How to surmount unusual disasters and tragedies

Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches

HAVE YOU NOTICED how the calamities and disasters of late are becoming more unusual and bizarre? The high-magnitude earthquakes occurring in greater frequency during the last decade.1 The fierce storms that cause severe floodings, on one side,2 while sucking dry some shores, on the other.3 The ensuing famines as reflected in the rising rates of hunger and poverty.4 News of such disasters can already be disheartening to observers. How much more is it for the surviving victims and their affected loved ones?

But even if we are nowhere near the calamity-stricken places, we also face problems of our own. Our daily troubles may not be as catastrophic as those captured in media reports but they can also be devastating and seemingly insurmountable. In fact, we also find ourselves in uncertain situations that test the limits of our inner strength and confidence.

When problems hit us where they hurt the most, how must we cope? As members of the Church Of Christ, what should we always remember in the face of the obstacles we never thought we would go through?

 

Our hope is greater than our troubles

God is our hope. Life’s tragedies can be unimaginably difficult, but the help that comes from God is far greater than any unusual disaster. The Bible tells us:

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)

What God can do is far beyond the sphere of our limited knowledge, capacity, and imagination. His power is infinite and wondrous. No problem cannot be solved by God’s help.

Not only do we have God to rely on; we also have His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us “the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible). Rather than panic or cringe in fear, let us take courage in believing that God can and will help us even in ways no one could guess or expect.

 

God’s help: felt and experienced

Experience has proven how wondrous God’s promised help can be. Thankfully recounting how God rescued the Israelites from their fierce enemies, the Psalmist said, “If the LORD had not been on our side when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us alive in their furious anger against us” (Ps. 124:2-3 Good News Bible).

Enemies are not just people; even situations of circumstances that run counter to our favor can be as menacing and overwhelming. But as what the early servants experienced, “the LORD … has not let our enemies destroy us. We have escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap,” for, indeed, “Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth: (Ps. 124:6-8 GNB).

That is also the experience of the faithful Christians in the first century led by the apostles. Through all the persecutions, distresses, and difficulties they suffered, they found God’s grace sufficient, His loving-kindness more than enough, and His mercy always available regardless of the situation. And with the power of Christ that dwelt in them, they overcame their weaknesses and emerged strong—truly able, truly powerful and truly drawing from God’s strength (II Cor. 12:9-10 Amplified Bible 2015).

 

Learning from our overwhelming burdens

When Apostle Paul confidently asserted on behalf of his fellow Christians then, that they were glad and well-pleased with sufferings, it was not as if the trials they faced were light and easy. In fact, during the apostle’s missionary journey to Asia, what he and the brethren went through completely overwhelmed them. “The burden was more than we could bear,” said Apostle Paul, stressing that they even told themselves, “this was the end.” Nevertheless, because God saved them from imminent death, the apostle realized that such overwhelming experience taught them a valuable lesson: to trust not in themselves but in God (II Cor. 1:8-10 Phillips Translation).

 

What it means to trust in God

Trust in God cannot be faked. Those who truly trust in God are the ones who (1) fear, (2) revere and (3) worship Him (Ps. 31;19 Amplified Bible).

To fear God is to hate evil Prov. 8:13). God-fearing Christians, therefore, renew their lives completely. They don’t lead sinful lives.

To revere God is to be obedient to His will, for those who are reverent before Him live in responsive obedience (Phil. 2:12 MSG). They don’t just pick and choose which commands to obey. They follow all of God’s teachings uncompromisingly.

To worship God, His servants gather themselves together to sing hymns, offer prayers, give offerings, and hear His words inside the temple or house of worship (I Cor. 14:26, 15; Heb. 13:15-16; Ps. 5:7; Isa. 2:3). Those who trust God don’t forsake such meetings for worship (Heb. 10:25).

Therefore, those who trust in God renew their lives completely, keep on obeying His commands responsively, and fulfill their duty to worship Him constantly. In so doing, they have the assurance that God’s help will always be available for them, especially when they need it most.

 

God is waiting for us to ask for His help

When terrifying things happen, it will be a terrible thing for us not to approach God and ask for help. The Lord God expects His people to call on Him:

“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.” (Isa. 65:1-2 MSG)

Let us not disappoint God as done by those who ignored Him. Doing so will not help us get through our troubles but will only make things worse. No matter how severe our hardships are, we must keep on worshiping God, obeying His commands, and renewing our lives. For, when we prove hat we fully trust and take refuge in Him, we will be able to surmount any unusual tragedy or disaster in life:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, … God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Eph. 3:14-20 MSG)


By MARLEX C. CANTOR

Based on the lesson taught by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, during his pastoral visit to the Local Congregation of Muntinlupa, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila South on September 30, 2017

 

Endnotes

1Tyagi, H. (2014, October 25). Worldwide Surge in ‘Great’ Earthquakes Seen in Past 10 Years. Retrieved from www.nbcnews.com

2Loria, K. (2017, September 26)). This Hurricane Season Has Been Exceptionally Bad—And It’s Not Going To Get Any Better. Retrieved from futurism.com

3Meyjes, T. (2017, September 10). Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches. Retrieved from metro.co.uk

4Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. (2017, September 13). Cred Crunch Newsletter, Issue No. 48 September 2017-“Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective”. Retrieved from reliefweb.int

Random Notes

‘Cappuccino Catholicism’

In choosing a place to stay or use for various functions, people prefer one that suits their liking. However, when it comes to worshiping the Lord God, should people still be the ones to choose where to worship Him? God Himself states, thus:

“You must not worship the LORD your God in their way. But you are to seek the place the LORD your God will choose from among all your tribes to put His Name there for His dwelling. To that place you  must go …” (Deut. 12:4-5, New International Version, emphasis ours)

How about others? What do they say about where the Lord God could be worshiped?

