Wisdom Wins

by Tom Wacaster

My journey through Proverbs is yielding an abundant harvest of rich, spiritual fruit to nourish the soul. I never grow weary of the praise that Solomon lavishes upon wisdom. Here is just one example: “A wise man scaleth the city of the mighty, And bringeth down the strength of the confidence thereof” (Pro. 21:22). Listen to another of Solomon’s bits of wisdom along that same line:

I have also seen wisdom under the sun on this wise, and it seemed great unto me: There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it. Now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city; yet no man remembered that same poor man. Then said I, Wisdom is better than strength: nevertheless the poor man's wisdom is despised, and his words are not heard. The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the cry of him that ruleth among fools. Wisdom is better than weapons of war; but one sinner destroyeth much good” (Ecc. 9:13-18).

In this age where violence seems to dominate Hollywood and where nations seem to be increasingly at odds with one another, perhaps it is time for humanity to take a little advice from Solomon. History is filled with examples of great leaders who gained the upper ground over their enemies, not by force, but through wise negotiations. Let me share one such incident that illustrates the point I think Solomon was making in the two passages noted above.

Plutarch tells of an encounter between Taxiles and Alexander the Great. With a mighty army Alexander came into India. So powerful was Alexander’s army that he could cause the earth to literally shake beneath his feet. Taxiles was a prince whose territory was as large as Egypt and which contained good pasturage of fertile and arable land. Taxiles had a great army, perhaps as great and powerful as any Alexander had ever faced. Taxiles and his army presented a formidable foe for the Grecian conqueror. But Taxiles was a wise ruler, and after he greeted Alexander, he asked him, “Why should we fight battles with one another? You have not come here to rob us of water or the necessities of life, and these are the only things for which sensible men are obligated to fight. As for other kinds of wealth and property so-called, if I possess more than you, I am ready to be generous towards you, and if I have less, I shall not refuse any benefits you may offer.” Alexander was so delighted at this that he took the hand of Taxiles and said, “Perhaps you think that after your kind words and courtesy our meeting will pass off without a contest. No, you shall not get the better of me in this way. I shall fight with you to the last, but only in the services I offer you, for I will not have you outdo me in generosity.” Plutarch goes on to tell how Alexander received many gifts from Taxiles, but returned even more, and finally presented him with a thousand talents of coin.

Perhaps the same kind of wisdom can be used to avert personal problems that arise from time to time. Seldom do I read the Fort Worth Star Telegram that does not contain a report of some domestic squabble over what, seems to me, a rather insignificant matter. Some minor disagreement stirs up emotional feelings, physical violence takes precedence over calm deliberation, and angry words all too often lead to spousal abuse. The cycle is endless, the beat goes on, and wisdom fails to get a decent hearing.

Solomon’s words are also applicable to churches, are they not? If a little earthly wisdom demonstrated by the wise counsel of Taxiles to Alexander could avert a war, how much more the wisdom that comes from above as it is applied to brotherly disputes. Paul spoke of our weapons and the warfare we are to fight as God’s people: “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but mighty before God to the casting down of strongholds), casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ; and being in readiness to avenge all disobedience, when your obedience shall be made full” (2 Cor. 10:3-6). It is only with the wisdom that comes from above that we can ever hope to successfully engage our spiritual enemy. I wonder how many church splits could have been avoided if brethren had only used the wisdom that comes from above to address the problems of the moment.

Some years ago I was privileged to travel with an older brother in Christ to various brotherhood activities. I was living in Oklahoma at the time, and each year he and I would make the eight hour drive to Henderson, Tennessee to attend the Freed-Hardeman Lectures. I was much younger then, and he in his early years of retirement. He reminded me of Colonel Sanders with his mustache and beard, though he was much thinner than the Colonel. Those long drives provided us opportunity visit and share stores with one another. I like to think that some of what he shared with me of life’s experiences helped me mature and grow in Christ. He told me the following story that demonstrates the truth of Solomon’s wisdom. His father had served as an elder of the Lord’s church in the community where he grew up. One of the “issues” facing the church at that time was the one-cup issue. There were strong feelings on both sides. Congregations were being troubled by those opposing the use of multiple cups, leading to splits in some of the churches. This brother told me  how his father, and the other elders handled the situation, thereby defusing what could have very well split the congregation. A sister in the congregation had a communicable disease [tuberculosis, if I remember correctly], but was desirous to attend the services. The congregation actually used two cups, and it was advised that they provide a third, smaller cup for this sister to use so as to avoid any spreading of the disease. This seemed to be acceptable to the contentious party, and so a third cup was added. It was also suggested that a fourth cup be added for any brethren who might even suspect they had some like disease, so as to use all precaution against further causing illness among the brethren. It was agreed, and for several months the congregation used four cups at the Lord’s table. Eventually one of the leaders of that little element that fought tooth-and-nail against the use of multiple cups approached the elders and conceded that their opposition to multiple containers was rather short sighted. The congregation remained at peace with one another, and when the time came to introduce the multiple cups into use at the Lord’s supper there was no voice of opposition.

