, and prayer. It will involve bringing an open mind, an open heart, and a faithful life to the word of truth. Implied in the correct handling is the proper understanding of the divisions between the Old and the New Covenants, understanding that the New Testament is the rule of faith and practice for Christians today.

The goal of being an approved workman should be the goal of all of God’s children. In the verses immediately before 2 Timothy 2:15, Paul stressed the importance of living faithfully before God, even to the point of suffering. If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12). He then told Timothy, “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers” (2 Timothy 2:14).

The evangelist Timothy was to remind his hearers of the sacrifice of Christ, the need for serving Him, and the need to work diligently to be approved workmen before God. The diligent application of all our energy to the service of God will allow us to join Timothy standing before God without shame. Nothing will help us more to please God than to handle carefully and correctly God’s written word. We should look to the written word of God with the same reverence as the psalmist who wrote, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105).


Men have described the book of Ecclesiastes, authored by the wise man Solomon, in many different ways. Herman Melville, author of Moby Dick, said it is the truest of all books. Others have applied Winston Churchill’s description of Russia, a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, to this great book. This sometimes puzzling book shows that the things of the world offer no lasting happiness, and that this life, with all of its labors, is valueless, if there is no future. The book is the story of a man (Solomon), who deliberately tasted every worldly delight, including the forbidden, only to discover that all that the world offers is vanity of vanities (Ecclesiastes 1:2).

Chapter three begins with the familiar words, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to give birth and a time to die; A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted… A time to love and a time to hate; A time for war and a time for peace.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2, 8). The general theme of this chapter is the unchanging regularity of the world created by God.

The words of verse 15, as with so many others in the book, seem very cryptic at first reading. “That which is has been already and that which will be has already been, for God seeks what has passed by.” (Ecclesiastes 3:15). Remember that the general theme of the chapter is the unchanging regularity of life. Solomon expressed the same idea earlier in the book. “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The verse closes with the statement, “there is no new thing under the sun”, meaning there is nothing new in the temporal life. He then asked, “Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us.” (Ecclesiastes 1:10). As we look at our world, we see that there are technological advancements, and advancements in other fields, but so far as man’s concern for his fellowman, and the basic things of life, there is no change, no new thing under the sun. As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Since we live in a regular universe, with God in control, it is up to us to recognize God’s control, and bend our wills to be in conformity to His will. After all, this is what God requires. As Solomon looked at the world under the sun, living as if there were no God, his vision of an unchanging world changed to a conclusion that God truly is in control. The end of Ecclesiastes 3:15 states, “for God seeks what has passed by.” These words parallel the last words of verse 14, which also talks of God’s purpose, and says, “…for God has so worked that men should fear Him.” This points to the fact that God designed our regular universe to draw men to Him.

Solomon ends the saga of his search for happiness with the words, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Literally, the whole of man is to obey God.


Many today claim that God has spoken directly to them, or that He speaks to them just as He did to the prophets in days of old. God has not promised to speak to man today, however, except through the Bible, His written word. The Bible places constraints on what the followers of Christ can and should do, so some throw off those constraints by claiming special revelations from God. The Bible, however, was written to provide us God’s guidance without need of further special revelation. As Paul told Timothy, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The scriptures are complete, giving us all we need for serving God and man, that the man of God may be perfect, or complete.

If God is going to speak to individuals today directly and personally, apart from His written word, then is there really any need for the Bible? Our knowledge of God, His nature, His plan for redeeming man, and His purpose for mankind are all revealed in scripture. Must we have further revelation from God to know how to please Him? Peter reminds us that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), but if some dedicated Christians today receive special revelations, and some other dedicated Christians do not receive special revelations, does not that make God a respecter of persons?

When we examine the teachings of those claiming to have special revelations from God, it becomes apparent that much of what they teach conflicts not only with the Bible, but also with what other equally sincere people claim God has revealed to them. Paul highlighted the seriousness of teaching that which conflicts with the scripture, by saying, “though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8). Paul said that if someone, even an angel, preaches a different message than that revealed in scripture, we must reject it.

Paul reminds us, “God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33). The modern revelations that men claim today are a tremendous source of confusion in our religious world. One person says God told him one thing, while another claims God told him something the exact opposite of what the first person claims. God’s revelation is not contradictory.