“VATICAN CITY—It might be called Cappuccino Catholicism.

“Young Catholics told their Church elders on Saturday that the faith should be spread in the places where they like to hang out, such as coffee bars.

“‘We would like the Church to meet us in the various paces in which she currently has little or no presence,’ reads part of a  12-page document written by some 300 young Catholic delegates from around the world, who met for a week at the Vatican.’

“‘The Church should try to find creative new ways to encounter people where they are comfortable and where they naturally socialize: bars, coffee shops, parks, gyms, stadiums and any other popular cultural centres,’ it said.

“The delegates met in Rome to share their ideas and concerns with Vatican officials ahead of a synod, or meeting of bishops, in October, on the theme of ‘Young people, the Faith and Vocational Discernment’.

“At a news conference presenting the paper, which will feed into a larger working document to be used by the bishops, participants said they wanted their Church to be more open and transparent and less severe.”


References

Pullella, Philip. (25 March 2018). The Catholic Church—coming to a Starbucks near you? Retrieved from http://www.gmenetwork.com

Let God direct our lives

“‘My thoughts are completely different from yours,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’.”   
(Isaiah 55:8-9, New Living Translation)

IT SEEMS IRONIC that the world’s lone superpower has 40 million of its citizens living in poverty. Forty million—that’s more than the population of Canada, and more than 1½ times that of the Australian continent.

“The United States [of America],” wrote Philip Alston of the United Nations, “is one of the world’s richest and most powerful and technologically innovative countries. But neither wealth nor its power nor its technology is being harnessed to address the situation in which 40 million [Americans] continue to live in poverty” (The Guardian Online, December 15, 2017).  

Arif Husain, chief economist of the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), revealed for the first time in a decade, the number of people suffering hunger is back on rise (Hurriyet Daily News Online, December 17, 2017). He disclosed that the number of people who “go to bed hungry each night has risen from 777 million to 815 million today.”

What’s going on?

Although man has made great strides in food production and technology, hundreds of millions today are still suffering from chronic malnutrition. Around 22,000 children die daily due to starvation (UNICEF). And despite huge scientific breakthroughs in health and medicine, millions still die from various diseases and plagues.

It is quite obvious that despite man’s persistent efforts to improve his life and living conditions, his lot does not seem to get any better. Why?

 

Mortals cannot run their own lives

It is within man’s power to take charge of his life and put it in order? Can he chart his own course and steer his life toward a good end? The Bible answers:

“I know, God, that mere mortals can’t run their lives, That men and women don’t have what it takes to take charge of life.” (Jer. 10:23 The Message)

Man, on his own, is incapable of running his own life. The Bible further illustrates his inability to take charge of his life by pointing out how completely oblivious he is of what lies before him:

“A person never knows what will happen to him next. He is like a fish caught in a net—the fish does not know what will happen. In the same way a person is trapped by the bad things that suddenly happen to him.” (Eccles. 9:12 Easy-to-Read Version)

Try to recall some of the recent disasters in history—the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami that killed close to a quarter million people, the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017—and ask yourself: If the people who perished in those tragedies knew in advance they would happen, would have they gone to those places? Man, undeniably, is totally clueless on what the future brings.

 

Knowledge increases sorrow

What if man acquires immense wisdom—will it solve all his problems and ensure his good fortune? King Solomon, a man of notable achievements, regrettably says no:

“I spoke with my heart, saying, ‘Behold, I have acquired great [human] wisdom and experience, more than all who were over all Jerusalem before me; and my mind had observed a wealth of [moral] wisdom and [scientific] knowledge.’ And I set my mind to know [practical] wisdom and to discern [the character of] madness and folly [in which men seem to find satisfaction]; I realized that this too is a futile grasping and chasing after the wind. For in much [human] wisdom there is a much displeasure and  exasperation; increasing knowledge increases sorrow.” (Eccles. 1:16-18 Amplified Bible 2015)

IF earthly wisdom were the cure-all to man’s woes, as others may believe, then life would have been trouble-free for those who have acquired it Sadly, that is not the case. For even people of notable educational achievements are not spared from life’s pains and sorrows.

 

The One Who can assure man’s good

It behooves us, then to know: Who alone can bring what is good for man? The Creator Himself declares:

“For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the LORD. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hoe’.” (Jer. 29:11 New Living Translation)

Only the all-powerful God can bring man a future filled with hope. The Lord Almighty alone knows what is best for an and only He can direct man’s steps toward his ultimate good.

Sadly, there are those who think that they do not need God to show them the way; that they—on their own, using their own knowledge and faculties00can make their aspirations come true. Should man even think that his wisdom is on a par with God’s? Are human thoughts the same as that of the Almighty? The Lord answers:

“My thoughts are completely different from yours,’ says the LORD. ‘And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts’.” (Isa. 55:8-0 NLT)

A drop in a vast ocean—that’s how infinitesimal and inferior man’s thoughts are compared to God’s. Thus, it is futile and unwise for man’s thoughts are compared to God’s. Thus, it is futile and unwise for man to trust in his own power and wisdom in bringing about the good future he hopes for.

