Remembering the Resurrection Annually

by Richie Thetford

The calendar reads “Easter Sunday.” As a result, many people throughout the world will be attending the “church of their choice” to remember the resurrection of Jesus. It won’t be the “normal” service, but rather a “special” service of remembering the resurrection of our Lord that no doubt will include different plays, skits, and dramas. The world calls this day “Easter Sunday,” the day of our Lord’s resurrection from the grave. But is it really?

I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Bible of the day nor the special celebration of the resurrection mentioned. Yet many “good intentioned people,” honestly believing that they are commemorating the resurrection of Christ, celebrate this “holy day” having no biblical authority whatsoever for the practice. Because of tradition, most people today believe that Easter has always been observed from apostolic times and is authorized in the scriptures. But how could they get such an idea?

There is an unfortunate translation in the King James Version of the New Testament which has, perhaps, led some astray. The Greek, pascha, is translated by the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4. This same word is properly translated in other versions and in every other passage where it is used in the King James Version, as “Passover.” Undoubtedly it was mistranslated here in Acts. And even if the word was properly translated, there is still no authority here for the observance of anything. That is why “Easter” as we know it is celebrated without proper Bible authority. The text of Acts 12:4 was in regard to the apostle Peter when he was put into prison during the days of Unleavened Bread or “Passover” as the NKJV, ASV, NASV, and NIV indicate. It is obvious that this passage of scripture is referring to the seven-day Passover festival. There is no place indicated in the New Testament that a “yearly” celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was ever practiced. Yet today, thousands of people remember Him only this one day per year and they make it a grand festival.

Where Did “Easter” Come From Anyway?

The word “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “Eostre,” the name of the goddess of spring. Sacrifices were offered in her honor at the first full moon that came at the time of the vernal equinox. By the 8th century, the term came to be applied to the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection (ISBE, Vol 2, page 6). There has been much controversy about the time of this celebration. The Jewish Christians and Gentiles could not agree on a set date. But as time passed an increasing number of people celebrated the anniversary of the resurrection on the first day of the week annually. By the 7th century the practice of religious groups had become universally uniform. The agreed upon time is now the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox and that date was set as March 21st. This is why there is a variation in Easter dates from March 22nd through April 25th. There has even been talk among the different religions as setting the date permanently on one Sunday between March 21st and April 25th.

The Proper Remembrance Of Jesus

I’ve filled you in on the history of this word “Easter” so that you will understand that it originated as a pagan holiday festival and later became a yearly festival to remember the resurrection of Christ among different religious groups across the world.

The Lord’s church does not celebrate “Easter.” Members of the Lord’s church celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of every week as we are instructed in the New Testament. We can turn to the book of Acts and read: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7). We have an approved example from this text that lets every Christian know when one is to partake of the emblems which represent Christ’s shed body for us. It says the first day of the week. It does not say “The first day of the week, once a year!” In 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, we can further understand the significance of this memorial feast that we partake of weekly. We learn that it represents the body and blood of Jesus and it says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Again, how often should a Christian eat the bread and drink the cup? The first day of the week! There are many religious denominations out there today that do not partake of the Lord’s Supper once per week. Some will do it bi-monthly, others monthly, still others just once or twice per year. Any individual that is striving to do “all the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), must understand that God sets the standard (rules) that we must go by today – not man (Acts 5:29). The New Testament is our standard. I urge you to examine the Bible, and then look at what you may be practicing in your religion, and then determine whether it is from God or from man!

HOMOSEXUALS AND LESBIANS:

Sanctified or Sinners?

by Ted J. Clarke

Introduction

On the ABC Television Network’s ‘Turning Point,’ November 7, 1996, Elizabeth Vargas did a report entitled, “Same Sex Marriages, For Better of For Worse?” Toward the end of the piece an Episcopal priest led a procession carrying a cross. There were two men hand in hand, and two women also walking hand in hand. The priest said a ceremony of “union” for the two men and the two women. As the men looked at each other and the two women did the same, in unison they repeated the words, “I will be your partner, your lover, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” These people claim that the Bible does not condemn same sex relationships and marriages, that it only speaks out against homosexual and lesbian relationships when they are “abusive,” not when they are committed monogamous relationships. When two homosexual men or two lesbian women are in such relationships, we are told, God accepts them completely and so should we. Does the Bible teach that God approves of these relationships? It does not!