Handley enjoys wonderful peace and harmony among its members. This provides a wonderful atmosphere for promoting the cause of Christ. May it ever be so. Let us never forget, as Solomon so eloquently pointed out, that wisdom wins every time!
Tom’s Pen: Occasionally I come across a bulletin article that is encouraging and which I consider worth passing along to others. This little story and its beautiful application, are lifted from the pen of Gary Summers:

In the July/August issue of Reader’s Digest (2015) appears the account of a woman, Jo Milne, hearing for the very first time at age 39. Jo was taking a chance in having a cochlear implant; if it didn't work, she would no longer experience even “fuzzy noise” that she depended on somewhat. To make matters worse, she was losing her eyesight and could well be soon without both seeing and hearing. Unfortunately, patients do not find out immediately if the surgery is a success; they must wait a month before the implants can be switched on. At the appropriate time, the audiobiologist smiled at Jo and said: “Caaaan… yoooooou….heeear….meeee?” These are the first words she ever heard, and she thought to herself, “This is what it feels like not to be deaf.” Words that she has read all of her life she now heard pronounced for the first time. It was a beautiful and emotional experience. Jo had relied on lip reading all her life, but now the sound of the words and their meanings were being blended together, providing her a whole new dimension. And what about us who experience both sight and sound? What will it feel like to enter the spiritual dimension of Paradise (if we die) or heaven (if the Lord returns first)? Are we in some measure only hearing now as if we were under water? Are we seeing only dimly, as if looking at a dark glass? Are we failing to discern between spiritual realities and material illusions? When the earth is burned up and the universe is melting with fervent heat (2 Pet. 3:10-13), then what will be genuine and what will be the shadow? How can we compare earthly life with the glory that lies ahead? Will we say to ourselves, “So this is what it feels like to be truly and forever alive”? We will all enter a new dimension when we see heaven for the first time.

"This Is My Blood Of The New Covenant"

by Tom Wacaster

Every first day of the week we partake of what is scripturally referred to as “the Lord’s supper” (1 Cor. 11:20).  One the elements in that “supper” is the fruit of the vine, representative of the precious blood of Jesus Christ that was shed in our behalf. Here at Handley it is a custom to read a passage before partaking of each of those elements in the Lord’s supper. Two of those passage frequently read prior to our partaking of the fruit of the vine are located in Matthew and Luke: “And he took a cup, and gave thanks, and gave to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto remission of sins” (Matt. 26:27-28). “And the cup in like manner after supper, saying, This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). I want us to think for a moment about that element (the fruit of the vine) and what it represents. In so doing I am not discounting the importance of the bread as it represents the body of our Lord, for both elements are important, and together they give us a greater appreciation for the wonderful love of the Father in sending His Son, and the amazing love that Jesus has for each of us in His willingness to die on the cross.

After Jesus had died, one of the soldiers pierced the side of Jesus to make sure He was dead. John tells us that “straightway there came out blood and water” (John 19:34). It may be this particular moment to which John referred when he wrote those intriguing words in 1 John 5:8: “For there are three who bear witness, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and the three agree in one.” That death of Jesus, along with His burial and glorious resurrection has borne witness throughout the ages of the deity of our Lord. For those willing to accept the evidence and the testimony of the four inspired accounts of the life of Jesus, that blood holds out the prospect of forgiveness of sins and the hope of eternal life. Truly the blood of Jesus bears witness upon this earth to the authenticity of the Christian faith. But the blood also bears witness in heaven for those who have embraced the teachings of Jesus and obeyed His will. Consider the following from Hebrews 9:11-14 and 24: “But Christ having come a high priest of the good things to come, through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation, nor yet through the blood of goats and calves, but through his own blood, entered in once for all into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling them that have been defiled, sanctify unto the cleanness of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish unto God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?...For Christ entered not into a holy place made with hands, like in pattern to the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear before the face of God for us.” It is here that the blood takes on its greatest wonder and deepest meaning. With the eye of faith we see the blood of Jesus as it flowed from His pierced hands, feet, side and head; but God, in His eternal mind, sees the blood of Jesus as the procuring agent that satisfies the divine wrath and offers the cleaning of sins for those who are willing to partake thereof. That precious blood of Jesus is before the throne right now, even as you read these lines. It will be there tomorrow, next week, next month, next year, as long as this world stands. It is the only means by which a man can receive forgiveness of his sins, and have the burden of guilt lifted from his soul. How, then, is that accomplished? How is it possible for my soul to come into contact with the blood of Jesus? Even if I could somehow go back to the cross and catch the blood of Jesus in a cup as it fell from His body, it would not, and could not touch my soul. Let me suggest the following means for getting my soul in contact with the blood of Jesus.

