Encompassing Belief, Part 2

Last month we looked at the way Luke uses the word believe in the book of Acts. Passages like Acts 2:44-47 and Acts 16:31-34 use the word believe to describe conversion. The context of the passage defines what the word means. This month, let us look at how James uses the word believe in a different context, with a different meaning. James does not use the word believe as conversion but as a fruitless belief in God’s existence. 

James explains to his audience that faith without good works is dead. Faith has no meaning if the person of faith is not willing to act on it. He gives the example of someone seeing his brother or sister without daily food, and he says, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled.” What good did that do? Unless he acted on faith and gave food to his brother or sister, his command profited nothing. That person might claim to have faith, but his actions say otherwise. James then says that person’s belief in God is not all that special. 

“You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe – and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?”  (James 2:19-20) 

Is James using the word believe the same way Luke does in Acts 2:44-47? Is James saying that the demons have an encompassing belief in God that produces repentance, baptism, and the free gift of salvation? Are the demons converted to God? No. James says that his audience, like the demons, believes that God is a real person with real power, but refuse to be moved to action. This is not an encompassing belief; this is a belief that is only a thought. This is a belief that resides in the mind but never moves to the heart or the hands. This is not an encompassing belief.It  is a fruitless belief. 

John 12 gives another example of fruitless belief. Jesus performs many signs and wonders and some of the rulers of synagogue believed in Him. However, notice their reaction. 

“Nevertheless even among the rulers many believed in Him, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” (John 12:42-43) 

These rulers believed in Jesus, but due to their fear of the Pharisees kicking them out of the synagogue, they did not confess Him. Their belief was only a thought. 

Is our belief in Jesus an encompassing belief or a fruitless belief? Is it a belief that leads to repentance, baptism, and salvation? Is it a belief that is no more than a thought that God is real, like the demon’s belief? 

Why do we not believe like we should? Like the rulers of the synagogue, it might have a lot to do with fear. John says, “They loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.” They became afraid that if they pursued Jesus they would be rejected by men. Christians that act on their belief today are treated cruelly. In the South, perhaps, not many will ridicule a Christian for believing in God. But when that Christian tries to act on hisbelief, some might ridicule trying to justify his own non-action. Just like those in James 2 that deceived themselves by saying that a belief without action was enough to please God. 

— Andrew Smith 

Does Jesus Know You?

Have you ever had someone ask, “Do you know Jesus?” Consider a more important question:  Does Jesus know you? 

The Bible tells us: “Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity” (2 Timothy 2:19). While many people may mistakenly think they know Jesus, Jesus is never mistaken about knowing His own people.  

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Encompassing Belief, Part 1

What does the word believe mean? Well, it all depends on the context. Throughout the book of Acts, believe is an encompassing term that describes converts to Christ. However, James will use the word believe to mean a fruitless understanding that God is real, or God is all powerful. In this article we will cover two passages in which Luke uses the word to describe the action of being converted.

In Acts 2, Peter delivers a sermon on Pentecost proving that Jesus is the Lord and Christ, the Messiah. The people are cut to the heart. They asked Peter what they should do with their guilt. Peter responds: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (v,38). Luke then says that many of the people obeyed: “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them” (v.41). Luke goes on to describe these people as “all who believed.”

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Relationships

I don’t know if you do this too or if it’s just me, but when I hear the word relationship, my mind turns to affairs of the heart. Who is romantically involved with whom? Who is he or she dating? How is that couple doing? Are they still getting along? Even on social media, when we look at the “Family and Relationships” section, most people write about their marriage partners or the person they are dating.

While who we may be romantically involved with is most certainly a relationship, it is definitely not the only one we have. Simply put, a relationship is the way in which two or more people or things are connected, behave, and deal with each other. If we think about our everyday lives and routines, we are surrounded by relationships. We have a relationships with our family, of course, but we also have relationships with friends, co-workers, people with whom we do business and countless others.

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The God Of All Comfort

We have and will suffer on this earth. God has never promised us anything different than that fact. From Elijah to Jeremiah, from Stephen to Paul, all of God’s people have suffered. Paul wrote to the Corinthians about the state of his suffering. Something was happening to him in Asia. Paul said, “we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves” (2nd Cor. 1:9). Have you ever felt that you were burdened beyond measure? Have you felt like the world has sentenced you to death? You probably have.

Thankfully, Paul shares his outlook on his suffering. Paul says that he might be sentenced to death, but he has put his trust “in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us” (2 Cor. 1:9-10). God has the power to raise the dead. Even if our suffering leads to death, who better to put our trust in than He who has conquered death?

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The Force Of The Apostle’s Teaching

The words that Jesus spoke in person are precious. Everyone who respects the Bible values the sayings of Jesus. However, there are those who value the words of Jesus, yet devalue the words of His apostles. The “red letters” in your Bible were put there by man; God did not make the print red. In fact, a careful examination of the Gospels will reveal that Jesus Himself taught that the words of the apostles would be a continuation of His own teachings. The words of the apostles do carry much weight.

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The Power Of God

The Lord did many incredible things in the Bible. He caused the Red Sea to part for the Israelites, sets large hailstones from heaven on those that tried to harm His people, and He even stopped the sun’s movement from horizon to horizon. The Lord did big powerful things, like raising Jesus from the dead, to smaller things like causing an ax head to float on the water.

These miraculous powers were always used by God to endorse the prophets. By giving them miraculous power, God was endorsing their message. It was a clear and easy way for God’s people to know that these prophets were telling the truth.

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A Lesson From Snow

On January 28th, 2014, central Alabama was taken by a surprise snow that stranded hundreds of drivers and shutdown highways. Many people were forced to abandon their cars, while others had to sleep over at their workplaces and even at their schools. The surprise of the matter is that none of the weather forecasters reported the possibility of more than a few snow flurries, or at the most, a very light dusting of snow. So business went on as usual until about 30 minutes after the snow started falling and falling and falling….

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A Strong Finish

Several of us might have received and read these articles all year. I hope they have been encouraging to us all. There are some that probably started reading these at the beginning of the year, yet they quit reading some time ago. They may have purposely quit reading, or maybe they just forgot. That is often how our plans turn out. We will make big plans early to get reconnected with God or do something for God, and then we slowly forget about those plans till they are non-existent.

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Are We Voted Into The Church?

One of the most popular misunderstandings about church membership is that one “joins the church.” It is common in modern denominational churches that one responds to the invitation, and the local church votes whether or not they will accept him or her as a member of that church; then, the member is baptized. This is what man teaches and what many churches of men practice today. We do not practice this at the Gardendale church of Christ because this is not what the Bible teaches.

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