When Alfred Kinsey did his infamous research on the sexual habits of the human male, he concluded that 10% of the population were homosexual. Kinsey’s study is known to be severely flawed, since part of his sampling used men in prison where normal sexual relations of men with women were not an option. The National Opinion Research Center says that its surveys between 1989-1992 showed 2.8% of the men surveyed were exclusively homosexual and 2.5% of the women were exclusively lesbian. The National Survey of Men reported that only 1.1% had been exclusively homosexual in the previous year. This one to three percent is well below Kinsey’s erroneous data on the subject.

However, it is certainly true that these small percentages are vocally loud! They have influenced the President to implement a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the military; they have influenced large corporations like AT&T and Disney to give them the same benefits as legally married men and women; they have influenced some state legislatures to give them preferential treatment, claiming to be a minority which is discriminated against like blacks and women. Of course, one cannot help being born black or a woman, but it has not been proven that one cannot help being homosexual or lesbian. How do you think the government or these corporations would respond to me (a white male), if I went to them and said, “I want you to consider me as a black woman. I just can’t help but think of myself as a black woman and I want all the minority rights you would give to her.”? Well, they would usher me right to the nearest exit, and rightly so. Saying I feel black and feel like a woman wouldn’t make me a black woman. Neither does someone saying he or she feels like loving someone of the same sex mean that God made them that way. In fact, this is a watershed as to whether or not one believes the Bible, since it condemns all homosexual/lesbian relationships; and it will determine whether or not the God of the Bible is truly the God He claims to be. If homosexuals cannot help being what they are (they claim God made them that way), but yet the Bible condemns homosexuality and says they will be eternally lost, then God is not a just God and the Bible is not worth following.

Is There A “Gay” Gene?

One researcher named Simon LeVay, looking into the possibility of being “born gay, pointed in his studies to a section of the brain in homosexuals which seemed to be smaller in “gays” than in heterosexual men. Since this area of the brain was known to house the sexual stimulus of a man toward a woman, this researcher decided this indicated some people are born to be homosexuals. However, other scientists said, “Wait a minute.”‘ Perhaps this area of the brain is smaller, not because it was so at birth, but because this part of the brain was not used as intended, in developing social relationships with women. God’s law in all creation is use it or lose it. Other parts of the brain show similar types of shrinkage from non-use, so this claim of LeVay does not prove homosexuals are born that way.

Another claim for homosexuals being “born” that way comes from some work done by J. Michael Bailey and Richard C. Rillard. These men said they discovered that 52% of identical twin brothers are both gay, while only 22% of non-twin brothers are gay. This, we are told, means that if homosexuality has a genetic basis, many of the second twins should also be gay.” But again, “Wait a minute.”‘ If homosexuality has a genetic basis and identical twins have identical genetic makeup (and it is identical), then 100% of the second twins should be gay, not just 52%. If nearly half are not gay then there is no genetic factor making someone gay. The fact that there is an unusual closeness between most twins, along with other environmental and developmental factors, could account for the high percentage of gay identical twins. Don’t blame God. Additionally, if being homosexual was genetic, then one could not change that any more than one could make his blue eyes brown or his black skin yellow. Yet many who have been practicing homosexuals or lesbians have changed their sexual orientation to heterosexuality, simply by their own will to do so. Homosexuality is “want to,” not “have to.”

Old Testament Condemnation of Homosexuality

Early in Scripture the Bible discusses the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 13:13, saying, “But the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly.” Before going further, remember the natural state in which God created mankind “male and female,” telling them to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish [literally=fill] the earth” (Genesis 1:27-28). It took a male and female to multiply, and it still does today, the natural way God created and intended for all time. The account is expanded in Genesis 2:18-24 as it discusses the “one flesh” relationship of the man and woman. Trying to become one flesh in any other way is unnatural and sinful.