Paul said that miraculous revelations of the Holy Spirit would cease. He said that the gift of “prophecy would fail, the gift of tongues would cease, and the gift of knowledge would vanish away, but when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away” (1 Corinthians 13:8-10). That which is perfect is the perfect law of liberty (James 1:25), the completed revelation of God’s will in the Bible. It is sufficient to thoroughly furnish us unto good works (2 Timothy 3:17).


Preachers sometimes invite listeners to pray something such as, “God, I am sorry I have sinned. Please forgive me and let Jesus come into my heart. Thank you for forgiving me and giving me eternal life. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” The preacher then says, “Since you have asked Christ into your life, you are now His child, and your sins are forgiven.” The problem, however, is that the promise of forgiveness is from a man, not God. God has never promised to respond to the sinner’s prayer.

Prayer is a privilege for God’s people. James said, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much” (James 5:16). Peter quoted Psalm 34:15–16, saying, “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their prayers; but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil” (1 Peter 3:12). Solomon warned, “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination” (Proverbs 28:9). The psalmist spoke of the dilemma of the sinner: “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear” (Psalm 66:18).

But what about the prayers of the publican and the Pharisee? While the Pharisee prayed “with himself,” the publican, “standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’” 

Jesus concluded, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18: 11, 13–14). 

This does not set the pattern for sinners coming to Christ, however, because both the Pharisee and the publican were already in a covenant relationship with God as part of His chosen people, the Jews. Both, despite their sins, had the right to pray to God.

What about Joel’s prophecy? He said, “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be deliverance, as the Lord has said, among the remnant whom the Lord calls” (Joel 2:32). 

To “call on the name of the Lord” means to make an appeal through obedience. Saul of Tarsus spent three days in prayer and fasting, but he did not receive salvation from the Lord until he called on the Lord through obedience. 

Ananias told him, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). In his baptism, he called on the name of the Lord, and his sins were washed away. He would not have been saved if he had merely prayed the sinner’s prayer and had refused to obey the Lord’s command.

Jesus said, “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). This is not a blanket promise to any person, but to those who follow Him and have the right to ask things in His name, by His authority. This promise is to the children of God. In the very next verse, He puts it simply: “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). 

The multitudes cried out at Pentecost, “What shall we do?” Peter did not respond, “Pray the sinner’s prayer,” but “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37–38). We will be saved if we do what the believers of Pentecost did. —Bob Prichard


R. M. Cornelius identifies “Seven Ages of Man”: 

  • 6 weeks—all systems go 
  • 6 years—all systems “No!” 
  • 16 years—all systems know 
  • 26 years—all systems glow 
  • 36 years—all systems owe
  • 56 years—all systems status quo 
  • 76 years—all systems slow 

I do not know about you, but it shocks me to see that I am already firmly entrenched in the fifth age—all systems owe. Where has the time gone? Surely Job knew what he was talking about when he said, “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle” (Job 7:6). 

The most precious commodity we have is not silver or gold, but time. John Randolph reminds us that “time is at once the most valuable and the most perishable of all possessions.” When we squander it on things that do not matter, we are foolish. Paul warns, “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:15–17). The days we are living in are evil with sin rampant in our world. Still, Ralph Waldo Emerson said that “this time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.” What we need to help us use our time wisely is a heavenly perspective: “If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1–3). 

What will you do with time? I find Henry Thoreau’s observation thoughtful: “As if you could kill time without injuring eternity.” Will we “injure eternity”? We are each given twenty-four precious hours daily. Whatever age we find ourselves in, whether 6 or 76, we must serve faithfully. —Bob Prichard


The emphasis of the Bible concerning salvation is always on “today.” 

Quoting Isaiah, Paul said, “In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). 

When Jesus saw the interest of Zacchaeus, who had climbed a sycamore tree to see Him, He said, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (Luke 19:5). As Jesus forgave the sins of the thief on the cross, He said, “Today you will be with Me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43). 

It is never wise to put off responding to God’s love. Some, however, seem to be waiting until they are near death to make things right with God. 

The book of Acts lays out God’s law of pardon for today. At Pentecost, Peter and the apostles made the first offer of pardon under the Christian Age. As the multitude understood they had crucified the Son of God, they realized they needed to respond to God’s love.  

“They were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37–38). 

Other conversions in Acts follow this pattern. The Samaritans (Acts 8), the Ethiopian (Acts 8), Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9, 22), Lydia (Acts 16), the jailer (Acts 16), and the Corinthians (Acts 18) realized their need for conversion to Christ, and their faith moved them to repent of sins, confess their faith, and be baptized. Not every conversion mentions each step, but every conversion account does mention baptism.