 

Placing our trust in God

In whom, then, should man place his trust? The Bible says:

“Trust the LORD and live right! The land will be yours, and you will be safe. Do what the LORD wants, and he will give you your heart’s desire. Let the LORD lead you and trust him to help. Then it will be as clear as the noonday sun that you were right.” (Ps. 37:3-6 Contemporary English Version)

Man, clearly, is not the master of his own destiny. Instead of directing his own course,, he must commend himself and his future to the hands of his Creator, Who—as stated in a preceding verse—knows the good plans He has for man.

 

God’s master plan

What is one of God’s plans for man that would bring about his good and the future he hopes for? Apostle Paul says,

“May he be given glory forever and ever through endless ages because of his master plan of salvation for the church through Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 3:21 Living Bible)

More than his well-being here on earth, it is man’s ultimate good—his salvation on Judgment Day—that God earnestly desires for him. In fact, the ever-compassionate God wants all man to be saved by coming to know the truth (I Tim.2:3-4). And God’s master plan for man’s salvation is intended for the Church through the Lord Jesus Christ.

How can man avail himself of the great opportunity to receive salvation which God plans for the Church through Christ? The Lord Jesus, the appointed Savior, says:

“So Jesus spoke again: ‘In very truth I tell you, I am the door of the sheepfold … I am the door of the sheepfold … I am the door, anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe’.” (John 10:7,9 Revised English Bible)

The fold or flock which Christ commands people to enter in order to receive salvation is the Church Of Christ (Acts 20:28 Lamsa Translation). It is His Church which Christ promised to save and which the second death will not overcome (Eph. 5:23-25; Matt. 16:18 Today’s English Version; Rev. 20:14)).

 

Headed toward destruction

With this world rapidly spiraling toward its end, man should realize that all his toils and strivings to make his life on earth better are futile. God has appointed a day when this earth and everything in it will be destroyed by fire (II Pet. 3:7, 10). The only way he can attain his ultimate good—salvation on Judgment Day and attainment of life everlasting in the Holy City—is by allowing God to direct his life and be included in His master plan of salvation, that is, by becoming a member of the Church Of Christ.


By DENNIS C. LOVENDINO

Based on the lesson taught by Bro. Eduardo V. Manalo during his pastoral visit to Niugan, Laguna, RP on January 6, 2018

The Value of the Church Built by Christ

“WHY DO YOU VALUE THE CHURCH so much?” I noticed that even though life is very hard nowadays, with many losing their jobs and homes and others suffering from terrible natural disasters like earthquakes, your members just keep on giving so much importance to the Church and their membership in it. You have problems, but you still do not let go of the Church! How come you do that? How can you do that in these trying times? Why is the Church that important to you?” These are some of the observations and comments that people have made about the members of the Church of Christ (Iglesia Ni Cristo). They have seen how much we love and value our Church membership. They see us as attending congregational worship services, sharing our faith with others, and supporting various Church activities, even though we also deal with our own share of difficulties or hardships in life It is obvious to them that the Church is so important in the lives of its members. Why? Is it a new thing?

Who values the Church Of Christ

The members give so much importance to the Church Of Christ because hey recognize the Church not simply as an ordinary organization or institution but rather as the body of our Lord Jesus Christ. Apostle Paul said: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church … He is the head of he body, the church” (Co. 1:24, 18, New King James Version).

In these verses, we can see how Apostle Paul showed how much he valued the Church. He endured sufferings in his life for the sake of the Church, and he did so with rejoicing, not complaining. Man members of the Church then and now have also done the same.

Of course, Apostle Paul was not the only servant of God who valued the Church. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself does, too! In fact, He is the best example of the one who loved the Church so much and made unparalleled sacrifices for it Not only did He establish His Church, but He also gave up His own life for it. Not only did He establish His church but He also gave up His own life for it: “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and have Himself for her” (Eph. 5:25, Ibid.).

“Take heed therefore to yourselves and to all the flock over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, to feed the church of Christ which he has purchased with his blood.” (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation)

Besides his, he Holy Bible shows us further how important the Church really is by introducing the Church as being given the kingdom of God here upon the earth. This is what our Lord Jesus Christ said o the flock or the Church: “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32, NKJV).

So, the Holy Scriptures show us that the Church Of Christ is indeed valuable. It is important, for it is the body of Jesus Christ, it is that which was redeemed with His precious blood, and it is that to which God’s kingdom has been given. If God’s people in the past had high regard for the Church and valued it so much, then, why shouldn’t we?

The Importance of the Church Of Christ

Another thing that we need to understand with regard to the importance of the Church Of Christ is the promise that Christ made to the Church. He said that not even the power of death would ever be able to overcome His Church: “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on his rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18, Revised Standard Version).

It is clear that the founder of the Church is Christ, and that the promise of the founder is that not even death will be able to prevail against it. The death that will not overcome us is the death that is the full payment of sin, which is the second death in the lake of fire (Rom. 6:23; Rev. 20:14). It is from that death that members of the Church of Christ are spared or saved come Judgment Day.

 

How the Church won’t be overcome

The promise of Christ concerning salvation should not be taken to mean that once a person has joined His Church, he will never stop breathing and that he will no longer be buried in the cold earth. What Christ is showing is that there is resurrection of life. Look at what He said in John 5:28-29. “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (NKJV).

