"There Is Nothing In A Name"

by Tom Wacaster

It is quite interesting to listen to the feeble attempts of men to justify those things for which men have no authority. It would seem that once a person has decided to embark upon a certain course, that reason is thrown to the wind, and common sense is ignored. The title of this week’s column demonstrates this very fact.

Some years ago Johnnie Ann and I were making multiple trips to Ukraine to establish and strengthen the Lord’s church in Poltava. We were only allowed to remain in the country for 90 days, so we would do what we could during that time, return home, and reapply for a visa and get back to Poltava as quickly as possible. That was period of great interest regarding matters pertaining to religion in that country, and it provided a unique opportunity to preach and teach the truth with the full expectation that our labor would yield visible fruit for the Lord. But you don’t have to go to Ukraine to hear this oft-stated and ill-advised excuse for failing to abide by God’s divine authority when it comes to the name we are to wear as God’s children, or the terms that we are to use to refer to the church. It just so happens that an incident on one of our mission trips provided an opportunity to demonstrate the foolishness of those who might attempt to claim, “There is nothing in a name.” It was a great occasion to “answer a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 26:5).

His name of Sergei. He had been converted to the Lord prior to our having met  him on our first trip to Poltava. He served as our contact/sponsor/interpreter on each of those mission trips. On occasion he would meet us at the airport in Kiev and escort us to Poltava. He was diligent, good at what he did, and he was wise beyond his years. I cannot remember the details at how the meeting came about, but Sergei introduced us to two missionaries from Australia who were members of the Church of The Brethren. They showed some interest in our work and wanted to discuss some matters in private. I agreed to meet with them. “George” and “John” were their names. Both spoke good English with the typical Australian accent, which made for pleasant conversation. It also eliminated the need for Sergei to interpret, breaking him lose to work on the Ukrainian preacher that had come with these men. Upon our meeting, “John” suggested that we combine our efforts in order to make a greater impact for the cause of Christ. I simply told him that we could not extend fellowship to those who demonstrated a disrespect for the authority of Christ. I told him there were too many doctrinal issues that separated us and any attempt at cooperation between the two of us could only produce difficulty, not to mention that fellowship with error would render us partaker in their false doctrines (2 John 10-11). “Such as?” came his reply. I immediately focused on the names they wore. “How can we even begin to discuss unity when we can’t even agree on the names and terms that we use? Where, for example is the term “Church of the Brethren” mentioned in the Bible?” His response was so typical of those who cannot see beyond their proverbial noses when it comes to such matters: “There is nothing in a name!” This is where the conversation became somewhat humorous. I responded to John, “George, there IS something in a name!” He quickly responded, “I’m John; he’s George.” I continued, “Ok George, whatever; let’s continue.” Again he responded, “No, I’m John, he’s George!” I continued, “George, turn with me to Colossians 3:17.” I was abruptly interrupted, “Look, I’m John, NOT George!” I could hear the frustration in his voice; he must of thought by now he was talking to some dunce, unable to remember even the simplest of matters such as the name of person. I then made my point: “John, I thought you said there was nothing in a name! If you are so intent on my calling you by your proper name, how do you think Christ feels about you calling the church by the wrong name?” The point was made, the conversation concluded, the study ended, and we went our separate way. I don’t think he ever got the point I was trying to make.

Names ARE important, and there IS something in a name.  If you doubt that for a minute, why not try cashing a check made out to someone other than your self.  How much success do you suppose you would have borrowing money from a bank if you refused to sign with your legal name? Why, then, do we assume that when it comes to religion we can attach any name we select to identify the church of our Lord? It is His church (Matthew 16:16-18), He paid the price (Acts 20:28), and it is His followers, and only His followers, that will be saved (Eph. 5:23). We are told that there is “none other name under heaven, that is given among men, wherein we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). The Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all truth (John 16:13), and the only terms used to designate the church all include a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ in one fashion or the other. “The church of God” (1 Cor. 1:2), “the church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), “the churches of Christ” (Rom. 16:16); these are terms the Holy Spirit used to designate the church for which Jesus shed His blood. Where in God’s word do we read of the “Church of the Brethren,” the “Baptist Church,” “Pentecostal Church,” “Seventh Day Adventist Church,” “Harvest Tabernacle Church,” or “Cowboy Church,” to name just a few.

