Your word is a lamp to my feet
And a light to my path.
Volume 02, Number 38
church of Christ
1860 Mt. Baker HWY
P.O. Box 30821
Bellingham, WA 98228
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In this issue:
LEADERS MUST FORGIVE
Forgiveness is an important theme of our Lord's gospel. Jesus came to this
world to suffer and die to make forgiveness available to all mankind (Matt.
1:21). The forgiveness we receive from God is one of the richest blessings
we enjoy (Ps. 32:1; Eph. 1:7).
However, an important aspect of the gospel's
theme of forgiveness is our willingness to forgive others. In fact, the Lord
says our ability to receive forgiveness from God is contingent on our
willingness to forgive those who have sinned against us. "For if you forgive
men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you
do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses" (Matt. 6:14-15).
Who needs this reminder that forgiveness
from God is dependent on a willingness to forgive others? Of course, this
message is for the "rank and file" member of the Lord's church. The teaching
quoted above was preached to multitudes on the mountain (Matt. 5:1).
However, the Lord knew that His apostles
needed reminders of this teaching. On one occasion, Peter asked, "Lord, how
often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to seven
times?" (Matt. 18:21). The Lord responded with the Parable of the
Unforgiving Servant (vs. 22-35). In this well-known parable, the master
angrily delivered the unforgiving servant to the torturers until repayment
of his debt was made. The Lord concluded, "So My heavenly Father also will
do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his
trespasses" (v. 35).
Of course, each of us must heed our Lord's teaching and apply this important
lesson to ourselves. However, the "each of you" in the above verse were the
apostles! They were not exempt from this command. In fact, their position as
leaders in the Lord's church made this warning necessary.
Leaders must have patience and humility. Moses was a very meek and humble
man (Num. 12:3), yet he lost his patience with the Israelites and acted in a
way that cost him entrance into the Promised Land (20:1-13). If this can
happen to a man like Moses, it can happen to any of us.
Elders, deacons, and preachers must
sometimes deal with brethren who can make themselves unforgivable. The
temptation can be to wipe the dust of their ungrateful attitudes off our
offended egos, put up a wall, and decide they are not worthy of forgiveness.
In doing so, we make ourselves unforgivable before God.
Look carefully at the wording of our Lord's
instruction concerning forgiveness in Luke 17:3-4. "Take heed to yourselves.
If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive
him. And if he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times in a
day returns to you, saying, 'I repent,' you shall forgive him" (emphasis
mine - HR). The New American Standard Update reads, "Be on your guard!"
Wounded pride is one of Satan's most successful avenues of temptation. An
unforgiving spirit will grow like a cancer and rot us from the inside,
rendering us unfit for the Kingdom or God's forgiveness.
APOSTLES' PRAYER TO GOD
When the chief priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees
realized they could not punish Peter and John for healing a lame man and
preaching in the temple, they released them with a stern warning to cease
preaching “in the name” of Jesus (Acts 4:18-22). The apostles had already
told the council “we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and
heard” (Acts 4:20) and so they departed the council virtually at a
stalemate. The officials warned them to cease their preaching and they, in
response, told the council they would not.
Once freed from confinement, the apostles
returned to their own company and rehearsed to them what had happened during
the past two days. Their company, with one voice, prayed to God, first
acknowledging Him to be Creator of heaven and earth, then stating that the
conflict they had just experienced was prophesied by David one thousand
years earlier and was certainly an omen of what was to come. They perceived
what the Holy Spirit, through the mouth David, had warned regarding those
who sought to share God’s message with others. “Why did the Gentiles rage
and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves
in array, and the rulers were gathered together, against the Lord and
against his Anointed” (Acts 4:25-26; cp. Psalm 2:1-2). The company then
acknowledged, “For of a truth in this city against thy holy Servant Jesus
whom thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontus Pilate with the Gentiles and
the people of Israel were gathered together, to do whatsoever thy hand and
thy counsel foreordained should come to pass” (Acts 4:27f).
Having thus acknowledged that the Holy
Spirit’s warning was true (they had just experienced it), they then made
three requests of the Lord: “And now Lord, look upon their threatenings: and
grant unto thy servants to speak thy word with boldness, while thou
stretcheth forth thy hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be done
through the name of thy holy Servant, Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30).
The apostles certainly knew that because God
had made the heavens, earth, sea and all creatures of the earth, and that He
never sleeps (Psalm 121:4), He observes all things His creatures do. God
already was aware of what the apostles had just experienced. It was not that
He was to take knowledge of something He previously unaware of; He was asked
to take note and remember these men are His servants, seeking only to do
what He had previously commanded them. Furthermore, they were suffering the
consequences the rulers had thrust upon them because they had obeyed God. In
the course of our own lives we may experience adversities for doing God’s
will just as Peter and John. We will certainly want our God to know
(although He does) that we are trying to comply with what He wants us to do
and we are suffering for His name.
Then they prayed, “Grant unto thy servants
to speak thy word with boldness” (Acts 4:29). This second petition is that
the Father would continue to provide them strength and courage to “cry aloud
and spare not. Lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and declare unto my people
their transgression, and to the house of Jacob their sins” (Isaiah 58:1).
They had boldly preached in the name of Jesus on Solomon’s porch (Acts
3:12-26), and had further shown this boldness by their demeanor and response
to authorities who were sorely displeased by their teaching (Acts 4:13).
Still, they were aware that their boldness was the result of God’s aid to
them, and they pled with the Father that He would continue that strength
because they realized that opposition would continue and grow in intensity
if they continued preaching the same message. They would need His added
strength in the days to come. Later, Paul, in facing greater adversities
that Peter and John in this encounter with the authorities, said with
confidence, “I can do all things in him that strengtheth me” (Philippians
4:13). So could they and so can we!
Finally, they asked God to continue testifying through the work they did
that He approved both their actions and teaching. “While thou stretcheth
forth thy hand to heal; and that signs and wonders may be done through the
name of thy holy Servant, Jesus” (Acts 4:30). Again, this request was one
hundred percent in keeping with Jesus’ promise: “And these signs shall
accompany them that believe …” (Mark 16:17-20).
“And when they had prayed, the place was
shaken wherein they were gathered together, and they were all filled with
the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word with boldness” (Acts 4:31). Their
prayer was heard.
God’s strength for us is much like the power
of the battery in our cars. It is always there but the key must be turned on
to activate it. Our key is our faith in God’s Word and our asking with the
full assurance He will provide the necessary strength for us to do what He
Created by John Bass, last updated.
The Mount Baker Beacon is a
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA.
Send all questions, comments to the editor, John Bass at (360) 325-5149