Does God change His law of pardon for the person on his death bed? There are no New Testament examples of such conversions, so there is no evidence to suggest that God has a different plan for those near death. 

The thief on the cross is not an example for those living today because he lived under the Jewish law and was not subject to the new covenant of Christ (which came into effect after Jesus’ death, Hebrews 9:15–17). He received the forgiveness of sin in the same way that others did during the public ministry of Christ—through the direct pardon of the Savior. He was not subject to the commands of Pentecost, because he lived before the establishment of the church on that day. 

None of us is in the position of deciding the eternal fate of others. We are all in the hands of a just and loving God. By the gracious sacrifice of Christ, God set in motion the means of our salvation. It is up to us to respond to His love in obedience. 

He has warned that the day is coming “when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7–8). 

Now is the time to obey Christ and live for him. As long as there is life, there is hope to obey God, but many who plan to repent on their death beds will never have the opportunity. 


Parke Kunkle of the Minnesota Planetarium Society rocked the world of astrology on January 13, 2011, when he revealed that the traditional “star signs” used to determine horoscopes are wrong for most people.

It seems that the astrological signs codified by Ptolemy in the second century have changed since then, shifting most people to another sign. (For instance, I have changed from an “Aquarius” to a “Sagittarius.”) This means that the 25% of Americans who believe in astrology have been reading the wrong horoscopes all of their lives. Some professional astrologers claim they have always known this, but their followers certainly have not (Belinda Luscombe, “Zodiac Switcheroo,” Time, January 31, 2011).

You may have looked at a horoscope some time out of curiosity. The ones I have seen are written in such generic terms that any particular reading could apply to just about anyone, so it wouldn’t really make much difference what “sign” you were. And of course, it doesn’t make any difference anyway, because it is all nonsense at best and idolatry at worst. A newspaperman once told me that the two most read parts of the average newspaper are the letters to the editor and the horoscopes. I guess that explains why in our enlightened twenty-first century, most American newspapers, including ours, continue to carry their horoscope columns.

When Job gave his “oath of clearance,” defending himself against the charge that his suffering was the result of his sin, he denied, among other things, being engaged in astrology: “If I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above” (Job 31:26-28).

Astrology is in the same category as New Year’s good luck superstitions and number 13 bad luck. These superstitions put people in bondage to ignorance and deny the power of God. God is in control—not the stars (Romans 8:28).


Anger is a destructive emotion that has led to every kind of sin, including murder, as when Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:4–8). The elder brother of the prodigal son “was angry, and would not go in” (Luke 15:28). Paul wrote, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath” (Ephesians 4:26). It is possible to be angry without sinning, but very difficult.

When Jesus saw the moneychangers cheating people in the temple, He made a scourge and drove them out of the temple, saying, “Make not my Father’s house an house of merchandise” (John 2:16). Jesus acted out of righteous indignation. Undoubtedly He was angry, but He did not sin because He was zealous for God’s glory. Every child of God ought to be angry when the glory of God is challenged, and it is a tragedy for Christians to be so tolerant that nothing makes them angry.

James gives a simple prescription for dealing with anger: “Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of
God” (James 1:19–20).

To be “swift to hear” means to be a ready listener. Often we are angered because we do not have enough information. When we listen carefully, sometimes even “reading between the lines,” we may find that concern replaces anger. Anger is often simply an emotional reaction.

To be “slow to speak” means to control the tongue, which is a difficult task. James said, “ The tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:8). Solomon said, “Seest thou a man that is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him” (Proverbs 29:20). Hasty words spoken in anger will almost always be regretted.

To be “slow to wrath” is also difficult. We can slow the anger process by counting to ten. Prayer is also helpful, as is the realization that we can control our reaction to a problem.

The “new man” in Christ lays aside worldly anger. “Put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; and have put on the new man” (Colossians 3:8–11).


A frequent follow-up question to “Are you a Christian?” is “What denomination are you?” “Denomination” is not found in the Bible, and the idea is based on sectarianism and division. “Denomination” is not simply an incidental name, but a choice to be divided from other believers who do not share the same sectarian doctrines. Religious denominations are divisions among people who may all claim to follow the same Lord and same Bible but cannot agree because of their denomination.