First, I must get into the body of Jesus. The only way you can contact my blood is to either pierce my flesh, or somehow enter into my body. So it is with the blood of Jesus. It was at His death that Jesus shed His blood. In order to contact that blood I must come into contact with His death and/or get into His body. Listen to the words of Paul regarding this matter: “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:3-4). The same apostle wrote these words: “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13a). If theologians would take off their biased glasses of denominational dogma for just a moment and look at what the Holy Spirit is saying through this inspired apostles the question of the essentiality of baptism would never be an issue again. If you want to get where the blood of Jesus is located, you must be baptized “into His death” where He shed that blood, and “into [His] one body” where His blood is located. There is no other way.

Once inside the spiritual body of Christ we must remain in contact with His blood, remaining faithful until, i.e. even in the face of death (Rev. 2:10). While the saving power of Jesus’ life comes through the merits of His death, it is still important that each one who desires eternal life partake of that body and blood: “He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood hath eternal life: and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh and drinketh my blood abideth in me, and I in him” (John 6:54-56). Some mistakenly believe that Jesus was speaking about partaking of the Lord’s supper here. If they would finish the chapter they will see this is not the case: “It is the spirit that giveth life; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I have spoken unto you are spirit, and are life” (John 6:63). We “eat” the flesh of Jesus, and “drink” His blood when we abide in His word. To drink of the blood is to take into our heart the life giving power of the cross, and then to live it out in our daily life. Obedient faith is the means by which this happens. The words of Jesus are to the soul what eating and drinking is to the physical body.

In 1893 a great “Parliament of Religions” was held in Chicago, Illinois. Members of all the various cults were gathered in attendance: there were Hindus, and Buddhists, and representatives of all sorts of exotic Eastern religions. It was designed to be a great festival of tolerance and ecumenical brotherhood; but a preacher, Joseph Cook of Boston, offered a reminder that not all religions are equal. During one of the sessions he rose and dramatically announced, “Gentlemen, I beg to introduce to you a woman with a great sorrow. Bloodstains are on her hands, and nothing she has tried will remove them. The blood is that of murder. She has been driven to desperation in her distress. Is there anything in your religion that will remove her sin and give her peace?” A hush fell on the gathering. Not one of the swamis or monks said a word. In the heaviness of that silence Cook abruptly raised his eyes heavenward and cried out, “John, can you tell this woman how to get rid of her awful sin?” The preacher waited, as if listening for a reply. Suddenly he cried out, “Listen, John speaks. 1 John 1:7 - ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, purifies us from all sin.’” Not a soul broke the silence that followed; all the representatives of Eastern religions and Western cults sat speechless. Why? Because ONLY Christianity can make that statement: only the shed blood of Jesus can claim the power to forgive “all sin.”

Next time you partake of the fruit of the vine, let your mind drift back to the blood of Jesus that was shed on the cross, and remind yourself that His blood, and only His blood, can cleanse your sins; and then rejoice in knowing it has been applied to your soul!

Fellowship With God

by Tom Wacaster

The author of 1 John is none other than the apostle John, the son of Zebedee. Although the author does not identify himself, the style of the writing, along with certain phrases and words that appear in the epistle, indicate that it was written by the same man who penned the gospel of John. I get the impression when I read John’s first general epistle that several years had passed since his sojourn with Christ. He is now an old man, and he writes to his “little children” words of encouragement, exhortation, and edification. Whether or not this epistle was written prior to his vision on Patmos, or afterwards, has been a bone of contention among theologians and scholars for as long as I have been preaching. From the tone of the letter it is evident that he was writing from his heart, to the heart of those who would read the epistle. An unknown author penned these words: “He breathes the truth who breathes in pain; the last words of dying men, are never spent in vain.” I think I could write a year’s worth of bulletin articles from the words of John in this epistle alone; but I will refrain from staring down that road, at least for now. The first chapter of this epistle contains some of the most concise material on fellowship with God that we find anywhere in the Bible. It is a rich depository of spiritual wealth wherein John sets forth the basis for fellowship, the conditions of fellowship, and the blessings of fellowship. Consider these three points.