The God given name for His people, as well as that soul saving institution, the church, is extremely important. The Bible tells us that the disciples were called “Christians” first in Antioch (Acts 11:26). Why can we not be satisfied with the name provided by the Holy Spirit, and glorify God in THAT name (1 Pet. 4:16)?   Would to God that names devised by human beings forever cease, and His name be glorified.

Let us wear the name of Christ only. If you have heard that there is nothing in a name, don’t you believe it for a second. Hold fast to God’s word, and make sure you have divine authority for all that you do in matters pertaining to religion (Col. 3:17). Look again at 1 Peter 4:16 and tell me, “There’s Nothing In A Name”! 

Those Noble Beroeans

By Tom Wacaster

Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

There is a great deal of difference between reading and studying. Superficial reading of God’s word will never produce the kind of spiritual maturity demanded of God’s children.  We are to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). We must make our “calling and election sure”  (2 Pet. 1:10). Hence the admonition that we “give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). The KJV reads, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” As important as reading is, none of us will ever be able to reach our full spiritual potential without regular and consistent study of God’s word; the kind of study that characterized those noble Beroeans.  Consider the word ‘noble.’ The original word literally means more noble by birth, descended from illustrious ancestors. Our English word ‘noble’ is defined by Webster as: “having, showing personal quality that people admire (such as honesty, generosity, courage, etc.; of, relating to, or belonging to the highest social class” (Webster, OnLine). Heaven paid a great tribute to those men and women who lived in Beroea and who were of the mind to search and study God’s word. True nobility is not captured in one’s material possessions, or his earthly pedigree. The essence of true nobility is captured in Luke’s description of these Beroeans. Please note the following things said about these “noble” citizens of Beroea.

First, Luke tells us they “received the word.” There was a willingness on their part to listen to what Paul had to say. Their heart was opened; they were eager to listen and learn. Evidently the vast majority of those living in Thessalonica did not possess this same kind of willingness and they were the worse for it. The very fact that the Beroeans received the word places them in a unique class of human beings, for few and far between are those who are ready to receive the word into their hearts. The lure of materialism has dulled their spiritual senses, the sound of the world has deafened their spiritual ears, and the riches of the world has deadened their spiritual taste buds. There is no room in their hearts for the word of God. Sadly, the great majority will go to their graves without so much as a hint of nobility in their spiritual veins.

Second, Luke tells us they received the word “with all readiness of mind.” Wayne Jackson noted regarding this passage that our English “reflects only one word in the original, prothumia (pro— ‘forward,’ and thumos— ‘mind’). The word beautifully pictures a sort of stretching the mind forward in keen anticipation” (Christian Courier, August 1998, page 4). I frequently come across the same kind of eagerness to study God’s word when I go to India and preach the gospel. In 2006 I had the opportunity to preach in a small village that would, in less than five months, be completely destroyed by a tsunami that would strike the east coast of India. Brother Gootam and I were invited to speak at a denominational church. There were about 40 in attendance. The preacher took a seat on the front row, and as I began to unfold God’s design for the church and the plan of salvation, this man’s eyes grew ever wider. He would nudge his chair closer and closer to where I was standing until he was almost at my feet. He was drinking in every word, not to criticize, but to learn; and learn he did. He and slightly more than a dozen precious souls who manifested the same “readiness of mind” were obedient to the gospel that very night. Where is that same eagerness in our beloved homeland? Where are the souls that would rise to the status of nobility as described by the inspired word? To ask is to answer.