There are two kinds of resurrection: One that is to life and he other that is to condemnation. Those who are included in the first resurrection of the dead are the fortunate ones who will be raised from the dead at the return of Christ and meet Him in the air Those who are still alive will no longer taste the first death, for they shall be caught up together with the ones resurrected first. We can read his in I Thessalonians 4:16-17: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (Ibid).

But where will we end up? In the Holy City where we will have a life that is glorious. Look at how Apostle John wrote about it in Revelation 21:1-4: “Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Ibid.).

Notice that in the Holy City, there will be no more death. The ones who can hope for his are those who have become members of the Church of Christ. So considering that the Church Of Christ will not be overcome by death, is it any wonder that we, members, hive such great value to the Church?

Why enter the Church Of Christ

Others may be wondering why they should be members of the Church Of Christ when they are already members of other religions. They may say, “To each his own. If you want to be members of the Church Of Christ, fine. But it is also fine if we will not, and just stay in whatever church we are in.” We should not be thinking that way, because Jesus Christ clearly issued this command to those who want salvation: “I am the door, anyone who comes into the fold through me will be safe … But there are other sheep of mine, not belonging to this fold; I must lead them as well, and they too will listen to my voice. There will then be one flock, one shepherd (John 10:9, 16, Revised English Bible)

Christ is clearly saying that those who come into the fold through Him will be safe or saved. The fold or flock should come into is the Church Of Christ (Acts 20:28, Lamsa Translation).

Therefore, even though we, Church members, have our own share of problems and difficulties in this world, we have decided to never let go of our membership, or leave the church We are ready to brave whatever troubles come our way and cling tightly to our membership, because we believed in the value or importance of the Church Of Christ is. Christ built it. He loves it. He gave His life for it. And when He returns, which is very soon, He will save this Church: “For a husband has authority over his wife just as Christ has authority over the church; and Christ is himself the Savior of the church, his body” (Eph. 5:23, Today’s English Version).

So, since the Church Of Christ is truly important, does it not make sense that we give value to it by joining it and doing everything to remain in it?

The Council of Nicaea and the Jesus-is-God Creed

CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS PRESUME that the belief that Christ is God was upheld by the earliest followers of Jesus Christ. They think that such belief was taught and propagated by the apostles and, hence, is found in the Holy Scriptures.

But the fact of the matter remains that the belief in the so-called deity of Christ is not at all biblical. It is even opposed to what the Bible teaches about God and Jesus Christ. Not until the fourth century AD was such teaching defined and was thereafter imposed on the Catholic Church. This teaching was formulated as such in one of the councils of the Catholic Church, centuries after the last book of the Bible was written.

Jesus Christ to the first Christians

One of the clear distinctions between God and Jesus Christ is with regard to their nature or state of being. The Holy Spirit is replete with proofs of this.

In John 8:40, Jesus Christ declared what His true state of being is: “a Man who has told you the truth” (New King James Version). Even His disciples taught the same. Apostle Peter said, “Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God” (Acts 2:22, Ibid.). Apostles Paul said that the “one Mediator between God and men, [is] the Man Christ Jesus” (I Tim. 2:5, Ibid). Apostle James said that Christ is a “righteous man” (James 5:6, Revised Standard Version).

When a blind man was healed by Christ near the pool of Siloam, he said of his healer, “A Man called Jesus made clay and anointed my eyes” (John 9:10-11, NKJV). In a place beyond Jordan where John the Baptist used to conduct baptism, the people there said about Jesus Christ spoke to, as she was drawing water, said about the Lord, “a Man who told me all things that I ever did” (John 4:29, Ibid.).

Even Christ’s adversaries and His other contemporaries said that He is a man. The mod that persecuted and falsely accursed Jesus Christ, said to Pontius Pilate, “We have found this man” (Luke 23:2, New International Version). When Pilate presented Christ to the, the roman prefect of Judea declared: “Behold the Man!” (John 119:5, NKJV). Even Pilate’s wife, who cautioned him in passing judgment over Jesus said, “Have nothing to do with that just Man” (Matt. 27:19, Ibid.). The Roman soldier who witnessed Christ’s death on the cross said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39, Ibid.).

When Jesus Christ was resurrected from the dead, and appeared to His disciples, they thought that they were seeing a spirit and they were in a state of shock (Luke 24:37).

Christ did not allow such misconception to stay unchecked. He was rather quick to rectify His disciples’ mistake (Mark 16:14). Stated in Luke 24:38-39: “And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have’”.

The fact that His disciples saw Jesus Christ before His crucifixion and after His resurrection strongly disproves the assumption that Jesus Christ I deity. The true God, according to the Bible, is spirit in state of being ass is invisible (John 4:24; I Tim. 1:17). God is not like man; He has no flesh and bones; and He is invisible. However, when Christ was still on earth, people saw Him. These truths clearly prove that the Father is different from the Son.

The Bible also states that the Father created Christ through the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18,20). Hence the Son has a beginning—a proof that He is unlike the Father, the true God, who is from everlasting and is eternal (Ps. 90:2: I Tim. 1:17).

The Bible also tells us that God is not man (Hos. 11:9); and man is not God (Ezek. 28:2). God Himself said, “I am the LORED, and I do not change” (Mal. 3:6, Good News Translation). Hence, God will not change to become human.