As Jesus prayed for His apostles before His arrest, He said, “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word, that they all may be one, as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one is us, that the world may believe that thou hast sent me” (John 17:20-21). Jesus wanted unity among His apostles, and everyone who would believe the apostles’ teaching (whether through their preaching or writings). This unity is not possible as long as the denominational system exists.

The denominational system has developed with various creeds, manuals, handbooks, hierarchies, and systems of organization, which have grown more complex over time. Years ago many people understood that the denominational system was a violation of God’s will and sought to leave the denominations so that they could restore the “undenominational” church of Christ of the New Testament. By being just Christians, without being associated with any denomination, they believed they could better serve God. That is why the churches of Christ are undenominational. We have no creed but the Bible, no denominational or church hierarchy over the local congregation, and no authority for faith and practice other than the Bible. We are not “Church of Christ Christians,” but simply “Christians.”

“Seeds” of denominationalism were in the church at Corinth. Paul wrote, “It hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ” (I Cor. 1:11-12). Some were not satisfied to be Christians only, but wanted to be “Paulite Christians,” or “Apollosite Christians,” or “Cephasite Christians.” Paul asked, “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1:13). They had divided the church into arguing factions. Paul emphasized the seriousness of the situation by saying he was glad he had only baptized a few at Corinth, so few could claim to follow him instead of Christ (1:14-16). Of what denomination were Peter and Paul? None! They were just Christians.

The church of Christ, if it truly is the church we read of in the New Testament, cannot be a denomination.


The watchword of Christianity is love. As Jesus prepared His disciples for His departure, He said, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:34-35).

The love required of Christians goes beyond loving one another, however. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust (Matthew 5:43-45). Jesus knew He was saying something radical. He knew that the world’s standard was and is to love our neighbors and hate our enemies. Jesus wants more of His followers, however.

Striving to be like their Heavenly Father Who lovingly sends blessings to the just and the unjust, Christians must love their enemies. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:46-48). Loving our enemies is part of the Christian’s growth toward perfection.

We may not like our enemies, but we must love them. To truly love someone else is to want the best for them. Love is unselfish, concerned with what the other person, even an enemy, needs. Christ demonstrated His love for enemies: God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Rather than harboring a grudge against us because of our sin, Christ loved us enough to suffer the cross, the Just dying for the unjust. Love for enemies includes having a forgiving attitude toward those who have wronged us. Peter thought he was being generous in asking the Lord if it was good enough to forgive his brother seven times (most rabbis taught forgiving three times was sufficient). Jesus answered, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:22). He then explained His statement with a parable about a king and some creditors, to remind His followers that because God has forgiven us, we must forgive others. Jesus said that the love of enemies includes praying for them, blessing them, and doing good to them. Christ emphasized what the Christian does, not what the enemy does. While we cannot control how our enemies live or act, we can control how we act. We must apply the Golden Rule: Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12). Loving our enemies is possible only when we surrender our will to the will of Christ, and let Him control our lives.


Note: This article considers the spiritual side of a serious topic. Please note that depression sometimes necessitates medical intervention. 

Depression is perhaps the most common emotional problem that we face today. Experts suggest as many as one in five Americans experiences severe depression sometime during their lives, and depression may be the most common health problem for women. Symptoms of depression include apathy, insomnia, difficulty in concentrating, and a general loss of interest in life. Severely depressed people may become suicidal, violent, or completely withdrawn. Depression has always been a problem for mankind. Bible characters such as King Saul, Elijah the prophet, Job, and others experienced depression.

Sources of depression may be physical, psychological, or spiritual. Fatigue, chemical imbalances, and other physical problems may cause it. After his defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah was physically exhausted. When Jezebel threatened his life, he fled into the wilderness and was ready to die. The angel of the Lord comforted him and strengthened him with food, telling him, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you” (1 Kings 19:7). He still felt overwhelmed and alone, however. He said, “I have been very zealous for the Lord God of hosts; for the children of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:10). He repeated. “I alone am left; and they seek to take my life” (1 Kings 19:14). The Lord encouraged him by letting him know that there were still seven thousand faithful persons in Israel, and by sending Elisha to help him.