Third, pick up on this word “all.” They received the word with “all readiness of mind.” There was no divided allegiance. Spiritual nobility calls for all or nothing. God is not satisfied with those who are not willing to give all in obedience to Him. “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other” (Matt. 6:24). Until a man is willing to lay all at the Master’s feet, nobility will escape him.

Fourth, the Beroeans went about “examining the scriptures daily.” The original Greek word translated “examining” is a present participle, the meaning of which is an intense and persistent searching of the scriptures. The Greek word ‘anakrino’ suggests a careful scrutiny of what they were reading. If modern day ‘theologians’ would follow the example of the Beroeans it would go a long way to dismantling the present division and confusion in Christendom.

Finally, Luke tells us that they searched the scriptures with the precise goal of determining “whether these things were so.” It is implied that they were looking for the truth. It is also implied that if what they were hearing from Paul was not in accord with scripture, then they would reject it. These Beroeans evidently loved truth, something lacking on the part of so many who will face the wrath of God in the judgment day (2 Thess. 2:10). I would suggest to you that it is because of their the love for the truth that the Beroeans “received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were true.” Every child of God knows that truth will ultimately prevail. The time may be upon us, as in the days of Isaiah, that “justice is turned away backward, and righteousness standeth afar off; for truth is fallen in the street, and uprightness cannot enter” (Isa. 59:14), but be assured, truth never dies. As one poet put it:

As firm and patient as Gibraltar stands,
So truth, unwearied, waits the era blest,
When men shall turn to it with eager eyes,
Truth never dies!

May we, like the noble Beroeans, cling to the truth, being ready always to receive the “word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, weather these things were so.”  Only then can it be said that we are noble in the truest sense of the word.

Rules For Happy Living

by Tom Wacaster

Through the years I have come across, and collected, a number of excellent articles addressing rules for happy and successful living. The one thing that strikes me about each and every one of these is the fact that they were written by men and women who have been through the fire and have come out on the other side proven and steadfast. Most of them are written by brethren, or by those professing a faith in God.  I thought it might be profitable to share with our readers some of the best of these observations from godly men of the past. 

“Every day I try to greet every person I see with a smile and make personal effort to do so if the person is poor or in unfortunate circumstances.” “I try to close each day as if it were the last day I would be on earth, closing the book on all regrets, worries, and annoyances” (George Dehoff).
“Live One Day At A Time - Regardless of what Satan may throw at you, it can be handled ‘one day at a time.’ You can control and conquer if you will take on the obstacles a day at a time.”  “Be a Giver and Not A Getter - Often if you fail to get out of life what you want, it is because you are expecting to GET instead of GIVE” (Paul Sain).

“A man ought to be grateful for all the people who have molded and shaped his character.” “When a man has done all that he can do, he must leave the result with God.” “The only thing that matters at the end of your ministry is the number of people who will pass through the portals of glory.” “Optimism and hope are never out of date.” “There is no better way to end a book, or a life for that matter, than the way Nehemiah did: ‘Remember me, O my God, for good’” (Paul Rogers).
“Live A Simple Life: Be temperate in your habits. Avoid self-seeking and selfishness. Make simplicity the keynote of your daily plans. Simple things are best.” “Spend Less Than You Earn: This may be difficult but it pays big dividends. Keep out of debt. Cultivate frugality, prudence and self-denial. Avoid extravagance.” “Live In A Daylight Compartment: This means living one day at a time. Concentrate on your immediate task. Make the most of today for it is all you have” (Levi Sides).
The following appeared in the Millennial Harbinger, but the author was not given: “The day of my life being far spent, I will consider time as most precious, and improve it as much as possible, without willfully wasting one half hour.” “I will forgive all wrongs that men have ever done to me, and endeavor to remember always how much more the Lord has forgiven me.” “I will endeavor to be more independent of the influence of external circumstances and relations - to remember that I am on a pilgrimage - that joy and sorrow arising from circumstances will soon be over. I will thus be thankful for all that gives me joy, and patiently endure what causeth grief.”
To these, let me add some of my own:

The Bible will always be your companion.  Any day that you fail to read and study at least a portion of that Holy Book, is a day in which you have not reached your full potential.