Furthermore, the belief that Jesus Christ is God incarnate—God who allegedly took on the form of a human—is a concept foreign to the early church.

 

The Logos, God?

In John 1:1 and 14, it says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God …And the Word became flesh” (NKJV). Others misunderstand this to support Christ’s alleged deity, pre-existence, and incarnation. They attribute the Word to refer to Christ as God in the beginning. Such understanding is erroneous.

In Greek New Testament manuscripts, the Greek equivalent for Word in John 1:1 and 14 is “λογός” (logos). Logos denotes not only word, but also reason and thought.1 The Word does not refer to a “pre-existent Christ,” but rather to God’s plan, His wisdom, ordained before the ages (I Cor. 2:2, 7-8, GNT), hence, In the beginning was the Word. That Word (plan) was not another God—but divine and powerful like the true God from Whom it came (Gen. 17:1; Luke 1:37), hence, and the Word was God. At the proper time according to the will of God, that plan was fulfilled. A woman (Mary) gave birth to a son whom God sent (Gal. 4:4), hence, the Word became flesh.      The fulfillment of God’s plan is Jesus Christ (I Cor. 1:24)—a man (John 8:40). If the Word that emanated from God were another God, then there would be two Gods—a God from whom the Word emanated and the Word that emanated from God. Apostle John wouldn’t contradict himself, because elsewhere in the Gospel, he wrote that there is only one God—the Father (John 17:3).   Although Jesus Christ is man in nature, He was given authority, power, and traits far above any other human being. He was made Lord (Acts 2:36), Savior (Acts 5:31), and Mediator between God and people (I Tim. 2:5). He is the head of the Church (Eph. 5:23). He did not commit any sin (I Pet. 2:22). All things were put under Him (Eph. 1:20-22)—but on the appointed time He will subject Himself to God (I Cor. 15:27-28). God gave Him a name above every name, and commanded that every knee should bow to worship Christ (Phil. 2:9-10, NIV).      In John 10:36, Christ said the Father who sent Him made Him holy (Common English Bible). Christ’s being holy (or divine) was a distinct quality given to Him by God. Thus, His being holy doesn’t make Him deity.      All these truths about Christ were clear to the first-century Christians. For them, there is one God, the Father, and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, whom God sent (I Cor. 8:6).      George Ladd, a professor of theology, had the same observation of the early Christians. He said, “We read the Gospels and the book of Acts in the light of our understanding of the pre-existence and the incarnation of God the Son. However, the early Christians had no such concepts in their minds. They had no doctrine of the deity of Christ by which they might interpret Jesus.”2 It was only after a few centuries that such wrong doctrine would be defined or emerge.

The gathering storm

In the second quarter of 325 AD, Catholic bishops from various parts of the Roman Empire converged in the city of Nicaea (modern-day Iznik, in Turkey).3 The city was very accessible being situated at the empire’s major crossroads that linked Europe and Asia. The bishops were convened in a council at the behest of their benefactor, the Emperor Constantine I.4       Previous to that, in 313 AD, Constantine’s Edict of Toleration had put an end to the persecution of Christians (Catholics, to be exact) and implemented a policy of allowing all religions to exist peacefully within the empire.5Soon the Catholic Church found favor in the emperor’s eyes. During Emperor Constantine’s reign. The Catholic Church already had a considerable membership, such that when a religious dispute—which had been raging among the Catholics for several years—hits critical level, the emperor’s intervention became necessary to settle such conflict in order to maintain the unity and stability of the empire.6       The council that Constantine convened in 325 AD is known today as the First Council of Nicaea.7 This council formulated a creed that violated the teachings of the Bible about Jesus Christ.

A forewarning about “another Jesus”

The apostles forewarned that there will be people who will introduce “another Jesus,” a Jesus who is totally different from the One they proclaimed as their Lord and Savior (II Cor. 11:3-4).      After the apostolic period, various teachings about Christ began to appear. The problem lies in the fact that these teachings contradict what the Bible teaches.       It was Ignatius of Antioch who first introduced the idea that Christ is God. Augustus Hopkins Strong, a Baptist theologian, said, “The earliest time known at which Jesus was deified was, after the New Testament writers, in the letters of Ignatius, at the beginning of the second century.”8       Such erroneous teachings about Christ eventually took hold and gained ground. Karen Armstrong, a former Catholic nun and scholar in comparative religion, described the development to the belief: “… the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century. The development of Christian belief in the Incarnation was gradual, complex process. Jesus himself certainly never claimed to be God.”9

The catalyst

The event that set in motion the eventual formation of the Jesus-is-God Creed was the Arian controversy,10a conflict that started in Alexandria, Egypt. The controversy was named after Arius, a presbyter and preacher in Baucalis, Alexandria.11  In 318 AD, Arius vehemently rejected the teaching of his bishop, Alexander, who held that the Father and Jesus Christ are of the “same substance.”12            Arius asserted that the Father and Jesus Christ are not of the same substance. He pointed out that Christ is different from the Father because the Son had a beginning of existence of existence while the Father is eternal.13       The doctrinal position of Arius was later known as Arianism.14 However, the Catholic Church considered it heretical.       The dispute in Alexandria soon intensified. Battle lines were drawn. Eusebius of Nicomedia and a number of bishops and deacons supported Arius, while a host of Catholic orthodox leaders threw their support behind Alexander.      As the years passed by, the local conflict had spread throughout the empire. Earl Cairns, a professor at Wheaton College, said, “The controversy became so bitter that Alexander had Arius condemned by a synod. Arius then fled to the friendly palace of Eusebius, the bishop of Nicomedia,”15