Genesis, chapter 19, clearly condemns homosexuality. The angels who came in the “form” of men to rescue Lot before God destroyed Sodom, were sought out by the men of Sodom, who did not know that they were heavenly messengers. Lot persuaded the angels not to stay in the street that night, aware that the men of Sodom would sexually attack them. Even in Lot’s own house the men of Sodom came to take them out of Lot’s care, that they might “know them” (Genesis 19:1-5). The word for “know” is a common Hebrew word used hundreds of times in the Old Testament for “to get to know, become familiar with.” However, there are times when it has a definite sexual connotation, as it does here. It is used of Adam’s sexual relations with Eve in Genesis 4:1, 25, and of Cain with his wife (4:17). This use of “knowing” someone sexually was also common in the language of the New Testament. Joseph “knew not” Mary until alter Jesus was born (Matthew 1:25). We use the word “know” in the same sense today, when we speak of carnal knowledge, meaning things sexual.

The fact that Lot offered his virgin daughters to these Sodomite men illustrates the extreme vulgarity with which Lot viewed this sin. The men rejected Lot’s offer, showing the depravity of mind they possessed (Genesis 19:7-9). We do not claim that Lot was right in what he did. Not at all! He had placed himself in a wicked environment and had stayed in that area to maintain his wealth, in spite of the horrible sins of the people which vexed his own soul (2 Peter 2:6-7). He was now desperate to show the Lord his concern for the heavenly messengers. Jude 7 answers the argument of some homosexuals that Sodom’s sin was simply being “inhospitable.” Jude writes, “Even as Sodom and Gomorrah, and the cities about them in like manner, giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh, are set forth for an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire. “The word “fornication” means all illicit sex, specifically “going after strange flesh,” here meaning the unnatural desire of men to have sex with other men.

Leviticus 20:13 clearly states, “If a man also lie with mankind (other men), as he lieth with a woman, both of them hath committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Homosexuals who seek God’s approval for their wicked deeds say this verse merely prohibits homosexual rape, not a loving relationship between two consenting members of the same sex. However, “both, they, them” have committed an abomination worthy of death under Old Testament law. This is not speaking of forced rape, but mutually consensual sex. That is why “both” were condemned! What about verse 15 which says, “And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast.” Does that mean this verse is a law against raping a beast? If the man had a “loving relationship” with the beast, would that be all right? Ridiculous? Yes, and so is the idea that the Lord was only prohibiting homosexual rape. Rape is prohibited, both in Leviticus 18 and chapter 20, and distinctions are made between rape and homosexuality. Just as rape is wrong in every case and sex with animals is wrong in every case, so it is wrong in every case for a man to lie with another man, or a woman to lie with another woman. It is an “abomination!” (Leviticus 18:22)

New Testament Condemnation of Homosexuality

In discussing the horrible sins of the Gentile world, Paul did not neglect homosexual and lesbian activities. Speaking of these sexual sins in Romans 1:24-27, Paul noted that “God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonor their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed forever. For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was meet [fitting].” These acts of sexual immorality did not come from minds which God made to be that way or being born that way, but “through the lusts of their own hearts.” Notice also that Paul is not describing homosexual rape, but all homosexuality! These men were not raping one another, they were “burn[ing] in their lust one toward another.” This is mutual reciprocal lust, not rape. Men do not have any God given inclination nor right to burn in lust for other men, nor women for women. Such is “uncleanness, unnatural, and unseemly.”

First Corinthians 6:9-11 also speaks out against homosexuality (and lesbianism) when it says, ‘Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind… shall inherit the kingdom of God.” Sexual sins will keep one from heaven, whether fornication, adultery, or homosexuality. The “effeminate” are men who “play” the more passive role of a woman in a homosexual relationship, while the “abusers of themselves with mankind” are the more active aggressors “playing” the role of a man. I say “playing” these roles because neither is truly being what God created them to be. A homosexual man may “play” the role of the woman, but he is not a woman. The homosexual man only “plays” the role as a man, because he is unnaturally making love to another man and that is not what God created man to do sexually. Both will be lost unless they repent through faith in Christ and obey the gospel. After naming an entire list of sins, sexual and otherwise, Paul said of the Corinthians, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11). While some of the Corinthians had been homosexuals, they had to quit practicing those acts when they became Christians, just like the thieves had to quit stealing and the drunkards had to quit drinking. If they did not, they could not enter God’s kingdom, receiving forgiveness of sins.