First, John sets forth the basis of fellowship. Modern day theologians seem to think that fellowship means nothing more than assembling together, working together, and agreeing to disagree on doctrinal matters. Such an attitude may produce fellowship among themselves, but it does not produce fellowship with the Father in heaven. Fellowship goes much deeper than that. The basis for fellowship is set forth in the very first verse of this epistle: “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). While the Gnostics claimed that Jesus was nothing more than some kind of spiritual apparition, John declares in his biography of Christ that Jesus was God (John 1:1-3) come in the flesh (John 1:14). In both his biography of Christ and this first epistle, John speak of Jesus as the Word (John 1:1, 1 John 1:1). He advances proof that Jesus was both divine and human. Our ability to grasp that dual nature of our Lord is limited, but we accept it by faith. Jesus was not a created being; how can a created being be divine and eternal? It cannot. The Jehovah’s Witnesses claim that since Jesus is the “Son of God,” then He was created, and they pervert a number of passages to support their false theory. Christ was the Son of God and Mary in His earthly existence only; not His eternal state. In order to be the “son” of someone it is imperative that the “son” be younger than the “father.” Therefore, Jesus could not have been the Son of God in the beginning because He was eternal with the Father, and of the same nature as the Father (John 1:1-2). The Father-Son relationship existed only in the fleshly state. Once men come to understand the deity of Jesus, they are in a better position to understand the basis of fellowship. It is the divine nature of our Lord that gives Him “all authority” (Matt. 28:18). Without that authority there is no basis for any of us to obtain and maintain fellowship with the Father. Remove the deity of Jesus and He becomes nothing more than a mere man, and a deceitful and dishonest man at that. Acknowledge our Lord’s deity and you immediately have a foundation upon which to establish fellowship with the Father and means for approaching the Holy One of Israel. Take Jesus out of the picture and there is nothing left to establish a connection with the Father.

Second, consider the condition of fellowship with God. The condition is examined first from a negative standpoint: “If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). It is not a physical light to which John refers, but one that is spiritual. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4). It is the gospel that brings “life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10), draws back the curtain on the horrible nature of sin, and teaches us the way that leads to heaven. If any man rejects the gospel he immediately places himself in a situation wherein fellowship with the Father is blocked. Why? Because “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). Fellowship is joint participation. If a man is walking in darkness it is impossible for God, Who does not dwell in darkness, to enter the spiritual realm wherein the lost sinner dwells. Any claim that you make with regard to your fellowship with the Father, while walking in darkness, is null and void. Even worse, it makes that person who so claims fellowship a liar, one who does not practice truth.

Having set forth the condition from a negative standpoint, John next sets forth the same condition from a positive standpoint: “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another” (1 John 7a). Imagine, if you will, a pathway that is illuminated by the light that shines from a lantern or flashlight. As one moves from the center of that part of the pathway illuminated by the light outward he will reach a point where he steps into darkness. Many years ago when I conducted a camp session for 4th-6th graders I would occasionally have the need to lead one of those campers to their cabin during the dark hours of the night. I would tell them, “Stay in the lighted pathway and you’ll be safe.” I cannot recall a single occasion where one of those children had a desire to get as close to the darkness as he could; they always, without exception, would walk right down the middle of the illuminated pathway. So it is with us, spiritually speaking. God’s word illuminates the way; it is the “lamp unto my feet, and light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). Why would anyone want to see how close he can get to the darkness while attempting to walk in the light? This, then, brings us quite naturally to our next point.

Third, John sets for numerable blessings associated with fellowship with God. One of these is fellowship with one another: “We have fellowship one with another” (1 John 1:7b). Second only to fellowship with the Father is the joy that comes from fellowship with like-minded Christians. I cannot imagine what life would be like if I did not have the fellowship with my fellow Christians. Another blessing of having fellowship with the Father is our access to the precious blood of Christ: “and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7c). Like an ever flowing fountain, the blood of Jesus Christ our Lord is available to those who are walking in the light, just for the asking. The guilt of sin need not burden our souls. Take careful note of John’s words here. He is telling me that when I walk in the light, the blood of Jesus cleanses me from my sin. It is possible (and in fact inevitable) that even the child of God who is walking in the light will occasionally sin. That sin does not immediately cast him out of fellowship with the Father. He does not “pop in and out” of fellowship, nor is his salvation ever in doubt, so long as he is walking in the light of God’s word. On numerous occasions I have heard gospel preachers illustrate the ever flowing blood of Jesus like unto the wipers on an automobile windshield that continuously wipes away our sin. That cleaning power stops only when we turn off the wipers, or in this case, when we cease to walk in the light of God’s word. I don’t know about you, but I find that extremely encouraging, especially when I have those moments in my life when I do not feel like I am living up to my full potential.

Further study from John’s first epistle will uncover rich nuggets of truth. Perhaps I will pursue more of these as the weeks go by.