Constantine intervened

In 325 AD, Constantine, who in the previous year became the absolute ruler of the Roman Empire, stepped in to find a solution to the controversy that was disturbing the peace in the empire.      Constantine extended not only his invitation to leading figures of the Catholic Church, but also his generosity. He undertook a charm offensive. Bernard Lohse, a professor of church history, said: “They (the bishops) now had the privilege of coming to the council by means of transportation provided by the state, i.e., means which were intended for use by ranking state officials. At Nicea the emperor provided lodging for the bishops in his place.”16 Aside from the state-provided lodging and transportation, those who were invited to the council, were also given gifts from the emperor, said Pedro C. Sevilla, a priest and a professor of dogmatic theology.17

The First Nicene Council

On May 20, 325 AD18, the first ecumenical council of the Catholic Church was opened. The main protagonists of the controversy were present, Arius and Alexander. Of the 250 or so bishops (number of attendees varied from 250 to 318) who attended the council, only 22 led by Eusebius of Nicomedia, were in support of Arius.      The council was presided not by a pope, not by a bishop—but by the emperor. Cairns wrote: “The Emperor presided over the council and paid its expenses. For the first time the Church found itself dominated by the political leadership of the head of the state.”19       Paul Johnson, writer and historian, said that Constantin treated the dispute as “small and very insignificant,” and “merely an intellectual exercise.”20 No wonder, the emperor was still a pagan at the time.      Bernard Lohse wrote, “…Constantine had basically no understanding whatsoever of the questions that were being asked ….”21 The emperor wasn’t interested with doctrine; all he was after was the resolution of the conflict. Constantine even set the tone of the debate and meddled in some of them.

Settling the dispute: A new creed

As the controversy dragged on, Constantine coerced the bishops to finally end the conflict by endorsing a new creed, which would define the Catholic belief about Jesus Christ.      Johannes Lehmann, in the book The Jesus Establishment, wrote, “Some six weeks after the Council opened, on June 19, 325, Emperor Constantine insisted that all bishops who had been present should endorse a new creed that confirmed Christ as God and condemned Arius. Anyone who did not sign this document was to be excommunicated and exiled.”22In the most critical session of the council, it was Constantine who proposed the “reconciling word, homoousios (Greek for ‘of one essence’), to describe Christ’s relationship to the Father (though it was probably one of his ecclesiastical advisers, Ossius of Cordova, who suggested it to him).”23 The new creed endorsed by the bishops is known as the Nicene Creed and it declared that Christ is God, of the essence of the Father, incarnate, and made human.24 Clement H. Crock, a Catholic priest, said, “the…[Catholic] Church defined for us that it was an article of faith that Jesus is truly God.”25    Those who did not subscribe to what the Nicene Creed declared were charged of committing a crime against the empire. Ronald J. Wilkins, in his book The Emerging Church, wrote: “Once this ‘Nicene Creed’ had been publicly signed by all the bishops and promulgated by Constantine, it became the official creed for all Christians. To deny the divinity of Christ in any way was to put oneself outside of the Christian community and was a crime against the state. …”26

The aftermath

On august 25, 325 AD, the Council of Nicaea concluded.27 However, it did not end the Arian controversy. It continued even after Arius’s death in 336 AD.      The Nicene Council of 325 AD proves that the belief that the Father and Son are the same in all aspects is not found in the Bible. Had it been so, there would have been no need for the Catholic Church to convene a council to formulate such creed. All that had to be done was to look up the verse in the Holy Scriptures to prove such belief. But because the Bible doesn’t teach such belief. But because the Bible doesn’t teach such belief, the bishops of the Catholic Church arrogated matters into their own hands.


By  DINDO A. SANTIAGO
December 2017

 

References:

1Orr, James (General ed.). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1979.

2Ladd, George. The Young Church: Acts of the Apostles. New York: Abingdon

Press, 1964.

3Iznik. http://whc.unesco.org/en/tentativelists/5900/

4https://www.britannica.com/biography/Constantine-I-Roman-emperor

5https://www.britannica.com/topic/Edict-of-Milan

6Bokenkotter, Thomas. A Concise History of the Catholic Church. New York:

Doubleday, 1977

7https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

8Strong, Augustus Hopkins. Systemic Theology. Philadelphia: The Hudson Press,

1907.

9Armstrong, Karen. A History of God, the 4000-year Quest of Judaism,

Christianity and Islam. New York: Ballantine Books, 1993.

10https://www.britannica.com/topic/Christology

11https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arius

12https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arius

13Hanson, R.P.C. The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God: The Arian

Controversy 318-381. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005.

14https://www.britannica.com/topic/Arianism

15Cairns, Earle E. Christianity Through the Centuries (Rev. Ed.). Grand Rapids,

Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House Copyright, 1967, 1996.

16Lohse, Bernard. A Short History of Christian Doctrine (Translated by F. Ernest       Steoffler). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

17Pedro C. Sevilla, S.J. Ang Kabanalbanalang Isangtatlo: Ang Dios ng mga   Kristiano. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila University, 1988.