Pray every day.  Say something to God.  He will listen.

Make Christ the center of your life.  Put Him before anything and everything you might need to do this day.

Seek to have the mind of Christ. A life of service is the kind of life that our Lord lived, and it is the only life that will bring happiness and joy in the here and now, as well as in eternity.

Begin each day with meditation on things spiritual. The more we think on things eternal, the less time we will have to worry about the temporal.

Finally, trust in God and His providential care for His children. All things will work out for the good. From our perspective we may not understand the how, but we can know for certain the final outcome.

Some Gleanings From My Daily Bible Study In The Old Testament

By Tom Wacaster

At the beginning of this year I set a self-imposed goal of reading through as many Old Testament commentaries as I could with the limited time frame in which I had to work. So far I have managed to read a commentary on Genesis, Joshua, Judges, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Psalms chapters 1-22. I am presently studying the Schertz commentary on Jeremiah. The study of each of these Old Testament books has been enriching and rewarding and reminds me of the awesome responsibility I have as a child of God. There are some great lessons to be learned from a serious study of the Old Testament in general and the prophets in particular. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). Consider the following:

There is a beautiful harmony in God’s word. This is one of the evidences of the inspiration of the Bible. Take, as an example, the five major prophets. The major prophets are not major because they are more important than the minor prophets. We call them the major prophets for the simple reason that they contain more material. Each of the five prophets had a distinct purpose, but when taken as a whole, there is a harmony and unity that surpasses the ability of mere men to write such words. Rob Whitacre noted:

Isaiah is the prophet of “repentance” because Hezekiah received his message and was moved through godly sorrow to lead the nation back to God. Jeremiah is the prophet of “rejection” because his message was rejected, and Israel was given over to God’s chosen instrument of judgment, Nebuchadnezzar and the nation of Babylon. Lamentations is the book of “remorse” because Jeremiah weeps as he watches the blessed city of Jerusalem devastated by Babylon. Ezekiel is the prophet of  restraint” as his message comes from a distant land where he and the Jews were restrained by their captors for seventy years. Daniel is the prophet of “ruling” as he is sent to the kings of Babylon and Persia to remind them, “…the most high God ruled in the kingdom of men, and that he appointeth over it whosoever he will” (Dan. 5:21). 

Next, consider the courage and conviction of the prophets. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos—to name just a few—all proclaimed the word of God without fear or favor of men. They were persecuted, slandered, reviled, and ridiculed, and yet they continued to call Israel and Judah to repentance. If preachers today preached as did the prophets of old the nation would not be in the pitiful shape it is in at the present.

Next, a careful study of the prophets also helps me see sin for what it is. Take Jeremiah for example. Judah needed to be made aware of her sin. Jeremiah chapter three has been considered my many as one of the most straightforward descriptions of Judah’s sin in the entire prophecy. Listen to Jeremiah’s words: “Let us lie down in our shame, and let our confusion cover us; for we have sinned against Jehovah our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah our God” (3:25).  Isaiah’s description of the sins of Israel is a vivid reminder of the seriousness of sin: “Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evil-doers, children that deal corruptly! they have forsaken Jehovah, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are estranged and gone backward. Why will ye be still stricken, that ye revolt more and more? the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and fresh stripes: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with oil” (Isa. 1:4-6). The lesson to be learned is this: Sin cannot be minimized, rationalized, or idolized if we are be effective in bringing this nation back to its former moorings. I see nothing coming out of Washington that even suggests that our leaders have begun to recognize the real problems in this country.

Finally, a study of the prophets reminds me of the wonderful love and longsuffering of God. In spite of the fact that Israel repeatedly shunned God’s offer for forgiveness, our Father in heaven kept calling Israel with a promise of pardon and restoration if they would but respond.