Conclusion

In addition to sexual perversion, homosexuals and lesbians who strangely seek to have the approval of God for their abominations commit another type of perversion. They pervert the text of the Scriptures to justify their perverted acts of sex. Believers in the Bible and the God of the Bible cannot surrender what the Scriptures teach on this topic without removing all hope for the salvation of homosexuals and lesbians. Unless they are taught the truth on these matters and give up these ungodly sexual acts; coming to God through faith in Christ (Hebrews 11:6), repenting from past sins (Acts 17:30-31), confessing Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9-10), and being baptized into Christ to have their sins washed away (Acts 2:38; 22:16), they will not, they cannot be saved!

While the Bible shows the unnatural status of homosexuality, it is a sin no greater than many others which will keep us from heaven. Other sexual sins will also keep us out of the kingdom. To speak out against homosexuality is no worse than speaking out against idolatry, stealing, lying, adultery, etc. One is not being homophobic (afraid of homosexuals) when one objects to their often-obscene public behavior and tries to teach them the truth of the gospel, encouraging them to repent and change their ways. Still, this is not just another type of illicit sexual activity; it changes the very nature which God created in us into something so unnatural that it cannot fulfill the purpose for which God originally made us male and female and gave the institution of marriage (Genesis 1 & 2). It can destroy souls, families, and nations. Love the souls of homosexuals and seek to convert them to Christ, but do not surrender one particle of biblical truth in your approach to them. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15), wielding the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God (Ephesians 6:17).

Why The Church Of Christ Does Not Observe Christmas

It is the time of year when every place we look, we see Christmas trees and lights. Tis a sign of the season and a celebration of the birth of Christ (or so we are told). There are several questions which are prompted when a member of the Church of Christ says they do not believe this should be celebrated as Christ’s birthday. “Do you not believe in the Bible account of the birth of Jesus?” “Do you not believe that the birth of Jesus is an event worth remembering?” The fact is, that we do indeed believe every word of that divine record. But there are several reasons why the church of Christ does not observe Christmas, and so I wish to mention some of them.

There Is No Divine Command Or Precept

We are told we are to do all things by the authority of Jesus (Col. 3:17). Therefore, we must have a divine command or precept for all that we do in religion. With this thought in mind, we do not believe we are authorized to observe religious holidays that are not mentioned in the Bible for Christians to observe. There is no record in the Bible that any Christian ever observed a holiday in the memory of the birth of Christ. Although the Bible does tell us of the activities of the early church, it gives no hint that anyone in apostolic times thought of declaring a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, or that God wanted it to be celebrated. In fact, the Encyclopedia Britannica reveals that it was a good many years after the death of Jesus before a certain Pope conceived the idea of having a Mass to celebrate the birth of the Savior. To learn of the beginning of Christmas, we must go to the encyclopedia rather than the Bible, for the Bible is silent about the subject. Reading further in the encyclopedia we learn that the Pope who first inaugurated Christmas said, “We have a Mass for every saint, but there is no Mass for Christ.” He decreed that henceforth the 25th day of December each year would be observed as Christ Mass Day. For many years, in fact for many centuries, Christmas was strictly a Catholic holiday, but when various Protestant churches came into being, one by one they borrowed that holiday.

We Must Speak As The Utterances (Oracles, KJV) Of God

The church of Christ does not observe Christmas because of the apostle Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 4:11. We cannot speak as the utterances of God and speak of Christmas. Why? Because the utterances of God are silent about such a holiday. If the New Testament spoke of Christmas and we had the teaching that Christians in New Testament times observed that holiday, the church of Christ would do so now.

Is December 25th Christ’s Birth Day?

Most will readily agree it is not. But they continue to celebrate it as such. I submit to you that a fourth reason why the church of Christ does not observe and celebrate Christmas is for the very reason that no one knows when Jesus was born. That particular day and month (December 25th) was selected by the Pope (there appear to be certain pagan reasons for his choice) who inaugurated that holiday. Most Bible scholars believe that Christ was really born in the summer time, but the very fact that God was not pleased to reveal (Deut. 29:29) through His word the day or the month in which His Son was born is evidence that he did not expect us to reverence that day.