Loss is a common psychological cause of depression. Job lost his possessions, family, health, and even his reputation. He cried, “The thing I greatly feared has come upon me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet; I have no rest, for trouble comes” (Job 3:25–26). Later he learned that God continued to control the universe: “I know that You can do everything, and that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You” (42:2). Unfulfilled hopes and dreams and feelings of worthlessness or helplessness brought on by stress also cause depression. These feelings often come because one has lost proper perspective. Disappointments may be opportunities in disguise—times to rearrange priorities, making them in line with God’s will. We can overcome feelings of helplessness and worthlessness by understanding that God is still in control. He demonstrated His love for us in the cross (Romans 5:8).

Sin has spiritual consequences, which often include depression. Obeying God is the key. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love” (John 15:10). God does not intend for us to be depressed, and He is eager to forgive and comfort. —Bob Prichard


We can ask no more important question than “What must I do to be saved?” 

Each of us will one day stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and we are responsible for obeying the Lord. 

Salvation has two parts: God’s part and man’s part. God, because of His great love for mankind, has done His part in sending Christ to die for the sins of men. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Paul calls this grace the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). We cannot save ourselves and must rely on God through faith. “Through faith” means that man must also do his part, because no one benefits from a gift until he receives it. 

To find what man’s part in the plan of salvation involves, one must go to the right place. The book of Acts explains God’s plan of salvation through nine specific accounts of conversion: The conversion of the Jews at Pentecost, chapter 2; the Samaritans, chapter 8; the Ethiopian eunuch, chapter 8; Saul of Tarsus, chapters 9 and 22; Cornelius, chapter 10; Lydia, chapter 16; the Philippian jailer, chapter 16; the Corinthians, chapter 18; the Ephesians, chapter 19. In each example, certain common actions, or steps of obedience, were taken by those who became Christians. 

Upon hearing the gospel message, each believed in Jesus as the Son of God. Though the text does not explicitly mention belief each time, it is implied. The Jews at Pentecost, having heard the message, “were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” (Acts 2:37). Their question “What shall we do?” showed that they believed, but they realized that they needed to do more than have simple belief to obtain salvation. James wrote, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). 

Following their confession of faith in Christ, Peter told the Jews at Pentecost, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Thus we understand that repentance must accompany faith in Christ.

One must also confess faith in Christ, as the Ethiopian did (Acts 8:37), because Christ will not confess us unless we are willing to confess Him. “Whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 10:32–33). 

Baptism is the only step toward salvation explicitly mentioned in every conversion. Each account shows that baptism is necessary for obedience to Christ. Hearing the gospel message, believing in Christ, repenting of past sins, confessing Christ, and being baptized into Christ makes one a Christian, and brings salvation. Then one must serve the Lord faithfully (Revelation 2:10). —Bob Prichard


Many, both in the religious world and otherwise, have a gross misunderstanding of what constitutes faith. Contrary to scripture, many believe that faith is necessary to “fill in the gaps” in the absence of real, tangible evidence. Carl Sagan, the late and noted atheist and author, once said, “Faith is believing in something in the absence of evidence.”

Hebrews 11:1 answers and clarifies this misunderstanding. The verse: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

The word translated “substance” comes from the Greek hupostasis (Strong’s # 5287), which means “a placing or setting under, a substructure or foundation.” This word appears elsewhere in the New Testament as “confident” or “confidence” (2 Corinthians 9:4; 11:17; Hebrews 3:14).

The word translated “evidence” comes from the Greek word elengchos (Strong’s #1650), meaning “a proof, or that by which a thing is proved or tested; conviction.”

The context in question deals with the existence of the universe, for verse 3 says, “through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

Biblical faith comes from careful observation and the weighing of all available evidence. For example, the atheistic, evolutionary “explanations” for the origins of the universe don’t even qualify as bad science. They are more akin to science fiction. There are only two explanations for the existence of the universe that don’t include a divine creator:

  1. the universe has always existed, or
  2. the universe created itself out of nothing.

Who is willing to accept either proposition? Certainly no intelligent, thinking individual!

Consider also the vast evidence of design in our world and in the universe generally. Is the design present in the earth’s position in relation to the sun (controlling the environment, etc), the moon’s position in relation to the earth (controlling the ocean tides) simply a matter of dumb luck? What about the intricacies of the eye of a housefly, or the human brain (not to mention the magnificence of the entire human body)? Where does the evidence point? It points to an intelligent creator.

Men are sent to prison every day for crimes no one saw them commit. How are such verdicts reached? Through the presentation and consideration of all available evidence. In like fashion, just because no man was present when God created the universe doesn’t mean there is no evidence to support the fact that it happened. If Mr. Sagan was correct in his assessment of what constitutes faith, then it takes a lot more faith to be an atheist than to believe in the God of the Bible!