18http://www.historychannel.com.au/articles/the-first-council-of-nicaea/

19Cairnes, Earl E. Christianity Through the Centuries (Rev. Ed.). Grand Rapids,

Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House Copyright, 1967, 1996.

20Johnson, Paul. A History of Christianity. New York: Touchstone, 1976.

21Lohse, Bernard. A Short History of Christian Doctrine (Translated by F. Ernest       Steoffler). Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1966.

22Lehmann, Johannes. The Jesus Establishment (Translated by Martin Ebon).

Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1974.

23Dowley, Dr. Tom (ed.) et al. Eerdmans’ Handbook to the History of

      Christianity. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977

24https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nicene_Creed#The_original_Nicene_Creed_of_325

25Crock, Clement H. Discourses on the Apostles’ Creed. New York: Joseph F.

Wagner, 1938.

26Wilkins, Ronald J. The Emerging Church. Dubuque, Iowa: Wm. C. Brown

Company Publishers, 1975.

27http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/council-of-nicaea-concludes

Jacob wrestles with an angel

DO YOU KNOW WHY JACOB, son of Isaac, was later renamed “Israel”? Find out by reading this story from the Bible.

 

  That same night Jacob got up … Then a man cam and wrestled with him until just before aybreak. When the man saw that he was not willing the struggle, he hit Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. The man said,

“Let me go; daylight is coming.”

“I won’t unless you bless me, Jacob answered.

“What is your name?” the man asked.

“Jacob,” he answered.

The man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob. You have struggled with God and with men, and you have won; so your name will be Israel.”

Jacob said, “Now tell me your name.”

But he answered, “Why do you want to know my name?” Then he blessed Jacob.

Jacob said, “I have seen God face-to-face, and I am still alive”; so he named the place Peniel. The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. Even today the descendants of Israel deo not eat the muscle which is on the hip joint, because it was on this muscle that Jacob was hit. (Excerpted from Genesis 32:22, 24-32, Today’s English Version)

 

   This account on Jacob’s life illustrates what true servants of God are willing o do to attain His promised blessings. Church of Christ members are exhorted to “earnestly desire the greater gifts” (I Cor. 12:31), among which are the duties and obligations in the Church (Rom. 12:6-7). This, even if they have dangers and endure pain and suffering, the faithful church officers willingly make the sacrifices to fulfill their duties to God. For, it is their faith that nothing they do for the work of the Lord will ever become useless but will result in their receiving the great reward. (I Cor. 15:58; Phil 3:14)

A dad who makes a difference

A father has to work hard to provide his family with all the things they need to survive and, hopefully, thrive in this harsh world. It is tough being a father; a father must always make sure that everyone at home has enough food to eat and clothes to wear, and provides his wife and children with a decent and stable home. He also has to insure that all his children get the best education they can to help them have a bright and prosperous future. A good father does more than those things.

A good dad provides for the spiritual needs

Though it is important to make sure that our children have all the material things they need in this life to live comfortably, we should realize that is not the only thing that should concern us. As fathers, we have an even greater responsibility to them, and that is to help make sure their spiritual needs are provided for; that they are taught the true religion. That is not a personal opinion; that is what the Holy Scriptures teaches:

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger [do not exasperate them to the point of resentment with demands that are trivial or unreasonable or humiliating or abusive; nor by showing favoritism or indifference to any of them], but bring them up [tenderly, with loving kindness] in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” (Eph. 6:4 Amplified 2015)

The apostles advise the fathers inside the true Church Of Christ that they are to bring up or raise their children in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. As fathers, we are not to let our children  grow up without any meaningful parental guidance or instruction. Though there are plenty of books and videos out there on the subject of raising kids, what we should take and hold on to as the ultimate guide or final authority in raising our children are the teachings and instructions of the Lord God, recorded in the Holy Scriptures (III Tim. 3:15-17). If ever the advice offered in a parenting book, video, or online post contradicts the sound or solid advice in the Holy Scriptures, we should choose to—without any hesitation or mental reservation whatsoever—follow and implement what the Scriptures say, for that is surely the right thing to do. A father will not go wrong if he sticks to or does what the Bible says is right.

       We should teach our children the laws of God, as fathers, not only once in a while or when the mood strikes us. We should do this consistently or on a regular basis, at all opportune times:

      “You and your descendants must respect the LORD your God as long as you live. You must obey all His laws and commands that I give you today. Be sure to teach them to your children. Talk about these commands when you sit in your house and when you walk on the road. Talk about them when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:2, 6-7, Easy-To-Read Version)

We should realize, however, that our duty as fathers or parents is not done by simply telling our children what to do or by teaching them God’s will. We should be considerate and understanding with our children, and help them to know and understand the will of God. Be a patient and gentle teacher (II Tim. 2:24-25; I Thess. 2:11-12). We should also supervise or monitor their activities to make sure they are living the right way, that they are upholding a way of life that is consistent with the gospel of God.

Parents are to supervise the activities of the members of their family. We should ask ourselves: Are we doing this? Are we aware who their friends are and the people they hang out with? Is everyone living a lifestyle that conforms to God’s will or teachings? If not, what actions do we take to help them back on the right track? Parental instruction and supervision is vital for the happiness of the family within God’s nation. As dads, we must make sure that such instruction and supervision is done.