It Is A Catholic Holiday

I have already mentioned that originally Christmas was called Christ Mass Day, having been inaugurated by the Pope. Protestant churches borrowed this day from the Catholic church. The church of Christ has never borrowed it. Let me say in this connection that nearly everything that it practiced in many Protestant churches has been borrowed from the Catholic church. Instrumental music, infant baptism, sprinkling, Christmas and Easter Day observance are just a few of the inventions of Catholicism which have been borrowed by Protestants. A number of years ago a Catholic priest remarked that it was amusing to see Protestants borrow such things as Christmas and infant baptism from the Catholics and then try to prove that the Bible mentions and commands such things. He added, “We practice them because our church councils decided that we should do so. We do not believe that the Bible mentions or suggests these things.” He explained that the Catholic church differs from many other churches in that it does not believe that it is necessary to prove by the Bible all things that they do. I think this priest had a greater respect for the church of Christ after learning that we do not take this inconsistent position of being opposed to Catholicism, but at the same time imitating and borrowing from these things invented by Catholicism, of which Christmas is one.

Should Christians observe Christmas? Religiously no! As a family, perhaps, if they so desire (although there may be valid reasons to forgo even that). Regardless of your opinion on a secular holiday, I am, of the firm opinion that it should have no place in the church for which Jesus died.

—Selected

What Is Truth?

“That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9 NAS95). When, in about 977BC, Solomon penned these now famous words, I doubt he understood how true would these words ring almost 3000 years later.
It has been said that we must continue to evolve and that we are faced with things in this generation that no one before has ever had to face. There may be a certain amount of truth in this statement, in regard to the specifics of the situation, but there is no truth in it as to the general relationship it bears with those of the past.
One such example can be found in what is believed today. When Jesus was taken before Pilate He made this statement in response to one of Pilate’s questions, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37 NAS95). Pilate’s reply reflects the attitude of so many in their study of God’s word. He said, “What is truth?” (John 18:38 NAS95), as if it was not possible to know for certain where truth lies. We have been told for so many years that because of upbringing, cultural differences and economic diversity, no one can really know for certain what is truth. Many in the Lord’s church have now come to accept the idea as being a fact.
Many now see the Bible as a good guide, but do not recognize that it is absolute in its truth. They teach that we must allow each to interpret the Bible in light of their own experiences and come to an understanding that is in line with their background. Yet these same people will readily accept that when teaching mathematics, for example, truth is not reliant on one’s background, but is instead absolute, and must be understood by all alike.
The Bible is no different. Jesus said in John 17:17, “Sanctify them in Your truth. Your word is truth.” What God says is not dependent on how I was brought up or what I was taught to believe. It is dependent on what God intended for us to understand. Jesus also said in John 8:24, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” If truth is relevant, how can it ever set us free from our sins? If God expects His people to, “all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10), we must be able to discern truth alike.
The apostle Paul said, “For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles– if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you; that by revelation there was made known to me the mystery, as I wrote before in brief. By referring to this, when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,” (Eph. 3:1-4 NAS95). You see how Paul says that the Ephesian brethren would be able to know the mystery that he himself knew by reading what he had written. If each one put a different meaning on the truth that Paul had written, they would not understand what was written, but would be following their own desires. If truth is relevant, why did Paul say it could be understood alike?
Peter conveyed much the same thought in his second letter. Knowing that he did not have much longer to live he said this, “Therefore, I will always be ready to remind you of these things, even though you already know them, and have been established in the truth which is present with you. I consider it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder, knowing that the laying aside of my earthly dwelling is imminent, as also our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will also be diligent that at any time after my departure you will be able to call these things to mind.” (2 Peter 1:12-15 NAS95). The reminder of these things was, of course, the letters he had written.
We could continue this journey through the word of God to show that the inspired writers believed we could and would understand what truth is, but Jude 3 may be the most telling of all the passages we could look at. Jude wrote, “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.” Jude says the faith was delivered once. That does not leave room for my interpretation or that of anyone else either. If it was once delivered, then it can not be delivered again, which means it is not going to change over time.
Pilate’s question still lingers over the centuries, with some wanting to give the answer, “Who knows?” But God has left us the truth in the words penned by the inspired writers and we can know if we have the truth or not, by honestly comparing what we believe with what God says in His word. Can two disagree as to what the word of God says? Certainly, but only to the point of studying until they come to agreement with the word of God. Remember “God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Cor. 14:33). Therefore the confusion over what God’s word says, must come from man. Let us always strive to conform to the will of God rather than our own will.

Jack Critchfield