Finally, because the Bible is a book that can be trusted to be accurate in everything it addresses, we have faith in God and His promises, both to bless the obedient and punish the disobedient. For the obedient, we have the confident hope of heaven. – Bob Prichard


The census of those on the ark included Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah’s wife, and the three wives of his sons (Genesis 7:13). With these four men and four women, the earth was repopulated after the flood.

The Bible does not tell us when the races originated. It is possible that the races developed from the division of mankind at the tower of Babel, although Moses only says that God confounded their language and scattered them abroad (Genesis 11:1-9). As people scattered and separated, the races could have developed from the gene pool in each area. As people intermarried within a region, certain racial characteristics developed, as well as individual languages.

Modern science has tried to differentiate among the races, recognizing four basic races: Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid, and Australoid. The problem with these classifications, however, is that the dominant characteristics that are specific to a race, such as skin color or hair type, are found in the other racial groups. Skin color, the most obvious racial characteristic, is determined primarily by the amount of melanin in the skin. Thus a “white” person may actually have darker skin than a “black” person. Although general racial characteristics may predominate among certain populations, all human beings are part of the same species, the human race.

We know that all humans came from the original man and woman, Adam and Eve, and that all living human beings are descendants of Noah and his family. Paul declared that God “made of one every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth” (Acts 17:26). The words “of one,” literally mean “out of one male,” thus all mankind has descended from Adam.

Since all humans descended from the eight people on the ark, then all racial characteristics must have been available in the genetic makeup of Noah and his family. It is likely that Noah’s family members were a combination of all modern day races. The separation into current races was gradual over time.

Neither the biblical nor the non-biblical evidence supports the evolutionary theory, coming from racial prejudice, that the races descended from different primates or “pre-human” men. Since all races of humans can intermarry, all humans are interrelated. —Bob Prichard


There is no doubt that the man we know as Neil Postman described serious problems in modern culture in his insightful 1985 book Amusing Ourselves to Death. His thesis was that public discourse has been reshaped to such an extent by television and entertainment that thoughtful discourse is missing. Show business hype has affected advertising, politics, and religion. Postman’s conclusion is that none of these changes have made for improvement.

In our entertainment-oriented culture, many churches find themselves trying to out do themselves with more and more elaborate additions to worship. What began as special music by a choir becomes a full orchestra with professional soloists. A dramatic reading necessitates a full Broadway stage production. And as long as those who come to worship enjoy what is offered, anything goes. The expectation is that sermons will be shorter, wittier, and more uplifting. Anything in worship that cannot be “jazzed up” must be abandoned as boring-and there is nothing worse than being boring, we are led to believe.

The problem with this entertainment orientation is that the very object of worship is forgotten. God is the audience in worship. Jesus told the Samaritan woman that ignorant worship was unacceptable to God, even though it may have been sincere or enjoyable. “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). To worship God in spirit and truth means that worship must be from the heart, not just outward acts, and that it must be done in exact obedience to God’s commands. The worship must be directed to Him, not to the whims of the worshipers.

God’s regulations for worship as set out in the New Testament are neither boring nor out of date. They are God-centered, while entertainment is man-centered.

Cultural relevance is important-thus many churches are implementing modern technology such as projection systems to enhance sermons, and there is nothing wrong with the worshiper enjoying worship. God intended for worship to bless His children, but when worship is merely window dressing for an entertainment performance, it cannot please God. The apostle warned, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God” (2 John 1:9). Paul condemned things that “have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship” (Colossians 2:23). “Self-imposed worship” is that worship fashioned after man’s desires. – Bob Prichard


Names are important. It is difficult for us to conceive of things apart from their names. The many different names for God in the Bible describe and demonstrate His character. Jehovah (usually rendered “Lord” in the King James Version) appears often in the Scriptures. Jehovah means “the Eternal One, the Unchangeable One, the One Who was, and is, and is to come.” When Moses met God in the burning bush, he asked His name. “And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14). God spoke as Jehovah, the self-existent God.

The Hebrew people came to consider one particular name of God His personal name. Scholars call this name, derived from four Hebrew letters, the “tetragrammaton” (from “tetra,” four, and “gram,” letter). The Jews were so concerned about using this name in vain that they would not even pronounce it when reading the Bible aloud. (They substituted Adonai meaning Lord.) As a result, the proper pronunciation of the original Hebrew is unknown. Most scholars say “Yahweh” or “Yahveh” is likely the proper pronunciation, although Jehovah has been used since the sixteenth century.