 

A good dad upholds biblical principles

The kind of leadership that, we fathers, provide within our home should be one that is firmly based on sound principles. The principles we uphold are a reflection of the things that matter most to us. For members of the Church Of Christ, the nation of God in the Christian era, a principle that they uphold and instill in their children is that—they will serve God. This is what God’s servant, Joshua, a family man himself, declared:

“But if you don’t want to worship the LORD, then choose right now! Will you worship the same idols your ancestors did? Or since you’re living on land that once belonged to the Amorites, maybe you’ll worship their gods. I won’t. My family and I are going to worship and obey the LORD!” (Joshua 24:15, Contemporary English Version)

Joshua said these words when he, as the leader of God’s people, challenged the Israelites to make up their minds about whom they were going to serve: the false gods that others had served before them, or the true God? For this father, his mind was already made up. He led his family in deciding to stand on God’s side and serve only Him. He declared with conviction, “My family and I are going to worship and obey the LORD!” That principle is what we, as fathers of the Church Of Christ, want to uphold in our life, no matter how turbulent at times life may be; we are ready and willing to lead our wife and children in serving the one true God forever, even if it involves making sacrifices on our part.

To help encourage and convince our family to stand with us in upholding that principle, we should be willing to take the time to relate to them the wonderful things that God has done for us, our family, and the entire nation of God. This was instructed to parents in God’s nation before:

“You must be very careful not to forget the things you have seen God do for you. Keep reminding yourselves, and tell your children and grandchildren as well. …And what makes us greater than other nations? We have God who is close to us and answers our prayers.” (Deut. 4:9, 7, Ibid.)

That is why it is important that we remember the good things that God has done. We are not only talking about the incredible things that God did for His ancient people; we are also talking about the amazing things that He has done for His people today. How greatly has God blessed the Church Of Christ and made it successful in all its endeavors since its establishment in 1914, more than 102 years ago? How wonderfully has He cared for us, the members? This shows how God has been so close to His people. When our children understand this, when they have this firmly embedded in their hearts and minds, it will produce in them an eagerness and enthusiasm to take their stand in the side of serving the one true God. This is what we want to see happen, as good fathers.

It is not enough, though, that our children just know about the one true God. To show that we have taken our stand to serve God we should be filled with determination to lead our wife and children to attend worship services to honor and praise Him for all His goodness.

“The Lord will choose a single place where He is to be worshiped, and there you must bring to Him everything that I have commanded: your sacrifices that are to be burned and your other sacrifices, your tithes and your offerings, and those special gifts that you have promised to the LORD. Be joyful there in His presence, together with your children …” (Deut. 12:11-12, Good News Translation)

Good dads in the Church Of Christ always make sure that all the members of their households are fully dedicated to attending the congregational worship service. They see to it that no matter how busy life gets, everyone in the family regularly attends the worship service, to give glory to the Lord God.

 

A good dad defends his wife and children

A good dad is a protector of his family; he does everything he can to keep them safe. For example, he is ready to defend them from bad people who want to hurt or take advantage of them. But, most of all, he will defend his wife and children from anything that could call them to be turned away from God. This is what the Bible says:

“Make sure that no man, woman, family, or tribe standing here today turns from the LORD our God to worship the gods of other nations. This would be like the root that grows to be a bitter and poisonous plant.” (Deut. 29:18, Ibid.)

What causes people to be turned away or separated from God is sin (Isa. 59:2). So, we want to make sure that no one in our family is doing anything that is sinful in the watchful eyes of the Lord God. We want to help our children cultivate in themselves the ability to refuse (or say no) to do anything evil when people, like friends, try to get them to do it. Solomon, a king and a father himself, told his own child:

“My son, should your less honorable peers pressure you to do what is wrong, you should be strong enough not to go along.” (Prov. 1:10, The Voice)

We want to see our children grow and learn to be able to stand on their own feet. We want them to succeed in getting a good education and a gainful job or career that can provide for their needs and their future families. But, most of all, we want them to be spiritually strong as members of the Church Of Christ. But that will happen only when the true word of God, has found a home in them or lives in them. This is what Apostle John wrote:

“I write to you, young people, because you are strong; the word of God lives in you, and you have defeated the Evil One. Do not love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you do not love the Father. Everything that belongs to the world—what the sinful self desires, what people see and want, and everything in this world that people are so proud of—none of this comes from the Father; it all comes from the world.” (I John 2:14-16, GNT)

 

A good dad and his family will be blessed

As good fathers who diligently and patiently teach the true religion to our household, who lead our wife and children to live a life of obedience and loyalty to the Lord God, we will see Him bless our entire household. We will enjoy happiness and blessings from God even in this life:

“Happy are those who obey the LORD, who live by His commands. Your work will provide for your needs; you will be happy and prosperous. Your wife will be like a fruitful vine in your home, and your children will be like young olive trees around your table. A man who obeys the LORD will surely be blessed like this.” (Ps. 128:1-4, Ibid.)

But that is not all. For the ultimate happiness or blessing that awaits a family that has been taught the true religion—where the father has done his duty to make sure his family has learned and abides by the true word of God—is the reward of salvation and everlasting life in the Holy City (Rev. 21:1-4, 14).

If we and our whole family have served God loyally all the days of our lives and, thus, make it to the Holy City, then what more can we say? As imperfect and flawed as we are as men, we have done our job as a father and could ask for nothing more. So, let us be the father that God wants us to be.


By JOHNNY J. MARTIN