The Bible stresses the importance of respect for God by emphasizing the importance of the name of God. Solomon said, “The name of the Lord is a strong tower: the righteous runneth into it, and is safe” (Proverbs 18:10). The psalmist said, “He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name” (Psalm 111:9). Isaiah spoke of “the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones” (Isaiah 57:15). Jesus told His disciples, “After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9).

The third commandment warns, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain” (Exodus 20:7). Although this commandment is part of the old covenant, the need for respect for the Lord’s names continues. Paul wrote, “Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed” (1 Timothy 6:1). – Bob Prichard


When the world seems to be closing in on us, or when we feel like we have our backs up against the wall, giving thanks may be the last thing we would ever think of doing. We may reason, If I am in difficult circumstances, then I have no responsibility or need to be thankful. After all, we are to be thankful for blessings, not difficult circumstances. This reasoning is not correct, however, because all of God’s children need to be thankful.

To be thankful in the midst of difficult times is very hard, yet Paul said, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18). How is this possible? Sometimes when we think the situation cannot get any worse, it does! But we must remember that when we belong to and serve God, no situation is hopeless. God’s children can count on His providential care, and His never ending love. In the midst of our difficulties, we sometimes have a sort of spiritual amnesia. We forget all that God has done for us, and the difficulties He has helped us through. The psalmist reminded Israel of his wonderful works that he hath done. For he established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers, that they should make them known to their children: That the generation to come might know them, even the children which should be born; who should arise and declare them to their children: That they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments (Psalm 78:4-7).

The difficulties most of us have faced pale into insignificance compared to the pain and suffering Job faced. His response to the loss of all of his possessions, and all ten of his children was to worship God. Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, and said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD (Job 1:20-21). Job was able to do this because he was a man totally devoted to God. God described him as being a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil (Job 1:8). When the difficult times came, Job was ready to trust in the Lord. He did not understand why he was suffering as he was, but He knew that God is worthy to be praised, even in the midst of the most trying times.

The attitude of gratitude, the spirit of gratefulness, must mark those who would follow the Lord. As Paul and Silas sat in the depths of the jail at Philippi, their feet in the stocks, having been beaten for their testimony of Christ, they prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25). They would not allow the circumstances to keep them from offering praise to God. In the midst of so many things we cannot understand or do not like, we must thank Him for those things we can understand, and the blessings He so richly gives us. Looking back, we should thank Him. Looking ahead, we should trust Him. Looking around, we should serve Him. He is worthy of all the praise and thanksgiving we can give Him. – Bob Prichard


While there is ample historical evidence that there was a man named Jesus of Nazareth who lived in the first century, some question if we can believe His claims to be the Christ, the Son of God. The best record of His life, the Bible, gives more than enough evidence that His claims are true, because of the fulfilled prophecies, the record of His miracles, and the testimony of His followers.


The fulfilled prophecies of the Old Testament, accomplished in the life and ministry of Jesus, are a major reason to believe His claims. The prophet Micah predicted, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2). Although Mary and Joseph were residents of Nazareth, through the providence of God they went to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus, in fulfillment of the prophecy. The birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy that “The Lord himself shall give you a sign; behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).


Jesus fulfilled many prophecies in His death. Psalm 22:16-18 predicts of the Messiah, “The assembly of the wicked have enclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.” John 19:23-24 describes the parting of His garments and the casting of lots at the crucifixion, “that the scripture might be fulfilled.” Even the price of His betrayal, thirty pieces of silver, was prophesied over five hundred years before. “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12).


In addition to the fulfilled prophecies, the signs and miracles that Jesus performed show that He is the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus showed His power over nature by turning water to wine and calming the sea. He showed His power over sickness by healing the lepers, giving sight to the blind, and making the lame walk. He showed forcefully His power over death by raising Lazarus and others from the dead. His own resurrection from the dead proved conclusively His authority over death.

Peter, speaking for the apostles, told Jesus, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). When threatened by the opponents of Christ, Peter and John replied: “Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). The apostles at first had trouble believing in Christ’s resurrection, but they soon had opportunity to risk their lives for their faith. Peter said, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). They were eyewitnesses of His majesty, and spoke truly.—Bob Prichard